Jazz And Surrealism: Paris In The 1920s

I’m off to Portland, Oregon on Saturday for Bizarrocon and donuts. I’ll be gone for about three weeks but when I return I’ll be full of writerly information and other helpful things.

I’ve read in a couple of different places that Portland is “becoming like Paris in the 1920s,” all the writers and artists are flocking there. I don’t expect it to look the same as 1920s Paris, even Paris doesn’t look the same as 1920s Paris, but I hope to be inspired by a similar artistic atmosphere.

The Années folles (crazy years) was a time between wars where everyone who wanted to make art, dance to jazz or just get a drink (America was under Prohibition) converged on the city. Gertrude Stein held court at her artistic salon (described in her book The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas), Andre Breton was leading the Surrealist movement, and Anais Nin was a brief fixture of the Montparnasse cafe scene.

A Surrealist Ball, by Man Ray
A Montparnasse Cafe

If you wanted to get a glimpse of dancing girls (*whisper* in the nude) you could pop off to The Folies Bergère. One of the headliners at the time was Josephine Baker, a woman of colour treated like a second class citizen in her native America and a star in Paris.

Tracking shot in the 1927 Clara Bow movie Wings:

Below is a promotional film for Josephine Baker’s ‘new’ show. Contains 1920s boobies:

Paris was known for the latest fashions:

And finally, a silent travelogue through all the city had to offer. Toodle pip, and I’ll see you on the other side of my own adventures!

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When Burlesque, The Gothic And Jazz Age Collide In An Autumnal Extravaganza

Sorry about the title, I’m probably a bit sleep deprived. I’m at my friend’s working on a new book while he does art stuff.

From next week I’ll be posting a spooky themed video made by myself each Tuesday of October, but I thought I’d start Halloween early by sharing other people’s videos of burlesque performances. I like any kind of burlesque but if it has a Gothic twist, or twenties, or circus sideshow it’s even better.

I’ll start with Missy Macabre, partly because I once interviewed her for Bizarre magazine and partly because she manages to combine the twenties, Gothic and sideshow all in one human:

Next is Obskyura, who is basically a modern Josephine Baker in this act:

Tesla Tease is a Gothic mermaid.

Mam’zelle Plum’ti does the Charleston with a bunch of balloons:

Enjoy, I’m off to do more words out my hands, toodle pip!

5 Dada And Surrealist Silent Films

Hello my little carts before the horse, I’ve still got a ton of editing to do so here are some original, silent Surrealist and Dada films. Toodle pip!

Entr’acte (1924)

Directed by Rene Clair (though multiple people worked on the project), this was first shown during the intermission of a Swedish ballet at the Theater of Champs Elysées in Paris. Erik Satie provided the music for this and the ballet on the night.

Jujiro (1928)

Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa, Jujiro (Crossroads) was the most successful Japanese export to the West before Rashomon. Kinugasa belonged to the Dada and Surrealist influenced art collective Shinkankakuha (New Sensationalists).

I couldn’t find a copy with English subtitles, sorry!

The Life and Death of 9413 A Hollywood Extra (1928)

I’m fascinated by the dark side of Hollywood (aren’t we all?) so this might be my favourite. Directed by Robert Florey and Slavko Vorkapić, the film was inspired by Florey’s own Hollywood experiences and features early use of Vorkapić’s film-making invention, the montage. Made in America, it was very successful.

The Seashell And The Clergyman (1928)

Touted now as the first surrealist film, Germaine Dulac’s film was overshadowed at the time by Un Chien Andalou, made a year later, and was not well received. Dulac’s films often featured feminist themes.

Emak Bakia (1926)

Man Ray is one of my favourite surrealists, possibly because of his amazing fashion photos. Kiki of Montparnasse (Alice Prin) makes an appearance, the artist’s model, nightclub singer, memoirist, painter and all round fabulous 1920s bohemian. Emak Bakia means Leave Me Alone in Basque.

Kiki of Montparnasse

Zelda Fitzgerald And Other Fabulous Flappers (Documentaries)

Good day my little vegetarian popsicles! I watched and enjoyed the first series of Z: The Beginning Of Everything. It’s no Mad Men or The Wire but it’s entertaining and I’m fascinated by the era (as you may have noticed) and the Fitzgeralds.

zelda1
Zelda just hanging out

Zelda had only one novel published, Save Me The Last Waltz, and you can read a short story of hers here from before she met Scott. I’d also recommend her sort of biography. However I was unable to find any documentaries on Zelda herself, though that might change since she’s had something of a media renaissance lately. With that in mind here are some other fabulous 1920s ladies.

Josephine Baker was THE iconic lady of 1920s Paris. Dancer, singer, artist’s muse and activist, she paved the way for other black superstars and never gave up, despite some terrible treatment in her native America.

Clara Bow was all but forgotten until recent times, but in her day she was as popular as Marilyn Monroe. The refreshingly honest and brash New Yorker was never accepted into the Hollywood elite and sought solace in her fans, turning her back on the town once and for all after a series of scandals. For another documentary about her click here.

Louise Brooks was one of the most chic women to grace the silent pictures. She, too, suffered a fall once sound hit due to studio bosses using it as a threat: “stop embarrassing us by going out with lots of men or we’ll tell everyone your voice was horrible,” but she turned out to be a fantastic writer.

Intense and brooding onscreen, Anna May Wong would be forever cast as the exotic ‘other,’ imitated by white women at Hollywood parties she was unable to attend herself. Anna didn’t let that stop her though, and wasn’t afraid to try new mediums like ‘television.’

Though I don’t have a documentary about Dorothy Parker I couldn’t let her go unmentioned. As you might be able to tell from my live video of her story But The One On The Right and my post of various others reading her work, I’m a big fan.

However you can’t have Dorothy without mentioning The Algonquin Round Table and I did find a documentary on that. The mention of her is fairly brief but you get the spirit of her life in New York as a wit and poet along with equally vibrant characters. If you’re interested there’s a biopic called Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle. It’s flawed but still quite interesting.

Ta dah! So put on your party frock and mix some gin (or lemonade, up to you) and enjoy!