Monthly Archives: November 2008

Jean Eustache @70


Le Jardin des délices de Jérôme Bosch

Jean Eustache (November 30, 1938November 3, 1981) was a French filmmaker best known for his 1973 film The Mother and the Whore and his various short subjects such as Le Jardin des délices de Jérôme Bosch[1]. Jean Eustache directed just two feature films he would make before committing suicide in 1981.

The Mother and the Whore[2] is one the last typical Nouvelle Vague films and an extended essay on male angst, the war of the sexes and the Madonna-whore complex. Clocking in at over 3½ hours, this film has a style seemingly borrowed from cinéma vérité and it tries to capture real life in post-May 1968 France. A typical scene is one where Marie comes home, puts a record on the turntable and listens to it in real time.

Andrea Palladio @500


Andrea Palladio (November 30, 1508August 19, 1580), was an Italian architect. The Palladian style, named after him, adhered to Roman architecture principles and a search for classical perfection. The Palladian villa format was easily adapted for a democratic worldview, as can be seen in Thomas Jefferson‘s commissioned buildings. Palladian motifs made a comeback during the postmodern era, the American architect Philip Johnson frequently used them in his doorways.

Introducing Peter Woditsch

Woman bitten by a snake

Woman Bitten by a Snake[2],

Peter Woditsch (1953, Germany) is a German-born filmmaker best known for his documentary film on the erotic furniture of Catherine the Great, and for his work on Musées secrets, secret museums, for the art television channel Arte.

Peter Woditsch was born in Stuttgart, Germany, but works and lives in Brussels. He studied philosophy in Paris and Brussels, film and animation in various places in Europe.

His debut feature Hey Stranger stars Hanna Schygulla.

His documentary film Musées secrets is an investigation of secret museums, first published in 2008 on the art television channel Arte.

Woditsch visits the Louvre, Orsay, British Library, the legendary Vatican collection and private collectors such as Gerard Nordmann.

Beata Ludovica Albertoni

Beata Ludovica Albertoni[1]

In this documentary are the sculptures Beata Ludovica Albertoni[1], a marble by Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Woman Bitten by a Snake[2], a marble by French sculptor Auguste Clésinger, both works show the intimate connection between sex and death.

Claude Lévi-Strauss @100

Claude Lévi-Strauss @100


Luciano Berio‘s Sinfonia[1] uses text of The Raw and the Cooked (1964)

The following articlette (it such a pity the English language does not have diminutive) on the 100th birthday of Claude Lévi-Strauss (born November 28, 1908) approaches the work and person of Claude Lévi-Strauss from the angle of structure, anthropologica, trivia and taboo.


The stucture angle leads to structuralism, a French intellectual movement internationally fashionable during the 1960s and 1970s, based on Russian Formalism, Prague school of structuralism and the teachings of Ferdinand de Saussure.

That Claude Lévi-Strauss sought to investigate structures became apparent with the publication of his debut work The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1949). The word structure in its title betrays its conceptual affiliations to what was later to be called structuralism.

In a way, this is a bit facile since structure is a fundamental notion covering the whole of science; from a child’s verbal description of a snowflake, to the detailed scientific analysis of the properties of botany, the concept of structure is an essential foundation of nearly every mode of inquiry and discovery in science, philosophy, and art.

I think the new approach heralded by structuralism was the move a way from dogmatism, great man theory and other subjective “methods” to a more genre theoretic approach in the social sciences.

anthropologica and taboo

My next angle is the angle of anthropologica and taboo. The interest in anthropologica, my neoglogism for sexual anthropology started with Margaret Mead also deserve mention here as well as The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia. Strauss’s work The Elementary Structures of Kinship dealt with such notions as alliance theory, the incest taboo and yes, the exchange of women, what we would call swinging or wife swapping in contemporary society. These subjects gave Strauss his place in the awakening sexual revolution.


Luciano Berio‘s Sinfonia[1] uses text of the The Raw and the Cooked, and the The Raw and the Cooked (1964) is also the title of an album by the Fine Young Cannibals.

