“You could scarcely have told from the equal peace that dwelt upon them, which was she that had sinned…”
The lines narrated in this i-D magazine film are from Bret Harte’s story The Outcasts of Poker Flat. It’s always refreshing to come across a fashion film that delves into some literary reference, and this one does so wholeheartedly; the styling, the typography, the music all offer up a passing tribute to the genre of the Western.
But it’s somewhat solemn, as is often the way with Westerns. They play in that blurred space of good and bad; those deemed bad guys by the law often proving to be best at heart. Arizona Muse seems to get it: she not only models the part with the mixed emotion of true grit and tragedy in mind, but reads the voiceover (yes, that’s Arizona reading) with a kind of sweet solemnity, too.
Harte’s story, first published in 1869, is filled with Western stereotypes and good-guys-as-bad-guys. “She that had sinned” refers to one of the characters being a prostitute, who in death is indistinguishable as a sinner from the innocent girl lying next to her. Death, as Harte’s story affirms, makes no distinctions. Meanwhile the story’s protagonist ends his own life with his Derringer pistol leading to the conclusion that he was “at once the strongest and yet the weakest of the outcasts of Poker Flat.”
Admittedly you don’t need to know or have read the story to enjoy i-D’s little Western-themed foray, directed by Kayt Jones, and the video more has fun with the theme rather than dwell on the innate tragedy of the words being spoken. Still, it’s a better watch knowing the context and if you want to read the story in full you can do so online here.
Watch the video They Call Her Arizona from i-D’s summer 2012 ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ issue by hitting play above.