Category Archives: nobrow

Ah, woman, the incomplete sex

Film noir.

Ce Sexe Qui N'En Est Pas Un

This Sex which is Not One

I’ve only seen two film noirs in the 2000s. One was the neo-noir The Last Seduction, the other was The Naked Kiss.

Donald Westlake‘s recent death has inspired me to research film noir and noir fiction. My fondest memories of the noir thing are probably films such as Jim Thompson‘s Coup de Torchon and Charles Willeford‘s Miami Blues.

But above all the nobrow references in the bold film The Naked Kiss.

I was totally surprised to find references in that film to:

  1. Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata
  2. A Baudelaire quote
  3. Goethe
  4. A male version of Brigitte Bardot

The same astonishment took hold of me when researching Kiss Me, Deadly, Mickey Spillane‘s sixth novel featuring private investigator Mike Hammer. (because of the Signet Books and Fawcett Publications link).

Listen to the following dialogue excerpt (see below). Is there a better way to introduce This Sex which is Not One, feminism and the Oedipus complex and Pussy Talk? Most of contemporary theory is useless without its counterpart in popular culture.


Kiss Me Deadly

Scrub to 6:30 for the dialog

Christina: You’re angry with me, aren’t you? Sorry I nearly wrecked your pretty little car. I was just thinking how much you can tell about a person from such simple things. Your car, for instance.
Hammer: Now, what kind of a message does it send ya?
Christina: You have only one real lasting love.
Hammer: Now who could that be?
Christina: You. You’re one of those self-indulgent males who thinks about nothing but his clothes, his car, himself. Bet you do push-ups every morning just to keep your belly hard.
Hammer: You against good health or somethin’?
Christina: I could tolerate flabby muscles in a man who may be more friendly. You’re the kind of a person who never gives in a relationship – who only takes. (Sardonically) Ah, woman, the incomplete sex. And what does she need to complete her? (Mocking) Why, man, of course. A wonderful man.
Hammer: All right, all right, let it go. That bus stop will be comin’ up pretty soon and I don’t even know your name.
Christina: You forget. I’m a loony from the laughing house. All loonies are dangerous. Ever read poetry? No, of course you wouldn’t. Christina Rossetti wrote love sonnets. I was named after her.
Hammer: Christina?
Christina: Yes, Mike. I got your name from the registration certificate, Mr. Hammer. Get me to that bus stop and forget you ever saw me. If we don’t make that bus stop…
Hammer: (confidently) We will.
Christina: …if we don’t, ‘Remember me.’

–Transcribed by [1]

And the  film score by Frank De Vol? Brilliant.

Introducing Alcide Bonneau ( 1836 – 1904)

Alcide Bonneau (Orléans, 1836, Paris, 1904) was a French intellectual, philologist, literary critic and translator of erotica and curiosa. He is also the author of Padlocks and Girdles of Chastity. In 1887, he collected a number of these essays and published them as Curiosa: essais critiques de littérature ancienne ignorée ou mal connue, it is said that the later bookselling category curiosa thanks its coinage to this collection.

The Love Academy by Vignale by you.

La Cazzaria by Antonio Vignali (a Latin novel by Antonio Vignale, written in the mid 1520s, first published in Napels in the 1530s. It was translated by Alcide Bonneau into French and as The Love Academy by Rudolph Schleifer (for Brandon House Library Editions)).

Alcide Bonneau followed in the footsteps of Antoine Galland and was a contemporary of British translator Richard Francis Burton.

Bonneau, like printer Isidore Liseux was an ex-priest, and they had known each other since seminary.

He was lexicographer at the Grand dictionnaire of Pierre Larousse (on Spanish and Italian literature), as well as the Nouveau Larousse illustré.

From 1876 to 1893, he was the principal collaborator of the editor Isidore Liseux (1835-1894), for whom he edited, translated and annotated some fifty works labelled as erotic or simply « curieux » : la On Civility in Children by Erasmus (1877); the Facetiae by Poggio Bracciolini (1878); the Raggionamenti by Aretino (1879-1880); the Dialogues de Luisa Sigea by Nicolas Chorier (1881); the Sonetti lussuriosi by Aretino (1882); the Apophoreta, or De Figuris Veneris, by German scholar Forberg, under the title Manuel d’érotologie classique (1882); La Cazzaria by Antonio Vignali (1882); Poésies complètes by Giorgio Baffo (1884); Raffaella by Piccolomini (1884); the Hecatelegium by Pacifico Massimi (1885); The Mandrake, a comedy by Machiavelli (1887); Portrait of Lozana: The Lusty Andalusian Woman by Delgado (1887); Hermaphroditus by Beccadelli (1892); etc. All translations were annotated, often running longer that the actual text.

