Monthly Archives: April 2009

Wes Anderson @40

Wes Anderson @40


Seu Jorge sings [1]Life on Mars?” in Portuguese in The Life Aquatic

Wesley Wales Anderson (born May 1, 1969) is an American writer, producer, and director of films and commercials. In Europe, Anderson came to mainstreamish attention with The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) but my favourite of his films is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), not in the least because the film is his most surreal effort to date and was rather poorly received compared to his other films. Future films to be expected from Anderson are Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), an animation of a Roald Dahl story and My Best Friend, an adaptation of the film by the same name by personal fave Patrice Leconte.

With the exception of Bottle Rocket, his films employ a similar art direction, primarily through the use of vivid primary colors. He often uses folk music and early rock as the background music in scenes. The depiction of escapism and companionship through chemicals is also one of his trademarks. Anderson, like many European art film directors before him makes use of ensemble casts of the same actors, crew members, and other collaborators. For example, the Wilson brothers (Owen, Luke, and Andrew), Bill Murray, Seymour Cassel, Anjelica Huston, Jason Schwartzman (I Heart Huckabees) and Eric Chase Anderson (Anderson’s brother). Other frequent collaborators are writer Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote The Life Aquatic, and wrote/directed his own film, The Squid and the Whale, with Anderson as producer. Also cinematographer Robert Yeoman and composer Mark Mothersbaugh.

If you like Anderson’s work, you should check  the following directors working in North America: David O. Russell, P. T. Anderson, Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Vincent Gallo, Hal Hartley, Alexander Payne and Terry Zwigoff, a group of directors currently being denoted as indiewood.

Introducing Richard Lewinsohn (1894 – 1968)

Introducing Richard Lewinsohn (1894 – 1968)

A history of Sexuality by Richard Lewinsohn

Translation of A History of Sexual Customs (1956)  by Richard Lewinsohn

Flipping through my Dutch language copy of the above book brought German writer Richard Lewinsohn to my attention who published this book under the pseudonym Morus. I read a bit in the chapter on sexuality in ancient Rome and found a reference to Tutunus,  the Roman equivalent to Priapus of Greek mythology. Tutunus is very badly represented online, but that’s how I found out that Morus is a pseudonym for Lewinsohn.

Tutunus is expounded upon in Aphrodisiacs and Antiaphrodisiacs , a book by English author John Davenport privately printed in London in 1869 from which the following illustration comes:

Round Tower at Klondalkin, Ireland

Round tower at Clondalkin (Aphrodisiacs and Antiaphrodisiacs proves that the notion op phallic symbol to connote non-sexual imagery existed before Freud)

Richard Lewinsohn (September 23 1894 in Graudenz; – April 9 1968 in Madrid) was a German writer, journalist and cultural historian. He wrote several works under the pseudonym Morus and Campanella. He was a contributor to Die Weltbühne and is known for such works as A History of Sexual Customs (1956) and his biography of arms trader Basil Zaharoff.

Also a German jew, contemporary of my hero Walter Benjamin, Lewinsohn managed to survive the war. His work is largely undocumented in the Anglosphere.

RIP Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950 – 2009)

RIP Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950 –  2009)

Epistemology of the Closet by Eve Kosofksy Sedgwick

Please let me know if you know the origins of the cover.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (May 2, 1950 – April 12, 2009) was an American theorist in the fields of queer theory and critical theory. She is best-known for her literary study Epistemology of the Closet (1990) in which she referenced Herman Melville, Henry James, Marcel Proust, and Oscar Wilde. A pity she did not use film as a basis for her analysis. She could have been the American Zizek.

She was popular with the American left, witness the review in The Nation. It’s not hard guessing how she was perceived in the bible belt.

Mary Wollstonecraft @250

Mary Wollstonecraft @250

John Opie, Mary Wollstonecraft, (c. 1797) by you.

John Opie, Mary Wollstonecraft, (c. 1797)

Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Mary Wollstonecraft (17591797), English philosopher and early feminist, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and mother of Mary Shelley who would become the  author of Frankenstein.

