It's possible we should define the word style, or at least have a working definition of it to refer to as we get closer to Friday, December 7 through Sunday, December 9, the weekend of Screen Style, Northwest Film Forum's most stylish movie series to date.
Style, as it is used here, refers to a way of being in the world.
Some people—some characters—are noted by their mannerisms. Some by their intellect, some by their politics, some by their humor. Some by their style. Some by a combination of all of the above and whatever else I have not mentioned here, sure, but when we remember, conjur, or otherwise reflect on certain among us, we think about their style; the way they dress and adorn their bodies and then take their stylized forms out in the world to accomplish things.
Stylish? That one's trickier. When we say someone is stylish, we mean there's something about the way they dress themselves up and interact with their world that is worth looking at and studying. That's impossible not to look at and study. Simply put, the stylish are so good at chosing or refusing a uniform that on any given Tuesday morning or Saturday night we not only know about them and their mission just by looking at them, we are inspired to go further and learn more—about them, about their dress, their story, their plot, and about ourselves and our own stories.
I'd like to resist the comparision to the Supreme Court's definition of pornography and obscenity—you know, the whole "I know it when I see it" thing—but the fact is, we do know style when we see it, and seeing it is the easiest way to define it.
And so finally, a definition for stylish movies? You'll know them when you see them in December.
Spoiler alert: there's not an Audrey Hepburn role to be found. As I wrote for NWFF's website, true to Seattle's different-drummer beat, the four-features series includes films that skirt the direct issue of style but inform deep, personal notions of aesthetics, individual expression, daily uniforms, and visual narratives.
For creative director Strath Shepard (Nordstrom, Pacific Standard magazine, Land Management), the impeccable, severly buttoned-up and ironed style of Tom Ripley in Purple Noon works as a sharpening tool. The film's lead is all the more cunning and evil because of his sharp cuffs and crisp shirts. (Shows during Screen Style on Friday, December 7.)
For fashion designer and textile artist Anna Telcs, the Adidas track suit-spotted street style of reggae artists in the late '70s, captured in the film Rockers, colors their efforts to shuffle records around Kingston, Jaimaca save the world from bad disco music. (Shows during Screen Style on Saturday, December 8.)
In Ingmar Bergman's Passion of Anna, there's a subtley to the character's tone-on-tone dress as well as the director's quiet, moody minimalism that speaks to globally known Totokaelo owner Jill Wenger. (Shows during Screen Style on Sunday, December 9.)
Dramatically dressed former curator Robin Held pointed at the standards of military dress in Beau Travail, and the way that discipline, order, and uniformity in dress inspire or spoil the same qualities in behavior. (Shows during Screen Style on Sunday, December 9.)
Either way, please consider coming to a panel discussion on Saturday, December 8 at 5 (before Rockers). The panelists above will join me in talking about these movies and others, and the way they inspire us to better understand and adorn our world.