Saturday, September 29, 2012

Subverting Film

Subverting Film

“metonymic displacements
from image to image”
—Suzanne Jill Levine
The Subversive Scribe:
Translating Latin American Fiction

Moviegoers don’t have to—
Do any “radical reading” to
Understand surrealist film

Heteronormative plots—
Characters, settings, actions
Exquisitely breeding incessantly

Translating subversive scripts—
Doesn’t need somehow to
Justify any explanations

Try instead to simply enjoy—
Cornell’s open-ended movie
Fragmented with a tango!!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rose Hobart

Rose Hobart (1936)



“visible invisible scribe—
a (w)rite of passage”
—Suzanne Jill Levine
The Subversive Scribe:
Translating Latin American Fiction

Cornell’s kitschy cabaret—
Based on “East of Borneo” (1931)
Soundtrack from “Holiday in Brazil”

Two songs by Nestor Amaral—
“Forte Allegre” & “Belem Bayonne”
Found in a NYC junk shop

First shown in 1936—
At Julien Levy’s NYC gallery
Entitled “Goofy Newsreels”

Miss Dali got terribly upset—
"Cornell stole my subconscious!!!
My idea of a surrealist film!!!”

Later Jack Smith—
Screened it in the 1960s
There in his NYC campy loft

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Diva Diversions

Diva Diversions

“Writing is the
art of digression”
—Severo Sarduy

Jack Smith suddenly would fall—
Into her Cleopatra chaise longue
Doing her version of a diva flix
Haughtily demanding an asp

The tardy signalectic script—
Always late, long past curtain-time,
The embodied one saying in profile
A brief line displaying her earrings

Doing her diva flix routines & the—
Usual arabesques, pale pink chiffon
Miniaturist profiles disguising her
Obvious shortcomings & charms

Saffron & vermilion eye-shadow—
Reciting her pouty cue lines, mostly
Forgettable, blinking her fake
Eyelashes, her coy Ali Baba swoon

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Montez

The Montez

“I feel like Gale Sondergaard
in “Return of the Spider Woman.”
—Manuel Puig

What’s really worth mentioning—
Is that Maria Montez’s fervent
Admirers rioted in the theaters
Adoring being up-close to her

Like her Hoochie-Koochie Dance—
On Cobra Island they wanted to
Worship Montez a few moments 
And then jump into the Volcano!!!

The Serpentine rhythms of—
Dancing slinky Hollywood snakes,
Cymbals, tambourines, torches,
Drums so tres hypnotizing

Maria Montez the Go-Between—
The erotic pulsing mise-en-scene
With all the trappings of Fertility
Worship, Theater of camp & kitsch

The Turbaned One would say—
In stumbling basic English things
Like “Giv me ze cobra jool” and
Fans like Jack Smith would swoon

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Sarduy / The Smith

The Sarduy / The Smith

“Writing is digression.”
—Severo Sarduy, Cobra

It’s one thing, I suppose, to make this kind of seemingly pseudo-lofty pronunciamento in the middle of a novel—and then a page later for the Sarduy to seemingly continue with:

“Writing is the art of disorganizing an order and organizing disorder.”

Is this perhaps what Sarduy was getting at when she said writing is a digression? Once one starts digressing, detouring like Jack Smith, for example, does writing become like one of those spontaneous, ad lib, impromptu Smith performance movie routines in her studio loft dump?

The same with supposedly the Sarduy’s remarks in Cobra about “recreating reality.”

“Writing is the art of recreating reality.
No. Writing is the art of restoring history.”

If a movie-queen like the Smith sees reality as a sham, a tacky New York landlord scam and even Mekas as a rip-off artist, then perhaps no wonder she dropped movie directing (“Flaming Creatures”) and moved on to doing impromptu scenes outdoors like “Normal Love” & her studio happenings?

The same with the Puig who quipped during a conversation with Edmund White that she’d been living in Paris for so long that she simply let her characters do all the writing in her novels. A sort of impromptu drag queen impresario act?

As far as “the art of restoring history”—I suppose perhaps that’s what Sarduy’s “Lyrical Theater of the Dolls” was supposed to do? Staging the scene when the writer was supposedly not in full possession of all her writing skills—the mise en scene as that “which veils without dressing and orders without history?”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Betrayed by Bunuel

Betrayed by Buñuel

“overdone, like an
El Greco painting”
—Manuel Puig on
Arturo Ripstein’s film
Place With No Limits

Luis Buñuel says somewhere that rarely is film and poetry combined in such a way as to do what has to be done—such as what Buñuel did with his shocking Un chien andalou and chilling Los Olvidados (1950).

