This series was started back in 2012, when Miu Miu asked four different filmmakers to use their clothing to tell a story that involves women and the love for the Miu Miu line. The stunning films this series birthed now numbers to 14 as of September 1st.
Most of the short films play into the ideas that clothing is a transformative measure for women. From the first film, The Powder Room by Zoe Cassavetes, audiences get a peek behind the curtain as women primp and ultimately transforming themselves to be ready for the world. Not all of the films take this stance, but many of them showcase the ritual and importance of women crafting themselves.
Muta, by Lucrecia Martel, showcases the transformation of women, seen only as objects of beauty and slaves to fashion transforming from a squirming bug to a moth sturdy and free of all its previous moorings. The women crawl from a small compartment of the ship they are on; a worm from an egg. They may be beautiful, but we never see their faces only eyelashes fluttering, shows stepping, shoulders sloping, hands fluttering. All images of women that would be more suited for magazines and billboards, but that restrict the audience from truly seeing these women (perhaps this is a commentary on how strangely women are perceived in the media).
As they walk about searching for purpose, they interact with each other. Sometimes they violent and primal sometimes they are caring and nurturing. Then as dusk sets in the elegantly crafted cocoons of clothes are left as husks as they fly away into the sky as moths. A metamorphosis that seems like a transcendence.
Massy Tadjedin’s It’s Getting Late, presents four very distinct and notable women getting ready to go out and see a performance. It first shows their lives- the business woman, the mother, the young writer, the experienced filmmaker; all four prepping in their own ways, in their own styles. The transformation appears only cosmetic, because the four women are still themselves at the end of it, but the action of getting ready has brought them together and to one place. The ritual of getting ready raised them to a new level where all were equal; all were merely observes.
The Door has one of the more defined and straight forward narratives of the entire group. Ava DuVernay weaves a story about overcoming loss with the help of good friends, good times, and great clothes. Each new friend that arrives at the main character’s door provides a new point of view, a new event (dinner, dancing, discussion) and a new outfit to remind her who she is. A dress to feel classy, a dress to feel desirable, and a dress to be comfortable all help the main character get over the dress that has been weighing her down, her wedding dress. This transformation needed help and ultimately brings the main character back to who she was before and not something completely new, but it still holds true to this first central theme.
Two other films also fit into this category; The Woman Dress by Maya Sansa and Alice Rohrwacher’s De Djess. The transformative nature of cloths becomes the transformative nature of women metamorphizing, armoring up, ascending, moving-on, finding strength, breaking expectations, and becoming something more.
The other group of films works as memory holders. These memories work to bring women closer together in the shared experiences they create. The dream-like quality at times gives them the feeling of being less than reality, but the content and the ideas being approached are far more serious and real than any dream.
In Le Donne Della Vuccieria by Hiam Arbass, the juxtaposition of a doll maker and a singer who is able to affect the actions of the crowd displays ideas about power and control. The abstract narrative leaves a lot of vague areas that can be interpreted in many ways. Perhaps one way could be the idea that women have a lot more power and control then we assume; like puppet makers they are in control of what is created. The short film, set in Sicily, also plays as an homage to the city, to traveling, to summer nights of youth. What value does the couple at the end hold that we must watch them share a kiss and then ride into the sunset? They may represent youthfulness, or city life, but that is up to the viewer to decide based off of their own experiences.
So Young Kim’s Spark and Light is another memory film that actually is a dream. Though never truly clear until the end, we travel through the subconscious of the main character as she deals with a sick mother, a broken-down car in the snow, and a father that was never there for her. It may come out all jumbled and confusing and separate, but it is not hard to piece together. The main Miu Miu focus of this film was also more directly on fabric and not an actual outfit or ensemble and this created a wonderful association to key aspects of in the film. You relate to the character because we all have mothers and father and we have needed help when we were stuck in the snow. In the glimpses of this film we are drawn back to those moments. A shared dream experience that we each fill in with our own details from our own realities.
