Monthly Archives: April 2008

Introducing French imprint Chute Libre

This post is part of the cult fiction series, this issue #4

Norman Spinrad on Chute Libre

Norman Spinrad on French collection Chute Libre

Chute Libre is/was a French publishing imprint directed by Gérard Leibovici. They published, amongst others, the translated work of the new wave of science fiction authors Philip José Farmer, Norman Spinrad, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny and Theodore Sturgeon.

I can’t remember who I had this conversation with, but the conclusion was that “we” could not find the illustrator of this beautiful series (follow the link to the source post to find some succulent tentacle erotica), so if anyone knows who was behind these designs, please let “us” know.

Norman Spinrad provided the inspiration for the name Heldon, French guitarist Richard Pinhas‘s band (which to me is the bit the French equivalent to Sonic Youth, but 10 years sooner). The name of the band was taken from Spinrad’s 1972 novel The Iron Dream.

Chute libre is French for free fall.

Via bxzzines, see also English-language covers posted by John Coulthart and all the covers in one handy place by Mike.

Cruelty. Manipulation. Meaninglessness.


Trailer for I Heart Huckabees

There are so many reasons to like I Heart Huckabees: the film stars French belle Isabelle Huppert, American veteran Dustin Hoffman (who I’ve actually come to like in his later years in supporting small roles such as A Series of Unfortunate Events, Perfume and Stranger Than Fiction, I’ve even come to appreciate his mouth-mannerisms, which I disliked so much), and cult favorite Lily Tomlin.

Huckabees’ director David O. Russell seems to belong to the club of smart, intellectual and philosophical North-American filmmakers which also includes P. T. Anderson, Michel Gondry (I know he’s French), Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson, and to a lesser extent Vincent Gallo, Hal Hartley, Alexander Payne and Terry Zwigoff. British film critic James MacDowell, in a semantic approach I also worked on at [1], dubbed these directors the “The ‘Quirky’ New Wave”[2], for their “quirkiness“. The denotation of MacDowell overlaps with the recent spate of what has come to be termed “Indiewood” features.

The film is indeed overtly philosophical, with special attention given to concepts such as existentialism and pure being. In my limited philosophical expertise, Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin represent good old American positivist, buddhist-inspired, self-help therapy and Isabelle Huppert, personified as Caterine Vauban (whose business card reads: “Cruelty. Manipulation. Meaninglessness.)”, represents evil French Deconstructionist continental obfuscating philosophy.

Fear not, the two strains are reunited towards the end, all to the sounds of a beautiful soundtrack by Jon Brion, who you may be familiar with via his work on Magnolia (1999) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2003).

Huckabees’ is a 2000s entirely sympathetic entry for the anarchic comedy film category.

This post is a continuation of sorts of this post.

I just don’t feel that way about you

World cinema classic #44


Tom Cruise advertises Seduce and Destroy in Magnolia, his best part to date.

Another epic of American depression, and one of my first positive surprises when I took up film-viewing again in the early 2000s. A philosophical film in the magic realism vein. The opening scene – a rumination on the nature of the coincidence – totally blew me away. Anderson’s other films: I’ve started watching Boogie Nights but did not finish it and can hardly remember anything about it. Same with Punch drunk …, failed to get me involved. Have yet to do There will be Blood, but doubt if I will. 1999 was a good film year.

World Cinema Classics is a series of films canonical to

Update: infomercial transcription:

Frank TJ Mackey: In this big game that we play, life, it’s not what you hope for, it’s not what you deserve, it’s what you take. I’m Frank T.J. Mackey, a master of the muffin and author of the Seduce and Destroy system now available to you on video and audio cassette. Seduce and Destroy will teach you the techniques to have any hardbody blonde just dripping to wet your dock. Bottom line? Language. The magical key to unlocking the female analytical mindset. Tap directly into her hopes, her wants, her fears, her desires, and her sweet little panties. Learn how to make that lady “friend” your sex-starved servant. I don’t care how you look. I don’t care what car you drive. I don’t care what your last bank statement says. Seduce and Destroy produces an instant money-back guarantee trance-like state that will get you this — naughty sauce you want fast. Hey — how many more times do you need to hear the all-too-famous line of ‘I just don’t feel that way about you?’