I fell in love with Buñuel’s handsome young hoodlum El Jaibo in Los Olvidados—played by moody, sullen Roberto Cobo.

And then, I saw Cobo in drag in Hell Without Limits (El lugar sin límites) in 1978 almost 30 years later—and I felt strangely, exquisitely betrayed by the Mexican stud doing drag.

Like Manuel Puig toying facetiously with the idea of being betrayed by Rita Hayward in his novel—later visiting her toward the end in her last stages of Alzheimer’s—I felt the same way seeing Roberto Cobo doing drag in a run-down whorehouse in rural Chile.

How could Roberto Cobo so butchy and handsome in Los Olvidados—do a believable, sympathetic queen to a wider transvestite-loving audience? Cobo plays La Manuela in love with Pancho—a resentful young truck driver who she seduces in her brothel in Estación El Olivo.

The screenplay that Puig did for Ripstein portrays the angry, insecure stud Pancho—in a role I thought that surely would’ve been played by Cobo.

But instead, Gonzalo Vega plays the dumb, gullible, sexy stud Pancho—while Cobo gives La Manuel all the human depth that the author José Donoso did with his transvestite novel El lugar sin límites (Hell Has No Limits).

The problem was that Ripstein saw Donoso’s drag treatment as much too nuanced about machismo and sexual underdogs. He thought that Puig’s screenplay was trying to make La Manuel too exaggerated and Pancho too super-macho.

Puig, on the other hand, thought Ripstein’s camera direction was trying to reflect an inner drag life that tended toward “artsy” static tedium. Too full of psychological realism and expressionistic touches. Mirrors, dark interiors—it was much too oppressive for the joy of actually doing authentic drag tangos.

Puig had a bitch fight with Ripstein over the film’s climax—which had an ambiguous ending with the fate of La Manuel's drag seduction of Pancho. Ripstein replaced Puig with José Emilio Pacheco—who had La Manuel brutally killed by Pancho suffering from so-called “homosexual panic” which was simply too much for Puig.

Both Puig and Ripstein accused each other of overdoing Cobo’s drag role as La Manuel—Puig supposedly being much too gay and Ripstein supposedly being much too straight.

Later Puig had the same concerns about William Hurt’s interpretation of Molina in The Kiss of the Spider Woman.

But even Ripstein, though, admitted that the best scene in Hell Without Limits—was the fatal dance that poor Manuela, decked out in a red feathery flamenco dress outlining his bony male buttocks, does for Pancho.

Roberto Cobo in Drag

Roberto Cobo in Drag

“That sounds like
another bolero, Molina”
—Manuel Puig
Kiss of the Spider Woman

“Cobra Woman the
legendary tragic and
salvific Maria Montez”
—James McCourt,
Introduction, Cobra
By Severo Sarduy

“the hieratic, 
imperiled drag queen”
—Patrick O’Connor
Latin American Fiction and the
Narratives of the Perverse:
Paper Dolls and Spider Women

“La Manuela dances to a wordless Spanish song by Los Churumbeles de España—titled “La Leyanda del Beso” (Legend of the Kiss), based on the myth of the sleeping princess awakened by a prince’s kiss. Puig added words and inverted the myth: this time the sleeper is a young man awakened to his sexuality by a woman’s (drag queen’s) kiss. This adaptation won the prize for best screenplay at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1978.”—Suzanne Levine, Manuel Puig and The Spider Woman: His Life and Fictions

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Suicidal Sabu

Suicidal Sabu

Sabu in grief—
Throws himself off
The Empire State Building!!!

The Elephant Boy—
Will never be the same
Down goes his Sarong!!!

Lon Chaney Jr—
Bleary-eyed Drunk
Deeper into Stupor!!!

And Jon Hall—
Supposedly Lover Boy
Of the Cobra Woman

Flies off insane—
The Thief of Baghdad
Can’t be consoled!!!


Tangier (1946)

I was shocked—
Simply appalled, my dears
How could it possibly happen?

Sabu in a suit—
Pimping in Tangier
Hustling the Tourists?

I was so disappointed—
So used to half-naked
Sabu in a loincloth!

Elephant Boy—
Thief of Baghdad
And Cobra Woman!

