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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Fashion in Film Festival: Moulin Rouge (1928)

More from the Fashion in Film Festival - this time Dupont's epic 1928 production of Moulin Rouge that first threw light on the iconic cabaret venue…

Written by Gavin Mackie

Your previous work has explored Poe and Baudelaire – what drew you to their writings and inspire you to visualise their literary landscapes?

They are both writers who utilise the city as a character within their own mythology. They blur the line between the now and another world. There is an atmosphere of insubstantial things, more about buy essences and emanations, check of beauty as a manifestation of a perpetual beyond. Of smoke, fogs, shimmering obfuscations and of a moon setting sail over the city. Through their absent, distant world, I can better see my own city, with its scuffed, graffiti-layered surfaces—another forest of symbols, veilings and half-read signs, a world of unstable meanings, porous images which flow into each other.

Your exhibitions contain both the static and moving image, how would you describe your relationship to these two methods of representation?

The drawn images both in the show and the film are an attempt to crystallise a particular idea or thought, the moving three dimensional fimed sections are more about conjuring up a state of mind or world

What possibilities of expression or narrative does film offer over the static image and vice versa?

I can be more open ended with film. when I’m making the images for my film, I create sets and project light and images into them and take hundreds of pictures ,so I often end up with something very different from what I began with film allows me to juxtapose and arrange images and have more than one thing going on at the same time by appealing to both the eyes and the ears, it also overlays images so someones impression of the film is a group of visual memories

The sets of the film resemble Victorian Children’s Theatre, possibly a stage for shadow puppets, is this a design inspired by research or relationship to the themes within the films?

I think my Poe film was more theatrical because his writing is very stagey and melodramatic

How did you discover Swedenborg and what drew you to his dream journals?

I went into the swedenborg society book shop out of curiosity, I like that part of town. it is also near to where Poe lived in London and also The conway hall and I loved the imagery in the dream diary and the struggle between reason and imagination

Which illustrators, artists or filmakers inspire or are used as reference within your work?

The Quay brothers, David Lynch, Kiki Smith, Paul Klee, Marcel Proust, Goya, Leonardo Da Vinci, Henry Darger

The enigmatic mood of the films feel similar to Alice by Jan Svankmajer, have you seen this film?

Yes I have seen it and I very much like it so I’ll take that as a compliment

What interests you with regards to Alchemic Drawings or the relationship between Science and Faith?

I like the use of Heiroglyphic language in Alchemy, the linking of the rational and the irrational and the idea that the smallest thing is linked to the greatest, the idea that the whole universe is a code where everything is both itself and something else.

Where did you study?

Cambridge University and Chelsea, I studied English BA and Fine Art Painting, which represents both sides of my work really, the literary ideas and the practical realisation.

Watercolours are frequently used within your drawings, what attracts you to the medium?

They’re very bright – I use radiant watercolour inks. also I like their irreversableness

Bellowhead Kayleigh Bluck
Jon Spiers illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

My boyfriend, prostate Charlie started showing me ‘A Folk Song A Day’ a while back. There is one where two men, stuff Jon Boden and John Spiers, frontmen of Bellowhead, sit under a tree, in an (enchanted) forest and sing a nice traditional sounding number. This is the one Charlie particularly loves, it holds the words ‘spotted pig’ within it. Most of the songs come with a healthy dollop of ‘English’ cheek, hence spotted pig.

Just like Bellowhead’s songs, which tend to chat vigorously about strange animals, wizardry and prostitution. But they’re all done with a little glint in the eye and an elbow nudge. ‘English’ cheek makes these things Ok, I reckon. It also makes it all very amusing and you feel yourself holding back an ‘hoooo arrrgh’ as they announce the next song’s topic and sing about ‘whores’. Maybe the ‘hoooo arrrgh’ is because I am watching the band in the West Country and I’ve finally lost my South Eastern ways and become western in spirit. So lovable, they are… and darn! It just seems so quintessentially English to sing like this! *In the depths of dirty 18th century London, a pub glows orangey red, and bursts music from its heart- beers spills from tankards and bosoms heave.*

bellowhead by cat palairet
Bellowhead illustration by Cat Palairet

Of course London and Brighton still love a ho-down. But I have to say it is the county of Cornwall, that Bellowhead reminds me of the most. Cornwall still retains that mystical charm, where the fairies hang out dressed in corsets and the boys wear waistcoats. It is where you will find wooden floor stomping and ‘proper’ local pubs bursting with dancing and singing – natural coloured, ethereally moving fabrics flaying about. Although some Cornish say they are not English, it feels like it is they who hold onto my own nostalgic vision of England hundreds of years ago. And it is true that most music nights in Kernow’s pubs and bars centre around acoustic music and folk struts. You would certainly be hard pushed to find any minimal or electro going on down there.

