Birds of paradise689


    25 April 2011

    by Katja Schmolka

    Hollywood Exotica is the expression for a time in which ornamentation, finely embroidered textiles and makeup in its artistic form were brought to life on the silver screen.

    Birds of Paradise opens its paradisical doors in New York within the context of the “Fashion in Film” festival from April 15-24, 2011. It is a spectacular and lyrical film symposium of the finest quality. More than 30 avant-garde color, as well as black and white, films lead viewers through a world of Hollywood exotica from the 30′s and 40′s. Dance films and cartoons in 1890 and 1900 enjoyed great popularity and oriental worlds enchanted audiences in the 20′s. Underground filmmakers such as Kenneth Anger, Jack Arnold and James Bidgood crafted surreal imagery in which the appearance of opulent costumes embellished with jewels, glamorous ornamentation and dazzling headpieces became vehicles of stylistic expression. The feminine and the sensual celebrate their emancipation in a play on nudity with curves sparsely clad in luxuriously glitzy materials. Embroidered pieces, plastic, paper and feathers compose entire scenes in which actors and dancers move sinuously and androgynously before the camera. Another stylistic element is the dance, combined with the facial expressions and supported by background music that sounds as if it stems from an alternate universe. The accessibility of the stories being told is also truly visionary considering that they were created 80 to 100 years ago.

    The exhibition emphasizes the very unique aspects of visual intensity present in an underground film as well as the completely magical, dream-like world of the silent film. Masterpieces such as `The Devil is a Woman` by director Josef von Sternberg, 1935 featuring Marlene Dietrich in the lead role, and`Salomé` by director Charles Bryant, 1923 with highly stylized costumes  á la Aubrey Beardsley.

    Fashion in Film is an exhibition organized in cooperation with the students of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, and in collaboration with the Museum of the Moving Image and Yale University in New York.

    The full program and further information concerning film show times can be found at

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