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(New York’s Metrograph is presenting a program entitled Queer Poseurs, Cinematic Muses: K8 Hardy’s Inspirations for Outfitumentary wherein New York-based artist and filmmaker K8 Hardy “shares some of her filmic inspirations, spotlighting a suite of cinema’s most rebellious fashion iconoclasts and idols.” Outfitumentary plays Friday, 16-December at 7:15pm + Saturday, 17-December at 6:45pm and Ticket of No Return plays Friday, 16-December at 9:30pm + Sunday, 18-December at 9:15pm. Jonathan Marlow offers thoughts on both…)

“As a young artist in New York, I was running around the city like a peacock in my flamboyant queer and feminist looks. In 2001, I made up my mind that I needed to document my outfits on video for the next ten years. I felt there needed to be an accurate record of the way a blossoming radical lesbian feminist was dressing. I proceeded to capture my outfits on a consistent and often daily basis, using the same shitty mini-dv camera in my ever-changing apartments and art studios. By the beginning of 2012, my camera broke and I declared the project finished.”

Outfitumentary , K8 Hardy’s theme-and-variation “personal documentary” is the lodestar around which Queer Poseurs, Cinematic Muses (16- to 18-December at Metrograph) sails, featuring a trio of Hardy inspirations: John Waters’ decadent Pink Flamingos, Ryan Trecartin’s chaotic I-Be Area and a fashionable Outfitu-counterpoint, Ulrike Ottinger’s fabulous Ticket of No Return. A quadruple-feature of mind-blowing proportions, dispersed in digestible doubles or a Saturday night triple.

Co-produced by Madeleine Molyneaux, Outfitumentary opens with filmmaker / protagonist K8 Hardy wearing a t-shirt which matter-of-factly reads, “Inside this shirt is the body of a lesbian woman,” reflected in reverse. At that moment, Kate Bush’s presently ubiquitous Running Up That Hill plays whereas, elsewhere and throughout, the diegetic soundtrack features off-screen individuals questioning the process or making attempts to assist. Therein, this fashion-diary is additionally, in parallel, its own making-of. Like an outfit, layers upon layers.

While a not-quite-hour-and-a-half fashion show pantomime, one outfit following another, might not initially strike you as a fascinating prospect, the “-umentary” set-up of persistence provides a snapshot-sequence of a decade of transformation. There is more variety in the assorted combinations of outfits than you’d otherwise suspect. A fair amount of humor, too. I’ll be your mirror.

Contrarywise yet similarly, Ticket of No Return [ Bildnis Einer Trinkerin] had no antecedent outside of the other works by Ulrike Ottinger. One potential reference point: score-composer extraordinaire Peer Raben (who worked extensively with Rainer Werner Fassbinder). RWF-esque? Not precisely.

“She, a woman of great beauty, of antique grace and Raphaelesque proportions, a woman, created like no other, to be Medea, Madonna, Beatrice, Iphigenia, Asposia, decided one sunny winter day to leave La Rotonda. She bought a one-way ticket to Berlin-Tegel.”

Thus the English title, a ticket there-but-not-back-again. The German title, however, translates as Portrait of a Female Drunkard and, accurately enough, the narrative framework follows a drinking-tour of late-‘70s Berlin. How outré was the once-and-thereafter-but-not-then capital? Muse / lead-drunkard Tabea Blumenschein’s costume-designs foreshadow the mid-1980s and the whole film feels out-of-step with the period, occasionally ahead, sometimes slightly behind and otherwise of no time whatsoever.

Here we have dancing! Assorted vignettes! Friendship between a homeless vagabond and an itinerant socialite, drunkards all! Briefly starring Eddie Constantine (a la Alphaville etc.), written / directed / with camerawork by the incomparable Ulrike Ottinger (who additionally cameos). With moments of über European-ness: yodeling, sausages and sauerkraut! Entirely unique in comparison to the New German Cinema [Neuer Deutscher Film] of the time. Not Wenders, Herzog, Schroeter, Syberberg nor even von Trotta. Ottinger, above all.

“She wanted to forget her past,” Ottinger wrote, “or rather to abandon it like a condemned house. She wanted to concentrate all her energies on one thing, something all her own. To follow her own destiny at last was her only desire. Berlin, a city in which she was a complete stranger, seemed just the place to indulge her passion undisturbed. Her passion was alcohol, she lived to drink and drank to live, the life of a drunkard. Her resolve to live out a narcissistic, pessimistic cult of solitude strengthened during her flight until it reached the level at which it could be lived.”

The perfect film(s) for this imperfect moment: Ticket of No Return and Outfitumentary are expeditions to a world that was and never will be again.

Jonathan Marlow (@aliasMarlow)

OUTFITUMENTARY (2016)  dir. K8 Hardy  [82min.]  Hardy Studio

TICKET OF NO RETURN (1979) dir. Ulrike Ottinger [108min.] Arsenal Distribution

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