Dec 8, 2013
Although the virtual ‘king’ (or some may say ‘queen’) of Super 8 mm film, French auteur filmmaker and cinematographer Stéphane Marti (Diasparagmos, Purple Kiss) is all but totally unknown, even among cinephiles and his countrymen, which is rather unfortunate considering he is responsible for directing an insanely idiosyncratic and aesthetically iconoclastic Super 8 remake of sorts of German master auteur F.W. Murnau’s Gothic horror masterpiece Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) aka Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. Indeed, a keenly kaleidoscopic and debauched Dionysian 45-minute meta-queer take on Nosferatu that rather blatantly uses vampirism as a metaphor for (homo)sexual desire, Mira corpora (2004) is easily the most esoterically homoerotic bloodsucker flick I have ever seen, but more importantly, it is a work of pure and unadulterated cine-magic of the totally transcendental yet rather impenetrable sort. Directed by a film professor and arguably the world’s foremost proponent of Super 8 film who has used the dying film format for nearly four decades (despite spanning over four different decades, virtually all of Marti's films look like they were made around the same period), Mira corpora is a rare piece of celluloid Baroque beauty in the pre-apocalyptic age of social and cultural day that takes a rather romantic look at the celluloid past. Featuring less than inconspicuous references to not only Murnau’s Nosferatu, but also Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), including iconic images of ‘Scarlet Woman’ Marjorie Cameron, Mira corpora is ultimately the sub-underground progeny of queer cinema’s greatest masters of celluloid semiotics and allegorical tableaux. Not unlike Eric De Kuyper’s Pink Ulysses (1990), Mira corpora not only utilizes clips from silent masterpieces from gay filmmakers of the past, but also ‘vampirically’ deconstructs cinema history as a whole (namely, vampire films in this context), exposing the sodomite subtexts that may (or may not) have been hidden in works created by fag filmmakers like Nosferatu and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (actually, it is quite apparent that Anger's Crowleyite film is most homoerotic). Featuring a big gay bald Mediterranean dude wearing a dress without any underwear, an avant-garde ballet dancer frolicking around gaily, a neon-redheaded Scarlet Women performing lovelorn destruction rituals against an ex-lover that looks like Satan himself, and a curiously queer leather-adorned Nosferatu who dwells in the catacombs of piss-drenched Paris, Mira corpora is classical European beauty meets deathrock and dark romantic Delphic homo horror. Arguably auteur filmmaker Marti’s celluloid magnum opus, Mira corpora is like the vampire flick Derek Jarman never directed as edited by a gay and slightly less spastic Guy Maddin.
As somberly narrated by the Thomas Hutter/Jonathan Harker character (played by actor/auteur Samuel Ganes) at the beginning of Mira corpora after he walks through a post-industrial garbage dump in the spirit of Jarman’s The Last of England (1988) , “Then there came over the crest of the hill a man tall and thin. I could see so much in the distance. When he drew near the horses, they began to jump and kick about then to scream with terror… They bolted down the road. I watched them out of sight, then looked for the stranger, but I found that he, too, was gone.” Indeed, it seems that in only a vague instance, Hutter has fallen under the Svengali-like homoerotic spells of Nosferatu, who dwells in a catacomb where he screens movies on bare human bodies for his own seemingly petty parasitic enthrallment. To make matters worse for the reluctantly entranced Hutter, it is Walpurgis Night, a terrifying time when the devil is abroad and when the graves open and the dead come forth and walk. Indeed, various strange high-camp beings inhabit the spiritually lascivious Luciferian realm of Mira corpora, including witches, quasi-cross-dressing vampires (or frog fags with fangs), half-naked ballet dancers crossing forbidden seaside paths in a most merry way, and young twink boys lurking in the dark catacombs as if prophesying their own fantastic deaths via hermit homo bloodsucker. A celluloid rituals of sorts, Mira corpora opens with an anti-social punkette ‘Priestess’ (Sarah Darmon) introducing the viewer to the macabre yet mystifying world of Marti and closes with another ‘Priestess’ (Elodie Jane) destructively closing the cinematic ceremony. The queer Nosferatu (belated actor/auteur Marcel Mazé, who somewhat fittingly died on Valentine's Day in 2012) of Mira corpora has nil interest in Ellen Hutter/Lucy Harker, who is nowhere to be found, as he is a subterranean sodomite cinephile of sorts who rather enjoys projecting images of Murnau’s Nosferatu on young androgynous boys and swarthy brown bears inside his lecherous lair and hardly has the time to waste on draining the vital fluids of virginal Victorian beauties in their bedrooms. In the end, the sky turns blood red and homo Hutter/Harker, who looks like a cheap gypsy hustler, dances on top of a canal bridge while wearing a vampire cape in solidarity with gay Nosferatu, gay Nosferatu successfully screens horror films on young naked male flesh and basks in the bawdy beauty, and a young Priestess symbolically smashes a glass heart-shaped ornament into pieces against a portrait of gay Nosferatu as if blaming the rat-like undead fag fiend for stealing her emo boy toy.
