On & Around the Street


Allison Williams in Prada's "Past Forward"

If anyone can pull together a list of impressive big-screen talent, its film director David O. Russell, he of incomparable titles including I Heart Huckabees, The Fighter, American Hustle and more. He did just that for Miuccia Prada this summer, assembling Allison Williams, Freida Pinto, Kuoth Wiel, John Krasinski, Jack Huston, Sinqua Walls, Paula Patton, Connie Britton, and Sacha Baron Cohen for a surreal black and white fashion film for Prada called Past Forward.

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It’s a surreally beautiful, silent dreamscape with multiple actors replaying scenes in dizzyingly shifting combinations, resulting in an unreliable story, wherein the scenes, characters, costumes, genres, and even the multiple endings, repeat and morph, refusing the logic of conventional narrative.

Kuoth Wiel and Sinqua Walls in Prada's "Past Forward"

Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic North by Northwest and the disturbing work of Franz Kafka, the film starts with three sharply dressed ladies in trenches, played by Allison Williams, Freida Pinto and Kuoth Wiel, who check into a hotel (or is it an apartment?), before slipping into silken pyjamas and then into a Dadaist dream sequence.

Frieda Pinto in Prada's "Past Forward"

They flee from adversaries, played by Connie Britton and Paula Patton, meet handsome love interests played by John Krasinski, Jack Huston and Sinqua Walls, and face a creepy mouthless doctor played by Sacha Baron Cohen.

Allison Williams and John Krasinski in Prada's "Past Forward"

There are sinister airport queues, a choreographed fight sequence, a barefoot dance scene set to 1920s jazz, and a romantic interlude amidst crashing waves on a beach – that’s a lot for one fashion film.

“Miuccia Prada challenged me to make a work of cinema, like a dream, fuelled by strange mystery, suspense, fear, danger, beauty, conflict, romance, love, identity, and time,” said Russell. “Here was the opportunity to make a journey guided by layers of movie memories, life images and emotions, with no aim except to create art — as if it were a painting or a sculpture — free from normal narrative or audience expectations. The cast and I worked simply for the joy of making art.”

Russell named Alfred Hitchcock’s classic North by Northwest and the disturbing work of Franz Kafka as influences for the film, as well as automatic writing popularised by André Breton, Robert Desnos, and their Surrealist 1920s contemporaries as references seen in the film.

John Krasinski in Prada's "Past Forward"

Prada, 43-45 Sloane St, SW1X 9LU.