Strauss’s Structural Anthropology (1958) reminds me of American social critic and folklorist Gershon Legman‘s Rationale of the Dirty Joke: (An Analysis of Sexual Humor) (1968), a tour de force of erotic folklore and his planned volume the motif-index of erotic humor.

About his memoirs Tristes tropiques (1955) I can say that it is a travelogue that was well-received on its publication. The organizers of the Prix Goncourt lamented that they were not able to award Lévi-Strauss the prize because Tristes Tropiques was technically non-fiction . Georges Bataille wrote a favourable review (Critique, n°105, février 1956) and Susan Sontag classed it as one of the 20th century‘s ‘great books‘.

His most controversial works are:

See also:

structural anthropology, structuralism, mythology

This post should have successfully connected Strauss and Legman.

For a beautiful woman, the battle never ends

Jupiter and Thetis by you.

Click for credits

“An objective and unprejudiced look at the real world shows that only a limited category of men have gorgeous women: religious leaders, billionaires, film and television stars, famous actors, famous directors and gangsters.” —Francesco Alberoni in L’Erotismo (translation mine) [1].

Alberoni arrives at this argument by positing that able, attractive and even fascinating men have been known to choose to be with less attractive or even ugly women. This is because they know the price that comes with beautiful women.

The price – still according to Alberoni (I agree) – is battle. Splendid beauty is indissolubly connected to power, and power is connected to danger, much like that other category in aesthetics, the sublime. Alberoni goes on to invoke Helena as the archetypical beautiful woman in Goethe’s Faust.

Faust asks:

Before the prize of beauty, lo I stand,
But who assures the prize to me?

Because Faust knows, as was the case with Helen of Troy that for a beautiful woman, the battle never ends.

Jacques Mesrine: in the vortex of related events


If there is one current film I would like to recommend, it’s Public Enemy Number One (Part 1)[1], a biopic of French criminal Jacques Mesrine with sympathies for the European radical political urban guerrilleros RAF and Red Brigades, who eventually died in the late seventies for craving his 15 minutes of fame somewhat too eagerly. The film was produced by Thomas Langmann.

If you want to know who Mesrine was, watch this YouTumentary[2] set to “Comptines d’un autre été here as The Pian (Life is a song)” from the Yann Tiersen score of Amelie Poulain. Or better still, this documentary footage[3].

Public Enemy Number One (Part 1) is based on Jacques Mesrine‘s 1977 autobiographical bookL’Instinct de mort” and stars Vincent Cassel (L’Appartement, Irréversible) as Mesrine and costars Gérard Depardieu, Mathieu Amalric and Cécile de France (Haute Tension). A sequel “L’Ennemi public n°1” (“Public Enemy Number One (Part 2)”) was released in French theaters last November.

Mesrine by André Génovès by you.

This is all well-known. Lesser-known and very intriguingly I discovered the film Mesrine, directed by a certain French producer and/or writer of whom not much more than his IMDb filmography. The filmography in case is impressive and noted by a bleak, grim and dark worldview. In fact wholly antithetical to the Amélie score featured above. The man is André Génovès.

André Génovès was born 1941 and is a French film producer noted for working with Claude Chabrol and being involved with Barocco, The Butcher (film), The Unfaithful Wife, A Real Young Girl, This Man Must Die, Mesrine (film), and Les Innocents aux mains sales.

Keystone Kops by you.

In a perverse way, this film reminds me of police comedy films about bungling police officers who almost lose their job due to the excessive intelligence and dexterity of the criminals.

In 1980 the police comedy film Inspecteur la Bavure[4] with Coluche and Gérard Depardieu has Depardieu’s character, Morzini, directly inspired by Jacques Mesrine.

Bungling police officers are part of the making fun authority figures trope, as seen in Keystone Kops, Inspector Clouseau, Police Academy, Taxi (franchise) and Carry On Constable.

