Monday, 6 December 2010

Underground Opulence at the Tate

We were excited to make it to a Fashion In Film screening at the Tate Modern on Friday night. The house was fairly packed and everyone seemed excited though perhaps like me wondering what to expect - though I was just excited to finally see Jack Smith's legendary Normal Love in all its glory. Before that however we were treated to a handful of silent whimsical shorts, each accompanied by some rather jaunty live piano - my favourite had to be Tit for Tat, Gaston Velle's butterfly fantasy from 1907 - though another from 1907, The Pearl Fishers, again from France, had beautiful sets - though we had to laugh at some of the hilarious costumes - the key theme here for these early silents was their pioneering use of visual effects to create these vivid fantasy environments.

On to Normal Love then, which was as absorbing as I hoped - no dialogue, but a series of songs from all over the place roughly synced over the top, including some amazing Egyptian/ Arabic style music. The various set pieces blended into one another of the course of the two hours of the film included a mermaid's milk bath grotto, a post party boardwalk, glittering bodies strewn everywhere, and a filthy swamp, where our mermaid tried in vain to resist a beefy suitor. Beautiul costumes, and the colours! Just beautiful. And to think back then these films were made for nothing, and for no-one but the maker and his friends and cast - brilliant.

The 3rd Fashion in Film Festival : Birds Of Paradise continues at the Horse Hospital, Tate Modern, Barbican, and BFI Southbank, until 12 December.

(Photos from various places - the still of the green mummy from Normal Love, the double exposure of the woman from Ron Rice's Chumlum, and the final one from a Smith fan site)

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