Wool Stockings


Wool Stockings - video still

Video editing, 04 mn 23.

Based on Rouben Mamoulian’s ballet-inspired film Silk Stockings, this video has been created with minimal manipulation of the fragment excerpted from the original film. While honoring the integrity of Cole Porter’s bewitching music at the pivotal moment in the story when the character of Ninotchka, played by Cyd Charisse, first experiences the feeling of wearing silk stockings, the piece inverses the choreography’s flow by playing the scene in reverse.

Contrary to Mamoulian’s film, in which Ninotchka progressively slips down the sulfurous slope of capitalist temptation as she is invited, after having hastily removed her tasteless Soviet outfit, to ceremoniously clothe herself in ruffled garments of perfectly Parisian sophistication, this video chooses to lead the character back toward a Soviet identity. The famous silk stockings that bring Mamoulian’s intransigent Ninotchka to succumb find themselves tossed aside in favor of a pair of black woolen stockings beneath Lenin’s approving gaze as he peers out from a photographic portrait that appears at the very last second of the sequence.

The issue addressed here is not, as Rouben Mamoulian’s film would have it, the influence of communist indoctrination on Ninotchka (which confines her body’s movement as firmly as would a chokingly tight corset), or even a more general emphasis on the impact that political ideology can have on an individual’s psyche.

In playing with a reversal that, in the form of a striptease, puts the essence of Ninotchka’s seduction into question, the video also offers a critical view of the current trends in marriage agency markets, in which Russia and other long neglected Eastern European countries hold a new kind of attraction for middle-class singles in Western Europe. Indeed, the reassuring perception of women from Eastern Europe gives them an edge over their counterparts in the West, who are blamed with being frivolous and condemned for having overly large appetites for consumer goods and freedom of action. The dynamic that the video creates by making Ninotchka mask her appeal as she gets dressed again almost despite herself denounces the shadows currently cast on women by conservative movements anxious to revive the hierarchical rules of the past and, as concerns the battle of the sexes, the public opinion’s resistance to the idea of putting a true parity into practice.

In the figures of this insidiously intoxicating choreography, it’s no longer simply Ninotchka who seems to be caught up in her past, the fears that seem to shake her ideological bearings, and the temptation to want to free herself from them, but the contemporary image of women, still too often affected by the repercussions of centuries of masculine domination.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet