Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Movie Reveals a Lot by Eliminating the Fashion

Published: September 14, 2009

Circus nerves, double-dealing, lies, roiling emotions, risible politics and backstage murder are all in a fashion day’s work. (Well, maybe not the murder part.) And part of the appeal of “Rage,” a new film by the British director Sally Potter, best known for the 1992 film “Orlando,” is the way it manages to convey the tense minimalist theater of a fashion show without ever depicting one.

Made on a shoestring budget and starring an array of above-the-title actors, “Rage” (the title truncates “all the rage,” a phrase no one in fashion is likely to have uttered since the 1920s) may ultimately be less interesting for its cast than for its formal conceits and its distribution plan.

Ms. Potter shot “Rage” herself, as if on a cellphone, framing the actors against a green screen in a series of monologues featuring Jude Law (in drag as a female model named Minx); Judi Dench (as a fashion critic who smokes a spliff: as if!); Eddie Izzard; John Leguizamo; Steve Buscemi; and the real-life catwalk star Lily Cole (in a turn as a fictitious model called, of all things, Lettuce Leaf).

The movie’s release comes just after the close of New York Fashion Week, as the fashion carnival moves on to London, Milan and Paris. It will be released first on mobile applications, via the Web video service Babelgum, beginning on Sept. 21, before arriving in theaters soon after.

“I don’t believe Sally conceived of this film as something that would be seen on a mobile phone or online,” said Karol Martesko-Fenster, who oversees film content for Babelgum (which has a business agreement with The New York Times Company to run Times video content on Babelgum’s site). It just happened, he added, that she made a film adapted perfectly to the changing ways that “people are consuming narrative.”

Shot as if backstage at a fashion show, over a week of interviews, “Rage” centers on the death of two models under mysterious circumstances and renders a critique of fashion neatly synopsized in the Variety review: “The point seems to be that fashion wrecks lives, if not by actually killing anyone, then by inducing body dysmorphia, exploiting textile workers and turning everyone else in the biz into twisted, shallow idiots.”

The most curious thing about “Rage” and, for that matter, most movies with fashion as their subject, is its reflexive distaste for the industry. Plenty of filmmakers have taken a whack at parodying fashion. Some have scored humorous points off its silliness. (The more often one watches the comedy “Zoolander,” the more it seems like documentary.)

Fashion has no corner on the market in twisted, shallow idiots, as the banking crisis made clear. But with the possible exception of Matt Tyrnauer’s fine documentary, “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” few films have managed to penetrate its surface, preferring to “expose” the superficiality of fashion with a superior sneer.

The article continues at nytimes.com

No comments:

Post a Comment