A flawed piece on the origins of dark cabaret

Hildegarde Knef

A flawed piece on the origins of the dark cabaret strain in the American entertainment industry, the roots of American cabaret in German cabaret and the aesthetics of death.


Wieviel Menschen waren glücklich[1] is a 1970 musical composition interpreted by Hildegard Knef and released on Decca Records as the b-side to “Tapetenwechsel“.

Café Elektric

Click for credits

I’m cross-posting this from Facebook. It’s a very sad song and I associate it with boudoir noir[2] and dark cabaret traditions, along the current fad in music criticism: hauntology.

Hildegarde Knef, German actress, singer and writer, probably best-known outside of the Germanosphere for her interpretation of “Mackie Messer” and her performance in Die Sünderin. Along with Marlene Dietrich, she is most firmly associated with dark cabaret, a genre of music represented by The Dresden Dolls and Marilyn Manson(The Golden Age of Grotesque) but the aesthetics have older ancestors.

Hildegarde Knef in the German film Die Sünderin

Click for credits

Two iconic images illustrate dark cabaret: the album cover to Swordfishtrombones[3] and the Charlotte Rampling‘s cabaret scene in The Night Porter[4] [5], and here[6] in a Youtube clip. Note the suspenders both on Rampling and Waits.

In the history of cabaret, three or four local histories have been written: French cabaret (Le Chat Noir), German cabaret (Überbrettl) and American cabaret (Cabaret). British cabaret isn’t documented because in the United Kingdom cabaret has historically been called music hall and existed much longer, since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

The clearest mental image most of us have of cabaret is Liza Minelli in Cabaret with its iconic songs Willkommen[7] and “Life Is a Cabaret[8]. The imagery of this musical was inspired by German cabaret as witnessed by Anglo-American writer Christopher Isherwood in Goodbye to Berlin (1939) during the 1920s in Berlin.

Jo Steiner (1877-1935) - Manifesto per spettacolo di cabaret di Claire Waldoff, a Berlino, nel 1914.

Click for credits

So the archetypical American cabaret is rooted in German cabaret. German cabaret was the darkest of them all because it happened in 1920s Berlin, the birthplace of, literature (Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz, 1929), film (Lang, Metropolis, 1927 and M, 1931, Dietrich, Der blaue Engel, 1930 and German Expressionism), painting (Grosz, Circe [9], Dix, Großstadt-Triptych[10]), music (Weill, Threepenny Opera[11], 1928), criticism (Benjamin), philosophy/psychology (Jung), and fashion.

Most of these dark manifestations of Weimar’s culture were labelled degenerate and banned after Hitler’s rise to power.

Dietrich in The Blue Angel is the most iconic image of dark cabaret. The film was directed by Josef von Sternberg in 1930, based on Heinrich Mann‘s novel Professor Unrat. The film is considered to be the first major German sound film and it brought world fame to actress Marlene Dietrich. In addition, it introduced her signature song, Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It). This song was originally entitled Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt[12] and was composed by Frederick Hollander for Der Blaue Engel. The English language words were written by Sammy Lerner, but are in no way a direct translation of the original.

Guy Peellaert (1934 – 2008)

Guy Peellaert is dead.

JodelledePeellaert by you.

Les aventures de Jodelle by Peellaert

Guy Peellaert (April 6 1934 in Brussels, Belgium, 17 November 2008, Paris) is a Belgian artist, graphic designer, painter and photographer, best-known for his vinyl album cover designs of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Diamond Dogs by David Bowie.

He debuted as a theater set designer but first made his mark as comic book creator. His style was evidently inspired by the psychedelic and Pop art aesthetics celebrated in the 1960s (see Hapshash and the Coloured Coat in the UK).

