April 2019, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour: Clothes in Motion – Costumes, Styles and Fashion in Film

SALOMÉ, 1923

White suits, red shoes, black coasts, dark sunglasses – there is many a piece of clothing or accessory to be found over the course of film history that seems to encapsulate an entire film, even outside of its immediate context. Yet even before costumes attain this iconic status, they tell stories within the film, give their wearers new life, conceal hidden depths, create atmospheres, and leave their mark on the look, texture, and often even the soundtrack of films. The dramatic, narrative, and psychological function of costumes in film is undisputed, as is their influence on the zeitgeists, fashion trends, and styles which they call into existence, play a role in, and launch. The Magical History Tour invites audiences to take a look into the studios of international costume-makers, fashion designers and artists from seven decades.

MOROCCO (Josef von Sternberg, USA 1930, 1. & 12.4.) Marlene Dietrich in a tailcoat! What has long since become a trademark of Dietrich's elegance and her playful approach to extravagance, daring, glamour, and the erotic initially caused an unimaginable scandal, fueled not least by the fact that Marlene Dietrich doesn't just seduce two men whilst wearing the tailcoat, but also kisses a woman. The setting is a bar in Morocco at which nightclub singer Amy Jolly (M.D.) performs. The two men are a rich gentleman who intends to marry (Adolphe Menjou) and a member of the Foreign Legion (Gary Cooper) who Amy eventually follows into the desert. A film of passion, of the power of suggestion, and of adventure. We will be showing DRESS REHEARSAL & KAROLA 2 (Christine Noll Brinckmann, West Germany 1980) beforehand, a film about clothing and self-representation, creative narcissism, and how it is dealt with in film in formal and emotional terms.

WORKING GIRL (Mike Nichols, USA 1988, 2. & 4.4.) Ambitious secretary Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) from Staten Island wants more. She has completed her studies at evening classes and is determined to achieve success in the financial world of Manhattan, but is not taken seriously by her sexist bosses. Battling prejudice, she shrewdly makes use of her chance when her boss must to take time off following an accident and lands a big business deal. Over the course of her (initially swindled) ascent into the corporate world, Tess’s appearance also changes: the big shoulder pads, the backcombed hair, the gaudy make-up, the conspicuous jewelry all make way for a more refined brand of elegance.

FREAK ORLANDO – KLEINES WELTTHEATER IN FÜNF EPISODEN (Ulrike Ottinger, West Germany 1981, 2. & 21.4.) Ulrike Ottinger draws a line from a mythological past all the way to the 20th century in her "small theater of the world" that tells the story of the life and death of freaks, the abnormal and outsiders, of fallacy, incompetence, the hunger for power, fear, madness, cruelty, and the everyday. This episodic, globe-spanning journey through time is led by Orlando (Magdalena Montezuma), starts in a department store where myths are being sold off, and ends at a festival of the ugly. Ottinger's fantastic, immensely detailed visual collages are characterized not least by the extraordinary costumes designed by the director herself, which take on the function of ironic commentary, opulent subversion or exaggeration.

DRAGON INN (King Hu, Taiwan 1969, 5. & 17.4.) China in 1457 during the Ming dynasty: Defense minister Yu is executed by his opponent first eunuch Zhao and his children are banished. They are to be ambushed at a lonely inn by the Dragon Gate, but their supporters are already rushing to their aid. DRAGON INN revolutionized the wuxia genre with intricately choreographed sword fights as fleet-footed as a dance, with the warriors seeming to have been freed from gravity. The protagonists’ brightly colored costumes, which quiver with each of their movements, forms a sharp contrast with the barren steppe landscape in which the fights unfold.

FUNNY FACE (Stanley Donen, USA 1957, 8. & 13.4.) Photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) would like to turn non-descript bookseller Jo (Audrey Hepburn) into a photo model for fashion magazine Quality. As Jo is entirely uninterested in fashion, the only way to tempt her is a trip to Paris. That is where her intellectual heroes call home, the followers of “empathicalism” who dress in black and meet to discuss their credo in dingy cellars thick with cigarette smoke. This forms a sharp contrast to the “Think Pink!” motto declared by the fashion editor, which is fulfilled by the film in beautiful excesses of color in glowing Technicolor.

TRUE STORIES (David Byrne, USA 1986, 9. & 16. 4.) The fact that the line dividing the petty bourgeois world of polyester clothing and an eccentric fashion implosion can be precisely as broad as a catwalk is demonstrated by one of the most original fashion shows in the history of cinema, which Byrne, at once director and bandleader, guitarist, and singer of the “Talking Heads”, sets in the fictional small town of Virgit in Texas. In the midst of a facelessly clean shopping mall and as a part of a municipal “celebration of specialness”, delightful plastic rain outfits in shining yellow, pastel colored dreams of tulle and frills for the fuller figure, becoming suits in fake-lawn-fabric for the whole family, and finally cartwheel-sized water lily pond hats, wedding cake case dresses, and wearable Doric columns are all presented as if the most natural thing in the world – the provinces as the last bastion of the avant-garde and as the cradle for a series of true stories from the Byrne universe as original as they are entertaining.  

SALOMÉ (Charles Bryant, USA 1923, 10. & 18.4., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) Oscar Wilde’s one-acter of the same name, loosely based on the Biblical story of King Herod and the execution of John the Baptist, meets Aubrey Beardsley. The illustrations by the British graphic artist served as the starting point for Natacha Rambov’s extravagant décor and impressively put together costumes from the finest of fabrics. The producer and leading actress of this heavily stylized, experimental work was Russian actress, a passion projects for her in which she also took on the title role – “a legendary film in queer film history” (Marc Siegel) or also “Nancy-Prancy-Pansy-Piffle and just too queer for words” (Kenneth Anger).

