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A monthly focus on the profound impact of film. Fashion and Cultural Historian Laura McLaw Helms selects her three titles



Written on the wind (1956) Douglas Sirk

Written on the Wind is a lush melodrama that sweeps you away into a Technicolor dreamworld of artifice and intrigue. Lucy Moore's (Lauren Bacall) New York office is the latest in fifties modernism—diametrically opposed to the old-world elegance of the Texas mansion she comes to live in when she marries. Alongside cinematographer Russell Metty, director Douglas Sirk creates a sense of disquiet and foreboding through chiaroscuro lighting, an intensely saturated colour palette, and spaces loaded with symbolism. Flamboyant, excessive and akin to soap opera, Sirk’s lurid melodrama—all surface beauty and extravagance—is a foil for a deeper critique of American culture. 

World on a Wire (1973) Rainer Werner Fassbinder

A 1973 two-part television miniseries, World on a Wire is an epic of enigmatic and dystopian science fiction by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Here the near future is all sleek lines and 1970s high gloss, softened with Biba-esque 1930s and Art Nouveau elements. A symphony of inspiring offices—whether polar white or muddy tones all are filled with numerous screens and reflective surfaces, points of revelation amidst the seventies modern furniture (a particular favourite is the white leather couch with drinks compartment). Occasional bursts of vivid orange and sky blue pop against a palette of drab sage, slate, navy and chocolate. Watching this it’s hard not to want to completely redecorate one’s office and home—and also wish for a strikingly chic nightclub pool to go drink by.

Camille 2000s (1969) Radley Metzger

A paean to decadence, Camille 2000 is a 1969 modernization of Alexandre Dumas fils’s 1848 novel La Dame aux Camélias. Directed by erotic film auteur Radley Metzger, Camille 2000 is notable for its near-perfect art direction by Enrico Sabbatini. The luminous Marguerite (Daniele Gaubert) sweeps between her lunar white bedroom, filled with inflatable furniture and mirrors, and the classical gilt living room—both spaces designed for kinky sex, voyeurism and ennui. Metzger captures perfectly the sybaritic, jaded lifestyle of the Roman jet set—debauched fetish parties and over-the top outfits (also by Sabbatini) make it a true feast for the eyes. 

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