“Moving pictures merely repeat what we have been told for centuries by novels and plays. Thus, a marvelous instrument for the expression of poetry and dreams (the subconscious world) is reduced to the role of simple REPEATER of stories expressed by other art forms.”–Luis Bunuel Although Un Chien Andalou (1929) is believed to be one of the first intentionally Surrealist films, its iconoclastic milieu is predominantly subservient to the sovereign elements of systematic realism. True to surrealist tenets, the film’s naturalistic texture is the quintessential ingredient in its theatrical absurdity. In this sense, Surrealist film is antithetical to Expressionist … Continue reading BUNUEL’S “UN CHIEN ANDALOU” (1929)
“Moving pictures merely repeat what we have been told for centuries by novels and plays. Thus, a marvelous instrument for the expression of poetry and dreams (the subconscious world) is reduced to the role of simple REPEATER of stories expressed by other art forms”-Luis Bunuel.
Simon of the Desert (1965) was Buñuel’s final Mexican film before moving to France. His Mexican period is often considered a repository of “anti-religious” films, although a more apt description might be “anti-ecclesiastical.” This 45-minute pilgrimage is an incomplete work (due to haphazard funding), but even in its truncated state, it is a shockingly substantial work.
The ascetic fifteenth century Saint Simon Stylites (Claudio Brook) has spent his life atop a pillar in order to get closer to God. A wealthy patron has an even larger pillar built for the holy man and so, after six years, six months, and six days, Simon, reluctantly, comes down from atop his ivory tower, albeit briefly, to “move up” in the world. Detached irony abounds. As in Nazarin, Buñuel presents a religious figure as a fool, but a stubbornly determined fool to be identified with and admired, with detachment.
Luis Bunuel‘s self-imposed exile in Mexico from 1946-1964 yielded a fruitful harvest, and his films from this period are, arguably, his most organic and economically composed. The director listed Nazarin, based off the Benito Perez Galdos novel, as a film he felt much affection for, and that affection extended to the character Father Nazario (Francisco Rabal). Buñuel’s paternal attachment to this child/film was sincere enough that when the film failed to win the Prix de l’Office Catholique (Catholic Film Prize), he could express a sense of relief.
The saturnine Fr. Nazario lives in a phantasmagoric haze, imagining that he is following the commandment of Christ to “take up one’s cross,” but only disaster lies in the stations Nazrio visits. Nazario does not build his house on rock, but on mud. He keeps company with a menagerie of freaks: beggars, thieves, whores, and a dwarf. Nazario refrains from bolting his door, despite the fact that his mob plunders his abode daily. He is relieved of all possessions, save his Sunday best and crucifix. Thank God for that. He befriends the suicidal Beatriz (Marga Lopez), whose self destructiveness is birthed from her incessant need for the abusive man who regularly deserts her.
Viridiana (1961) has quite a reputation among film critics and historians, often being listed as one of Luis Bunuel‘s best efforts. It is certainly among the most heterodox offerings in his considerable canon.
Viridiana marked‘s return to his native Spain after a twenty-five year absence. With the fascist Franco still in power, was severely criticized and accused of making his bed with the enemy, but the filmmaker’s critics should have known better. had an ulterior motive, with a predictably incendiary opus tucked securely in his Surrealist vest pocket.
In the documentary Looking for Charlie Bowers, film archaeologist Raymond Borde recollects buying a box of silent film reels marked “Bricolo” from a gypsy. Borde was unable to identify the films or the filmmaker, but found the films quite unique. The character in the Bricolo shorts was clearly patterned off of Keaton, but the gags were highly surreal, mixing animation with live action. The search for the identity of Bricolo took Borde to the Belgium Royal Film Library and the Annecy Animated Film Festival. Still, no one could identify the films. Borde searched the exhaustive reviews of “Midi Minuet Fantastique,” … Continue reading DISCOVERING CHARLEY BOWERS
The “SlapHappy Volume 8 Collection: Surreal Comedy” must be unreservedly recommended for making available rare, hidden fragments from surreal cinema’s infancy. It’s not everyday one gets to see J. Stewart Blackton’s 1908Thieving Hand which pre-dates the later, similar theme of a wayward, disembodied hand found in films like The Beast with Five Fingers (which Buñuel worked on during his brief Hollywood stint). The Thieving Hand (1908) Edwin S. Porter collections aren’t exactly a dime a dozen either, so 1906′s Melies inspired Dream of a Rarebit Fiend,based off the famous Windsor McCay comic strip, is possibly the highlight here. The sight of something akin to Linda Blaire’s … Continue reading SLAPHAPPY VOLUME 8: SURREAL COMEDY
A majority of the interviews/articles/reviews re: Ian Pyper make a point to state that Mr. Pyper is a tad on the laconic side. I have been in communiqué with the artist on numerous occasions and have never found him wanting for dialogue. No, he doesn’t ramble as much as I do, but then why does he need to? Ian Pyper’s quite prolific art speaks for him and that art is one of relentless communication. In this , Ian is a kindred spirit in the realm of outsider art, brut , visionary , fringe , primitive, or whatever term one wishes … Continue reading IAN PYPER’S ART OF RELENTLESS COMMUNICATION
A stroll down East 10th Street in the 1990s was never a casual experience. Arrests, drug deals done in public view, hookers, tattoo parlors and random gunshots were the norm. In the center of all this was a small hidden art gallery called “Utrillo’s Art.” In the window of Utrillo’s Art one frequently saw small, pop art paintings of kitty cats, or a friendly landscape, which did not prepare you at all for what you found inside and that was usually the many works of Jan Scott Boyer. Boyer himself was a frequent patron of the gallery. He rarely spoke … Continue reading ALLISM: PLUNGING INTO THE ABYSS OF JAN SCOTT BOYER
Ohio artist Bill Ross does not subscribe to the “aesthetics only” propaganda of the avant-garde. As an art student in the 1980s, Ross was stubborn in regards to his work. Complete abstract expressionism was the accepted norm, but Ross’ work plunged the viewer into an idiosyncratic world of slapstick surrealism. Many reviewers have commented on Ross’ works and some of the usual descriptions are “candy colored”, “playful”, and “decorative.” While Ross’ work is all that, there is also an undeniable and inherent element of danger underneath a deceptively bright colored surface. That danger is a true trait of surrealism. In … Continue reading BE HAPPY GODDAMMIT: THE ART OF BILL ROSS