BUT I digress! We are in Bristol tonight and although I may think i’m entering a pub called Jacob’s Ladder in Falmouth, Cornwall, I am actually in The Bristol Old Vic. Charlie is made up because he is seeing his spotted pig superstars and due to last minute actions, i’ve just had to squash past a row of people to get to my red velvet (?) seat in the middle of the seating line. There are eleven instruments on stage, which the eleven band members begin to attach themselves to. Most of the instruments look enormous. One of them, has to be worn, which makes it look like it is engulfing its player with its own gigantic structure. Like a fish with a massive head.

They start. And it’s like being dunked in ocean water, blasted with air and then bounced up and down. Before you know it, you’re bouncing up and down because you can’t help doing it. Then you’re clapping. Then you’re standing up, and dancing, and clapping. Because you literally can not help it. Bellowhead have injected you and the whole audience with some sort of extreme happiness on a November night. How very talented.

Bellowhead Live Bristol

When looking at the audience, I wouldn’t call it a ‘young person’ – as my Granny would label it – night. However there is a very broad demographic of people in attendance. Which lays testament to their talent. They are able to cross the divisions and bring people together with a related inner excitement. Initially I had thought the lady sat next to me appeared very reserved when I apologetically sank into my seat. But she really went for it, and I mean went for it. I had to tell myself to loosen up a bit, I was so impressed with her enthusiasm.

Bellowhead are so very confident on stage too. Jon Boden leads them on their whizz around their elation inducing music, and they all respect and work together so well. It’s great to see the purposeful movements, belief in performance and joy from being there. Enjoying the riotous music making, Boden continuously raises up his arms, embracing, welcoming and encouraging the spirited feelings. Everyone dances around on stage and I feel like i’m watching a vibrant musical.

This stage presence and professional style now transports them from Cornwall to the Moulin Rouge! Now, Boden is standing on top of the windmill as he sings, and all the players are on a platform in the sky. It’s all loaded with humour and full of energy as I realise that these guys are actually epic.

Abby_Wright_Bellowhead
Jon Spiers illustration by Abby Wright

I begin to wish there had been no seats and we could have pranced around and stamped our feet from the start. However, of course although Bellowhead are about the dancing, they are also about the performance. Huge accolades have been bestowed upon this mega-folk band. They have won the BBC award for Best Live Folk Act four times, with The Independent stating: ‘With the exception of The Who, Bellowhead are surely the best live act in the country.’ Indeed. With 11 hugely talented musicians on stage, I didn’t want to miss a thing.

Before I sign off, going back to A Folk Song A Day, Boden says: “The main idea behind A Folk Song A Day. com is to try and do my bit for raising the profile of unaccompanied social singing. Most of the songs on the site are songs that I have sung for years but rarely on stage and never on albums – songs that I have learnt because I wanted to be able to sing them in a pub.” I’ll tell you this, their album is nothing compared to a live performance by Bellowhead. You WILL want to start singing in pubs and you WILL be singing all the way home.

Details of their tour can be found here

Bellowhead Kayleigh Bluck
Jon Spiers illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

My boyfriend, buy information pills Charlie started showing me ‘A Folk Song A Day’ a while back. There is one where two men, medical Jon Boden and John Spiers, seek frontmen of Bellowhead, sit under a tree, in an (enchanted) forest and sing a nice traditional sounding number. This is the one Charlie particularly loves, it holds the words ‘spotted pig’ within it. Most of the songs come with a healthy dollop of ‘English’ cheek, hence spotted pig.

