Fashion Film, the new surrealism?
Real fashion film isn’t just an afterthought, a mere video of a catwalk show or installation, it must stand on its own as a representation of the designer’s vision and inspiration. Some fashion films are triumphs of experimental film, like Luis Bunuel with a HiDef camera.
A Shaded View on Fashion Film started in Paris and now travels the world for fashion weeks in Seoul, London and Tokyo.
Gareth Pugh’s fashion film for his Autumn/Winter collection took top honours last month at A Shaded View on Fashion Film, produced by leading fashion film creators ShowStudio. The very definition of austere; a silhouetted outfit billows in black over a white background, a model’s hair dissolves to ink (a popular visual at the moment, as seen in the latest Nissan TVC), lots of treadmill model walking and the hackneyed old mirrored split screen. These visual motifs have been done better before. The opening silhouette zooms into full frame with the feet distractingly cut off, there are some clunky cross-fades and the ink is unconvincingly composited and masked. When filming an ink drop into water, the water ripples cause the image of the ink drop to shake. An image stabilization in post is usually required to correct the water ripple, but is noticeably absent here, so there’s a stable model and an incongruously shaky ink drop.
However, the ‘slice’ motif is pretty cool, first appearing subtly at 40 seconds with variations occurring throughout. At 5 minutes 41 seconds the film visually switches to an under-illuminated series of still poses and understated movements lit by a single swinging lamp just out of frame. Its a lovely counterpoint to the over-lit cyclorama that precedes and follows.
But there’s the distinct impression that this was a “shoot first, ask questions later” kind of production, where the director had only a vague notion of how she wanted the finished film to look when directing the shoot. Fashion films are free to be a visually experimental mindfuck, but if the only connective tissue is the designer’s garments, audience interest will be limited to the fashion community. Connective tissue is woven in a script outlining a concrete theme, without that your stuck bullshitting your way through post-production. I don’t see why fashion films, even those ostensibly intended for the catwalk, shouldn’t transcend the fashionista demo. Luis Bunuel brought surrealist cinema to the mainstream with Un chien Andalou in 1929, a palimpsest of social and religious iconography sketched with a thick ink of existential dread. Similarly expressionistic, fashion film can be a contemporary aeolian harp played by the winds of our malaise and aspirations. ShowStudio and YSL’s 24hrs is proof its possible.