Elvis Presley by Guy Peellaert by Fluffy Kitten Mittens

From : Rock Dreams, Albin Michel, Paris,1974

[FR] [DE] [UK]

His graphic novel Les aventures de Jodelle appeared in Hara-Kiri. Éric Losfeld published it in book version in 1966. The heroine protagonist Jodelle was styled after French singer Sylvie Vartan). Peellaert followed up with a second version, co-written with Pascal Thomas for a new heroine, Pravda, la survireuse (this time the French singer Françoise Hardy served as a model). 35 years later, the couturier Jean-Charles de Castelbajac would use the imagery of Pravda and Jodelle for his collection Physical graffiti in 2001.

Most recently, Peellaert did a series of photo-collages on Belgian popular music for Belgian magazine Focus Knack.


Jeu de massacre by Alain Jessua

He also designed the French Pop art film Jeu de massacre film by Alain Jessua, with music by The Alan Bown Set.

Nobrow manifesto #3

A day at De Slegte and I like Stupid ThingsA day at De Slegte and I like Stupid ThingsA day at De Slegte and I like Stupid Things

French Undressing – Naughty Postcards from 1900 to 1920,

L’age d’or de la carte postale and


I went to De Slegte and found French Undressing by Paul Hammond, along with the previously acquired L’age d’or de la carte postale and Kaarten, a good start for a bibliography regarding postcards, and certainly naughty postcards.

Paul Hammond is a cultural critic on a pair with Colin Wilson, Ado Kyrou and Greil Marcus, to name but a few. He wrote The Shadow and its Shadow (2000) and Marvellous Méliès (1974).

On the first page of French Undressing Hammond quotes from Rimbaud‘s A Season in Hell (“The Alchemy Of The Word“), possibly the earliest defense of popular culture/mass culture. Such a defense always comes from an intellectual, and thus qualifies as a nobrow manifesto, possibly the first of its kind (see prev. once below). I include it here as Nobrow manifesto #3.

“For a long time I boasted that I was master of all possible landscapes– and I thought the great figures of modern painting and poetry were laughable.

What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright-colored prints, old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children’s books, old operas, silly old songs, the naïve rhythms of country rimes.” –Translation Paul Schmidt


Here is a spoken word version of “The Alchemy Of The Word.”


What else did I buy at De Slegte? A silly volume on Baudrillard (pictured below) and an issue of Le Magazine Littéraire dedicated to drug lit, entitled La littérature et la drogue[1] and The Quincunx (I’ve enjoyed this one while on holiday in Malaysia (Tioman Island) twenty years ago).

A day at De Slegte and I like Stupid ThingsA day at De Slegte and I like Stupid ThingsA day at De Slegte and I like Stupid ThingsA day at De Slegte and I like Stupid Things

I did not buy A Humument, Will Self‘s Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys, Le Fantastique dans l’art Flamand by Paul Fierens, Catalog of Unfindable Objects by Carelman, Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic and Eros du dimanche by Anatole Jakovsky.

P. S. Previous nobrow manifestos included Sontag’s The Pornographic Imagination [2] and Fiedler’s “Cross the Border — Close the Gap[3]

Nova magazine 1965 – 1975

Nova 1965 - 1975 by Pavillion Books

[FR] [DE] [UK]

Check these prices! Cheapest at €250, most expensive at €800. More on expensive books over at Bookride.

I found out about Nova magazine when researching Harri Peccinotti

Pirelli 1969 – Harri Peccinotti

Nova magazine was a monthly British style magazine of the “Swinging London” era published from March 1965 until October 1975. It foreshadows publications such as The Face and i-D. Molly Parkin was the founder and first fashion editor at Nova, she was succeeded in 1967 by Caroline Baker who collaborated with the likes of Helmut Newton, Harri Peccinotti and Hans Feurer, Byron Newman and Armet Francis.

The book Nova 1965-1975, compiled by David Hillman and Harri Peccinotti, and edited by David Gibbs, was published by Pavilion Books in 1993.

P.S. I’m looking for a scan of Up Tight by Parkin with Harry Peccinotti’s cover shot of a French model wearing see-through knickers. Anyone?

See also:

Manny Farber (1917 -2008)

Manny Farber is dead, reports the film blog Elusive Lucidity[1].

Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies (1971) – Manny Farber [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Manny Farber (1917, Douglas, Arizona, United StatesAugust 17, 2008) was an American painter and early nobrow film critic. He taught at the University of California San Diego alongside Raymond Durgnat, Jean-Pierre Gorin and Jonathan Rosenbaum.

