Fashion’s influence on film is undeniable. Fashion designers often moonlight as costume designers. Directors look the the runway for inspiration. But, rarely has a designer stepped into the director’s chair. Tom Ford’s short but stunning career as a feature director offers a chance to explore the impact fashion can have on filmmaking when the author of the film comes from the style world. In the case of Ford, however, the results aren’t exactly what you would expect.

You might think that a fashion designer would prioritize his film’s wardrobe and the bodies that wear it, relishing every opportunity to show the audience actors in elegant looks or revealing ensembles. But, in fact, just the opposite is true. Tom Ford knows the value and power of the body and, as such, he uses the human form a storytelling weapon. He doesn’t bludgeon the audience with the beauty of his creations. He withholds it, and then wields it with finesse. Ford very rarely offers his audience direct access to vulnerable characters, eschewing clean close-ups or brightly lit full body shots.

This description of Ford’s style may seem odd if you are familiar with the designer’s work. Tom Ford’s meteoric rise, which culminated with a tenure as creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, was marked by the erotic and provocative. Two of his most famous ads for YSL involved near total nudity; one infamous ad featured a model with the Gucci logo shaved into her pubic hair.

But, if you look at Ford’s film work, it is clear that his tenure at some of the world’s most powerful fashion houses taught him the value and power of the body both within and without. To Tom Ford, beauty is not a constant, but a punctuation—not a perpetual state, but something that is, so often, just out of reach. For a man who spent much of his life revealing the aesthetics of the inner mind and body, it's almost ironic that his films—in one way or another—make a point of obscuring them.

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Tags: los-angeles, movies, tom-ford