Tag Archives: surrealism

On the ‘making of’ of a surrealist ‘cult of ugliness’ documentary

Yesterday 14/3/19 I watched Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (2018) at CinemaZuid.

The film is interesting for its details on the ‘making-of’ of Land Without Bread (1933).

It reveals how Buñuel staged several scenes of his documentary: killing a donkey to be ‘eaten’ alive by bees and killing a goat to be eaten by the locals who would otherwise never eat meat.

While showing a dwarf in the style (or maybe it is that same dwarf) as depicted in fig. 44 of Las Jurdes : Étude de géographie humaine (1927), the book that was the inspiration for the film, the narrator says:

“Dwarfs and morons are very common in the upper Hurdanos mountains. Their families employ them as goat herders if they’re not too dangerous. The terrible impoverishment of this race is due to the lack of hygiene, undernourishment and constant intermarriage. The smallest one of these creatures is 28 years old. Words cannot express the horror of their mirthless grins as they play a sort of hide and go seek.”

‘Dwarf’ from ‘Land Without Bread’

Another scene shows a sickly and very thin girl lying in the street:

“In a deserted street, we come across this child. Our guide tells us that she has been lying there for the last three days … but no one seems to know what her ailment is. One of our companions examines her. The child’s throat and tonsils are terribly inflamed. But unfortunately, we could do nothing about it. Malady and infestation is their lot. Two days later, they told us that the child had died.”

After watching the whole Land Without Bread film, I got the impression that Buñuel wanted to go for a lost tribe effect, since the opening title card reads:

The Hurdanos were unknown, even in Spain, until a road was built for the first time in 1922. Nowhere does man need to wage a more desperate fight against the hostile forces of nature.”

And a little bit further, when showing a baby covered in trinkets:

“Though actually Christian, these trinkets are amazingly like the charms of African natives.”

On the Hurdanos walking barefoot:

“Shoes are a rare luxury and the roads are cruel to naked feet.”

Graham Greene, in a review of the movie for Night and Day magazine, called it “an honest and hideous picture.”

And ugly it is.

Land Without Bread is reminiscent of Misère au Borinage (1934), both are political films in the tradition of the cult of ugliness which can be traced to The Potato Eaters(1885).

RIP Dušan Makavejev (1932 – 2019)


(W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism, 1971)

Following the news of the decease of Jonas Mekas earlier this week,
Dušan Makavejev , another icon of countercultural cinema dies.

Makavejev is one of those filmmakers of whom I’d like to see everything. I remember renting Sweet Movie (1975) on videotape with its episode of Viennese Actionism.

Makavejev is also the filmmaker who made a portrait of my hero Wilhelm Reich (W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism, 1971) which I have never seen but which I am about to see in the YouTube version above. Quickly scrubbing through it, I noticed that the backdrop for the promotional poster of W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (A lady sticking her arm triumphantly through an empty picture frame, to her left stands a chair with a white rabbit on it. The backdrop is a striped wall) which is used on Film as a Subversive Art (1974) can be seen at 31:19.

Update: The YouTube version above appears to be uncensored, even the penis plaster caster scene is without the hippie-like flowers it usually comes with.

Some questions on ‘King Mob Echo’ #1

I mentioned King Mob Echo in my previous post on Rita Renoir[1]. It’s the magazine of the English Situationist offshoot wich ran for five issues in the period 1968-70.

Its historiography seems to be incomplete.

King Mob Echo first issue
King Mob Echo first issue

The first issue depicts and image of the Fantomas serial which Wikipedia[2] lists as of the Barrabas film.

Unidentified Fantomas film still, the caption above reads “77. Feuillade, Fantomas, 1912”.

However, if you look closely at the image, you will see that the caption reads “77. Feuillade, Fantomas, 1912”. The Barrabas film dates from 1920 so it seems unlikely that the still stems from that film. The film, which lasts more than five hours, is here, I just don’t have time to watch it. Can anyone tell us from where this still is taken? It is also on the cover of Fantomas: The Corpse Who Kills (2008).

Secondly, and here’s a little mystery I solved myself, there is the caption, a citation by Karl Marx:

I am nothing but I must be everything

Most sources researching King Mob attribute this dictum to The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, but it’s not, it’s actually from Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and reads in the original German: “Ich bin nichts und ich müßte alles sein” and is recently translated as “I am nothing and I should be everything”.

Rosa Luxemburg's corpse
Rosa Luxemburg’s corpse, photo from ‘Lipstick Traces’

Thirdly, there is the case of the photo of Rosa Luxemburg’s corpse. I’ve known this photo since I read Lipstick Traces, featured in their section on King Mob, but I would very much want to find out where this photo was first published.

Anyone?

I like hybrids, mixed media …

… I like paintings you can listen to, music for the deaf and drawings for the blind. I like playing with medium specificity.

I recently discovered High Note (1960, above), a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes animated short directed by Chuck Jones.

In this charming film, various musical notes set up the sheet music to get ready for a performance of The Blue Danube Waltz. However, a sole note is missing. It turns out the note (a red-faced “High Note”) is drunk upon staggering out of the sheet music to “Little Brown Jug“, and the irritated conductor chases after him to put him back in his place so the waltz can continue as planned. Eventually, the rogue note is put back into place, but when the performance starts again, it has disappeared again, along with the rest of the sheet music. The composer then discovers that all the notes have gone into the “Little Brown Jug” to get drunk.

This film entered my head as visual music, although it is less so than the music visualization of Fantasia (1940), of which Oskar Fischinger‘s interpretation of J. S. Bach‘s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is online here.

See also: http://blog.jahsonic.com/listen-to-this-drawing/