'Outfitumentary': Film Review

Outfitumentary Still - H 2016
Courtesy of Picture Palace Pictures

Outfitumentary Still - H 2016

An outlandish sartorial imagination makes this more than an art-insiders-only novelty.

It's (nearly) everything K8 Hardy wore for a decade.

If the whole of a movie could be a single prompt on Jeopardy, the likely response to K8 Hardy's Outfitumentary would be, "Alex, what is a 'hipster'?" Watching this visual diary of everything the filmmaker wore between 2001 and 2011, one might be reminded of various attention-greedy scenesters who made Williamsburg an eye-rolling 'hood well before the moneyed bores took over. But Hardy, a performance artist affiliated with queer and feminist music scenes, owns these wildly varied looks in a way few do; though watching her try on clothes for 82 minutes will sound like hell to many moviegoers, the cumulative effect is of an eccentric and magnetic self-portrait. Obviously appropriate for a doc series held at the Museum of Modern Art, the film holds some appeal for fashion and political fringedwellers beyond the art world.

Shot with little attention to framing on what she herself describes as, uh, a crummy DV camera, the movie has no artifice holding together its thousands of short scenes; it's conceivable it was edited in camera. Sometimes using a tripod to film herself, sometimes letting a friend hold the camera, she stands in cramped bedrooms, shared living spaces and a variety of studios once a day to show what she's about to wear as she heads out into the world.

Thrift-store finds are mix-and-matched promiscuously in her ensembles, but even when she's wearing a t-shirt with a dated Patrick Nagel illustration or a set of clip-on grillz, irony doesn't seem to be the point. Certain items make frequent appearances (she's very fond of a particular checkerboard painter's cap, for instance), but often in unpredictable combinations. Many scenes feature one-off creations, though: She's a loopy Upper East Side aristocrat one day, Sid Vicious another; now a cowgirl, later a bleach-blonde descendent of Edie Sedgwick. (Seismic hairstyle changes mark her changing moods as well as wardrobe mutations do.)

Speaking of Sedgwick, Outfitumentary brings to mind the Warhol Screen Tests that "superstar" played a part in. But where Warhol's subjects tended to sit motionless, staring out blankly for tightly framed, silent portraits, Hardy seeks as many ways as possible to present her head-to-toe looks to us. She vamps with runway hauteur, crawls on all fours, does cheerleader moves while a boom box plays Pat Benatar, the Flaming Lips, Enya. Sometimes she dances along, often she keeps it simple and just stands there.

Hardy relishes provoking us early on, as when she dons a man's wrestling unitard in her backyard, strips off her jeans in a shower and flirts with various racial and cultural stereotypes. But she seems to tire of the effort as the years pass, looking wearier in front of the camera and starting to fret occasionally over its framing. Perhaps the increasing demands of her career made this seem like a daily obligation of dubious merit. But she sticks with it until the little videocam dies — leaving the glitches and distortions of its final weeks in the film just as she does the occasional bad hair day.

Venue: Documentary Fortnight, the Museum of Modern Art
Production company: Hardy Studio
Director-producer-director of photography-editor: K8 Hardy

Not rated, 82 minutes