True colours

Pietra Brettkelly and Carmen Dell’Orefice on Yellow Is Forbidden

by Anne-Katrin Titze

‪Carmen Dell’Orefice‬: "The thing about Guo Pei is that she is the purest child. She doesn't envy. Her love is so pure. That's what makes her artistry just unique."
‪Carmen Dell’Orefice‬: "The thing about Guo Pei is that she is the purest child. She doesn't envy. Her love is so pure. That's what makes her artistry just unique." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

When I commented to Pietra Brettkelly at the Tribeca Film Festival world premiere of Yellow Is Forbidden, about her very creative use of a film about Balenciaga that Guo Pei admired, the director gave credit to her "extraordinary" editor Nicolas Chaudeurge (Andrea Arnold's Oscar-winning short Wasp, Red Road, Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights, Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer's Still Alice). Carmen Dell’Orefice followed up from the stage with her personal feelings for Guo Pei and what makes her artistry unique.

Guo Pei evening gown - China: Through the Looking Glass Costume Institute exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Guo Pei evening gown - China: Through the Looking Glass Costume Institute exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Rihanna, in 2015, wore a yellow cape gown designed by Guo Pei to Anna Wintour's Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for the exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass, curated by Andrew Bolton with film clips selected by Artistic Director Wong Kar Wai. Guo Pei had two of her works on display.

Fantasy is ever present and became reality in Pei's 1002 Nights collection of spring/summer 2010 which featured the dress Rihanna saved from oblivion. The shoes are impossibly high, the garments heavier than rocks, she has 300 embroiderers working on the clothes, models shake in fear before walking her runway - and the result is utterly staggering.

The spring 2017 "church collection" was shown in a very special location, the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned for 76 days awaiting her death. Only Alexander McQueen used the medieval guillotine antechamber for a fashion show 17 years before her. The magnificent Carmen Dell’Orefice, after a long career in modeling, made it her final runway show.

Pietra Brettkelly on Yellow Is Forbidden: "You mentioned about Balenciaga and, my goodness, it took me a long long time to find that footage ..."
Pietra Brettkelly on Yellow Is Forbidden: "You mentioned about Balenciaga and, my goodness, it took me a long long time to find that footage ..."

Guo Pei is full of contradictions and Brettkelly doesn't try to hide that, quite the opposite. "I'm a designer," she responds to an inquiry in the documentary, "I do not represent a nation."

Anne-Katrin Titze: There are so many beautiful moments in the film but one struck me as particularly stunning and that is when she, Guo Pei, is talking about the Balenciaga film that she remembers. And you show it to us in the middle of the scene, laced on top of it. That's a beautiful thing I've never seen before. Can you talk about that?

Pietra Brettkelly: Yeah! Archive is something I just think is one of our most precious things. It's a basis of our culture of the last one hundred years. So in every one of my films I try to find a place for archive. You mentioned about Balenciaga and, my goodness, it took me a long long time to find that footage and then negotiate it. And there was only one copy.

Usually with archive you can find … Oh, it was there, only letting me use it was incredibly expensive. But, you know, it sort of showed so much, right? So I had to put it in there. And then this extraordinary editor, Nicolas Chaudeurge, who is French and lives in London. And he finishes all my films.

Pietra Brettkelly on editor ‪Nicolas Chaudeurge‬: "He did a lot of Andrea Arnold's films. He's a phenomenal filmmaker."
Pietra Brettkelly on editor ‪Nicolas Chaudeurge‬: "He did a lot of Andrea Arnold's films. He's a phenomenal filmmaker." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

He did a lot of Andrea Arnold's films. He's a phenomenal filmmaker. He doesn't do documentary except me. So he has this dramatic edge. I said to him, we want to weave this in somehow. But I don't want to lose sight of Guo Pei.

So he took that and he put it in the middle like that. And I just thought that was beautiful, sort of like a conversation across decades between Balenciaga and Guo Pei. I thought it was really beautiful.

Carmen Dell’Orefice: I have a comment. The thing about Guo Pei is that she is the purest child. She doesn't envy. Her love is so pure. That's what makes her artistry just unique. Because there isn't what we have in this country, this thing of competition and everything is for greed and for money.

Hers is only for love and for art and everything around her exudes happiness. She is like a child. And to be with her, it's the greatest playmate. Because those giggles are always there. What you see is what you get. She and Jack [her husband Cao Bao Jie] and Daisy [their daughter] was on the stage and she was about that tall.

And the last time I saw her in Paris I nearly fainted. She's already 17 and just such a lady and she's going to be following in her mother's footsteps. And the love, that's what love is, that is that statement. Her work is pure gold and so is her heart.

?Yellow Is Forbidden? Documentary Competition screening - Saturday, April 28, 6:00pm - Regal Battery Park Stadium 10

The 17th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival presented by AT&T runs through April 29.

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