SOME LIKE IT HOT (Billy Wilder, USA 1959, 11. & 15.4.) An unintended meeting with a group of trigger-happy gangsters in the Chicago of the last 20s has lady-killer jazz musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) don women’s dresses and sign up as a part of an all-woman combo headed for Florida. What begins as a fast-paced gangster story suddenly morphs into an equally breathless, madly funny, and excessive exercise in transvestitism, whereby clothing, roles, and genders are switched multiple times, perspectives shift and metamorphoses are carried out. Lively skirts, bathing costumes that pinch, torn bras and fiendish sport shoes – confronted with the challenges of female dress in the late 20s as well as the delightfully romantic and naïve singer Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), soon feelings of compassion and understanding for the “other half” begin to germinate in Joe alias Josephine and Jerry aka Daphne.

BLOW UP (Michelangelo Antonioni, Italy/UK 1966, 14. & 20.4.) Models and fashion, the London of the Swinging Sixties and the mod and beat culture of the era (at which the film’s distribution strategy was aimed) are the central coordinates of Antonioni’s first film shot outside of Italy. His profession alone makes fashion photographer Thomas (David Hemmings) part of this style-conscious fashion scene. He arranges, choreographs, and fixes their beautiful appearances, but also attempts to flee them at the same time. While out looking for new motifs, he believes to have witnessed a murder. Over the course of his research, the boundaries between reality and imagination blur and the apparent photographic pieces of evidence coagulate into a projection.

FÜR DIE LIEBE NOCH ZU MAGER? (Bernhard Stephan, East Germany 1974, 19. & 22.4) "The film begins with a song by the Renft Combo: So what do people do if they don't carry flags? – and then answers this question about what people do in private quite literally: they wear the see-through green blouse brought by Aunt Rosa from the West or genuine Levis. Or they wear the wrong things like well-behaved textile worker Susanne, whose emancipation is brought to cinematic life as a process of fashion-related self-discovery. Perhaps this is what a socialist costume drama must look like: narrated from the perspective of production. No Cinderella story, but rather a materialist romance that conceives of attractiveness as being stretched between spaces and textures." (Stella Donata Haag)

NORMAL LOVE (Jack Smith, USA 1963, 23.4.) Pearl necklaces, flowing scarves in luxuriant colors, sparklers, incense sticks, the portrait of a Hollywood goddess, with underground superstar Mario Montez lying outstretched in a mermaid dress before this still-life altar: this is merely the brilliant opening of an exuberant performance fantasy extravaganza in a rural setting, which features none other than Angus MacLise, Beverly Grant, Francis Francine, Tony Conrad, Tiny Tim, John Vaccaro, Diane Di Prima, and Andy Warhol. Never completed by Smith, NORMAL LOVE now exists in a restored version that can be read as an opulent “costume epic”, full of jewel-encrusted robes, lace clothes, and colored ribbons – a visionary appropriation, tribute and invocation of excess.

ZAPATAS BANDE (Urban Gad, Germany 1914, 24. & 27.4., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) Das Eskimobaby (Heinz Schall, Germany 1917, 24. & 27.4., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) Asta Nielsen – actress, screenwriter, producer– is regarded as the first cinema star in film history and a film artist of huge international significance. She ardently accompanied all the different areas of film production, including the creation of the costumes, which she herself frequently designed, as is highly likely the case in ZAPATAS BANDE, in which she plays a magnificent role in trousers. In ZAPATAS BANDE, a film team is sent to Italy to shoot a “gypsy drama” there in the most “authentic” surroundings possible, the very same place where a band of robbers are getting up to tricks. While the actors are shooting, the robbers steal their normal clothes and are thus able to cross the border unnoticed. The actors, on the other hand, are taken for the real robbers and arrested by the police. In fur trousers and Norwegian wool patterns, Asta Nielsen plays an Inuit from Greenland taken to the German Empire in DAS ESKIMOBABY, turning Berlin society on its head regarding clothing rules and behavior as an object of ethnographic curiosity.  

L’ANNÉE DERNIÈRE À MARIENBAD (Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Resnais, France/Italy 1961, 25. & 28.4.) One might think that Lagerfeld wanted to show his reverence for an important French film classic in the show for his 2011 Spring/Summer collection: its decor, music, color (black and white), and design were all hugely influenced by Resnais' cinematic nouveau roman. Aside from the film however, Lagerfeld's homage was directed first and foremost at fashion designer Coco Chanel, who designed the costumes for the film's lead actress Delphine Seyrig. Her designs take in clear, severe robes as well as playfully romantic dresses that work with feathers, tulle, and flowing fabrics, both of which correspond at once to the architecture of the film location, a magnificent baroque castle, the oft-stationary figures and the film’s labyrinthine structure. (al/mg)

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour 
– Rebels With a Cause

07:30 pm Cinema 2


Jahrgang 45

Barfuss und ohne Hut

*Jahrgang 45 Jürgen Böttcher
GDR 1966 DCP 94 min
Showing first: *Barfuss und ohne Hut Jürgen Böttcher
GDR 1964 DCP 26 min

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour 
– Rebels With a Cause

08:00 pm Cinema 1


Les quatre cents coups

*Les quatre cents coups The 400 Blows
François Truffaut F 1958 With Jean-Pierre Léaud
35 mm OV/GeS 93 min