Posts Tagged ‘Surrealism’

In my time it was Peyton Place that lay lurking behind the peaceful exterior of small town Americana. For Gwadsake, this is 1986. Welcome to Lumberton!
It’s a sunny, woodsy day in Lumberton, so get those chain saws out. This is the mighty W-O-O-D. At the sound of the falling tree, it’s 9:30. There’s a whole lot of wood out there, so let’s get goin’.
While the radio jingle refers to felling woods there are those who are rarin’ to go with their freaky sexual fantasies. One such is the loathsome, nitrous-oxide sniffing kidnapper (Dennis Hopper). Frank holds a man Don, and Donny his son hostage, and makes the mother of Donny his sexual slave.
On the receiving end is the nightclub singer Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) the abused/brutalized mother.
Dorothy: Hello baby.
Frank: (reprimanding) Shut up. It’s Daddy you s–t-head. Where’s my bourbon?
(She goes into the kitchen and gets Frank his drink, handing it to him.)
Can’t you f–kin’ remember anything? (Dorothy turns out the main light in the living room and lights one small candle.) Now it’s dark. (Wearing her blue velvet robe, Dorothy sits on a chair in the middle of the living room. Frank sits down on the sofa.) Spread your legs. Wider. Show it to me. (She slowly opens her legs wider and adjusts her robe, while Frank stares at her crotch and drinks his bourbon.) Don’t you f–kin’ look at me!

Into such unstable equation who stumbles in but a college student Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan). The kid Galahad discovers a severed ear, and then finds himself embroiled on the goings on the dark side of town. (It is a fact of life that a picket fence however well painted white when casts shadow is less than what appears.)
He witnesses, first as a voyeur and then must be goaded by what he has seen so in a way no longer he is that same old innocent knight in shining armor. The disease of the villain has passed on to him as well the helpless woman. She has been brutalized so thoroughly she is not above asking the student to abuse her. While she is onto a masochistic bend the one who breaks and enters into her apartment is not spared either. He steals duplicate spare apartment key hanging in the kitchen in order to spy on her. Their kinks are so disgusting let me say the viewer need to carry an extra cast-iron lining to stomach what goes on there.
Jeffrey and Frank represent the two dichotomous sides of life (e.g., light/dark, normalcy/aberration, attraction/repulsion, innocence/experience, perversion/love, virtue/base desires, etc.) These represent also two side of the coin. In whichever way they fight for dominance the fact remains evil is still out there. Female leads Dorothy and Sandy are also two opposites.
Sandy who has a regular boyfriend also sees and acts as a decoy for Jeffrey.

Sandy: I don’t know if you’re a detective or a pervert.
Jeffrey: Well, that’s for me to know and you to find out.

Out of a slender plot line the essay in violence, aberrant sexual behavior David Lynch created a cult film. Although highly ridiculed and disdained when released as an extreme, dark, vulgar and disgusting film, it also won critical praise – Best Film of 1986, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Dennis Hopper) and Best Achievement in Cinematography (Frederick Elmes) by the National Society of Film Critics. It also received a sole nomination for Best Director from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The film’s credits (viewed with fluid, scripted type-lettering) play above a slow undulating blue velvet, fabric backdrop as Angelo Badalamenti’s sensual string score floridly plays. The film dissolves into an unnaturally brilliant, visually lush, boldly colorful opening with patriotic hues (bright red, white, and blue) and a nostalgic, dream-like view of a clean, conforming, pastoral America a la Norman Rockwell. Don’t you believe it.
At the outset we see a man falling down with a heart seizure. He is the proud owner of a house with a garden enclosed by white picket fence. And it is what often lurks behind the American dream (represented by spanking white picket fence) is interesting. Mr. Beaumont the father like a typical American would wish to keep the garden as green as you ever saw. But must account for the heart that is congested as well. Don’t you believe what you see is all there is.
But here we also see a deft directorial insight to move the camera for a closer view of a terrifying, diseased underworld: it is teeming with a swarm of hungry, ugly black bugs – a metaphor for the perverse, horrible evil that lurks beneath the idyllic surface of picture-perfect life.
Sandy: I don’t know. I had a dream. In fact, it was the night I met you. In the dream, there was our world and the world was dark because there weren’t any robins, and the robins represented love. And for the longest time, there was just this darkness. And all of a sudden, thousands of robins were set free, and they flew down and brought this Blinding Light of Love. And it seemed like that love would be the only thing that would make any difference. And it did. So I guess it means there is trouble ’til the robins come.
Jeffrey: You’re a neat girl.
Sandy: So are you. (laughs)