His film criticism has appeared during stints at The New Republic (late 1940s), Time (1949), The Nation (1949-54), New Leader (1958-59), Cavalier (1966), Artforum (1967-71). He has also contributed to Commentary, Film Culture, Film Comment, and City Magazine. He contributed art criticism to The New Republic and The Nation during the 1940s through 1950s.

His 1957 essay “Underground films: a bit of male truth” coined the term underground film.

In his essay “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art” originally published in 1962, he eloquently championed B film and under-appreciated auteurs and coined several terms, such as termite art and monsterpieces.

Postwar film critics and theorists of his stature have included Parker Tyler, Edgar Morin, Amos Vogel, Ado Kyrou and Raymond Durgnat while his closest ally in music criticism was the untimely departed Lester Bangs.

Most of Farber’s film writing has been collected in Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies (depicted above).

One can’t argue with popular

Internet nostalgia.

Around 2002 I discovered Tom Ewing‘s I Love Music (ILM). The forum featured posts by bloggers and writers such as Simon Reynolds, Philip Sherburne, Mark Fisher, Scott Plagenhoef, Momus, Stevie Nixed and Sasha Frere-Jones. ILM represented the first batch of serious music writing in the blogosphere, and was notable because of its non-rockist approach.

I stayed around for a year or two, lurked more than I contributed and moved on, starting my own domain in that same year.

The reason I go back to these days is a blog I found by Tom Ewing on popular music[1] over at Freaky Trigger, a site/blog he has as a follow-up to NYLPM [2]. Tom means popular music in the literal sense, reviewing every UK number one single since 1952[3]. As of now, he has arrived in 1978.

The reviews are funny and well-informed. Consider this recent entry on Kate Bush‘s Wuthering Heights[4]:

“I’ve never read Wuthering Heights, though I like to imagine its heroine does a pushy-arm dance at some point. Looking it up on Wikipedia, however, I was shocked to realise that Kate Bush is singing this song as a ghost, but really that’s just another oddness on a teetering pile of them: in a really excellent article on Bush for the late Stylus magazine[5], Marcello Carlin (hi dere!) points out that she is “the last musician to be allowed to do what she likes, as and when she likes”, and the precocious, precious “Wuthering Heights” is both evidence and justification for this indulgence.” —Tom Ewing at Freaky Trigger[6]

After viewing the list of 1977 number one hits one must come to the conclusion that a lot of interesting things can be said about what I like to call guilty pleasures[7], and secondly, that one can’t argue with popular.

Humid reveries in white smocks

Sadism in the Movies (1965) – George de Coulteray [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Belgian-born/New York-based canonical nobrow writer Luc Sante has a blog called Pinakothek[1]. There is a funny post called “Vile Smut”[2], in which he reviews Sadism in the Movies by George de Coulteray, and comments on a chart[3] reproduced in Lo Duca‘s L’Érotisme au cinéma[4] (J.-J. Pauvert, 1957)

Lo Duca's L'Érotisme au Cinéma

“Take this chart, for example, which is worthy of Edward Tufte‘s books:”
The movies are (1) The Blue Angel, (2) Ecstasy, (3) Tabu, (4) The Lady from Shanghai, (5) Notorious, (6) Bitter Rice, (7) Manon, (8) Los Olvidados, (9) Miss Julie, and (10) One Summer of Happiness. No, I’d never heard of that last one, either. Don’t you wish you could nonchalantly illustrate your humid reveries with charts so rigorously white-smocked? I certainly do.”

I’ve mentioned Luc Sante here [5], when I wrote about Guy Bourdin. Luc Sante has compiled a monograph on Bourdin: Exhibit A: Guy Bourdin (2001).

Encore: various book covers from L’Érotisme au cinéma series by Jean-Marie Lo Duca.

Elsewhere #11

  • Revolt of the Mannequins (original French: “La Révolte des Mannequins”) is a new production by Royal de Luxe, and follows their famous “Sultan’s Elephant” show that was performed in several cities worldwide from 2005 to 2007. In the Revolt of the Mannequins, 13 shop fronts in the city center are transformed into theater stages, where the mannequins perform a 10-day play. Every night, the Royal de Luxe team changes the positions of the mannequins, making the story jump to the next episode. 10 days, and 10 episodes per shop front, lead up to the final Revolt. The show took place in Nantes from October 1st to February 10 2008 and plays in Antwerp on the Meir as De opstand van de Paspoppen for Zva from July 11 to July 20.