But I suppose Sabu—
Looks rather charming
Despite his Tuxedo…

And Tangier is—
Rather Exotic with lots
Of Trashy Intrigue…

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jack Smith

Jack Smith

Deep in the darkness—
Lurking in the balcony
Hidden in the aisles

The young Auteur—
Jack Smith suddenly
Finds himself reborn!!!

Long before High Camp—
Kitschy Secret Flix Amour
Or Andy Warhol appears

Viola!!! Sudan and—
Ali Baba’s Mistress herself
Transforms Jack Smith

The Marquee proclaims—
The Silver Screen Screams
It’s Flaming Creatures Time!!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Son of Cobra Woman

Son of Cobra Woman

Son of Cobra Woman—
The handsome Mario Montez
Outta the Filmic Sixties

The one and only—
Exclusive Jack Smith Auteur
Queen of the Orpheum Theater

Just 19 years old—
Chicago Enchantress
Young slinky Usherette!!!

A tragic Retro spectre—
Of the garish Technicolor
Hollywood Diva herself

After her tragic Demise—
Falling asleep and drowning
In her fatal Bubble Bath

The World gasped so—
Grieving Bells of Chartres
Ringing for her forever!!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cobra Queen

Cobra Queen

Who will be the—
Divine Cobra Queen now?
The South Seas Diva?

Goddess of the one—
And only Cobra Jool?
Priestess of High Camp?

Surely not even—
Dorothy Lamour or
Lovely Lupe Lopez?

Surely not slinky—
Acquanetta the catty
Leopard Woman, huh?

No one can possibly—
Compete with magic
Maria Montez the Queen!!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cobra Woman


“Geef me that cobra jool!
Eeet ees rightfully mine!”
—Maria Montez

Maria Montez is—
Hollywood’s campy kitschy
Beautiful hypnotic Cobra
Woman Queen Bee

Emblematic of self-love—
And narcissistic circular time
Montez is Jack Smith’s
Femme Fatale Idolatress

Queen of Cobra Island—
Perverteress of cute Sabu
Twin sister lover of Jon Hall
Moll of Lon Chaney Junior

Cobra jool loincloths—
High Priestess sarongs
Carmen Miranda drag
And volcanic Erections!

Cobra Woman hisses—
Half-snake half-queen
Campy like Hollywood
Costume jewelry cabaret

Camp, kitschy Montez—
Subversive Sodom Snake
Miss Gomorrah grovelings
Transsexual deluxe

Parody, pastiche, kitsch—
She’s “always already” there
Cobra jool of Severo Sarduy
Maria Montez Olay!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Filming Detroit VII

Filming Detroit VII

—for Joseph Cornell

The Surrealist Group

Luis Buñuel (LB)
Joseph Cornell (JC)
Jack Smith (JS)
John Waters (JW)
Ed Wood Jr. (EW)

Data Towards the Irrational
Enlargement of “The Shanghai Gesture”

In this Barthesian “obtuse” experimental film treatment of von Sternberg’s classic, the fairly straight hetero Surrealist Group is replaced by other surrealists—and the irrational enlargement shifts to a more perverse, decadent derisory impudent concrete criticism with totally automatic responses, of course, that being the sole criterion for this study.

What is Poppy’s perversion?

“Clasping an octopus tightly to her distraught pussy with her kimono pulled up & thighs smeared with lots of greasy K-Y.” (LB)

“Stretched out spread-eagled on the green felt of a backroom pool table, as Victor Mature detaches pearl after pearl from Poppy’s damp pouty convulsing pussy.” (JW)

“Poppy has no sexual perversion other than the intense sensuality she gets on a poker table surrounded by cynical Shanghai gangster card players & a cocaine-intoxicated handsome young sailor on a lucky streak.” (JL)

“As Poppy permits a Peking pinhead to slowly stick his tiny sleek dwarf shiny shaved head up her tight moaning & groaning pussy in the hushed silence of Mother Gin-Sling’s personal private parlor.” (JS)

“Fellatio of a self-confessed, intensely masochistic nature beneath a bronze Shiva in the bathroom making the whole gambling joint tremor, premature ejaculations swallowed by greedy goldfish in the nearby toilet bowl, as an octopus winds its tentacles around her legs, while men in the casino suddenly get s whiff of a strange odor of distraught pussy emanating from beneath all the gaming tables with Poppy down there on he knees between the legs of the croupier’s legs. (EW)

“Purposeful masturbation with a peacock feather—that once belonged to Rudolf Valentino and was used by an arrogant smirking slave boy who tortured the Sheik mercilessly in his tent late into the intense desert hashish night there in his secret tent of horrible decadent jaded male desire.” (LB)

