FANTASIA 2017 REVIEW: Fashionista
– By Sooz Webb
They say fashion has the power to transform. That you can become someone new, simply by changing an outfit. But a capacity for metamorphosis can become addictive, until all sense of self is lost. Until you end up fashions victim. So warns Simon Rumley, in his stylish and mind-bending psychological thriller Fashionista.
Set in the boutique world of vintage fashion we meet April, who co-owns a clothes store with her husband Eric. April has a special connection with couture, in fact you could call it a fetishised obsession, as nothing gives her greater pleasure than the smell and feel of different fabrics. Not even her relationship. Tensions are rife between the couple, and a suspicious April confirms her deepest fears, when she follows her husband and discovers he’s having an affair with one of their employees. Reinventing herself the only way she knows how, April leans on her emotional crutch, switching outfits and accessorizing with a new man. The man in question is sharply dressed Randall, a wealthy playboy who exchanges high end designer labels, for some extreme sexual gratification. Pretty Woman this ain’t. Randalls kinky appetites eat slowly away at April’s sanity, and through a series of flash forwards and disturbing images, we begin to question which parts are real and which are twisted fiction, conducted in an emotionally vulnerable woman’s mind.
Fashionista employs a nonlinear, disjointed style of storytelling, which the director attributes to the work of Nicolas Roeg as inspiration. Often confusing because of its presentation, it could be easy to label the film as just another pretentious art house outing. But there’s a deeper layer beneath the surface. As the fragments coalesce, our understanding intensifies, until we’re captivated by events. Intrigued by what will happen next, and what conclusions will be drawn. As beguiling as her character’s wardrobe, is Amanda Fuller as April. Though her we witness a confident bohemian unravel and become unsure of herself until, despite several outfit changes, she doesn’t recognise the person reflected in the mirror. Rumleys script deconstructs the character, as much as he does our obsession with the superfluous, and how easily a habit can spiral into an obsession. Revealing truths we usually cover up, the most excruciatingly tense moment is a scene which stips the characters bare, as April finds herself the consenting participant in a bizarre sexual encounter, that’s 50 shades of sinister.
Cinematographer Milton Kam employs a slightly muted pallet, which sits nicely with the lead characters preference for vintage fashion. Lending itself to questioning of truth, with dreamy, washed out tones. This, spliced with scenes shadowing an unrelated character and unconventional angles, unsettle and perplex, as we scratch away at what’s left of a spiritually broken woman’s mind. The music fits the look and vibe of the film, hugging it’s curves with rock’n roll tones, or accentuating disorientation during disturbing events. The only real downside is the films run time which, at just under two hours, is perhaps a shade too long for the story. But visual stimulation and phenomenal performances keep us invested, and we can all be accused of splurging and over-indulging sometimes.
A tense psychological horror for the consumerist generation, Fashionista is smart, stylish, and uncomfortable to slip into. Challenging and provocative, it dares us to look beneath the superficial, into the complex fabric of our mind.