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

The Voice Thief, A Surreal Short Film By Adan Jodorowsky

Merry Tuesday my little apple carts! I’ve got a lot of editing to do so I shall leave you with this wonderfully bizarre short film The Voice Thief by the criminally gorgeous Adan Jodorowsky, son of Alejandro, and featuring Asia Argento (also gorgeous), daughter of Dario. Toodle pip!

Merry Halloween! John Waters This Filthy World

It’s here! Later tonight I shall be watching Derren Brown and stuffing my face but until then here is something to amuse all you weirdos out there. It’s like that programme An Evening With, where the star shares charming anecdotes with the audience, except in this context it involves burlesque, horror, trash and cult cinema and fetishes. It’s very funny.

BE WARNED: Much of this is NOT for children. Do not watch if you’re under 18 (or whatever age you think it’s OK). Happy Halloween!!

John Waters This Filthy World (2006)

Race, Drugs and Lynch Before Lynch – 7 Of The Weirdest Pre-Code Hollywood Movies

Good day my little vegetarian sausage sandwiches, here’s another dose of weird things to soothe the constant rumble of the sponges in your brains.

I love everything about pre-code Hollywood movies from dubious morals to glamorous women, especially if those women got their jewels and furs via nefarious means a la Red Headed Woman, Baby Face and Midnight Mary. Interesting tidbit, Red Headed Woman was one of many vehicles originally meant for Clara Bow which she turned down due to her lack of interest in Hollywood after sound hit.

However some pretty odd films emerged, strange to today’s eyes either because of attitudes (black people relegated to servants with one line is never an easy watch but some go even further), artistic weirdness or sheer incompetence.

  1. Kongo (1932)

An odd curio, fascinating for its unadulterated ugliness and gleeful wallowing in mankind’s lowest nature.kongoposter

A disabled man living in remote Congo is believed by the local tribe to be a God due to his parlour tricks, because of course the African natives are simpletons who would revere anyone who can produce birds from a small tin. He also speaks to them with the broken English usually reserved for Native American stereotypes. He lives for revenge, believing a girl he sent to a convent years before is the product of his wife’s affair with another man.

His plan comes to fruition when he has the girl, raised in purity and naivete, brought to his claustrophobic home for he and his small group to torture. She goes from sweet girl to alcoholic harridan in 0.5 seconds, her only hope being a doctor addicted to a local root.

Interestingly the gang includes ‘Mexican spitfire’ Lupe Velez, who either drowned in the murderatthevanitiestoilet after taking pills to commit suicide, cracked her head on the bowl or lay resplendent upon the bed, depending on which story you believe.

2. Murder At The Vanities (1934)

Murder at the Vanities is an entertainingly daft musical comedy about attempted murder.

While by no means a brilliant film (some of the songs are terrible!), it’s a ritzy, glitzy screwball story of backstage jealousy and lies. There’s enough pre-code moments to satisfy including almost nude ladies and the oddest Hollywood musical number I’ve ever seen (see clip below). It’s good fun and doesn’t really try to be anything else, with enough what the…? moments (or wtf if you want to be modern about it) to keep it entertaining.

Sweet Marijuana With Sing A Long Lyrics

3. Freaks (1932)

I couldn’t really make this list without Freaks, a classic of horror and sideshow cinema. You could dismiss it as Ableism, and you can’t deny their ‘otherness’ is used as a disturbing climax, a “primal, oozing nightmare” as Mark Gatiss so beautifully said in BBC series A History of Horror.

However director Tod Browning famously lived and worked in circuses and the performers are mainly depicted sympathetically. The real monster is Cleopatra, the beautiful Trapeze artist, who manipulates Hans the dwarf into marrying her and then slowly begins to poison him for his money. The merry nature of the ‘freaks’ contrasted with Cleopatra’s ugly soul is best shown in the famous and oft mimicked wedding dinner scene.

Despite the success of Dracula (featuring, of course, Bela Lugosi), Tod Browning lost his momentum when sound came in and faded from the business.