Directed by David Lynch
Produced by Fred C. Caruso
Written by David Lynch
Starring Kyle MacLachlan
Isabella Rossellini
Dennis Hopper
Laura Dern
Dean Stockwell
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Cinematography Frederick Elmes
‘After the commercial and critical failure of Lynch’s Dune (1984), he made attempts at developing a more “personal story”, somewhat characteristic of his surreal style he displayed in his debut Eraserhead (1977). The screenplay of Blue Velvet had been passed around multiple times in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with many major studios declining it because of its strong sexual and violent content.[3] The independent studio De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, which was owned at the time by Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis, agreed to finance and produce the film. Since its initial theatrical release, Blue Velvet has achieved cult status, significant academic attention and is widely regarded as one of Lynch’s finest works, alongside Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive (2001)’.
Genre: neo-noir
Motifs: The bug motif is recurrent throughout the film. Nitrous oxide mask that Frank wears and Jeffrey’s excuse as an insect exterminator. One of Frank’s sinister accomplice
(Fred Pickler) is identified by his yellow jacket, possibly reminiscent of the name of a type of wasp.
Finally, a robin eating a bug on a fence in the last scene of the film refers to Sandy’s dream and represents love conquering evil.
The severed ear that Jeffrey discovers is also a key symbolic element.
There are a number of allusions to the Wizard of Oz for instance name of the woman degraded by Frank is Dorothy and her ruby studded shoes etc.,
Run time:120 min
(ack: wikipedia, filmsite.org-Tim Dirks)



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Rites Of Passage ©

Daddy Q- liked stirring up things. Obviously. The man was huge, nattily dressed as he stepped out of his limousine. The town with a name as Walachoola (pop: 300) just didn’t have in it to roll a red carpet. So the man stood for a moment on that dirt road and in the sun right in my line of vision. His milk white suit shone with iridescent aura and his clean-shaven pate gleamed. He was a big shot, and his face the color of burnt tobacco and the whites of his eyes merely spelt rspect.

Not a moment he wasted on the dirt road. There was he as though he didn’t mind the rusty gate that kind of wilted on their hinges. He had come along the pathway trimmed in deference to some historical curiosity: the only big pile of rubble that survived General Sherman’s guns and still breathed. It must have seen long passage of time, with each beat less and less of a world that skipped small potatoes. The man didn’t mind.

He casually glanced at the name board: Corn Blue

A Group home for the Disabled. A safe haven

We were at that moment at breakfast table, and we were awkward. Awaiting him. He wore a silk tie, which was stuck with a tiepin as a big as a goose egg. His name was scratched lovingly and it bawled,’Daddy Q’

“Daddy Warbucks!” Tom squeaked.

“It is diamond!” said our master while we sat there frozen and food still on our plates; I knew he was coming to take me. Daddy Q waved his hand not caring a whit for the cook and housekeeper who doubled as hounds besides their regular chores. They ran the home with their iron fists. He wouldn’t be stopped in his tracks after he had set his mind on something. Obviously.

The master half rising remonstrated that it was highly irregular and all that. He stood there in his path. The stranger put out his hands and just pushed him aside. He said with a smile to cut out the crap. Forks and knives somewhere dropped and stacked plates of yester night slid with a loud clank. There fell silence. As awful and deathly as I could imagine.

