Jun 3, 2011
The importance and purpose of special effects have changed drastically since the early pioneering days of cinema. What was once the trade of film magicians has been contemporarily morphed and bastardized into a mongrelized gimmick used by the cunning businessmen and carny hucksters of Hollywood who use special effects as a tool to degrade and ultimately hypnotize the viewer through their meaningless collages of retarded and irrelevant shadowplays that have no meaning aside from the obvious (in other words; what you see is what you get and nothing more) . Instead of Georges Méliès – a true special effects Cinemagician – the modern world has James Cameron – a soulless big-budget schlock manufacturer whose depth of vision is shallower than that of the amount of urine contained in the recently deceased filmmaker Leonard Kastle’s deathbed bedpan. Additionally, there is no modern filmmakers that comes even close to the groundbreaking cinema poetry of trans-medium artists like Jean Cocteau and Man Ray; men whose pioneering special effects techniques were invented not just to wow the viewer, but to provide their adventurous audiences with motion-picture poetry. The other night, I had the grand scopophilic pleasure of viewing the neglected and rarely seen 1968 short La femme 100 têtes directed by French auteur Eric Duvivier; a film based on a collage book of the same name published in 1929 by German Dadaist/Surrealist artist Max Ernst. Despite never having the opportunity to view the book La femme 100 têtes, it was quite unmistakable to me that the 1968 film was based on the German surrealist’s work, as the short is full of the same grotesque yet acutely attractive eroticism and splendid derangement as Ernst's paintings. Essentially, La femme 100 têtes is a cinematic collage of moving pictures and paintings, as if artistic works by Max Ernst came alive in a similar vain to that of the fantastic horror comedy Waxwork (1988), except with refined artistry and timeless imagery.
Max Ernst’s original 1929 book La femme 100 têtes is an abstract work about a woman living among ghosts and ants with an allegory for Immaculate Conception, but Duviver’s 1968 adaption seems to enter into darker yet more humorous realms of appended ambiguity. For some, La femme 100 têtes will be a most horrific nightmare, but for others (myself included), the short will be a splendid fantasy for dreamers of the day. Max Ernst was a master at turning seemingly aberrant and malformed subject matter into works of awe-inspiring beauty and intrigue. In the short La femme 100 têtes, director Eric Duviver somehow achieved what seemed to be impossible; transferring the essence of Max Ernst’s work onto the silver screen. Of course, La femme 100 têtes seems to be influenced by other artists aside Herr Ernst, as the short echoes back to Jean Cocteau’s surrealist masterpiece The Blood of a Poet (1930) and the early collaborations between Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí (An Andalusian Dog and The Gold Age). What is most striking about La femme 100 têtes is the film’s apocalyptic portrayal of various voluptuous and mostly topless buxom beauties. Throughout the short, various men can be seen killing each other whilst a female Venus figure stands on and views from the distance in a most sinister manner. The tantalizing and hypnotizing breasts of these women are the equivalent of an anti-Golden Fleece, as they weaken and cripple a man’s martial prowess and nobility to the loathsome level where he can no longer be concerned with anything else. The portrayal of women as wicked sinners in La femme 100 têtes is similar to how Polish symbolist writer Stanisław Przybyszewski characterized the sinful Christian churches and clergy in his excellent work The Synagogue of Satan (1897) view of the fairer sex. Przybyszewski – who was one of the earliest students of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s work – stated that historically, Christian churches and leaders in Europe – who hypocritically enjoyed sexually torturing and murdering so called heretics - turned all that was natural (most importantly; man’s lust and eroticism) into the most unholy tool of the devil himself. Max Ernst – who was brought up in a Catholic middle-class family in Cologne, Germany – was certainly haunted by anti-sex religious tales that he learned as a child, no doubt falling prey to the perverse church teachings that glorified the anti-human, abstracted, and altogether inorganic. Whether you’re religious or not; you will indubitably find La femme 100 têtes to be an utmost compelling spiritual experience, as the film is a virtual tribute to purgatory where one’s lust and demons haunt the viewer well after the film concludes.
In my humble opinion, the Dada/Surrealist artists were the last great movement of artists in the Occident. Although they tended to capture the ugliness of man/woman and life like their degenerate hack successors, many of them also had well developed skill/technique, religious beliefs (mostly of an occult nature) and the ability to capture the height of idiosyncratic grace. Unfortunately, such dignified artists are far and few between nowadays. When I found out that untermensch “artist” Andreas Serrano’s Piss-Christ photograph was finally destroyed (after being vandalized various times beforehand) on May 17, 2011, I couldn’t help but to wickedly snicker. After all, Dada artists like Max Ernst had more talent and expression in their actual piss than a poor modern blasphemous artist like Serrano has in his entire body of work. When compared to a film like La femme 100 têtes, Piss-Christ seems like nothing more than the polluted and recycled urine that it was engulfed in, as Serrano’s work is glaring evidence in regards to the total and (unfortunate) bankruptcy of modern art. Whereas Piss-Christ is quite stupid and disposable (thankfully, it was disposed) that was literally made from the rancid urine of a posturing pseudo-artist, La femme 100 têtes is a delightfully intriguing and inquisitive work that provokes thought in Christians, Satanists, and nonbelievers alike. If you’re one of those oh-so rare discerning cinephiles that is looking for a totally distinct and equally liberating film, La femme 100 têtes offers such a delectable and monumental cinematic affair.
It is apparent that the director of the film, Eric Duvivier, is one of those tenuous and anomalous filmmakers who rightfully approaches cinema as a serious artistic medium, for La femme 100 têtes is a work that features the godly level of experimentation explored by such master auteur filmmaker’s as F.W. Murnau, Carl Th. Dreyer, and Kenneth Anger. Despite being shot in black-and-white, the short is more colorful than an unending rollercoaster of rainbows on fire. To call Duvivier a winsome cine-maniac auteur would be a terrible and misleading understatement, as every single shot contained within the film has more going on in both theme and visuals than the entirety of your typical Hollywood lackluster blockbuster, for the La femme 100 têtes is a pleasant cock-and-ball-buster where the mise-en-scène is comprised of otherworldly seasons of ferocious felicity, thus throwing the viewer into a Dadaist abyss of evil eros and Luciferian female dictatorship. During one scene in the film, a gluttonous slob obliviously carries on eating as the building he is housed in collapses before his food-obsessed eyes. Personally, I like to see that scene as a metaphor (although this was obviously not the director's intent) for brilliant films like La femme 100 têtes, as while art is collapsing and disappearing from the modern Occidental world, the general public stays magnetized to the soulless and equally irrelevant works of platitude and dribble that are tiresomely released by the malignant Tinseltown monster. Facts may tend to be stranger than fiction, but the phantasmagorical world of La femme 100 têtes is more magical than the wildest of real human dreams. If the world as we now it really is on the short road to Armageddon as many people seem to think, La femme 100 têtes is a rapturous filmic prophecy to that somewhat likely scenario. In the age of Kali Yuga, Max Ernst is certainly one of the greatest saints, thus, by creating La femme 100 têtes; Eric Duviver proved he is one of the German Dadaist artist most studious and proficient monk disciples.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 1:47 AM
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