Running Time: 45min
Film Year: Array
Category: Fashion in Film Festival
Introduced by Fashion Theorist Eugenia Paulicelli
“Rapsodia Satanica” is a masterpiece of silent Italian cinema. Based on a 1915 poem by Fausto Maria Martini, it was conceived as an “opera d’arte totale,” an amalgam of all the arts of the time, including the avant-garde fashion designs of Mariano Fortuny. The film is also a prime example of the diva genre, featuring Lyda Borelli as Alba d’Oltrevita in a Faustian tale of a search for eternal youth and worldly pleasures. Throughout, a diaphanous veil is singled out as a particularly prominent part of Alba’s wardrobe, and more than that–it becomes a visual event, moulded and layered over Alba’s face and body in scenes of seduction, reflection and melancholy, made all the more striking by the use of stencil color and tinting.
The film’s sensuous and phantasmic qualities recall the serpentine dancer Loie Fuller of the turn of the 20th century, as well as the craze for exotic dances that swept European and American stage and screen around this time, though in Alba’s hands it assumes a distinctly eerie presence, a mirror image of the similarly expressive vampire-style cloak worn by the omnipresent devil.
Eugenia Paulicelli is Professor of Italian, Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center where she directs Fashion Studies in the Master of Liberal Studies. Her books include Fashion under Fascism: Beyond the Black Shirt (2004); 1960, Un anno in Italia tra cultura e spettacolo (2010); Italian Style: Fashion and Film 1914 to the Present (2015) and Writing Fashion in Early Modern Italy: From Sprezzatura to Satire (forthcoming). She is also the editor/co-editor of Moda e Moderno (2006); The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, Globalization (2009); the special fashion issue of the Journal of Modern Italian Studies (2014) and the Women’s Studies Quarterly on Fashion (2013).
Director: Nino Oxilia