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

Jacques Houplain’s Maldoror

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This is more like it. In 2008 when I posted one of Jacques Houplain’s etchings for a 1947 edition of Les Chants de Maldoror there were none of the other pictures in the series to be found. Now there’s a website devoted to Houplain’s work which features a page of his Maldoror illustrations. There’s a crude vigour to these pieces that gets much closer to Lautréamont’s fervour and viciousness than do the illustrations by Houplain’s famous contemporaries. Houplain is also one of the few illustrators to pay some attention to Lautréamont’s frequent digressions into the animal kingdom. The artist’s other work is worth a look; Legendes is a series of prints of medieval demons.

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Hans Bellmer’s Maldoror

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Les Fleurs du Mal.

That favourite novel of the Surrealists receives the attention of yet another Surrealist artist. Dalí and Magritte both made their own attempts to illustrate Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror, a book that many people would consider beyond the reach of easy pictorial representation. I tend to think that the novel’s delirious, dream-like prose offers endless interpretations; this earlier post managed to haul one paragraph in the direction of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Hans Bellmer’s series of 33 intaglio prints were produced from 1967 to 1971, and use the book as a mirror for the artist’s erotic obsessions. Not an unwarranted point of view but Bellmer makes the novel seem much more overtly erotic than it is. The images here aren’t the best quality. Better copies and a complete set of the prints may be viewed at a larger size here.

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Ecstasy.

Continue reading “Hans Bellmer’s Maldoror”

Les Chants de Maldoror by Shûji Terayama

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27 minutes of experimental video from 1977 in which director Shûji Terayama retrieves some predictably unorthodox images from the bottomless pit of Lautréamont’s text. The preoccupations here seem to belong as much to the director’s mind as to that of Isidore Ducasse, what with the emphasis on various forms of bondage and unusual erotics. (Not that Maldoror lacks sexual material but what there is adopts a different guise.) With a score that sounds like outtakes from a Clock DVA studio session it’s very much a product of its time, but not without interest. Terayama was (among other things) the director of Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1971), a film whose title was later swiped by Stereolab. Les Chants de Maldoror may be viewed at Ubuweb.

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Previously on {feuilleton }
Polypodes
Ulysses versus Maldoror
Maldoror
Books of blood
Magritte’s Maldoror
Frans De Geetere’s illustrated Maldoror
Maldoror illustrated

Polypodes

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Sepia (no date) by Gao Jianfu.

Quelquefois, dans une nuit d’orage, pendant que des légions de poulpes ailés, ressemblant de loin à des corbeaux, planent au-dessus des nuages, en se dirigeant d’une rame raide vers les cités des humains, avec la mission de les avertir de changer de conduite, le caillou, à l’œil sombre, voit deux êtres passer à la lueur de l’éclair, l’un derrière l’autre; et, essuyant une furtive larme de compassion, qui coule de sa paupière glacée, il s’écrie: «Certes, il le mérite; et ce n’est que justice.» Après avoir dit cela, il se replace dans son attitude farouche, et continue de regarder, avec un tremblement nerveux, la chasse à l’homme, et les grandes lèvres du vagin d’ombre, d’où découlent, sans cesse, comme un fleuve, d’immenses spermatozoïdes ténébreux qui prennent leur essor dans l’éther lugubre, en cachant, avec le vaste déploiement de leurs ailes de chauve-souris, la nature entière, et les légions solitaires de poulpes, devenues mornes à l’aspect de ces fulgurations sourdes et inexprimables.

Les Chants de Maldoror (1869) by the Comte de Lautréamont.

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Sometimes on a stormy night while legions of winged squids (at a distance resembling crows) float above the clouds and scud stiffly towards the cities of the humans, their mission to warn men to change their ways—the gloomy-eyed pebble perceives amid flashes of lightning two beings pass by, one behind the other, and, wiping away a furtive tear of compassion that trickles from its frozen eye, cries: “Certainly he deserves it; it’s only justice.” Having spoken thus it reverts to its timid pose and trembling nervously, continues to watch the manhunt and the vast lips of the vagina of darkness whence flow incessantly, like a river, immense shadowy spermatozoa that take flight into the dismal aether, the vast spread of their bat’s wings obscuring the whole of nature and the lonely legions of squids—grown downcast viewing these ineffable and muffled fulgurations.

Translation by Alexis Lykiard, 1970.

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The Mask of Cthulhu, 1976 paperback reprint. Cover art by Bruce Pennington.

Above these apparent hieroglyphics was a figure of evidently pictorial intent, though its impressionistic execution forbade a very clear idea of its nature. It seemed to be a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could conceive. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful. Behind the figure was a vague suggestion of a Cyclopean architectural background.

The Call of Cthulhu (1928) by HP Lovecraft.

Previously on {feuilleton }
Ulysses versus Maldoror
Maldoror
Vampyroteuthis Infernalis by Vilém Flusser
Books of blood
Magritte’s Maldoror
Frans De Geetere’s illustrated Maldoror
Maldoror illustrated