Black Surrealism et al.

I may be a jackass

A “Jackass” sits atop a tall ladder in front of the Palmetto Theater to promote “Hellzapoppin” starring the comedy team of Olsen and Johnson. The sign on the ladder reads, “I may be a Jackass but I’m not coming down until Helzapoppin’ with Olsen and Johnson opens.” The film was released in 1941 by Universal Pictures. Via here


A Cadillac commercial by Dylan centered around Bob’s radio show

Spent yesterday evening in the vicinity of the Nachtegalenpark where I listened to The Faces, Nicola Conte‘s newest compilation but most of all to Bob Dylan‘s The Best of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour. Came home and got sick. Slept for more than 15 hours.

Woke up and thought about Black Surrealism, through my first exposure to the work of Slim Gaillard and his role in films such as the 1941 film Hellzapoppin’, of which Ado Kyrou was a fan. Black Surrealism is a concept first put forward by Robin D.G. Kelley in A Poetics of Anticolonialism (1999), although he had overlooked the popular dimension of the concept.

The popular strains of any art form are often forgotten, take for example Ma and Pa Kettle, the American comic duo known for their celebration of the absurd, but much less known and appreciated than comparable films by Jacques Tati (I am referring specifically to Tati’s attack on modernity which was just as prevalent in the Kettle films).

To conclude, a recommendation: if you only buy one CD in 2008, make it Bob Dylan‘s The Best of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour. You’ll enjoy tracks such as Mary Gauthier’s “I Drink”, Dinah Washington’s bawdy “Long Big Sliding Thing” and many more. Trust me.

For the sake of a book


Truman Capote/Andy Warhol with the Rolling Stones

Yesterday evening, after visiting friends who provided me with a Joe Sarnoesque [1] experience of suburban want and need in the Antwerp district of the Tentoonstellingslaan, I finished my viewing of Capote, which sheds light on the nature of fiction and modern writing. The key to the film is in its final five minutes where Truman Capote contends that there was nothing he could have done to save the life of the murderers, but as Nelle (Christine Keener, who I recently admired in Friends with Money, a portrayal of American depression) responds, he did not want to do that. Implied is that he did not want to save the murderers for the sake of his book In Cold Blood and in fact, put his own life to a perverted use subjugated to the pursuit of writing fiction. (see semi-autobiographical and autofiction.)

Statues also die


Les Statues meurent aussi

Les Statues meurent aussi (Eng: Statues also Die) is a short subject documentary film by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais released in 1953 and financed by the anticolonial organisation Présence africaine. Its theme was that Western civilization is responsible for the decline of black art due to cultural appropriation. The film was seen at the Cannes Film Festival, it won the Prix Jean Vigo in 1954 but was banned shortly afterwards for more than 10 years by the French censor.

Aimé Césaire (1913 – 2008)

[FR] [DE] [UK]

Aimé Fernand David Césaire (25 June 191317 April 2008) was a French poet, author and politician. He was with Léopold Sédar Senghor one of the figure heads of the négritude movement, the precursor to the Black Power movement of the 1960s. His writings reflect his passion for civic and social engagement. He is the author of Discours sur le colonialisme (Discourse on Colonialism) (1953), a denunciation of European colonial racism which was published in the French review Présence Africaine. In 1968, he published the first version of Une Tempête, a radical adaptation of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest for a black audience.

Contemporary philosophy

Collapse 4

Collapse IV (2008)

Order it here.

