‘In Fabric’: Marianne Jean-Baptiste May or May Not Believe in Haunted Dresses

IndieWire | 12/5/2019 | Staff
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Peter Strickland’s “In Fabric” is all about a killer dress. When the middle-aged Sheila Woodchapel (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) buys it, she knows it’s flattering, artery red, and perfect for her tentative reentry into the dating pool. What she doesn’t realize is it carries a mysterious and malevolent curse that will threaten everyone who comes in its path, including her. It’s a project and role unlike anything the veteran actress has ever done.

“We’ve had killer cars, killer toys, but nothing quite like this,” Jean-Baptiste said. “But absolutely, it was for those reasons. When I first saw Peter’s past work, I thought, I’d love to work with this guy, because, even though I’m not always sure what to make of them, I loved the way he tells stories, the way he paints images.”

Strickland - Force - Romance - Duke - Burgundy

Strickland was the singular creative force behind the opulent sadomasochistic romance, “The Duke of Burgundy,” and giallo homage, “Berberian Sound Studio.” And with “In Fabric,” Sheila’s life quickly becomes very strange and unpredictable the minute she exits the department store, with bizarre sex rituals on mannequins, unexplainable rashes, and demonic washing machines.

Jean-Baptiste upended expectations starting with her first major role in Mike Leigh’s 1996 “Secrets & Lies.” That brought her Golden Globe and Academy Award Best Supporting Actress nominations, and made her the first black British actress to be nominated for an Academy Award. Jean-Baptiste know that Sheila would be an eccentric role for any actress, and even more so for one who’s 52 years old — at that age, Hollywood often prefers to consign women to warmhearted moms, when they’re considered at all. However, that made her even more interested in the opportuinity to work with a director like Strickland.

Idea - Piece - Clothing - Film

“I loved the idea of a piece of clothing being haunted, and I think this is the first film that made...
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