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July 24 2014

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A Night At The (Fashion) Pictures

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As creative director of her family’s business, Selfridges’ Alannah Weston has turned the massive department store on London’s Oxford Street into her private fiefdom of fun with a series of large-scale events that have brought together artists, filmmakers, musicians, and designers in the name of underscoring the store’s retail vision. Wednesday night saw one of the smartest, artiest events yet, to mark the opening of the Women’s Designer Galleries. Curator Emma Reeves commissioned a set of short films to interpret seven of the collections carried in the new space. The single criterion? A strong female character at the heart of each film. For Ann Demeulemeester, for instance, Michael Pitt filmed his fiancée, Jamie Bochert, as a wraithlike figure moving through the desert (top), like a contemporary version of Isabelle Eberhardt, the 19th-century French traveler who inspired the designer’s collection. For Comme des Garçons, Katerina Jebb filmed concert pianist Madeleine Malraux, the widow of cultural nabob André Malraux, still playing at the age of 90.

Ruth Hogben made a typically brilliant piece of film for Gareth Pugh (above), a hectic slice of Cabaret-style decadence. She also created a sepulchral German-expressionist short for Rick Owens: harsh angles, shadowy reveals, eldritch textures, and an opera soundtrack. Her grasp of atmospheric moviemaking is so acute it came as a surprise to hear Hogben admit that all she wants to do is take still pictures. I swear everybody’s going to be reading real books again in a few years.

Speaking of atmosphere, set designer Simon Costin has made Mars out of molehills, and here he turned the derelict Selfridges’ hotel into an outlying branch of the Overlook, with curtained-off spaces intended to obliquely echo the building’s former use. There were “rooms” with oversize sofas, long dining tables, cracked vanity tables, and huge beds, with the movies projected on the ceiling above them. That was how we got to see an edit of the film Christopher Doyle had made, but not used, as the backdrop for Dries Van Noten’s show for Fall 2005. (Technical issues pulled it at the last minute.) Doyle was the man whose camerawork made In the Mood for Love into the swoonsville date movie of the millennium. A perfect match for Dries’s own romantic leanings. It was kinda nice watching it lying down, too.

Funny, only one of the films—the McQueen one—really featured recognizable clothes. The others were all projections, figurative and literal, like Delfine Balfort’s erotic equine dance for A.F. Vandevorst. You can see them all on Selfridges’ Web site, but you’ve got till March 26 to experience them in person. More fun that way.

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Dept. of Culture