Somebody from Miranda July, takes a stab at our interaction with strangers and the internet all at once. July’s film works as an advertisement for her app Somebody. The very real app lived about a year and was supposed to function as an experiment that would get people to talk to strangers. The premise goes that if you have something to say to someone, but you are incapable of saying it to their face, you can have a total stranger say it to them. The app didn’t really work in practice, but in the film, it presents an amazing paradigm. As random strangers connect over the shared messages- that cause real reactions- the messages are less effective in connecting the sender to the messages receiver. Shared experiences are the center of the film, but this time it focuses on some of the more paradoxical aspects of human behavior.
Following up these unreal- dream films are Les 3 Boutons from Agnès Varda, Seed by Naomi Kawase, and Crystal Moselle’s That One Day. All three amazing stories of women experiences, and memory evoking circumstances, told with a twist of dreamlike unreality.
This year two new additions were added to the series. The short film uploaded earlier this year in February, Carmen by Chloë Sevigny, follows Carmen Lynch a standup comedian. Carmen falls into the category of transformative narrative through clothing and appearance.
As Carmen goes about her day, a voice-over of her comedy plays in the background to images of her at a bar, getting a soda at a convenience store, and other places. Lynch’s introversion makes conversation difficult and clunky especially when the people she is talking to are catcalling her from two feet away. The portrayal of Lynch comes off awkward, but through her voiced-over routine we learn she not only is awkward, but she thrives on awkward.
There soon pops up images of Lynch in her dressing room where she does her hair, applies lipstick, dresses to go out in front of a crowd. She is confidant, she smiles, the lighting is soft and warm. This is a complete transformation from the introverted woman slouching as she tries to avoid the idiotic remarks of two men under the harsh glow of florescent lighting. Her attire doesn’t change, but the process of getting ready, preparing her armor to face the crowd, remakes her into the image of the typical performer.
The empowerment of women through their attire takes many different narrative approaches in this series. In Carmen, it takes the intimacy of the “ready room” from The Powder Room, The Woman Dress and De Djess and paints it in a ritualistic light. The dressing room works as a place removed from reality; we do not hear the sounds form the room, even time seem to slowdown in this room. The “ready room” then pairs with the armor applying ideology of It’s Getting Late, The Door, and again De Djess.
The second and most recent film (The [End) of History Illusion] by Celia Rowlson-Hall takes viewers back and into the future. Firstly, the style of the film comes from a 1950’s-era infomercial trying to get people to buy a fallout shelter. If you know or have heard of the videogame Fallout this film is set in that sort of future-past. The film is shot in such an underground bunker as the vibrant cast of tap-dancers, cooking ballerina, lounging mermaid, sleek housekeeper, attentive gardener and eccentric host slowly go mad.
Be it isolation or from nuclear-contaminated soil (carrots usually don’t turn into radishes by themselves) the occupants become shells of their former lives as they complete chores so familiar to them that they go through the motions and cause more harm than good. The cook bakes a painting, the host plays so much piano her fingers are raw, the mermaid drowns, the house keeper destroys the house as she desperately tries to clean it. While they all mean well, their actions destroy that which they worked so hard to maintain. The relevance of this film rings as loud as the warning alarms that sound just before the bombs land halfway through the film. International events continue to bring back Cold War ideology and fear thus showing a future that is routed in a past not so long gone. Each day the future of this film seems a little bit closer.
What maybe just as interesting as the film itself is where its name comes from. The title references a theory in psychology that states that people believe that to this point they have undergone wondrous change and growth, so much so that they have reached their full potential and have no more growth achievable. This frame of reference speaks of an optimism turned realistic-pessimism as one may look back and see a wonderful garden behind them and a proverbial barren wasteland ahead. The basis of the theory works in a similar vain to “hindsight is 20/20”; the past is easy to analyze while the future seems vague and impossible.
The film fits the second group of memories into experiences as it literally works to bring up the not-so-distant-past as a memory and bring it up to date with its moments of monotony and forced isolation that also play into current evens far too well. It does however end on vague optimism with a light and a way out of the bunker.
Each film is extremely unique and impressive. While breaking them into two categories may generalize them a bit, because there is far too much symbolism and context that can only be experienced by watching them. With the winter line from Miu Miu on its way down the catwalks of New York Fashion Week, a new film may be in the works for next year, even further rounding out this wonderful collection of films by women for women.