I thought he had just opened the seventh seal. “ Did anyone think of Apocalypse?” He asked so softly and we all craned our necks to catch his drift. Then we looked around. I put out a finger, my doubt snowballing into a fright. Daddy Q with the tiepin swiveled towards me. There was a twinkle in his eyes. He came to my side. Bending closer he asked: “Be specific. What about Apocalypse?”

“ Seventh seal! It is opened!” I blurted out overcome with the awful feeling of silence. Quickly he pulled me out of the chair and said, “ I am sorry. This waiting. Wasn’t it 18 years or was it 19?”

Marianne the cook found her voice. She croaked,” Mental age is far less. You could count in fingers.”

“ Are you my father?” Marianne would have answered to it. She looked to him with unconcealed yearning and pursed her lips but Jemima the housekeeper pulled her and said in commiseration, “ We are all that he has. Poor soul. He wets his bed you know?” The master found his voice: ‘voices in his head; worse at nights.’ The man frowned at the sight of them. Ignoring them he said affably,“ Does it really matter? I am here for you. This is all that matters.” Daddy Q was obviously luxuriating in the years that he lost while I thought of the crap that ladled out at meal times; the way Jemima scared the shit out of me for soiling the bed. Marianne upset me with her cooking and the master what did he care? Who treated me as an imbecile? Every minute I was stuck in that crummy group home it never occurred I had a father. Least of all the one who stood there in a well-tailored suit. He could wear a tiepin as big as that. It was a monstrosity. It cost a fortune. And he seemed not care a pin for it.

What the hell! Only he could be so overdressed for the occasion and yet not make me wince. He didn’t have to open his wallet I knew he was loaded. I liked the idea of having a father. Before the master could say he hustled me out and said.” We will go for a spin. In my limo.” I knew Daddy Q was real as real as the tremor in my roots. Oh shit I messed myself. In terror I put my hands to ward off Jemima’s flying hand. I caught the eye of the big man who flexed his little finger in a secret code. I felt in control. Strangely I felt some 10 pounds lighter as though a searing scalpel sliced part of me neatly. The thrill of the limo of course was a shot of morphine.

Next instant I was settled in the cool interior of the limo with Daddy Q-next to me. The plush seat with burgundy red tapestry was new. I thought I was born to be driven around. A gut feeling, – even while nights purred outside and stars looked thousand eyes stalking me. I saw visions of course and wetting my bed was only a symptom. The limo was commodious. I said so. He gurgled,” This model is OK. If you have a yen for playing Frisbee you must wait till fall.”

The man in velvet cap and gold tassels kept his eye on the road. “ Turn at the next turnpike.” The phantom at the wheel kept going till the next crossing. “ Seventh Seal uh?” Daddy Q laughed low at the thought, He called out,” say Michael, that was neat.” “ It was his idea.” He said turning to me, “ We had to have a plan. Don’t you think?” I could only nod overwhelmed at this sudden change. “ We searched high; and we searched low.” Mopping his dark brow he chuckled: “ I thought some one would lead me to you. I had this diamond for him. But none cared.” “People have become less friendly, I suppose.” Thereafter he retreated into his shell.

I recollected the pinup I had from The Seventh Seal. The knight playing chess with Death, under a brooding sky. I vaguely knew what the movie referred to. Last book of the Bible. Jemima had seen to that the book was out of reach for the imbeciles. Tommy and I included. I knew I had to play along. Suddenly Daddy Q turned to me and with a mysterious smile said,” You must be a man if you must have a pinup by your bunk?” I flushed and couldn’t answer. It was the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Minus the angels. That was Tommy’s doing. He disliked me and he said I had pretensions to art.

