My reaction to high school, still to this day.
Nicole Kidman’s Diane Arbus is painted as a childlike artist, filled with repression and longing, fervently rebelling against her role as a wealthy, compliant 1950′s wife and mother. Realizing her own potential as an artist, Steven Shainberg’s eccentric fairy tale Fur imagines how an emotionally fragile Arbus’ dormant passions are awaked by an intriguing neighbor, Robert Downey Jr.’s strangely alluring Lionel. He’s a sideshow castaway covered in fur whose soulful eyes, sonorous voice, and seductive games immediately draw Arbus — and us — in. The two navigate a love affair on the fringes that blurs fantasy and reality. The photographer’s work has often been a point of contention. Were Arbus’ images of freaks and deviants simply exploitive? Shainberg and Secretary collaborator, writer Erin Cressida Wilson (informed by Patricia Bosworth’s Arbus biography), attempt to draw deeper connections to the artist’s subjects and conjure her emotional landscape. It’s easy to look past a few intimacy clichés (i.e. the shaving/sex scene) since RDJ and Kidman deliver such provocative performances.
Effortlessly revealing the silent turmoil of psychological torment, displaced and grasping at shifting memories, Elizabeth Olsen’s breakout performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene is quietly thrilling. Revelations materialize slowly, in keeping with Sean Durkin’s naturalistic and hazy approach, allowing atmospheric anxiety to build throughout the film’s dual narrative. Ambient tension is seductive and cruel. Whispers and creaking doors, the rush of wind through trees and gentle waves suture Martha’s redemptive worlds together. Plucked guitar strings are lulling harbingers worthy of John Hawks’ enigmatic charisma and menace.
This opaque mood piece from Julia Leigh, Sleeping Beauty, intrigues with bizarre banality and detached erotic charge. Emily Browning’s doll in the ether becomes immersed in a sado-masochistic Foucauldian paradigm and conceptual feminist experiment. Lynchian production design from Annie Beauchamp and coolly still cinematography from Geoffrey Simpson are striking standouts. Pro tip learned: match your lipstick to the color of your labia.
I recently wrote about the 1970′s fumetti adaptation Baba Yaga for FEARnet. It’s a remake of Guido Crepax’s erotic, phantasmagorical tale Valentina. The screen version opens with an illustrated credits sequence, which I’ve pasted in the gallery below. (These shots aren’t from the new Blu-ray, which is available here if interested.) If Bernie Krigstein and Aubrey Beardsley made babies, it might look something like this.
The fumetti during the ’60s and ’70s were in many ways ahead of their time, exploring sexuality — and even a few political themes — while experimenting with narrative structure and style. Baba Yaga’s opening sequence was definitely unusual for the time period and is still a great standout today. Also of note is the animated sex scene, which employs early animation techniques, intercut with live action — and a creepily leering George Eastman. I shared the scene in the video below along with the trailer.
Audiences were treated to two other memorable cine-fumetti tales just years before Baba Yaga, which director Corrado Farina has cited as influences. Roger Vadim’s Barbarella seemed tame to those familiar with the comic, and Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik is far more fun and sophisticated. Farina’s witchy remake isn’t the sleaziest film you’ll ever see, but it’s fleshy and enigmatic enough to appease fans of the books.
“Adapted from Guido Crepax’ erotic comic (fumetti, as the Italians would say) series Valentina comes Corrado Farina’s 1973 fever dream, Baba Yaga. Clearly influenced by the gialli, the lesbian Eurotrash cult flick stars Carroll Baker (Baby Doll) as a ghostly witch who controls a free-spirited photographer with sapphic mind powers, a hexed camera, an unnerving doll decked out in a sadomasochistic body harness, and surreal Nazi-era flashbacks. George Eastman also appears for that added touch of smarmy boyfriend sleaze. Baker’s Baba Yaga — named after a witch-like figure that originates from Slavic folklore — is an over the top character who suckles garter belts like candy and commands her erotic slaves from a decadent, but crumbling, mansion.”
