Carol Lim and Humberto Leon tap Orange is the New Black actress Natasha Lyonne to direct the fifth Kenzo short film titled, Cabiria, Charity, Chastity
BY OBI ANYANWU
We get by with a little help from our friends. Carol Lim and Humberto Leon have looked to their talented friends to create short fashion films for Kenzo. After working with Gregg Akari, Sean Baker, Kahlil Joseph and Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein, the duo has turned to actress Natasha Lyonne to direct the fifth and latest film for the French fashion house.
Kenzo’s latest film, Cabiria, Charity, Chastity, debuted at NYFW to a small audience that included friends of Lim, Leon, and Lyonne, such as actress Chloë Sevigny, and Orange is the New Black co-stars Danielle Brooks and Lea DeLaria. The film itself, which is also Lyonne’s directorial debut, features many friends of the actress, including Maya Rudolph, who stars in the film, Fred Armisen, Leslie Odom, Jr., Waris Ahluwalia, Greta Lee, James Ransome, Matt Lucas, and Macauley Culkin.
[Directing] is such an incredible thing. It’s such a rare opportunity, even for somebody who’s such a show biz baby like myself and doing this for 30 years, it’s so rare. The stakes don’t exist, because it’s just about an art form, just about making something as radical as you can imagine it.
Rudolph stars as Chastity, a modern-day Giulietta Masina, who embarks on a surreal journey to reconcile her vaudevillian past. The film takes on a darker tone compared to The Realest Real, the Fall 2016 film, starring Lyonne, but it does not lack humor. The early film banter over a pregnancy test is sure to raise eyebrows, but the fun begins when Lyonne’s character, Jules, first appears on screen and speaks fluent gibberish with Chastity. Aldo the Instructor, played by Armisen, also delivers on hilarity with Chastity but in English.
Speaking in gibberish gave the cast more freedom. Lyonne explained that the idea to speak in the fake language came from a “childlike impetus.”
“What is a short film? Who’s really watching these things,” she asked. “We’re making them because they look really great or they’re fun as an exercise. But what if she just speaks in gibberish the whole time and it’ll be a made up film and a made up language? That freed up the idea of being too important.”
“Cabiria, Charity, Chastity,” is visually beautiful, as expected of a fashion film, but it really shines in its level of heart. Rudolph closes the film singing Quantum Leap by John Maus in gibberish, which should sound silly and absurd, but actually invokes feeling.
Both Lim and Lyonne have described the film as a “familial affair.” Lim credited the actress’ efficiency in knowing who she wanted to cast and her ability to confirm the roles within a half hour. Lyonne reached most of the cast via text message, with the exception of Rudolph, whom Lyonne wrote the starring role for.
“I think I’ve always been really inspired by Maya throughout our friendship,” Lyonne said. “I’m struck by how heartbreaking and hilarious she is. I think that’s a very specific line that she walks.”
And of course with every project, the creative is asked if there will be more. Lim said, “For us, it’s something we’re going to continue to explore. We don’t like to call them fashion films, because I think there’s a free way that people will interpret the story and take it and the clothes are secondary in many ways because it needs to fit with the characters.”
Director | Natasha Lyonne
Director of Photography | Chung-hoon Chung
Actors | Maya Rudolph, Natasha Lyonne, Fred Armisen, Grets Lee, JAmes Ransone, Matt Lucas, Macaulay Culkin, Waris Ahluwalia, Leslie Odom Jr.
Costume Designer | Arianne Phillips
Hair | Holli Smith
Makeup | Kabuki
Music | John Maus
Production | Ways & Means