Download Surrealism and Cinema PDF

TitleSurrealism and Cinema
ISBN 139781847881083
CategoryArts - Film
File Size993.5 KB
Total Pages209
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Surrealism and Cinema

Page 104

Nelly Kaplan and Sexual Revenge 97

the ransom, Cookie starts to take charge, telling them only she can persuade her
father to pay, but if she helps them, she wants a share of the ransom. While Marc
and Jeannot go to collect the payment, Cookie turns Marylene and Mateo against
one another, leaving both of them dead. Jeannot is killed in an argument after he
and Marc return with the money, and Cookie turns the gun on Marc, inflicting
on him the humiliations she had suffered at his hands. In their struggle, he is
accidentally killed. Cookie buries the money and blows up the house. Concocting
a story to satisfy the police, she returns home, wondering whether she should
now ‘kidnap daddy’.

A sort of reverse No Orchids for Miss Blandish in which it is Miss Blandish
who ends up with all the orchids (it may in fact owe a debt to On est toujours
trop bon avec les femmes, Raymond Queneau’s spoof of Hadley Chase’s novel),
Papa, les petits bateaux unfortunately doesn’t entirely work. The idea for the
film, a homage to Tex Avery and Max Fleischer, is much more original than that
which founded the later Jim Carrey homage to Avery, The Mask, but its realisa-
tion doesn’t allow it to take full advantage of this originality. It seems to be an
over-determined project, in which the concept overwhelms the spontaneity
of the film making. It also seems to be pulled in different directions, unable to
decide whether it is principally a comedy or a thriller. In the event it is neither
one thing nor the other: not wacky enough to succeed as a comedy; too self-
parodying to be taken seriously. Kaplan said she wanted to ‘create a perverse
Betty Boop’ (though perhaps a female Screwball Squirrel might have been more
appropriate), but Cookie is not sufficiently sympathetic as a character for this to
work. A spoiled rich kid, she displays little real intelligence, but has a remarkable
facility to manipulate situations for her own benefit. Her ‘revenge’, unlike Marie’s,
is empty, and the film fails to follow up occasional suggestions that it is the gang,
not Cookie, who are the exploited. Despite Marc’s protestations of criminal
descent (his grandfather died on the guillotine, he proudly tells Cookie), they are
just small-time crooks, losers. At one point, Marc tells Cookie that if Palma pays
the ransom, then he will still be rich, but they will no longer be poor, but the
film ignores the implication of this statement. Instead it prefers to concentrate
on Cookie’s outwitting of her kidnappers. Yet she seems an empty, superficial
character, one who is embedded in the system of exploitation against which her
kidnap might be seen as the real act of revolt. The more positive characteristics of
the bandits are suggested but then rather passed over. Marc seems to be aware of
Rimbaud and Marylene has some magical qualities (admittedly very minor ones,
but ones which the ‘Popeye’ scene implies are not entirely false). What sticks in
the mind is Marc’s resigned phrase: ‘Sun, rain, all thieves, all mad’, a recognition
that as criminals they are but amateurs compared with Papa de Palma and his
daughter. Indeed, we learn that there was from the start a complicity between
father and daughter. Aware of the possibility of a kidnap, they had agreed that a
ransom would be paid only if Cookie used a password to indicate she felt in real
danger. At the end of the film, Cookie does not walk away from exploitation as

Page 105

98 Surrealism and Cinema

Marie does at the end of La Fiancée. With her money safely stashed away, she is
now considering whether she should kidnap her father. Despite some tantalising
possibilities, by apparently unreservedly approving Cookie’s actions, Papa, les
petits bateaux ultimately sanctions bourgeois criminality and amorality rather
than revolts against it.

The heroine of Kaplan’s next film, Néa, is also a spoiled rich kid, but a much
more endearing one than Cookie. The only one of her projects to be an adaptation
of a book rather than an original story, Néa (1976) is supposedly based upon a
novel by Emmanuelle Arsan of Emmanuelle fame. Made soon after the success
of Just Jaeklin’s version of the original Emmanuelle novel, but before the series
became a franchise, Néa is a pure surrealist love story whose real inspiration
appears to have been Michelet’s history of woman as witch, La Sorcière, which
we see the heroine reading at several points in the film. Kaplan recounts that
when she spoke to Emmanuelle Arsan about adapting the book, the latter gave
her a free hand other than insisting that two aspects be retained: the age of the
heroine and the ‘extraordinary mechanism of her revenge’. In the event, these
are about the only two things the film does retain from the novel, and what
probably interested Kaplan was nothing more than these details, and perhaps an
epigraph from Cyrano de Bergerac, used by Arsan as a chapter heading and which
might stand as a thematic metaphor for Kaplan’s work as a whole: ‘this land is so
luminous it resembles snowflakes on fire’.

Michelet wrote: ‘Nature has made her sorceress. It is the genius appropriate
to Woman and her temperament. She was born Enchantress. By a regular return
of exaltation, she is Sibyl. By love, she is Magician. By her delicacy, her (often
temperamental and beneficent) malice she is Sorceress, and casts the, at least
hidden, spell that eludes the curse’ (1966: 2).