Catherine Deneuve  and Gérard Lebovici

Coming back to Mesrine, in the vortex of related events, after Jacques Mesrine’s death, his daughter Sabrina was adopted by Gérard Lebovici, French film producer, editor and patron to Guy Debord. Lebovici was also the manager of Jean-Pierre Cassel, yes the father of Vincent Cassel.

The tale is not finished. This whole history, its thematics and fiction, its personae and actual actors are further interwoven.

“On March 7 1984 Gérard Lebovici was found shot dead in the front seat of his car in the basement of the Avenue Foch carpark in Paris. There was swift confirmation that he had died on 5 March from four bullets fired from behind into the back of the neck. The assassins have never been caught.”

“Whatever happened to Sabrina?” is what Sholem Stein wants to know.

RIP French film producer Christian Fechner


La Fille sur le pont

best knife-throwing-act scene ever, testimony to a strange kind of eroticism.

French film producer Christian Fechner died today. He was 64. He produced a great number of films but is best-remembered for L’Aile ou la Cuisse, Camille Claudel, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, Élisa, and La Fille sur le pont.

That last film, with its English title Girl on a Bridge was directed by Patrice Leconte and was featured on this blog two years ago[1]. The film is superb, it is now World Cinema Classic #72.

The swarm of spirits came clambering up to her

Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits by Theodore Von Holst by you.

Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits by Theodore Von Holst

“Bertalda then showed the piece of gold she was given to the goblins below, and they laughed themselves half-dead over it and hissed at her. At last they all pointed at me with their metal-stained fingers, and more and more wildly, and more and more densely, and more and more madly, the swarm of spirits came clambering up to her.” –remix of Undine

Damsel in distress trope in Undine, actually a take on tentacle eroticism of which I am so fond.

Indescribable, unspeakable, ineffable and inexplicable

The Aigiulle Blaitiere. c. 1856 by John Ruskin by you.

The Aigiulle Blaitiere. c. 1856 by John Ruskin

A painting by Thomas Hill dated 1870 by you.

A painting by Thomas Hill dated 1870

Reading the opening chapter of Ivins‘s Prints and Visual Communication[1] on the indescribability of things (and the need for photographic representations) reminded me of the garland and the Greek Anthology.

Googling for “indescribability” brings up this interview regarding the sublime, indescribability and mountain literature and mountain art.

The trope of unrepresentability is probably the commonest of all in mountain literature and art: the throwing up of the hands, the confession of the inadequacy of representation to catch the phenomena of the mountain world. I remember reading the journal of an Edinburgh bishop from the 1760s who’d gone on a mini-Caledonian tour. He writes: “I looked north and saw rank on rank of unspeakably beautiful…” He crosses out “unspeakably”—he’s obviously unhappy with it—and writes instead “mountains so beautiful I could not describe them.” Then he crosses that out, and we get four synonyms for “indescribable,” the first three crossed out. What’s exciting about Ruskin is that instead of acquiescing to indescribability, he tries to enact it, to let his art or prose take the forms of their subjects. In his drawing of the Glacier du Bois, near Chamonix, for example, the whole image is vortical; everything is being tugged by some centripetal force which has no apparent center but which is clearly at work. It’s hard to say what that force is, but it has something to do with time, a kind of deep time that is at work in that viewing moment. The glacier looks like a river in flood, in spate; the sun looks to have been absorbed by it, and there’s an inexplicably detached tree bole and root in the foreground. Even his curving signature seems to be vulnerable to the vortex. –Brian Dillon interviewing Macfarlane [2]

My love for subjects starting with un-, in-, a- and variants is great and started with with the notion of unfilmability. Notable related concepts to indescribability include unspeakable, ineffable and inexplicable.

They connote to absence, lacking, contrary, opposite, negation and reversal, concepts and tropes very apt to denote their positive counterparts.

For what is there to say on effability if one does not investigate its negative: ineffability?

The whole of this subject touches on representation in the arts and of course, medium specificity.

Older links to this subjects are general aesthetics and the sublime.

To end with a quote which I cannot reproduce verbatim:

Sex begins where words stop”. —Georges Bataille.

I’ve explored the previous notion here[3].