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  • Fashion and Film: A Symposium
  • Geoffrey Beene, Tom Kalin, Grace Mirabella, and Matthew Yokobosky

On the occasion of the retrospective Fashion and Film at the Whitney Museum of American Art, a “Conversation on Art” was held on December 4, 1997, with Geoffrey Beene, fashion designer; Tom Kalin, filmmaker; Grace Mirabella, editor of Vogue and founder of Mirabella; and Matthew Yokobosky, Associate Curator of Film & Video, Whitney Museum of American Art. The following was transcribed by Leslie Ava Shaw and edited by Matthew Yokobosky, who was also the curator of the exhibition.


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Figure 1.

A scene from Geoffrey Beene: 30. Photo: Courtesy James White.


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Figure 2.

Trash in Tom Kalin’s Swoon. Photo: Courtesy James White.


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Figure 3.

Anh Duong and Olek Krupa in Geoffrey Beene: 30, a film by Tom Kalin. Photo: Courtesy James White.


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Figure 4.

Michael Kirby, Marcia Gay Harden, and Belinda Becker in Geoffrey Beene: 30. Photo: Courtesy James White.

YOKOBOSKY:

In 1992, Tom Kalin directed a film titled Swoon, which told the story of the 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder trial in Chicago. The two men, 18 and 19 years old, murdered a 13-year- old boy. It was known as the crime of the century. But it is not the story which begins our discussion, but the visual impact of the film.

BEENE:

I liked the graphic quality of it and the way it was photographed reminded me of the films that were made in Germany during the 1920s. Yes, I really became obsessed with that film.

KALIN:

Thank you. It was a very low budget movie that was shot over a series of 14 days.

BEENE:

Tom, that was a master feat. When I saw it, I just felt that fashion should be shot this way—that intense, that black-and-white, and that graphic. I saw that movie five times. So at that point, I wrote Tom a fan letter and asked him if he would please speak to me about doing something with fashion. He never had and wasn’t sure he would like fashion. But I took a chance and met with him.

KALIN:

And eventually we made a 30th-anniversary celebration of Geoffrey’s career titled Geoffrey Beene: 30.

BEENE:

It was a 30-minute film on the clothes that I had done during the first 30 years of my career. What was wonderful about the film was that I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Tom was given carte blanche to make the film. The results [End Page 12] were startling to me and still are. I was fascinated that he could take the clothes and cast the film and dress all of these characters from the clothes that I had made over 30 years.

YOKOBOSKY:

How did you begin the collaborative process to make the film?

KALIN:

After I recovered from getting the fan letter, I went up to the office and I got an education in the clothes in a really direct way. Geoffrey brought out a lot of clothes produced over many years on his house models, and then I saw the clothes undergo transformations. Most specifically I remember this coat that was really a big, black cape with a hood—like a monk’s robe, but more exaggerated. It appeared like an architectural thing. It was made from a perfect circle of fabric, but then the model put it on and it turned into this conical shape, and then with a belt, it turned into something else. I think it was the architectural basis of the clothing that I really responded to, and the Minimalist, pared-down quality about them. After seeing the clothes, I understood what it was about Swoon that attracted Geoffrey. It made sense to me then.

YOKOBOSKY:

I think part of what Geoffrey was interested in was the black-and-white quality of it, which to me evokes a lot of silent-era film.

KALIN:

There is actually an accidental origination of the black-and-white film technique in Swoon. We shot...

Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 12-21
Launched on MUSE
1998-09-01
Open Access
No
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