One Of Us Gooble Gobble

4. Maniac (1934)

The infamous Dwain Esper took his independent movies on travelling tours around maniacdwainesperAmerica, showing them in tents and burlesque houses. They include gems like How To Undress In Front Of Your Husband and the soporific Narcotic. However Maniac is arguably his most entertainingly bad film which 366 Weird Movies says “seems to be the work of an actual madman.”

I’d love to tell you what on earth is going on but I really don’t know. There’s a mad scientist and his assistant doing experiments on returning the dead to life in your average, run-of-the-mill Hollywood lab. There’s intertitles explaining various ‘diseases of the mind,’ then there’s cats fighting. Then the assistant kills the scientist, seems to forget he’s supposed to be bringing him back and decides to brick him up in the wall in a reference to Edgar Allen Poe’s Black Cat and, as though this reference reminds him, he gets offended by a nearby cat and plucks out it’s eye in a surprisingly well done piece of gory special effects.

At the same time there’s a nude girl they’ve taken from the morgue and a man they’ve injected with over-actor’s juice. They collide in one of the oddest ‘monster carrying off girl’ scenes I’ve ever witnessed – he seems to decide her boobs aren’t showing enough and puts her down to expose them further before carrying on.

The Entire Film

5. Murder! (1930)

From the deep, dark vaults of Hitchcock’s British films lurks this unassuming little who dunnit. A woman is killed and another is on trial for it, though she doesn’t remember committing the act. One of the jurors believes her to be innocent and begins his own investigation. Hitchcock himself wasn’t fond of who dunnits but he does the best he can, ensuring at least one visually arresting moment is included by way of a circus performance at the climax.

Spoiler:

What makes this film so uncomfortable is the reason behind the killing of one woman and theroadtoruinframing of the other – she was telling her the secret of one of the acrobats, that he is half black. Knowing the acrobat is involved in the murder somehow but not yet knowing why, the juror asks the imprisoned woman if she was in love with him. “No,” she says, horrified, “it’s impossible.” “Why?” he asks, before she explains he is ‘half-caste.’

Attitudes change, as we know, and perhaps it’s a plausible reason for killing. After all, it could have spelled the end of his career. However it’s not Hitchcock’s best film so you won’t be missing much if you decide to give it a pass.

6. The Road To Ruin  (1934)

Dirty books have a lot to answer for, leading to sex, drinking and ultimately games of dice. And death. Or at least according to this propaganda piece from 1934 they do. In fact the weirdest thing about this film is its lack of bad behaviour – a young girl makes a new friend who introduces her to drinking and a new boyfriend, though she gets tired of him and moves on to someone else.

After a party the girls are examined by a doctor and denounced ON PAPER as sex delinquents, and she dies in disgrace when an out of wedlock pregnancy forces her into a backstreet abortion. Should have stayed at home reading knitting magazines.

The Entire Film

The Story of Temple Drake (1933)

A wayward young lady (Miriam Hopkins, one of my favourite pre code ladies) spends her time teasing men and spurning the proposals of an upstanding but boring lawyer. One night she goes on a drive with a man and crashes in a rainstorm, and then things get weird.

MMDSTOF EC006

They make their way to a shack occupied by a rural family and a group of gangsters hiding out from the cops. The acting is dreamlike and strange and each male presence is sexually threatening, creating a nightmarish atmosphere. Finally one man, a gangster named Trigger, crashes into the shed she takes refuge in.

It’s never 100 per cent clear what motivates her afterwards and therein lies the most peculiar aspect of the film. Who is this lady? Is she a moll who willingly follows Trigger to the city, or is she a victim of kidnap or Stockholm syndrome? Is it, as often lies in dreams, somewhere in between? Not to mention the heavy symbolism laced throughout the narrative (when Temple falls in court it’s in the shape of one crucified).

Acidemic makes a fascinating case for this as an early Lynchian story of the subconscious, and there’s a great post on PreCode.com too.

The film itself is unavailable to buy but the whole thing is on YouTube. I’ve added it below because I’m brilliant and you love me.

The Entire Film In A Playlist

Surrealist Cinema Documentary Presented by David Lynch (BBC Arena 1987)

Hello my tiny emblems of creative pride!