A Poetic and lyrical but ultimately anti-literary celluloid work, Mira corpora is first and foremost a trying yet tasty ‘tribute’ to Murnau’s Nosferatu that totally deconstructs and destroys the themes and conventions of Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula (1897) to achieve something more visceral, arcane, and otherworldly in character in what ultimately amounts to a metaphysical micro-movie drained from the blood of a cinematic poet. Featuring an original score by Marti collaborator Berndt Deprez, as well as compositions by Igor Stravinsky and Gustav Mahler, and excerpts from/references to Murnau’s Nosferatu and Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Mira corpora is indubitably a piece of pomo homo pretentiousness, yet it still manages to work perfectly as if crafted by the world's most lonely unsung master auteur. During his nearly four decade long career as a filmmaker, auteur Stéphane Marti has only managed to direct one feature-length film, La cité des neuf portes (1977), among countless shorts, but I can say without hesitation that Mira corpora is easily his most accomplished, ambitious, and aesthetically pleasing work to date as an incredibly kaleidoscopic yet phantasmagoric celluloid piece that manages to reconcile the seemingly absent homoeroticism of F.W. Murnau’s films with the flagrant yet partly hermetic homo celluloid hypnotics of Kenneth Anger. In other words, Mira corpora is not only mandatory viewing for patrons of Murnau, Anger, Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet, Federico Fellini, Steven Arnold, Carmelo Bene, Lionel Soukaz, Luther Price, James Bidgood, and Derek Jarman, but also fans of the Super 8 sinema of perverse heteros like Jörg Buttgereit and Guy Maddin. As someone with a deep and undying love for the aesthetic of Super 8, I was naturally instantly addicted to the films of Stéphane Marti upon first discovering them about a year ago or so, but Mira corpora is the only film of his that did not repel me at some point with some swarthy Mediterranean man’s hairy bare ass, which are featured quite prominently in a number of his other cinematic works. An old film-within-a-film dripping with bloodsucker cliches (but no blood!) and Dionysian decadence, Mira corpora is not only a film about the vampiric power of sex, but also a wonderfully wicked work about the vampiric power of cinema, thus making it a sort of more queenish yet classical celluloid stepbrother to Spanish Iván Zulueta’s masterpiece Rapture (1980) aka Arrebato, which not only features some Super 8 footage (Zulueta also made a number of shorts in this medium), but also a sinister Super 8 camera that allegorically drains a young filmmaker of his body and soul. As someone who has on more than one occasion wrecked my life in circumstances revolving around my unhealthy obsession with cinema, Mira corpora, despite its innately cryptic symbolism and nightmarish nonlinear storyline, felt a tad bit too close to home for me, thus making it a horror film in the truest sense of the word! If you ever felt that Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) aka Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht was too literal of a remake of Murnau's 1922 masterpiece, I guarantee that Marti's Mira corpora will inspire you to never look at Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens the same way again.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:40 PM
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