THE MOVIES RICK OWENS WATCHES WHILE HE SHOWERS IN THE MORNINGS

Today Rick Owens is watching these films on TV in his Parisian grey, concrete bedroom as he showers in the morning, listening to the opera.

By Balthazar Malevolent

THE MOVIES RICK OWENS WATCHES WHILE HE SHOWERS IN THE MORNINGS
Rick Owens watching Nazimova's Camille in his Parisian apartment.

In their modest house in Porterville, California, where Rick Owens grew up, his father had an overflowing library. The books were held in the basement. According to the designer, it was always cold down there and it always smelled like sticky dirt as there was a crawl space connected to the outside. Those must have been the second-choice books of Rick Owens's father – the ones upstairs were on theology and philosophy, while the basement contained the things he probably considered fluff. Rick Owens found Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon, Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (the Moncrieff translation), J-K Huysmans's A rebours, some Colette, albums of silent-movie stars and set designs, all of which shaped the style that Rick Owens, according to him, "all-too-constantly-promotes." In particular, the epics of the Cecil B DeMille Bible held his attention: lurid black-and-white glamor seen through an art-deco lens, with a quest for a higher meaning and then a clean moral resolution.

Rick Owens watching Nazimova's Camille in his Parisian apartment.

However, if the biblical stories were all grey, glittering, opulent excess, there was a minimalist departure in the handful of movies starring and produced by Alla Nazimova, the Russian actress who gained fame on stage in classic Ibsen plays in the turn of the century but found a silent Hollywood legend on the screen. Future designer was attracted primarily to her versions of the Camille of Alexandre Dumas (1921), and the Salomé of Oscar Wilde (1923), both critical and commercial failures. They were art directed by Natacha Rambova (born Winifred Shaughnessy), whose intimate relationship with Nazimova was never clearly established-most gay partnerships have come to light during this time, but theirs have never been confirmed.

Rick Owens watching Nazimova's Camille in his Parisian apartment.

The photos in Rick Owens's dad's basement books had a cardboard-cut-out quality which only strengthened the sense of sophisticated artifice he was reading into them. The minimalism in the direction of their art was definitely based on their budget. Both films owed a huge debt to the the art of Aubrey Beardsley, who died at the age of 25, just about 20 years before the films have been Released. In Camille the "Beardsley effect" is implied but in Salomé it is completely blatant.

Rick Owens watching Nazimova's Camille in his Parisian apartment.

The modernized version of Nazimova's Camille is set in today's Paris, which means 1921, the year the movie was made. At the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, Art nouveau has been introduced, and in this film you can see how its bizarre lines are already starting to simplify into art deco, which was to be introduced in 1925. In the lightness and sheerness of the costumes of Marguerite/Nazimova, Paul Poiret's elongated style, art nouveau articulated in fashion also made its transition.

Rick Owens watching Nazimova's Camille in his Parisian apartment.

Rick Owens remembers that he only saw the photos of these films in his father's books, and then, while he was living in Hollywood himself, he had video cassettes and watched them in his apartment's bedroom in a Mediterranean Revival House of the 1920s on Grace Avenue – a crack-infested mile above Hollywood Boulevard. He had covered the tall walls of the bedroom and windows with a brocade of dark black and gold moiré that was later remembered by a friend as "decaying peacock feathers"; extremely Nazimova.

Today Rick Owens is watching these films on TV in his Parisian grey, concrete bedroom as he showers in the morning, listening to the opera.

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