Stylist’s Anita Bhagwandas dissects the genres behind our a/w 2013 trends.
Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart join the neighbourhood watch in The Big Sleep (1946)
The tailored skirt suits and hourglass shapes of film noir heroines were seen slinking down the catwalk for Prada, Bottega Veneta and Gucci.
How old is film noir? About 70. The golden age of film noir was the Forties, before the advent of Technicolor.
Old-school. Extremely, but it was a magical time for fashion and film and cemented their power together.
So why is it still special? It’s when the celebrated icon of film, the femme fatale, was born.
I need more detail. She was Rita Hayworth in Gilda and embodied the tortured female protagonist of the Forties with her hourglass figure, red lipstick and coiffured hair. Costume designer Jean Louis captured her sensuality in several famed dresses – all floor-skimming with slits and plunging necklines. Gilda was glamorous, strong-willed and unstoppable. She was involved in a complicated love triangle.
You wouldn’t mess with her, then? Absolutely not. The femme fatale is not someone to be trifled with. She’s multi-layered, bordering on unhinged.
All women are multi-layered! True, but before film noir, actresses in silent movies had been either “good” or “bad”. Femmes fatales didn’t have to choose – they were everything and anything.
Ah. And it was reflected in their attire? Precisely. Shoulders on show and waists nipped in. But, ultimately, the skirt suit embodied the look. The designers behind this trend were Prada, Bottega Veneta and Gucci. Italian designers like womanly curves, and the tweed and wool fabrics have a sensuous twist.
This film noir stuff sounds addictive… That’s the essence of noir, it’s escapism into a beautiful but often terrifying realm of cinema where anything is possible, especially if it’s sex- or crime-related. Watch your back, and you’ll be fine.
Watch: The aforementioned Gilda, the renowned The Big Sleep and the unforgettable D.O.A.
Madonna paid tribute to Marilyn in Material Girl
Initially just a promotional device, the music video soon became art in its own right. It’s the perfect genre to illustrate this season’s punk trend as seen at Dolce & Gabbana.
So, music videos started with TV right? Wrong. Early Thirties’ cartoons often featured popular musicians performing their songs on camera in live-action segments. And from the Thirties to the Fifties, classic Hollywood musicals became music videos in themselves. Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was one of the most popular and in turn influenced Madonna’s 1995 Material Girl video.
Interessante. What else have you got? Elvis, of course was fusing music and film during the Fifties and Sixties, and over here, The Beatles filmed promotional colour clips for Paperback Writer/Rain.
So when did music videos become mini-movies? That was The Beatles again. In 1967, the promo clips for Penny Lane borrowed art house film techniques, including slow motion and colour filtering. Slowly, the humble music video became more concept-led. In the Seventies, Bob Dylan, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd all made music videos that were artistic expressions.
Who upped the game? Bowie, as always. John, I’m Only Dancing and The Jean Genie both came with mini-videos. And Queen made a video for Bohemian Rhapsody to be shown on Top Of The Pops. Michael Jackson’s theatrical videos such as Thriller also enthralled.
And what about MTV? It launched in 1981, and Buggles’ Video Killed The Radio Star was the first video played.
How pivotal was it for music? It was a real driving force in what became popular, and in picking up on emerging genres. It was when the big boy directors got involved – including Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze – and MTV started putting film-type credits on music videos that videos became integral to an artist’s success. The music video had finally become art. Now, it is considered to be so important it can inform film.
Really? Yes. Anton Corbijn directed videos for U2, Depeche Mode and Nirvana, all of which informed his incredible film debut, Control, about New Order.
What now? We have YouTube and anyone can make a video. Bands can upload their work straight to this platform and see it go viral.
Watch: Michael Jackson’s Thriller – zombies, echoing laughter, gravestones – terrifying. Runaway by Kanye West, a swan woman explores the perils of modern life in this experimental music video.
Maggie Gyllenhaal has a definite case for a tribunal in Secretary
Tactile fabrics are key for a/w 2013. Last seen together in the art-house films of the Seventies
That sounds sexy? It is, but not in an obvious way. Think Nastassja Kinski in Paris, Texas. That overly fluffy pink dress she wears exudes an air of cute, safe girlishness, but the low-cut back is undeniably sexy.