Next week I shall be the busiest I have been since the last time I was really busy so, to make up for the fact that I may not be able to post, I shall share with you a documentary on Surrealist Cinema that was shown on the BBC in 1987 for a series called Arena. If you haven’t watched the others you should; there’s a great one on silent actress Louise Brooks and another on Japanese writer Yukio Mishima and his bizarre end. I am fascinated by a bizarre end, I can’t help it.

I notice he possibly didn’t have time to include Bunuel or Un Chien Andalou, but you can’t include everything.

So, here it is: David Lynch on Surrealist Cinema:

From Ferris Bueller To The Shining To Willy Wonka, 5 Weird And Crazy Movie Fan Theories Online

You kids and your crazy ideas! If you’re not making bathtub gin you’re expounding theory after theory on whether Marsellus Wallace’s soul is in the Pulp Fiction briefcase, or Aladdin is really a futuristic apocalyptic wasteland, or War of the Worlds is really the sequel to ET which was about an alien scouting planets to invade.

So, without further ado, here are my favourites from the dark hinterland of the web.

1. Absolutely anything in Room 237. The people in this documentary of theories surrounding The Shining could certainly be described as…dysfunctional.

The ideas range from Stanley Kubrick deliberately placing messages in clouds to imagery incorporating the Minotaur’s Maze, with Jack Torrence as the angry bull in it’s centre (the second is possible, or have I just been reading too many theories?). However the biggest and most complicated are probably the ‘Native American genocide‘ theory (follow links if you don’t mind spoilers) and the ‘moon landing theory.’

2. ‘Up’ is Carl’s journey through the afterlife. OK, I don’t mind admitting I wept up-movie-1harder than a banker in a recession during the first ten minutes of Up, there’s no shame in that. However an extra poignancy could be added by suggesting the old man, Carl, died and everything from then on became a complicated metaphor for his ascendance to Heaven.

This theory speculates that the young lad accompanying him is an angel trying to earn his wings (final merit badge). He also represents Carl and his wife’s inability to have children (!). Muntz represents Hell, my favourite sentence in the theory being: “Muntz is Evil, of course, resplendent upon a story of lies at first and commanding the Hounds of Hell.”

One of the main sticking points for viewers of the film/movie is the size and amount of balloons needed to tear the house from it’s foundations. However I like the magic realism and I’m perfectly happy to just say: It’s about an old man with a bunch of balloons floating through the air.

3. Ferris Bueller exists only in Cameron’s head. Ferris-Bueller-s-Day-Off-ferris-bueller-2540917-1600-900In some sort of bizarre Fight Club twist Ferris and his girlfriend Sloane represent Cameron’s need to cast off self doubt and grow up a bit. In scenes where the three of them interact he is really alone.

Apparently supporting the idea is “There are “save Ferris” messages all over the city. This represents how Cameron wishes someone would care about him and also helps the idea that the film is merely a fantasy.”

4. The Fresh Prince Is Dead. Though not technically a movie, this one’s here because it made me laugh out loud. Here’s the entire post: 

5. The secret ingredient in Wonka Bars is children. Everyone goes nuts for the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie imagecreepy and psychopathic Willy Wonka’s chocolate bars, but what’s in them that makes them so addictive? According to one theory (and, apparently, Roald Dahl in the actual book, which renders this not so much a theory as a disturbing fact), it’s the naughty children.

Not sure? The theorist has it all worked out (and plenty more): “Wonka has some Oompa Loompas take (Violet) to the Juicing Room to get back to normal. Turning into a fruit is a pretty big effect and doesn’t seem like some kind of mistake and showing it off to a bunch of careless, candy-loving kids is not a smart idea.

“When Wonka captured children, originally, in order to make a child even more useful, he fed them these dinner gums so they can become different fruits and taken to the juicing room to get an endless supply of “natural” flavors. The Television Room’s original use may be obvious: turning kids bite-sized in order to harness all of their flavors for a candy. The shrunken kids could of also been used for manufacturing tiny aspects of small candies, like molding them.”