Film and the Decorative Image
Author: Rosalind Galt
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Category: Performing Arts
Film culture often rejects visually rich images, treating simplicity, austerity, or even ugliness as the more provocative, political, and truly cinematic choice. Cinema may challenge traditional ideas of art, but its opposition to the decorative represents a long-standing Western aesthetic bias against feminine cosmetics, Oriental effeminacy, and primitive ornament. Inheriting this patriarchal, colonial perspective which treats decorative style as foreign or sexually perverse filmmakers, critics, and theorists have often denigrated colorful, picturesque, and richly patterned visions in cinema. Condemning the exclusion of the "pretty" from masculine film culture, Rosalind Galt reevaluates received ideas about the decorative impulse from early film criticism to classical and postclassical film theory. The pretty embodies lush visuality, dense mise-en-scène, painterly framing, and arabesque camera movements-styles increasingly central to world cinema. From European art cinema to the films of Wong Kar-wai and Santosh Sivan, from the experimental films of Derek Jarman to the popular pleasures of Moulin Rouge!, the pretty is a vital element of contemporary cinema, communicating distinct sexual and political identities. Inverting the logic of anti-pretty thought, Galt firmly establishes the decorative image as a queer aesthetic, uniquely able to figure cinema's perverse pleasures and cross-cultural encounters. Creating her own critical tapestry from perspectives in art theory, film theory, and philosophy, Galt reclaims prettiness as a radically transgressive style, shimmering with threads of political agency.