Néa is prefaced with a quotation from Fourier that became something of
a surrealist watchword: ‘attractions are proportionate to destinies’. The film
concerns 16-year-old Sibylle, the wilful daughter of a rich industrialist. She lives
on the margin of different worlds: on the threshold between childhood and
adulthood, she is also caught between the business world of her family and her
rich erotic imagination. She has, separate from the family house, her own grotto,
to which she allows access to no one other than her cat, Cumes. Cumes, in fact,
is a key character in the film, playing a similar role as the goat in La Fiancée as
an intermediary between the human and natural worlds, but also acting as an
initiating character for Sibylle (the very endearing creature who plays the role
was a stray which Kaplan found during shooting). One day she is caught stealing
erotic books from publisher/bookseller Axel Thorpe. Provoked by her insolence
and her claim that she can ‘write far better than any of these people’, he releases
her without going to the police. They meet later at her sister’s birthday party and
at the height of a thunder storm Axel wants to know when she will write the
book she promised. Next day they agree a contract which requires her anonymity
since she is still a minor. At first her writing goes well, but she soon encounters
writers’ block due to her lack of personal experience (she is still a virgin). She

Page 208

Napoleón (Gance), 94
Nazarin (Buñuel), 39
Néa (Kaplan), 98–100
Night of Hunter, The (Laughton), 70–1
North by Northwest (Hitchcock), 71
Notre Dame de Paris (Delannoy), 59
Nouvelle Orangerie, La (Kaplan), 94
Nuit et Brouillard (Resnais), 87

Oiseau de Paradis, L’ (Camus), 175 n. 3
Oiseau rare, Un (Pottier), 47
Olvidados, Los (Buñuel), 83, 174 n.1
On Top of the Whale (Ruiz), 153–4
Once Upon a Time Cinema (Makhmalbaf),

One Way Passage (Garnett), 55, 65
Ossuary, The (Švankmajer), 126–7
Otesánek (Švankmajer), 126

Pandora and the Flying Dutchmen
(Lewin), 65

Papa, les petits bateaux (Kaplan), 96–8,

Paris n’existe pas (Benayoun), 13
Passenger, The (Antonioni), 168
Peddler, The (Makhmalbaf), 170
Peter Ibbetson (Hathaway), 64–5
Phantom of Liberty, The (Buñuel), 38, 43
Pit, the Pendulum and Hope, The

(Švankmajer), 129
Plaisir d’amour (Kaplan), 103–5, 119
Planète sauvage, Le (Laloux), 146–7
Portes de la nuit, Les (Carné), 52–7
Portrait of Jenny (Dieterle), 65

Quai des Brumes (Carné), 50–1

Regard Picasso, Le (Kaplan), 94
Règle du jeu, La (Renoir), 49
Remembrance of Things to Come

(Marker), 88
Remorques (Grémillon), 51, 56–7
Renaissance (Borowczyk), 109
Rendezvous at Bray (Delvaux), 168
River, The (Borzage), 66
Robinson Crusoe (Buñuel), 42
Robocop (Verhoeven), 74
Rodolphe Bresdin (Kaplan), 94
Roi et le oiseau, Le (Grimault), 56–7
Rosalie (Borowczyk), 109
Rose Hobart (Cornell), 11, 69–70

Saga of Anatahan, The (Sternberg), 66
Sandglass, The (Has), 169

Sang des bêtes (Franju), 88
Sans Soleil (Marker), 88
Santa Sangre (Jodorowsky), 140
Saragossa Manuscript, The (Has), 169
Scarlet Empress, The (Sternberg), 66
Seashell and Clergyman, The (Dulac), 11
Seine à rencontré Paris, La (Ivens), 78
Sérieux comme le plaisir (Benayoun), 13
Seventh Heaven (Borzage), 66
Shanghai Gesture, The (Sternberg), 53, 66,

Shattered Image (Ruiz), 151
Si j’étais le patron (Pottier), 47
Sigui (Rouch), 88
Simon of the Desert (Buñuel), 39, 53
Souvenirs de Paris ou Paris-Express

(Prévert), 46, 77
Spare Time (Jennings), 86
Spellbound (Hitchcock), 71
Spirit of the Beehive, The (Erice), 146
Starship Troopers (Verhoeven), 74
Statues meurent aussi, Les (Marker/

Resnais), 87–8
Story of Sin, The (Borowczyk), 114–16,

Story of the Wind (Ivens), 78
Street Angel (Borzage), 66
Susana (Buñuel), 53
Suspended Vocation The (Ruiz), 152

Tenant, The (Polanski), 146–7
Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper), 72
That Obscure Object of Desire (Buñuel),

40, 103, 105, 116–17
Theatre of Mr and Mrs Kabal, The

(Borowczyk), 109
Thérèse (Cavalier), 168
Three Crowns of a Sailor (Ruiz), 154–5
Tih Minh (Feuillade), 22
Time Regained (Ruiz), 151
Total Recall (Verhoeven), 74
Treasure Island (Ruiz), 155, 158
Tres tristes tigres (Ruiz), 151
Tribulations of Balthazar Kober, The

(Has), 169
Tristana (Buñuel), 41
Trois vies & une seule mort (Ruiz), 151,

Trouble with Harry, The (Hitchcock), 70

Ubu et la Grande Gidouille (Lenica), 176

Un soir un train (Delvaux), 168
Uneventful Story, An (Has), 169

Film Index 201

Page 209

Unholy Three, The (Browning), 67
Unknown, The (Browning), 67

Valerie and her week of wonders (Jiriš),

Vampires, Les (Feuillade), 22, 24–5
Vertigo (Hitchcock), 70–1
Viridiana (Buñuel), 39, 41, 53, 116
Visiteurs du soir, Les (Carné), 52, 54, 56–7
Viva la muerte (Arrabal), 144–6

West of Zanzibar (Browning), 67
What’s Buzzin’ Buzzard (Avery), 128
White Zombie (Halperin), 63
Witch’s Cradle (Deren), 11
Woman of Dunes, The (Teshingahara), 169
Wuthering Heights (Buñuel) 33, 38

Yeelen (Cisse), 170
Yeux sans visage, Les (Franju), 88
You Only Live Once (Lang), 64

202 Film Index

Similer Documents