Monthly Archives: December 2018

Best film of 2018

I only saw three 2018 films this year:

  • The Man Who Killed Don Quixote by Terry Gilliam
  • BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee
  • This Magnificent Cake! by Marc James Roels and Emma de Swaef
Remark the fine lighting and the cloth. Everything is made of fabric.

Although not comparable to the other two, the best film is This Magnificent Cake!

Ce magnifique gâteau ! (2018, This Magnificent Cake!) is written and directed by Marc James Roels and Emma de Swaef. It is cloth/fabric stop-motion film. The title is based on a dictum by Leopold II of Belgium recorded in a letter in which he remarked eagerly that he wanted his share of “this magnificent African cake”.

It is an anthology film set in colonial Africa in the late 19th century telling the stories of 5 different characters: a troubled king, a middle-aged Pygmy working in a luxury hotel as an ashtray, a failed businessman on an expedition who stole the fortune of his family which subsequently went bankrupt, a lost porter and a young army deserter. And a clarinetist who is forbidden by the king to play his cuckoo notes in “The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods”.

RIP Jorge Grau (1930 – 2018)

Jorge Grau was a Spanish film director who worked in the age of the sexual revolution which came late in Spain because of censorship in Francoist Spain.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)
The Bloody Countess

To the illustrious history of Spanish horror film, Grau contributed The Bloody Countess (1973) and Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974), the first film on Elizabeth Báthory, the second on zombies.

To the not so illustrious history of Spanish erotica, he contributed the film La trastienda, the first Spanish film to feature full frontal nudity. The film touches upon sexual repression and Opus Dei.

Cantudo sings “Desnudame”, in the background are excerpts from “La trastienda’

 María José Cantudo was the actress who was first seen nude on Spanish cinema screens in La trastienda. While researching Grau, it also came to my attention that Cantudo recorded a song called “Desnuda me”, Spanish for “Unrobe me”.

In the part on Spanish horror of the documentary Eurotika!, Jorge Grau is featured on 18:50 [above].

Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ is the missing link between ‘teretismata’ and ‘blituri’

I finished reading Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) by Kurt Vonnegut.

Dutch translation of 1970 of Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) translated by Else Hoog and with a cover by Ton Klop
Dutch translation of 1970 of Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) translated by Else Hoog and with a cover by Ton Klop

It was not until I had read Galápagos (1985) in 2012 that I realized what a genius Vonnegut is. Last winter in China I read While Mortals Sleep (2011), a collection of short stories of which “The Humbugs” is absolutely gorgeous.

Back to Slaughterhouse-Five.

On page 21 (I’m reading the beautiful Dutch translation of 1970 translated by Else Hoog and with a cover by Ton Klop[above]), is the remark of Vonnegut on the fact that nothing intelligent can be said about a massacre, in this case the bombing of Dresden in World War II.

These are his words: “There is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like “Poo-tee-weet?“”

“Poo-tee-weet”, translated with an exclamation mark in Dutch au lieu of a question mark in the original English, is an onomatopoeia of a bird vocalization and in Vonnegut’s novel it stands for something meaningless (as Aristotle used it when he called the Platonic forms teretismata).

In reality of course, bird vocalizations are not meaningless (they are not blituri to use another ancient word), it is a form of animal communication that humans fail to understand.

Which brings us to the trope of meaningless violence, the Dutch notion of excessive and unnecessary violence. Here too, Vonnegut has something to say. When one character announces he is writing an anti-war book, someone retorts that writing and anti-war book is useless, because war is inevitable, you might as well write an “anti-glacier book”. Observations like this make Vonnegut not only a philosophical writer but also one of the great moralists of the 20th century.