“ You are entered in the register as an imbecile. Fools!” Michael broke his silence, “ Psychiatric evaluation by three amount to nothing.” He added, “Master what you expect from those busybodies who run the home? He is an orphan. Refuse of the state.” Daddy Q frowned but chose to keep silent. How long I would have stared at the blurring landscape through the window was lost and I could feel the chill and I huddled into my seat. The Big Man saw the rough weave of my shorts and the knobby knees and said, ‘You aren’t dressed for the trip.Take this’ He pleasantly threw a rug on my lap and said, “ We will go to the beach there.” There. It wasn’t Cape San Blas beach. Instead the Lands End along Magellan’s straits. I didn’t have to be there but I just knew in my bones my companion didn’t know his geography. He was running the show and what the hell! I was free and rich! His tiepin with a stone as big an Easter egg was still there and it caught the chill of the blustery winds. Had I asked I knew he would give me. There was plenty of time for favors. Sons asked and Fathers gave. Period.

On one side lay the rocks thrown pell-mell by some cataclysm. On the other a raging sea, white with foam. In between a beach of shingles and not a soul walked on the beach. Except one Indian with a blanket thrown on his shoulders. What struck me was his trumpet. He went on wiping the mouthpiece. Queer. As soon as the limo stopped the man with the trumpet scurried towards us and said, “There!”

I saw a beach cabin of sorts through the mist of sea foam. “Everything is arranged.” Daddy Q merely waved him away. A cabin was all that stood there and There was a weather-beaten board: Seafood *fresh catch* Satisfaction Guaranteed! Daddy Q- led me to it. I could see Michael chose to remain with his limo and he had already lost us. A scruffy man who managed the fish food stall received us and offered seats before a crudely nailed plank. My Father asked,” Well Sandro, what have you got for us?” “Abalone! Even as Gabriel sounded, so I kept it for your boy.” “ He’ll have it inside. Bring it on a plate. My treat you know?” “I understand”, he said in a dither. What I thought as a wall with planks nailed lapped had a door.

On passing which we were in a ritzy hall with ornate glass walls and under a ceiling painted by some old master and chandelier that bathed the room in pools of light. There were dark corners and shadows as I could take in at a glance were guests who were well into their partying. Daddy Q no sooner helped me to my seat than came a discreet waiter with his waistcoat in spanking white. After having laid the abalone he withdrew as silently as he came.

Daddy Q loved stirring up things, obviously. Before I tackled the thing the waiter reappeared and prised open with the sharp side of the knife. It was now my turn. I opened the mother-of pearl and whamm! The tiepin had turned blood red and it oozed all over the shirtfront of Daddy Q- who sat erect. I could not fully grasp what came over him. I was staring instead at the abalone, the minuscule creature that stood up gingerly. It made my past and present jell! Botticelli painted as painterly as he was trained to do. ‘Not a day without Venus’. Botticelli made the Corn Blue more human with his human art. But this Venus was all natural and her flesh had a skin tone that nothing could have prepared out of a mortar and pestle. Much less squeezed out of a tube. Demure and profane. She was right there coming out of the shell and she was right there plopping on my lap. I saw her breath harder and her ivory skin glowing with heat. For the girl sat now by my side and not even a team of mules could have parted me from there. She put her slender arms around me and said,” Adonis! I found you.” Leaning across she lightly nipped my earlobe and smiled. Never shall we part again. It was a pact.

The Big Man knew what was coming and he averted his gaze while she went straight to my shorts. She yanked my shorts and my briefs. It was the moment of nightmare!

