“You put the right woman in the right clothes, she becomes transcendental.”
FASHIONISTA truly is a film that transcends any psychological thriller that has come before it. This powerfully moving portrayal of one woman’s addiction is set and filmed on location in the “weird” capital of the world, Austin, Texas. The soundtrack solely comprises songs by bands from Austin, providing a rounded sense of involvement with the city. Director Simon Rumley creates a captivatingly beautiful world filled with vintage clothes, desperation and intrigue, resulting in almost complete immersion. In the closing credits, Rumley cites the films of Nicolas Roeg as his inspiration. Roeg’s influence can be seen in the film’s non-linear narrative, which moves fluidly between the past and present, intertwined with haunting dream sequences. FASHIONISTA presents a patchwork mosaic timeline designed to confuse and allure. Do not be discouraged by the structure of the film: although it can often leave you suspended in confusion, the ending finds all the pieces of the puzzle and reassembles them into coherence.
No-one understands the transformative and rejuvenative power of clothes more than April (Amanda Fuller). Set in the weird and wonderful world of vintage fashion, April and her husband Eric (Ethan Embry) own their own small boutique in Austin, with the hopes of soon opening another one in Dallas. The clothes for the Dallas store suffocate the couple’s apartment, closing them in on all sides. After April’s fears of her husbands infidelity are confirmed, and her happy life starts to unravel like the wool on an old jumper, we begin to see April reach more to her clothes for comfort. Montage sequences of trying on endless dresses and skirts end each time in an passionate moan of ecstasy as she seeks comfort from the mess around her. Following the split from her husband, April burns the clothes from the apartment and re-invents herself, with new clothes and a new man. Randall (Eric Balfour) is a mysterious business man who buys April with high end fashion in exchange for sexual favours. As these favours become increasingly twisted, we see April’s sanity slowly start to slip away. Amanda Fuller delivers an award-worthy performance as we follow her character through the horrifying depths and depravity of addiction.
Undoubtedly one of the film’s most compelling aspects is its composition. Rumley is the master of creating atmosphere through lighting. Dark shadows and dim yellow lights cast the apartment in a hazy glow as April writhes with mountains of clothes on the bed. Neon reds and blues cast an unsettling light, channelling the work of Nicolas Winding Refn. The white walls and floors of Randall’s home create a detached and disturbing atmosphere as April wanders alone. This incredible piece of arthouse cinema has a score beautifully composed by Richard Chester. FASHIONISTA is a tense, sinister and yet unbelievably seductive portrayal of addiction which spits you out and leaves you longing for more.