Clothing, she explained, has been a part of her unique approach from the beginning. Since her first film, Unrelated, she’s had “this habit of putting my own clothes into my films, and the trouble with that is, if I ever decide to wear them myself [again], it sort of feels…really striking.” She laughed.
Clothes aren’t the only objects of Hogg’s to appear in her films. Hogg’s work seems to view the boundary between life and art as porous, or even nonexistent—for Julie and Anthony, in The Souvenir: Part I, living life becomes something like the creation of a great artwork, or a highly staged pursuit of beauty. Part II requires the kind of attention to detail usually demanded of audiences for sci-fi sagas or television show reunions. We are expected to remember characters who showed up for mere moments in Part I, but also the outlines of rooms, the import of meaningless memories and throwaway lines, and, of course, clothes. But if Hogg’s magic works the way it’s intended to—as it seemed to for a great many viewers of the first film, judging by the movie snob contingent that hasn’t stopped discussing it—you will indeed remember. Taken together, the films are a powerful case for selfish art: storytelling that rewards the studious, sensitive viewer, and heaps pleasure on its maker. If the first film was a painful exploration of addiction, Part II is more indulgent—plus “more ambitious, and more joyful,” as Hogg told me, than the first. It is truly art for art’s sake. Or more accurately, art for the artist’s sake. These are not films for someone who simply wants to enjoy a young woman’s coming-of-age story, but for those who obsess over the past, who think that everything that ever happened to them matters, and who believe every object, especially every garment, has the power to recreate history, or travel through time.
“We’re seeing Julie, telling the story of Julie, through these different style changes,” said Hogg, of the role of clothes in Part II, “in a way that seemed kind of superficial on the one hand, but were completely fundamental to how she sees herself, or how her life is shifting.” Her passion for designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Charles James, and Vivienne Westwood don’t only define Julie (Joanna’s surrogate) for us, but also reveal her interior—the film is an exploration of the very function and definition of fashion itself. In fact, the film portrays Julie attempting, and failing, to make an earlier version of The Souvenir: Part I as her graduate project. Hogg’s actual graduate film, meanwhile, was a fashion film, a multi-episode series called Caprice, starring childhood best friend Swinton as a fashion maven. “Each episode of the film was about a young woman who goes inside the pages of a fashion magazine,” said Hogg. “I was always crazy about fashion magazines. Tilda plays this character who goes through each page, and each page promoted a different fashion designer”—Manolo Blahnik, as well as Turkish designer Rifat Ozbek and milliner Kristen Woodward.
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