Lions, and Sequins, and Mermaids, Oh My! While we aim to spread even dollops of exposure to New York’s many film venues here at Alt Screen, there is no denying that this weekend, the Museum of the Moving Image is where its at. One of the most glorious aspects of the Museum’s return this January (after a 2-year renovation) is the revival of the annual “Fashion and Film Festival.” And this year’s edition, subheaded “Birds of Paradise.” may be their most inspired venture yet. The Queens commute and sashay down Steinway Street may be an unenticing prospect on this fine Spring weekend, but an oasis of glamour and high camp those who boldly dare.
Curated by Marketa Uhlirova, with Ronald Gregg, Stuart Comer, Eugenia Paulicelli, and Inga Fraser, “Birds of Paradise” aims to explore “costume as a form of cinematic spectacle, exploring episodes in American and European cinema history that foreground costume, adornment, and styling as vehicles of sensuous pleasure and enchantment.” The programmers draw many parallels between early & silent cinema, and the American avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s spearheaded by those wild and zany guys Kenneth Anger and Jack Smith.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday all feature “Fashion and Film” fest entries as our Editor’s Picks, but even those were hard to choose. We may have selected Gloria Swanson’s encounter with a lion den and Cecil B. DeMille’s controversial, titillating bathroom set piece in Male and Female for Saturday (“Humanity is assuredly growing cleaner, but is it growing more artistic? Women bathe more often, but not as beautifully as their ancient sisters. Why shouldn’t the Bath Room express as much beauty as the Drawing Room?” one intertitle reads), but why not stick around for the “Double Bill of Costume and Excess” featuring Anger’s Inaguration of the Pleasure Dome (pictured above) and Von Sternberg’s weirdest and most abstract Dietrich collaboration The Devil Is A Woman? On Sunday we highlight James Bidgood’s Pink Narcissus – recently unearthed after decades of ecstatic recollections, mysterious origins, and mythic rumors – but did you know that Michael Curtiz directed the Jazz Age melodrama The Golden Butterfly, a silent Austrian coproduction starring French revue dancer and then-wife Lili Damita? (And did we mention live piano accompaniment to this restored print, valiantly imported from the BFI?)
The fest kicks off tonight with a program of Smith’s Normal Love (see our blogroll for some goodies) and obscure early European shorts of ornamental pageantry. It will return next weekend with Robert Siodmak’s Cobra Woman, Erich von Stroheim’s The Merry Widow, Busby Berkeley dreams in the rare Fashions of 1934, and more. We will likely post more delicious imagery from the program to help fan the anticipation. So strap on your favorite feathered headdress and tell them Alt Screen sent ya.