My man thing was totally cleaned up. I could guess the import of Daddy Q’s cue before I stepped in his limo. He had seen to that I didn’t mess his limo. I went white while I saw hell fire from her eyes. I reached out and tugged the sleeve of Daddy Q. I asked him in despair. “ Make her love me!” Daddy Q sat there petrified. I shrieked, “for these 19 years! You owe it to me.” Was he staring at her or me I don’t know. My Venus asked me silkily, “ Make him go!” “Shoo,” she said from my behind hesitantly. Daddy Q sat there and looked me in my eyes. The fire that simmered deep down in me was in jets and sweat beaded, died silently. I was afire and yet some one had plugged me good and proper. “ It is his trick!” My Venus said with deadly chill, “ I am the one to free you. He is no good for you.” She stood up and hissed more like a jaguar, “ You thought he was a plaything for you?” Next moment she slapped him with all the force she could muster. The tiepin popped like a bubblegum and Daddy Q just melted. Hadn’t her breath kind of shook me up I could have stared and said he dissolved in so many wavelets. Just as Botticelli painted it. Oh shit, she was panting as though she had me so within close and lost my attention, “ Aw honey, don’t make it difficult. Just try.” Time for me was a dead horse. No limo that gave me shiver down my spine. Instead just me and a girl: retching and coming up for air as though two backed beasts under a silent sky had connected . Time had broken into a sweat. Only two of us stood there on Land’s End. Or Terra del fuego.

Dusting sand from my bruised knees I looked at the girl and said, “ I hate you! I hate you!” The stars in a cerulean sky came a-twinkling. Like diamonds. I had lost Daddy Q. With his tiepin as big as a goose egg.


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SALVADOR DALÍ (Spanish) (1904 – 1989)


At Art School in Madrid the most notorious of all the surrealists displayed a precocious dexterity in his studies. He had a genuine gift for the manipulation of imagery and when he went to Paris in 1928 and Míro presented him to the surrealists he quietly established himself as the dazzling newcomer from whom everything could be expected. As a student he was influenced by Freud, which made him interpret not only his dreams but everything that happened to him. He took surrealism still further to simulate a form of ‘reasoning madness’ by which he could explore hidden meanings behind its common place appearances. In the ‘Persistence of Memory’ (1931) the idea of melting watches occurred to him when he was eating ripe Camembert cheese. Many have seen in it a fear of impotence. (Whatever may be the interpretation the inescapable fact is that its jewel-like finish and extraordinary draftmanship reminds one of great Italian masters. Dalí himself was a great admirer of Da Vinci.) Just as he was quick to be identified with the surrealism he dissociated from it in 1938. He had turned to classicism discribing his change of direction as a ‘religious Renaissance based on a progressive Catholicism’. Equally fluent in words as in paintings Dalí contributed much to his popular image as a personality – as well as an artist – of considerable controversy. As André Breton put it, the time came when Dalí could not tell the sound of his own voice from the creak of his patent-leather shoes.

In retro: He was  the  only artist who could understand Theory of Relativity, in all probability more than Einstein himself. Einstein of course wasn’t an artist. This Spaniard was a genius. A genius these days has to sell himself as a product. As in the case of Salvador he played a mountebank, a clown with his waxed moustache, patent leather shoes and toadies. This is what is called dillyDalíing.


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After the groundbreaking, experimental work of Un Chien Andalou (1928) Buñuel and Dali were expressly commissioned by Marie-Laurie and Charles de Noailles to provide a follow-up. The first was a surrealistic poem, where images in place of words loaded with symbolism. If Un Chien Andalou was the untrammeled folly of two creative minds whose youth was their licence, L’Age D’Or was the laying of ground rules for the kind of film-making Buñuel would do in his long career. He cut his teeth on Surrealism and all his movies beginning with this set out to examine the social mores,- moribund and nascent attitudes of a society in flux, with the eye of a satirist. After its initial screening it was banned in Spain and also in France. In Un Chien Andalou film operated more as subconscious mind given expression: it is chaos, unrelated to the conscious mind or will. ‘Surrealism ‘as rape of the conscious mind.’ Surrealism strictly speaking does not espouse a visual image as watching a beautiful sunset that puts reverence of God in the viewer’s mind; nor is it a shot of watch, placed in a succession of images to celebrate the union of technology and art. In short surrealism places the stolid virtue of visual images as we perceive them in our mind, cultivated by culture or art, on its head. (note: A Chinese may examine both the background and foreground in a painting with equal care while a Western mind shows more attention to detail in the foreground. Culture helps in understanding a work of art.) Visual ‘imagery’ in L’Age D’Or is to be understood in that context. If In a clear-cut narrative of a man and a woman being continuously thwarted in their attempts to make love by interruptions what significance can a man walking through a park with a loaf of bread on his head hold? ( Remember the nimbus that always is foisted on the icon of a saint in Catholic churches? His saintliness radiates heavenly light, so it would indicate. A loaf of bread he could provide to his worshipers  would be more practical and to the point. Would it not?’)

