Natasha premieres Cabiria, Charity, Chastity at Kenzo’s event in NYC on September 13th.
By Ilya S. Savenok/.
For Natasha Lyonne’s directorial debut, a 12-minute short film for Kenzo titled Cabiria, Charity, Chastity, her phone doubled as a casting agency. The cast, which includes Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Macaulay Culkin, Leslie Odom Jr., and Greta Lee, among others, primarily signed on for the film via a simple text message from Lyonne, who keeps her rolodex of famous friends close. “It was very much a text messaging operation, for sure,” she told reporters at the film’s debut at Public Arts on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
The film itself is a whirlwind, likely to fly over most people’s heads upon a first (and second, maybe third) viewing. Rudolph plays Chastity (based on Giulietta Masina’s character in La Strada and Shirley MacLaine’s in Sweet Chastity) as she goes on a journey of self-discovery in a surrealist world. Rudolph and the rest of the cast speak in what Lyonne calls “gibberish,” but Rudolph plays it with such conviction that most viewers assumed it was a real language they just didn’t know.
“I would say the casting was very specific,” said Kenzo co-creative director, Carol Lim. “I think [Lyonne] had it in her mind like, ‘what about this person?’ and we’re like ‘would they do it’ and she’s like ‘yeah, just let me text them.’ And 20 minutes later she’d be like ‘this person’s in, that person’s in.’ She had a vision and she went for it, and because of her energy and creativity, people rally around her.”
While both Kenzo creative directors, Lim and Humberto Leon, as well as Lyonne insist the film is just that, a film, it’s also the brand’s upcoming campaign. While Lyonne began to talk to reporters about how Armisen, her boyfriend, encouraged her to focus less on the clothes and more on creating something that would make Lim and Leon happy, she cut herself short to address the tight-knit relationships behind the film.
“Fred, my boyfriend and I,” she started before quipping, “But not to take away from Chloe [Sevigny] who’s actually my husband, so I don’t wnat there to be any confusion. And everybody knows kind of the dynamics of the relationship, just to make that clear.” Sevigny let out a “woo!” from the back before Lyonne continued.
“There’s a certain familial element to that. Chloe’s my way into Carol and Humberto. [Makeup artist] Kabuki is here, who did the makeup on it, who we worked with on Party Monster, so that’s 20 years, and of course that’s how Macaulay Culkin got involved in it. Maya’s one of my oldest friends and [the film] was for her.”
Being able to handpick friends and former co-workers for the cast eased the pressure of creating a “fashion film” for a luxury house. She later elaborated on how her “very patient boyfriend” Armisen told her to zero in on her own creativity and not get caught up in what she described as “Carrie syndrome.”
“Surely you’re all familiar with that very fun movie, Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek,” she said with her signature dry humor. “This idea that they’re all going to laugh at me in pig’s blood. So the opposite of that fear would be to make something that Carol and Humberto are going to get a kick of and is in keeping with their trip to a certain degree, or an aspect of it.”
It might ease Lyonne’s fears to know that no one was laughing at her—and there was zero pig’s blood to be found.
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