So it’s a suggestion? Not always. It’s anything from a hint of unrequited attraction through to, well, sex.
Hmm, who’s to blame for this filth? It’s not filth. Well, actually it is – but that shouldn’t be a bad thing. A classic of the art-house erotic genre is Seventies French film Emmanuelle, starring Sylvia Kristel which details the sexual awakening of two young women – then things get crazy.
All the crazy stuff happened in the Seventies. Well, it was a time of changing attitudes towards sex, freedom of expression and the laws that define society. And that trickled over to cinema.
What other films should I watch? Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar is pretty seminal for his erotic work in films such as Matador, and French film-maker Catherine Breillat caused controversy with simulated sex in her films Romance and Anatomy Of Hell. Lars von Trier is the champion of graphic sex scenes, such as in the eye-watering Antichrist (2009).
Woah, Antichrist is scary. You got that right. Try Betty Blue (1986) for something tamer.
OK, so sexy is back? Yes, especially in fashion. We saw the trend for tactile displayed to its fullest at Simone Rocha, Mulberry, Dries Van Noten, Marni and Emporio Armani.
Alright, point taken. But is it just porn, dressed up? Not at all. Porn in its traditional guise is the abject objectification of women (modern, female-friendly porn aside). That’s not what erotica and erotic films are all about. They’re equally stimulating to men and women whatever their sexuality. They delve into the deepest desires and aspects of human sexuality, all within beautiful cinematography and enchanting storylines. Art-house erotica is for everyone. We don’t care who hears!
Er, there’s nobody who hasn’t heard it. You’re fairly loud. And you’re obtuse. Next.
Watch: Last Tango In Paris (oh, hi Marlon Brando), Eyes Wide Shut (Nicole and Tom ramp it up in a weird sex cult) and Secretary (you’ll never look at James Spader in the same way again. Or peas).
Be transported to a fantasy world in Spirited Away
Far from being reserved for humans under the age of 16, animation has developed into a sophisticated form of film combining illustration and models
I loathe cartoons. You’re becoming increasingly difficult. Illustration is one of the oldest forms of art. Many Palaeolithic cave paintings were depicted to convey the perception of motion. But it wasn’t until the advent of the cinématographe – a projector, printer and camera in one that allowed moving pictures to be shown successfully on a screen – which was invented in 1895, that animation truly came to life. Following this, French artist and cartoonist Émile Cohl created Fantasmagorie in 1908, showing a stick figure moving about and encountering all manner of objects, such as a wine bottle that transforms into a flower. It was the first hand-drawn animation.
Wake me up when you’ve finished. OK, so you didn’t watch cartoons growing up? Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, The Jetsons, Sharkey & George – the crime busters of the sea?
They sound like intellectual masterpieces. OK, jokes aside, there have been amazing advances in animation in the past 20 years. In 1995, Toy Story was the first feature length CGI film and is loved by adults and children alike. Similarly, the world was enamoured with 2001’s Japanese fantasy animation Spirited Away, and 2007’s Persepolis, a coming-of-age animated film about an Iranian girl, is strictly for adults. The power of animation is that we engage with the characters on a different level. With actors we subconsciously look for similarities between ourselves and them. With animation, our judgement is far less biased. There are fewer hidden complexities to understand, so we process exactly what we see, especially with the help of the latest advances in 3D animation. For example, Despicable Me 2 has just cleared $700m (£451m) in the US. Animation is a sophisticated form of film.
Wow. OK, big business. It must be pretty easy though? Hardly. Tim Burton’s 1993 opus The Nightmare Before Christmas, a hand-crafted stop-motion animation, was deemed too scary for children. It took 109,440 frames to create in total and the main character, Jack Skellington had 400 hand-created heads to depict his facial movements and grimaces.
I’m won over, we can stop now. Phew.
Watch: Frankenweenie, another Burton classic about a small dog brought back to life. Daria was a seminal Nineties series in which the protagonist was comically anti-life. The Japanese animation Grave Of The Fireflies is beautiful, if a little weepy.