Painted, silk scrolls circa 1870.
“The scroll shows the stages of decomposition of the body of a woman, beginning with her fully clothed body and ending with her bones being eaten by dogs. The subject is an ancient Buddhist one, treating of the transience of the physical body, but which later assumed didactic functions relating to the proper conduct of women. In this example, however, the theme is given a new and somewhat prurient twist by its featuring of a prostitute as the subject. The work intersects with the world of ‘erotic pictures’ (shunga) and gives a very useful counterpoint for studying that genre. A prolific and versatile artist trained in the traditional Kano school, [Kobayashi Eitaku] achieved success rather through ukiyoe works and newspaper illustrations, but his reputation in Japan is not yet as high as it should be. Like many important artists whose careers straddled the end of the Edo period and beginning of the Meiji era, Japanese scholars have found it problematic to classify him.” — The British Museum
(Click to enlarge)
There have been some great, attention-getting breast cancer awareness campaigns floating around lately. Social media activists Boobie Wednesday, for example, are taking every online opportunity to remind women and men to perform monthly self-exams. Now artist Maisa Chaves has contributed to the cause with her ad campaign for DDB Mozambique. Featuring DC and Marvel superheroines encouraging people to kick cancer in its ass early by doing auto-examinations, the ads will hopefully grab hold of those who have been avoiding dealing with this important issue. She-Hulk, Wonder Woman, Storm, and Catwoman remind us that no one is immune to breast cancer below.
∞ Writerly things:
Trailer for new Herzog; William Friedkin interviews Fritz Lang; beautiful horror film soundtracks; Cuckoo’s Nest asylum photos + more.
Friends new and old worth your time:
I received this press release from artist and philosopher Jonathon Keats about his new exhibition that opens tomorrow in San Francisco’s Modernism Gallery. This is the same gentleman who attempted to genetically engineer God, and his work is worth a peek. If you’re out west, please pay him a visit.
Four hundred and sixty-eight years after Nicolaus Copernicus informed the world that Earth orbits the Sun, his revolutionary idea is gaining acceptance with artists, and threatening to shake up museum collections from New York to Tokyo and Paris. An exhibition at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco, opening on October 20th, will be the first to present art made in accordance with Copernican principles, including paintings the color of the universe. The show will be supplemented with Copernican cuisine and music.
The new Copernican art promises to be more profound than any painting or sculpture ever before seen, according to artist and philosopher Jonathon Keats, who has previously exhibited abstract artwork by both cypress trees and extraterrestrials. “And that’s not promising much,” he says, “when you consider that art on our planet has hardly evolved since the first cave paintings were made.”
Mr. Keats acknowledges that reform takes time. “Science didn’t really begin until the Copernican revolution,” he says. “After millennia of egocentric navel-gazing, astronomers learned from Copernicus that there’s nothing special about us. We’re on an average planet in a typical galaxy, and that’s to our advantage because it lets us assume that whatever we observe here, like the speed of light or the forces within atoms, will be the same everywhere.” In other words, scientists can make generalizations about the entire cosmos without ever leaving home, because everything about our home is perfectly mediocre.
Bauhaus front man Peter Murphy lends his booming vocal talents to the dreamy, stunningly animated The Lady ParaNorma. Director Vincent Marcone (AKA My Pet Skeleton) — a multiple Emmy award-winning artist and filmmaker — has teamed up with horror mag movie outlet, Rue Morgue Cinema, for a ghostly filmic poem. When an eccentric woman is haunted by the howls of specters, she follows their strange call to uncover the mystery. Gothic icon Murphy added his voice to the project for several of the darkly beautiful soundscapes. He also narrates the film, which is currently making the festival rounds. Marcone recently shared an amusing story about his recording session with the artist. “‘Was that ok?’ he asked politely when he was done. The lot of us sat there unresponsive for a more than a moment, paralyzed by our own goosebumps. ‘Yes Peter, that was good … ‘” Hit the jump for a peek at Murphy in the studio and to check out the trailer for the film.