Fashion, too, is only superficially superficial. The Museum of the Moving Image’s three-weekend “Fashion in Film Festival” is well- stocked with suggestive programs, juxtaposing all manner of movies that propose we are what we wear.
Saturday’s shows are “The Enigma of Clothing” (a mix of ads, newsreels, nickelodeon films, and surrealist shorts), Rear Window (with Grace Kelly as designing woman), and the ’80s underground cubo-futurist punk extravaganza Liquid Sky; Sunday’s program starts with a restored 35mm print of Howard Hawks’s 1926 Fig Leaves. Its sexual politics somewhere to the right of Cecil B. DeMille’s, this almost indescribable, sometime slapstick comedy juxtaposes a Stone Age “Adam and Eve” (in a milieu that might be described as the Muppets meet the Flintstones) and their Jazz Age descendants. In both epochs, Eve is tempted by the serpent of fashion. That’s not much more than a leopard skin ensemble back in the cave days; in modern Manhattan however, it’s slinky gowns, two-tone hairdos, gold lamé turbans, quilted ermines, and negligees so scanty that an exasperated modern Adam moans, “a fig leaf is an overcoat to you.”
Speaking of fig leaves, if you stick around you’ll be treated to “Shoes, Eroticism, and Fetishism,” which includes Luis Buñuel’s Diary of a Chambermaid (a vehicle for Jeanne Moreau and her high-button boots), Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 The Gay Shoe Clerk, among other shorts, and Jennie Livingston’s drag ball vogue-fest Paris Is Burning, the most fabulous movie of 1991.