Just like Bellowhead’s songs, which tend to chat vigorously about strange animals, wizardry and prostitution. But they’re all done with a little glint in the eye and an elbow nudge. ‘English’ cheek makes these things Ok, I reckon. It also makes it all very amusing and you feel yourself holding back an ‘hoooo arrrgh’ as they announce the next song’s topic and sing about ‘whores’. Maybe the ‘hoooo arrrgh’ is because I am watching the band in the West Country and I’ve finally lost my South Eastern ways and become western in spirit. So lovable, they are… and darn! It just seems so quintessentially English to sing like this! *In the depths of dirty 18th century London, a pub glows orangey red, and bursts music from its heart- beers spills from tankards and bosoms heave.*

bellowhead by cat palairet
Bellowhead illustration by Cat Palairet

Of course London and Brighton still love a ho-down. But I have to say it is the county of Cornwall, that Bellowhead reminds me of the most. Cornwall still retains that mystical charm, where the fairies hang out dressed in corsets and the boys wear waistcoats. It is where you will find wooden floor stomping and ‘proper’ local pubs bursting with dancing and singing – natural coloured, ethereally moving fabrics flaying about. Although some Cornish say they are not English, it feels like it is they who hold onto my own nostalgic vision of England hundreds of years ago. And it is true that most music nights in Kernow’s pubs and bars centre around acoustic music and folk struts. You would certainly be hard pushed to find any minimal or electro going on down there.

BUT I digress! We are in Bristol tonight and although I may think i’m entering a pub called Jacob’s Ladder in Falmouth, Cornwall, I am actually in The Bristol Old Vic. Charlie is made up because he is seeing his spotted pig superstars and due to last minute actions, i’ve just had to squash past a row of people to get to my red velvet (?) seat in the middle of the seating line. There are eleven instruments on stage, which the eleven band members begin to attach themselves to. Most of the instruments look enormous. One of them, has to be worn, which makes it look like it is engulfing its player with its own gigantic structure. Like a fish with a massive head.

They start. And it’s like being dunked in ocean water, blasted with air and then bounced up and down. Before you know it, you’re bouncing up and down because you can’t help doing it. Then you’re clapping. Then you’re standing up, and dancing, and clapping. Because you literally can not help it. Bellowhead have injected you and the whole audience with some sort of extreme happiness on a November night. How very talented.

Bellowhead Live Bristol

When looking at the audience, I wouldn’t call it a ‘young person’ – as my Granny would label it – night. However there is a very broad demographic of people in attendance. Which lays testament to their talent. They are able to cross the divisions and bring people together with a related inner excitement. Initially I had thought the lady sat next to me appeared very reserved when I apologetically sank into my seat. But she really went for it, and I mean went for it. I had to tell myself to loosen up a bit, I was so impressed with her enthusiasm.

Bellowhead are so very confident on stage too. Jon Boden leads them on their whizz around their elation inducing music, and they all respect and work together so well. It’s great to see the purposeful movements, belief in performance and joy from being there. Enjoying the riotous music making, Boden continuously raises up his arms, embracing, welcoming and encouraging the spirited feelings. Everyone dances around on stage and I feel like i’m watching a vibrant musical.

This stage presence and professional style now transports them from Cornwall to the Moulin Rouge! Now, Boden is standing on top of the windmill as he sings, and all the players are on a platform in the sky. It’s all loaded with humour and full of energy as I realise that these guys are actually epic.

Abby_Wright_Bellowhead
Jon Spiers illustration by Abby Wright

I begin to wish there had been no seats and we could have pranced around and stamped our feet from the start. However, of course although Bellowhead are about the dancing, they are also about the performance. Huge accolades have been bestowed upon this mega-folk band. They have won the BBC award for Best Live Folk Act four times, with The Independent stating: ‘With the exception of The Who, Bellowhead are surely the best live act in the country.’ Indeed. With 11 hugely talented musicians on stage, I didn’t want to miss a thing.

Before I sign off, going back to A Folk Song A Day, Boden says: “The main idea behind A Folk Song A Day. com is to try and do my bit for raising the profile of unaccompanied social singing. Most of the songs on the site are songs that I have sung for years but rarely on stage and never on albums – songs that I have learnt because I wanted to be able to sing them in a pub.” I’ll tell you this, their album is nothing compared to a live performance by Bellowhead. You WILL want to start singing in pubs and you WILL be singing all the way home.

Details of their tour can be found here

Your previous work has explored Poe and Baudelaire – what drew you to their writings and inspire you to visualise their literary landscapes?

They are both writers who utilise the city as a character within their own mythology. They blur the line between the now and another world. There is an atmosphere of insubstantial things, website essences and emanations, view of beauty as a manifestation of a perpetual beyond. Of smoke, stuff fogs, shimmering obfuscations and of a moon setting sail over the city. Through their absent, distant world, I can better see my own city, with its scuffed, graffiti-layered surfaces—another forest of symbols, veilings and half-read signs, a world of unstable meanings, porous images which flow into each other.