She was one of the first writers to mention a philosophy of sex; she referred to it as a philosophy of lasciviousness.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman quoting from Rousseau‘s Emilius:

“In the union of the sexes, both pursue one common object, but not in the same manner. From their diversity in this particular, arises the first determinate difference between the moral relations of each. The one should be active and strong, the other passive and weak: it is necessary the one should have both the power and the will, and that the other should make little resistance. This principle being established, it follows that woman is expressly formed to please the man: if the obligation be reciprocal also, and the man ought to please in his turn, it is not so immediately necessary: his great merit is in his power, and he pleases merely because he is strong. This, I must confess, is not one of the refined maxims of love; it is, however, one of the laws of nature, prior to love itself. If woman be formed to please and be subjected to man it is her place, doubtless, to render herself agreeable to him, instead of challenging his passion. The violence of his desires depends on her charms; it is by means of these she should urge him to the exertion of those powers which nature hath given him. The most successful method of exciting them, is, to render such exertion necessary by their resistance; as, in that case, self-love is added to desire, and the one triumphs in the victory which the other obliged to acquire. Hence arise the various modes of attack and defence between the sexes; the boldness of one sex and the timidity of the other; and, in a word, that bashfulness and modesty with which nature hath armed the weak, in order to subdue the strong.” — Rousseau‘s Emilius.

I shall make no other comment on this ingenius passage, than just to observe, that it is the philosophy of lasciviousness. –from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft

Introducing Joseph Ducreux (1735-1802)

Le Discret by Joseph Ducreuxducreux002


Introducing Joseph Ducreux, yet another artist strongly motivated by physiognomy, that most maligned of sciences.

Joseph, baron Ducreux (17351802) was a French portrait painter whose early portraits include those done of the connoisseurs Pierre-Jean Mariette, the Comte de Caylus (Oeuvres badines et galantes du comte de Caylus) and Ange-Laurent de la Live de July.

Physiognomy (Gk. physis, nature and gnomon, judge, interpreter) is a theory based upon the idea that the assessment of the person’s outer appearance, primarily the face, may give insights into one’s character or personality.

Robinson Crusoe @290

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe was published on April 25, 1719.

Robinson Crusoe (1719) – Daniel Defoe
Image sourced here.

Robinson Crusoe is an English adventure novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1719 and sometimes regarded as the first novel in English. The book is a fictional autobiography of the title character, an English castaway who spends 28 years on a desert island. This device, presenting an account of supposedly factual events, is known as a “false document“, and gives a realistic frame story.

The term “Robinsonade” has been coined to describe the genre of stories similar to Robinson Crusoe.

If we surmise that Robinson Crusoe was the first piece of boy’s lit, the Anglophone world had to wait 21 more years for its first piece of chick lit which was arguably Pamela.

See also: histories (history of the novel), bestseller, first novel, British literature, Robinsonade, 18th century in literature

Strong and independent women: Kiki de Montparnasse

Kiki by Julian Mandel by you.

Erotic postcard by Julian Mandel (c. 1920), the model is Kiki de Montparnasse

I like the histories of strong and independent women. In France their have been Joan of Arc, George Sand, Colette and Kiki de Montparnasse, to name the most ringing names. The last two played a decisive role in 1920s Paris.

Catel and Bocquet - Kiki de Montparnasse by you.

Kiki de Montparnasse by Catel Muller & José-Louis Bocquet

In 2007, Kiki’s life was celebrated in the biographical graphic novel, Kiki de Montparnasse by Catel Muller & José-Louis Bocquet. On its cover is Le violon d’Ingres[1], one of the works of art in the collective unconscious, which started its life in 1924 as gelatin silver print photograph by Man Ray portraying Alice Prin (aka Kiki de Montparnasse) in the pose of the Valpinçon Bather[2]. Man Ray photographically superimposed sound holes, or f holes, onto the photograph of the back of a female nude, making the woman’s body resemble that of a violin.

The grahic novel remains untranslated into English as of April 2009.