Watching The Detectives: At The BFI Southbank

This season, the BFI celebrates one of cinema’s most notable and cynical genres, film noir in their season , Watching The Detectives. First coined by Nino Frank in 1946, the term film noir was used to describe films that blended themes of crime and drama with visual elements inspired by German Expressionist cinematography. In this blog post we’ll be taking a closer look at some of film noirs most notable films, legacy and of course fashion.

We’ve teamed up with the incredible British Film Institute in celebration of their new season and giving you guys 10% off tickets.

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Double Indemnity (1944) 

Billy Wilder’s 1944 film noir classic Double Indemnity, follows an insurance representative who is seduced by a housewife into a murder/ insurance scheme. Leads Fred Macmurray and Barbara Stanwyck costume’s highlight the epitome of 40’s fashion. Tailored 3 piece suits, fedoras, utility style clothing inspired by the war and simple but elegant evening gowns. Considered the best femme fatale character ever, Phyllis Dietrichson’s (played by Stanwyck) costume was originally selected to come off as sleezy as possible. Exaggerated make-up, heavy jewellery and a brassy blonde wig. Tie this in with ultra-feminie clothing acting as a disguise for her lies and deceit.


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Chinatown (1974) 

 Directed by Roman Polanski, Chinatown is a 1974 neo-noir film starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. The film follows a private investigator, JJ ‘Jake’ Gittes (Jack Nicholson)  who is hired by a wife to investigate her husband’s adulterous activities. However he quickly realises through he was hired by an imposter and is tangled in a trail of deceit, corruption and murder. 

 Throughout the film Nicholson’s costume is reflective of an archetypal film noir detective, a fedora, a 3 piece suit and of course a cigarette. 

Dunaways performance is showcased with classic elegant silhouettes of the 30’s. Even down to make up and the striking pencil thin arched eyebrows, Dunaway’s costume emcompases all that is a femme fatal. 

Through film, fashion and decor, Polanski’s deliberate reconstruction of thirties film techniques in the 70’s reflects his obsession with period accuracy. 

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Blue Velvet (1986) 

David Lynch’s combination of neo-noir, mystery and psychological horror is what makes up the 1986 cult classic film, Blue Velvet. The plot follows university student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) discover a severed human ear upon arriving home to look after his ill father. He soon finds himself trapped in a series of sexual, murderous and gang related situations with a mysterious self-destructive femme fatal, Dorothy Valloens (Isabella Rossellini) 

Our first encounter with Dorothy is in her apartment, in a red wrap around silk dress, her strikingly visual make-up, made up of blue eyeshadow and a bright red lip becomes her signature look for the rest of the film. But nothing tops the iconic floor length blue velvet gown. This exaggerated high glamour paints Dorothy as the otherworldly and mysterious. 

Don’t miss the BFI’s Watching The Detectives season this autumn, featuring some of the best loved detective/film noirs of all time. Think femme fatales with pinched waists and smoking detectives in their obligatory double breasted suits and trilby hats. Highlights include Double Indemnity, Chinatown and Blue Velvet. Simply punch ROKIT241 for 10% off into the promotional box when booking on line.

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