Man’s basic right to think or speak in the 30s was being curtailed by the fascist and totalitarian regimes in Spain, Italy, USSR and elsewhere. If the conscious life is repressed how our subconscious cope with it may lie in travesty of sense. Nonsense rhymes of Lear or Lewis Carroll tale are a case in point. If Alice has the misfortune to follow a rabbit through the hole she should not consider a Cheshire cat grinning as out of place. L’Age D’Or is sexed up but not pornograhic to titillate. The erotic aspects merely make the satire most ludicrous as in the scene where ragged children lap up the throes of the amorous couple, a man (Gaston Modot) and a girl (Lya Lys) rolling around in the mud. They are first spotted by the children. As soon as the crowd (the crowd of on-lookers is organized in accordance with the established social hierarchy.) frown on the indecency of it, children also quickly join in the general condemnation. The lower order if it will suit them, is all for propriety and morality of the bourgeoisie. The man (Gaston Modot) in his anger could crush a beetle, or kick a poodle out of the way. Beggars fare no better. In Buñuel’s vitriolic view of society it is such sort of a cad that is deputed as “Ambassador of Good Will.” L’Age d’Or is one of the cinema’s great “shock” films. At the time, it was accompanied by a manifesto.


The Story is episodic in form. The opening segment has a title card explaining the image. A poisonous scorpion is“not at all sociable, it ejects the intruder who comes to disturb its solitude.” Then the creature sets out to dine on a large rat. The next segment follows some hours afterwards when four bishops are shown deep in prayers. For a place in the sun we toil from sunup till sundown. But the well-fed prelates who make a show of their devotion as we see them rot away under the blazing Spanish Sun. Next segment develops the theme of Imperial Rome. A group of armed peasants gravitate towards the cliffs that line the rocky shoreline to resist the arrival of invading Mojorcans, but the peasants collapse in exhaustion along the way. The peasants are too weak to be of any threat to the invaders who come by ancient ships,-the invaders are however dressed nattily in modern dress. The Mojorcan dignitaries disembark uncontested, and launch a ceremony to mark the founding of a new city – Imperial Rome. The Church, the middle class and the lower class are all under attack by Buñuel. In his eyes they are all busybodies who keep butting in while the man and the daughter of the Marquis merely want to satisfy their lust. A hilarious scene is where two drunken oafs on a rickety horse and cart pass through the lounge room where an upper-class party is taking place. We will see it repeated in Viridiana where the beggar’s drunken orgy is a savage spoof on Da Vinci’s last supper. The film concludes with a segment derived from the novel The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade. Portrayal of an orgy and making the ringleader very much like the Christ figure was shocking. Perhaps Buñuel wished to poke fun at the sham reverence for a Jesus (whose features and build as painted by El Greco or Michalangelo are different) that is arbitrarily made a sacred image, the preserve of the Church from the pale of criticism. How closer to truth is the image of Jesus as promoted by the Church?) The film concludes with a cross as controversial as anything else in his arsenal of ridiculing the Roman Church. Tufts of hair (possibly beards or pubic patches) are nailed to it. Even to the modern movie goers L’Age D’Or seems fresh and shocking as ever. (ack: senses of cinema- Bill Mousoulis, epinions-metalluk)


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