Your exhibitions contain both the static and moving image, how would you describe your relationship to these two methods of representation?

The drawn images both in the show and the film are an attempt to crystallise a particular idea or thought, the moving three dimensional fimed sections are more about conjuring up a state of mind or world

What possibilities of expression or narrative does film offer over the static image and vice versa?

I can be more open ended with film. when I’m making the images for my film, I create sets and project light and images into them and take hundreds of pictures ,so I often end up with something very different from what I began with film allows me to juxtapose and arrange images and have more than one thing going on at the same time by appealing to both the eyes and the ears, it also overlays images so someones impression of the film is a group of visual memories

The sets of the film resemble Victorian Children’s Theatre, possibly a stage for shadow puppets, is this a design inspired by research or relationship to the themes within the films?

I think my Poe film was more theatrical because his writing is very stagey and melodramatic

How did you discover Swedenborg and what drew you to his dream journals?

I went into the swedenborg society book shop out of curiosity, I like that part of town. it is also near to where Poe lived in London and also The conway hall and I loved the imagery in the dream diary and the struggle between reason and imagination

Which illustrators, artists or filmakers inspire or are used as reference within your work?

The Quay brothers, David Lynch, Kiki Smith, Paul Klee, Marcel Proust, Goya, Leonardo Da Vinci, Henry Darger

The enigmatic mood of the films feel similar to Alice by Jan Svankmajer, have you seen this film?

Yes I have seen it and I very much like it so I’ll take that as a compliment

What interests you with regards to Alchemic Drawings or the relationship between Science and Faith?

I like the use of Heiroglyphic language in Alchemy, the linking of the rational and the irrational and the idea that the smallest thing is linked to the greatest, the idea that the whole universe is a code where everything is both itself and something else.

Where did you study?

Cambridge University and Chelsea, I studied English BA and Fine Art Painting, which represents both sides of my work really, the literary ideas and the practical realisation.

Watercolours are frequently used within your drawings, what attracts you to the medium?

They’re very bright – I use radiant watercolour inks. also I like their irreversableness


Illustration by Abi Daker

To celebrate The 3rd Fashion in Film Festival, generic a series of silent movies have been presented at screens around London. After a frolic of veiled dancing at Dreams of Darkness and Colour at the Barbican on Saturday, there Tuesday night it was the turn of the BFI with a screening of the original Moulin Rouge, in its black & white silent glory.


Illustration by Katie Harnett

First presented in 1928, Moulin Rouge transports the viewer into the glamour of life on the Parisian stage and the often more stark reality off-stage that accompanies it. After meandering around Parisian night life, voyeuristically bringing the viewer vignettes of after-dark liaisons (including Toulouse Lautrec busy doodling music hall performances) the movie settles on the story of Moulin Rouge star Parysian. Her top billing and star rating at the Paris music hall does not save Parysian from her undoing, quite to the contrary, it is her profession that comes between her daughter, daughter’s fiancé and father-in-law to be. The film contrasts the harsh reality of Parysian’s life with the glitz of the showbiz world of which she is a part and cannot escape. ‘Madame, it’s time to go to the theatre’; the show must go on.


Illustration by Avril Kelly

The film reflects the sociology of the times – classism, elitism, personal relations, and of course the racy sub-culture of the music hall and Parisian bars are all brought to life. Some scenes were sure to be shocking for the 1920’s, not only the salacious stage performances, but the behviour of the music hall’s more well-to-do patrons, including an impromptu food fight at the show’s after party.


Illustration by Joana Faria

We went to see the fashion, and fashion there was. On stage, there was all the glamour to be found in Vegas, with revealing outfits bejewelled to the max. Off stage, Parysian continued the glamour, even when changing into something less revealing to play good mother-in-law. While lacking the full on sensory assault of its contemporary, given the allure of an old black & white silent, backed with a one-man musical accompaniment, the original Moulin Rouge can still arouse the senses.


Illustration by Karina Yarv

Read our review of Pink Narcissus at the Fashion in Film Festival here.

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2 Responses to “Fashion in Film Festival: Moulin Rouge (1928)”

  1. [...] I haven’t seen the film but I am guessing it must be glorious. For the complete review go to Amelia’s Magazine. [...]

  2. [...] is an illustration I did a little while back for Amelia’s Magazine, to accompany an article about fashion in film. I’ve always found the Moulin Rouge fascinating, so it was interesting to draw and I actually [...]

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