Amelia’s Magazine | Fashion in Film Festival: Pink Narcissus

Illustration by Running for Crayons

So the third Fashion in Film Festival kicked off last week and had film fans and fashionistas flocking to cinemas to catch rare and unreleased archival screenings.

First on my list was a trip to The Horse Hospital. I’d never heard of it before either, case search but it’s a treat. Situated behind Russell Square station (not the insalubrious bit, although the evening was to turn insalubrious as I’ll explain later…) the name is pretty self-explanatory. It’s London’s only existing and accessible two-floor horse stable, and the interior remains relatively unchanged, save a bit of black paint splashed on the walls. Down a cobbled ramp and behind a heavy black curtain lies a cinema screen with few seats. The only traditional ‘cinema-style’ seats were a row of four at the front, the rest were school-dinners chairs, so me and my colleague made a dart for them. It was bloody freezing I tell ya – it was London’s snowiest evening so far and two tiny heaters aren’t going to warm a cavernous black room. Still, we were forewarned and had wrapped up.

Now, Pink Narcissus isn’t your typical ‘fashion film’. Forget what you know of fashion films, particularly in the glamorous OTT perfume advertisement sense. Pink Narcissus is unadulterated, gratuitous porn. Gay porn, at that. Essentially it’s a pervy New Yorker who fancied the pants (literally) off some young Brando-esque model and decided to make an ‘art film’ over seven years, making sure most scenes contained said Brando-esque model’s round bottom and various appendages. Cue titters from me and my colleague. It’s hard not too, right?

Illustration by Alison Day

That’s the short version, but there’s a lot more to it. Ryan Powell, lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College, gave a fascinating introduction into the circumstances surrounding the film’s production and release. Bidgood, the film’s director, was a photographer and costume designer with very little (if any) filmmaker training. That didn’t stop him though. Oh no. Bidgood transformed his apartment with lavish sets over the course of seven years. These are, by anybody’s estimation, incredible. It’s the kind of film where you have to continually remind yourself of this fact because some of the sets – a New York cityscape or a decadent bullfighter’s arena, for example, are unbelievable.

The film, as Powell told us, was originally released amidst much controversy with nobody actually claiming ownership. It took almost a decade for Bidgood to step forward after much deliberation in the press as to which closeted artist or filmmaker had produced it.

Illustration by Caroline Duffy

So, the plot. Well, there isn’t one really. I’d be kidding you if I suggested that this is anything other than an erotic exploration of the male form. The film ‘aims’ to tell the story of the sexual fantasies of a male prostitute, who sexually envisions himself as various characters, from a Roman slave to a matador. Bobby Kendall, star of the show, is drop-dead gorgeous and it’s no surprise that Bidgood formed such a fixation on the man. Most people keep there obsessions in private, but not Bidgood. Oh no. He makes a film about it. It reminded me somewhat of the unusual relationship between Lagerfeld and his ‘male muse’ Baptiste Giabiconi – Kendall has the same exotic look as Baptiste and it seems the former was equally as exploited in his day as the latter is now. I can only imagine the conversations. ‘Yes, that’s it, this scene/shoot will look MUCH BETTER if you take your knickers off. Go on. Cheers.’

Illustration by Charlotte Hoyle

Pink Narcissus, for all its perversions, is undoubtedly a stunning film, and its easy to see why it was selected to be screened during the Fashion in Film Festival. There’s only so much you can say about the physical fashion in a gay porn flick, but I will do my damn best. Powell told us that, as a costume designer by day, Bidgood salvaged materials from the projects he was commissioned for and turned them into the costumes we see in the film. They don’t leave much to the imagination – particularly translucent onesies. When costumes do feature, they are incredible. The ‘bullfighting scene’ (read: leather-clad biker in hot-pants riding towards translucent-onesie-wearing Kendall wafting red material) features a lavishly embellished bolero jacket that would be the envy of millions. Fabrics drape all over the place, loin-cloths are made of silk, and my favourite scene – with ‘just a glimpse of cock’ – features a dancer enveloped in an exotic beaded-creation that dazzles. It’s evident that the director has a talent for dress.

