Fashion and the Moving Image

Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures

 

A still from ‘Flaming Creatures’, by Jack Smith from 1962-63. Black and white, sound, 16mm.

IN THIS SERIES WE explore the apparent role of fashion and dress in film. With the power to transgress social codes and conventions, clothes can reveal themselves as a weapon, a provocation, a liberation; in darker times, repression. From documentaries to features to recordings of performances, this series of films explores fashion’s intimate complicity to the film medium in order to summon power in both contemporary and past times. From the ritualistic and transformative use of clothes in Kenneth Anger’s epic film Lucifer Rising (1966-1980), to the phantasmagorical Catholic Church fashion show in Fellini’s Roma (1972), fashion and style are both tools acting as symbols and expressions of power. Breaking past the dominant narrative, clothes have a rich history within underground cinema and experimental film, amongst the most notable being American artist Jack Smith’s notorious and censored masterpiece, Flaming Creatures (1962-63) where transgender dressing catalyses and infuses form to Smith’s utopic vision of a reality transcending gender taboos and societal norms. Revealing itself as integral in the construction of an identity, sartorial style in documentary films such as Paris is Burning (1990) pronounces itself as rebellion and challenge in the face of hardship: clothes that are empowerment through performance, demanding a redefinition of reality. Manifested in the endless and strategic game of power present in all dimensions and relations, clothes fluidly unravel on celluloid between forces of power and oppression.

 

Sophie Pinchetti is an editor, writer and founder of the magazine The Third Eye.