This looks interesting. Nice cover too. A bit arcimboldesque. I wonder who did it. This is the cover of a contemporary philosophy magazine of which this issue is dedicated to the theory of horror. Any philosophy of horror and the representation thereof (which is also the theory of the aestheticization of violence) needs to start with Aristotle, as I’ve stated before. Aristotle said on the subject:

“Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies.” —Aristotle from the Poetics.

As you may have guessed by now, I have limited first-hand knowledge on some subjects; I do not have the patience to read Aristotle. Nevertheless, in my infinite ignorance, I dare to state that I like Aristotle and dislike Plato. Plato strikes me as a bore (much like Kant does), Aristotle was a sensationalist like myself. From “my” page on aestheticization of violence, Plato comes across as the sort of moral crusader I’ve never felt any sympathy for (except that they have sometimes pointed me in the direction of worthwhile art, see the censor/censored dilemma):

Plato proposed to ban poets from his ideal republic because he feared that their aesthetic ability to construct attractive narratives about immoral behavior would corrupt young minds. Plato’s writings refer to poetry as a kind of rhetoric, whose “…influence is pervasive and often harmful.” Plato believed that poetry that was “unregulated by philosophy is a danger to soul and community.” He warned that tragic poetry can produce “a disordered psychic regime or constitution” by inducing “a dream-like, uncritical state in which we lose ourselves in …sorrow, grief, anger, [and] resentment.

Back to contemporary philosophy. From Wikpedia:

“Philosophy has re-entered popular culture through the work of authors such as Alain de Botton. This trend is reinforced by the recent increase in films with philosophical content. Some films, such as Fight Club, eXistenZ, The Matrix trilogy, Little Miss Sunshine, and Waking Life have philosophical themes underpinning their overarching plots. Other films attempt to be overtly philosophical, such as I ♥ Huckabees.”

I’ve done Fight Club, eXistenZ, The Matrix and Little Miss Sunshine and of those three I like eXistenZ best. I will want to see Waking Life and I ♥ Huckabees. Where do I start. Huckabees? It stars Huppert. And from what I’ve Youtubed of Waking, it reminded me of Scanner Darkly, with which I was not too impressed (but has lingered on afterwards). Any thoughts, dear readers?

Update 17/4: More on Collapse. Collapse has links with New Weird and Speculative realism. The cover is probably by the Chapmans (“new etchings from Jake Chapman“). Of all its contributions I am most curious about Graham Harman on the unnatural bond between Husserl and Lovecraft and Iain Hamilton Grant on Lorenz Oken‘s naturphilosophische slime-horror.

Introducing Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman

Photo by Francesca Woodman, see more at the Google gallery

Just like the director Belvaux in the previous post, this talented photographer took her life, only much younger, she was only 22, and left behind a mere 500 photographs. Sometimes it feels like one could build an entire art history class around artists who’ve committed suicide.

American art critic David Levi Strauss wrote an essay about her; “After You, Dearest Photography: Reflections on the Work of Francesca Woodman,” which takes its title from “After you, dearest language” by André Breton’s in Introduction au discours sur le peu de realité.

Breton’s full quote reads: “Quietly. I want to pass where no one yet has passed, quietly! — After you, dearest language.”

That is exceedingly well said, mister Breton.

Film lovers, good evening!

Or, world cinema classic #43


Man Bites Dog

After long and careful deliberation, I’ve decided against pronouncing this film a world cinema classic #43. Instead, I’ve chosen a 1992 film which was made in Belgium, and it’s probably one of the best-known Belgian films abroad of the late 20th century. The film dates of 1992 and much like the American film Natural Born Killers, is a satire on the media’s exploitation of graphic violence, only much better. Sadly, the director of this black mockumentary committed suicide two years ago, as often happens to very talented people with an appreciation of the darker side of life. Without further ado, I present you Man Bites Dog, one of the best features of the 1990s, a must-see feature film. As a seal of quality, it carries an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (such is the beneficial role of censorship organizations).