Gaultier Revisited

The simulacra torso, a Venus de Paris sheath. Seen in Almodovar’s Bad Education (1993).

I went back. Only I went back with a Gemini and we spent the whole time talking. We were breathlessly exchanging notes on our reactions the first time we’d seen it. Over a snack in the sun we discovered we were born within four days of each other. We’re twin twins!

No wonder. Wonder.

The point is, you have until August 19th to catch The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the De Young. Yes, I’m inciting you. Tonight only, see the show in the afternoon and stay for the “Free Friday” 6:30 pm screening of Almodovar’s Kika (1993), because:

PLOT: Young cosmetologist Kika is called to American writer (Peter Coyote) Nicolas’ mansion to cosmeticize his stepson Ramon’s corpse. Kika’s attentions revive Ramon. She moves in with him. Hurdles to happiness: Kika’s affair with Nicolas and his wife’s suspect death, plus Ramon’s ex-shrink’s (Victoria Abril) enquiring mind. 

The main reason to go is to have your mind blown. Admit it, your mind needs it!

Gaultier does what all metaphysicians claim to do: unites opposites. That is, he mashes together those things convention would rip asunder. Male/female, sacred/sexy, class/trash, Folies Bergère/Haute Couture, plaid/sequins. And he does it with the back-up of Parisian seamstresses.

Going to Gaultier is a bath, a boon for the psyche.

The best thing in the show is the most hermetic, of course: a film loop in French you probably won’t stop to watch. Error. It’s the key to the show, his career, and the couturier’s obsession with the female form. Falbalas (1945) is a forgotten masterpiece by Jacques Becker, an hommage to Parisian couture houses, a neo-classical tragedy about delusional love and the stuck psyche. Must see. Where? Try Le Video.

Gaultier says he realized, once his show was up, the whole thing was an hommage to Micheline Presle in that film. She’s the love interest who says, “No.” The French have a perverse regard for the woman who says, “Non.” Witness La Princesse de Clèves, a 17th-century reworking of the courtly love trope: “Non means ‘non’.”

Love. The. French.

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