Fat of the Land: selected British short films, 1984–1987

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Here’s another of those film/video anthologies released on VHS in the UK in the 1980s that I never got to see at the time. Fat of the Land is a collection of student films, short video experiments and two video pieces related to the early Industrial music scene featuring 23 Skidoo and Last Few Days. The anthology appeared in 1988 as Ikon 25 on Factory Records’ video label packaged with an approving quote by Derek Jarman. Two Jarman collaborators appear within—Cerith Wyn Evans and Tilda Swinton—while director Richard Heslop (who hosts this at Vimeo) is featured in front and behind the camera in many of the pieces. Heslop is responsible for Language, the 23 Skidoo video, and dons angel wings for Maggie Jailler’s A Nosegay, a homoerotic homage to Genet and Lautréamont. Jailler’s film is my favourite but then I’m biased towards the content.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Dream Machine
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo

Cocteau drawings

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Some of the drawings by Jean Cocteau that comprise a new exhibition at Wessel + O’Connor Fine Art, Lambertville, New Jersey. A third of these are untitled pencil drawings from the 1950s that look like unused illustrations from the first edition of Genet’s Querelle de Brest (1947): matelots posing in various states of undress, masturbating or having sex. Among the other works there are several lithographs in the Cocteau-does-Picasso style. Everything is for sale but no prices are listed on the website.

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Les Amoureux (1956).

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Querelle de Brest
Halsman and Cocteau
La Belle et la Bête posters
The writhing on the wall
Le livre blanc by Jean Cocteau
Cocteau’s sword
Cristalophonics: searching for the Cocteau sound
Cocteau at the Louvre des Antiquaires
La Villa Santo Sospir by Jean Cocteau

Genet art

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Portrait of Jean Genet II (1950) by Leonor Fini.

Artworks depicting Genet or based on his work are more plentiful than I thought. These are some of the better examples. It’s good to know that the great Leonor Fini was one of the earliest portraitists; in addition to painting two pictures of Genet she also produced a series of erotic engravings based on his writings.

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Jean Genet (1952) by Jean Cocteau.

A portrait by Cocteau I hadn’t seen before.

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Portrait of Jean Genet (1955) by Alberto Giacometti.

One of three portraits. Genet speaks favourably of Giacometti in Antoine Bourseiller’s film.

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For Jean Genet (1969) by Anselm Kiefer.

Continue reading “Genet art”

Flowers: A Pantomime for Jean Genet

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Flowers (1986) by the Lindsay Kemp Company. Photos by Maya Cusell.

Weidmann appeared before you in a five o’clock edition, his head swathed in white bands, a nun and yet a wounded pilot fallen into the rye one September day like the day when the world came to know the name of Our Lady of the Flowers. His handsome face, multiplied by the presses, swept down upon Paris and all of France, to the depths of the most out-of-the-way villages, in castles and cabins, revealing to the mirthless bourgeois that their daily lives are grazed by enchanting murderers, cunningly elevated to their sleep, which they will cross by some back stairway that has abetted them by not creaking. Beneath his picture burst the dawn of his crimes: murder one, murder two, murder three, up to six, bespeaking his secret glory and preparing his future glory.

A little earlier, the Negro Angel Sun had killed his mistress.

A little later, the soldier Maurice Pilorge killed his lover, Escudero, to rob him of something under a thousand francs, then, for his twentieth birthday, they cut off his head while, you will recall, he thumbed his nose at the enraged executioner.

Finally, a young ensign, still a child, committed treason for treason’s sake: he was shot. And it is in honour of their crimes that I am writing my book.

(Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet. Translation by Bernard Frechtman, 1963)

Lindsay Kemp’s all-male version of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé has been the subject of several earlier posts, a production staged in the mid-70s with Kemp himself playing the part of Wilde’s femme fatale. Kemp’s company produced a related work in 1974, Flowers: A Pantomime for Jean Genet, a stage adaptation of Genet’s first novel, Our Lady of the Flowers (1942), in which Kemp played the part of drag queen Divine. Wilde and Genet aren’t so far removed from each other artistically although I can’t imagine them getting on in person. Both men were prisoners, of course, and Our Lady of the Flowers was famously written in prison, the first copy being discovered by a warder and destroyed. There’s a more direct connection in Fassbinder’s Querelle during the scenes where Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau) sings “Each man kills the thing he loves”, the most famous line from Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol which refers to (among other things) one of Genet’s obsessions: the prisoner condemned to death. Wilde would no doubt appreciate Genet’s poetic reimagining of his fellow prisoners, and his use of flowers as symbols; what Genet would have made of Lindsay Kemp’s typically extravagant and rather camp stage creation is anyone’s guess. He did write several plays but in later years evaded questions about them or his novels by claiming to have forgotten all his works. By the 1970s Genet was much more interested in the political struggles of the Black Panthers and the Palestinians.

Much as I like Wilde’s play, given the choice I think I’d prefer to see the Genet staging. Salomé is familiar enough from various stage and film adaptations whereas Flowers was unique. There is a video record of the latter from 1982 but the copy uploaded by Lindsay Kemp has had its soundtrack removed following the usual annoying copyright complaints about the music. So there’s the frustrating choice of watching the whole thing with no sound or watching this 28-minute video compilation of still photos by Maya Cusell from a 1986 performance with music that may be the original live score. One thing the photos show is how close in appearance is Kemp’s Divine to his dancer at the beginning of Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane (1976). In 2012 Kemp talked to Paul Gallagher about his film and stage career, Flowers included.

Update: As noted by radioShirley below, there is a copy of the 1982 performance with full soundtrack!

Previously on { feuilleton }
Querelle de Brest
Jean Genet, 1981
Un Chant d’Amour (nouveau)
Jean Genet… ‘The Courtesy of Objects’
Querelle again
Saint Genet
Emil Cadoo
Exterface
Penguin Labyrinths and the Thief’s Journal
Un Chant D’Amour by Jean Genet

Querelle de Brest

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Querelle de Brest (1947) by Jean Genet. Cover design by Jean Cocteau.

This weekend’s viewing was Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982) which is marvellous in its new Blu-ray transfer, and a great improvement on the muddy picture of the earlier DVD release. The film is still only the briefest sketch of Genet’s novel (although Genet biographer Edmund White enjoyed it) but I like the overheated atmosphere, the phallic set designs, Franco Nero (hey, it’s Django Gay!), and the film as a whole is a fitting memorial to Brad Davis, everyone’s favourite sweating matelot. So in honour of all that, here’s a small collection of Querellerie past and present.

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Querelle de Brest was published in a limited edition of 525 copies illustrated throughout by Jean Cocteau who didn’t avoid the pornographic details. Even though copies were seized by the authorities, and the author fined, Cocteau’s involvement did little to harm his public reputation, something that’s impossible to imagine happening elsewhere. A few of the illustrations follow below, many more of the series can be found scattered across various websites.

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Continue reading “Querelle de Brest”