Rapsodia Satanica

2019 | Layering: Fashion, Art, Cinema

Sunday 10 March – 3:45 PM – Paradise Plaza



Introduced by fashion theorist Eugenia Paulicelli

Rapsodia Satanica is a masterpiece of silent Italian cinema. Based on a 1915 poem by Fausto Maria Martini, it was conceived as an ‘opera d’arte totale’, an amalgam of all the arts of the time, including the avant-garde fashion designs of Mariano Fortuny. The film is also a prime example of the diva genre, featuring Lyda Borelli as Alba d’Oltrevita in a Faustian tale of a search for eternal youth and worldly pleasures. Throughout, a diaphanous veil is singled out as a particularly prominent part of Alba’s wardrobe, and more than that – it becomes a visual event, moulded and layered over Alba’s face and body in scenes of seduction, reflection and melancholy, made all the more striking by the use of stencil color and tinting. Its sensuous and phantasmic qualities recall the serpentine dancer Loie Fuller from the turn of the 20th century, as well as the craze for exotic dances that swept European and American stage and screen around this time, though in Alba’s hands it assumes a distinctly eerie presence, a mirror image of the similarly expressive vampire-style cloak worn by the omnipresent devil.

Italy 1915/1917. Dir Nino Oxilia. With Lyda Borelli, Andrea Habay, Ugo Bazzini. Alba’s gowns by Mariano Fortuny.


Eugenia Paulicelli

Eugenia Paulicelli, Professor of Italian, Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies, is the founder and director of Fashion Studies at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY). She has published several books on the history and theory of fashion, cinema and print media. Her latest books include Italian Style. Fashion and Film from Early Cinema to the Digital Age (2015) and, as co-editor, Film, Fashion and the 1960s (2017). She has curated a number of exhibitions and film seasons and is the director and founder of The Fabric of Cultures at CUNY, a research and pedagogic project that explores craft, design, technology, sustainability and social responsibility. She has received several awards for her innovative research on fashion, including the Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professorship at the University of Bristol, UK. Her current research deals with the relationship between fashion, cinema, cities and cultural heritage; women from diasporic communities working in the fashion industry; and problems of craft and technology.