It’s high camp at its best. All at the same time, its a master-class in decadence, trash and beauty, and Bidgood could teach modern filmmakers a thing or two, with his saturated colours, confronting close-ups and innovative cuts. The colours vary from bright blues to hot pinks, purples and greens; it’s a bit like being trapped in somebody else’s vivid dream. It’s totally mesmerising.

Thanks, Fashion in Film Festival, for bringing it to the cinema once again.

The Fashion in Film Festival runs until 12 December. Get all the details in our listings section.

Categories ,1970s, ,Baptiste Giabiconi, ,Bobby Kendall, ,Bolero, ,Brando, ,Fashion in Film Festival, ,film, ,gay, ,Homoeroticism, ,James Bidgood, ,Karl Lagerfeld, ,Kings College, ,Matador, ,Pink Narcissus, ,Porn, ,Russel Square, ,Ryan Powell, ,The Horse Hospital

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Amelia’s Magazine | EMA introduces the video for Satellites, from new album The Future’s Void

EMA Satellites by xplusyequals

EMA Satellites by xplusyequals.

Recording artist EMA, aka Erika M. Anderson, has just unveiled new track Satellites. It’s the first new music from the Portland-based artist since her debut album Past Life Martyred Saints was released back in 2011, and a taster of the new album The Future’s Void, which is set for release in Spring 2014. On this track EMA evokes her signature digitally scuffed sound, accompanied by arresting lyrics which question our place in the new digital universe. I caught up with this intriguing musician to find out more….

This is actually a pretty DIY video. I just hang out with tech geeks. We used things that were actually kind of lying around. The screens were salvaged LED monitors that we had used in an art installation called Stars Without Makeup, where as people read the artist statement a small webcam with facial recognition software took their picture and then inserted it into mockups of various websites such as HuffPo‘s Dumb Criminals and E‘s Rate The Rack. Kind of a comment on technology, privacy, and image.

EMA The Futures Void

We put the footage from those screens into a Nightmare Media Cube online installation. There is the creepy all-seeing eye, the kind of Abu Graib footage and the Bad News Cat. Bad News Cat is the footage of the white cat eating and dismembering a bird. It was also part of an older art installation I made years ago, where that footage is juxtaposed with hard news sources. The point is that people are so easily sickened and outraged at the banal violence of a cat eating a bird when there are much more terrible things going on in the world that we have just become numb to.

EMA by Karolina Burdon

EMA by Karolina Burdon.

For this video I wanted to contrast the gross, shitty reality of modern technological life with the idealized version it that I access in virtual reality. I didn’t know what to wear for it and we went to Goodwill the night before the shoot and I got a white suit cuz I love the cover of Laurie Anderson‘s Big Science. It ended up vibing as kind of 80s, but I think that fits because many idealized versions of the ‘future‘ came out in the 80s.

The point is that the future is now, it just looks crappier than we wanted it to.

EMA Satellites by xplusyequals

EMA Satellites by xplusyequals.

The mask I put on is a real VR mask in development called the Oculus Rift. It was designed by a teenager, which is incredible.

All the trash we used was from around the office that we shot it in, a small games company in Portland called Chroma.

EMA by Erika Anderson

The pixelated footage comes from a Microsoft Kinect.

The hardest part of any video for me is hair and makeup. I can edit a video and color-correct easier than I can put on convincing bronzer and figure out hair products.

Satellites by EMA is out now on City Slang and Matador.

Categories ,Bad News Cat, ,Big Science, ,Chroma, ,City Slang, ,Dumb Criminals, ,EMA, ,Erika M. Anderson, ,Karolina Burdon, ,Laurie Anderson, ,Matador, ,Microsoft Kinect, ,Nightmare Media Cube, ,Oculus Rift, ,Past Life Martyred Saints, ,Rate The Rack, ,Satellites, ,Stars Without Makeup, ,The Future’s Void, ,xplusyequals

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