“In a Japanese sushi-bar aquarium way down there in the bottom of the sea where sunken Spanish galleons & old Greek temples lollygag in the silent Atlantis seabed abyss of Laundromat dirty gossip, scuttling crabs and the Forty Thieves’ homeboy where Poppy is ravished day & night by hoodlum LA gangs & pimply-faced runaways from the Poughkeepsie suburbs.” (JS)

Filming Detroit VI

Filming Detroit VI

—for Joseph Cornell

“When he reached the other
side of the bridge, the phantoms
came to greet him.”
—F. W. Murnau, Nosferatu (1922)

The idea that surrealist film not only includes “Rose Hobart” (1936)—but the readymade boxes of Joseph Cornell as well... That future cineastes such as Jack Smith would pick up on this filmic idea and use Cornell’s surrealist insights—filming his own degree zero movies like “Flaming Creatures” (1961) in NYC back during the “Midnight Movies” period of experimental American cinema.

 The idea of adding kitschy camp to the repertoire of the surreal filmmaking process is nothing new—but American kitsch added gay connotations to surreal cinema very different in many ways from Breton’s patriarchal straight-laced hetero-straitjacketed surrealist manifesto agenda.

Jack Smith’s kitschy surrealism was closer to the Thirties Lesbos-Parisian surrealism of Gertrude Stein-Djuna Barnes-Mina Loy—with such works as “Nightwood,” “The Lost Lunar Baedker” and “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.”

The 19-year-old Smith was an usher at the Orpheum Theater in Chicago in 1951—when Maria Montez’s untimely death inspired the management to undertake an extended festival of her films. It was  then that Smith fell in love with Montez like Cornell fell in love with Rose Hobart.

Only in America could people believe that Maria Montez was Cobra Woman, Siren of Atlantis and Scheherazade. Jack Smith also became entranced with most Dorothy Lamour sarong flix—in that turbulent Sixties milieu along with other cult film intelligentsia: Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol, John Cassavetes, Edgar G. Ulmer, Jonas Mekas, Stan Braklage, Ron Rice, Ken Jacobs, etc.

These filmmakers shared the surrealists’ taste for the tawdry exoticism of despised film genres—junky spectacles, cheap horror flicks, anonymous pornography.

For example, Jack Smith’s “The Perfect Film Appositeness of Maria Montez” argued that the acme of cinematic expressiveness is to be found in a series of exotic, juvenile swashbucklers produced at Universal studios during World War II as vehicles for Maria Montez.

The same with the surrealist’s favorite movie Josef von Sternberg’s “The Shanghai Gesture” (1941)—which they improvised into delirious fantasy elaborations based on their “irrational enlargement” filmic method.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Filming Detroit V

Filming Detroit V

—for Joseph Cornell

“For most criticism, by equating a
film with its story and interpretation
fails to acknowledge that this “third”
meaning can exist on any level at all”
—Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Barthes
and Film,” Placing Movies

This third meaning that Barthes defines as the “obtuse meaning that can proceed only by appearing and disappearing”—what is it?

In some ways isn’t it the face of Garbo, the face of Brigitte Bardot, the face of Audrey Hepburn—and the face of Rose Hobart?

The critical faculty of the moviegoer—isn’t that what’s being invoked in this third obtuse meaning sense in a surreal film or Cornell readymade box?

Loosening the “talkie” cinematic, narcissistic, suspended-belief glue’s grip on filmic consciousness?

The hypnosis of verisimilitude, the suspension of disbelief that makes cinema so narcissistic?

Silent film, the still image, Cornell’s readymade boxes—is this the obtuse, third meaningful, perverse way out?

In the early 20th century, following the development of the entertainment industry, hundreds of auditoriums were built everywhere in North America. Major entertainment firms and movie studios commissioned specialized architects to build grandiose and extravagant theaters.

From the 60's, TV, multiplexes and urban crisis made them becoming obsolete. During the following decades, when they were not modernized or transformed into adult cinemas, they closed one after the other and many of them were simply demolished.Those which remain forgotten, escaping from this fate, were converted to varied purposes.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Filming Detroit IV

Filming Detroit IV

—for Joseph Cornell

“I decided I liked photography
in opposition to the cinema,
from which I nonetheless
failed to separate it.”
—Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

Is Barthes cinephobic? Like Joseph Cornell? Mistrusting the hypnotic spell exerted by cinematic narrative?

When equating a film—with its story & interpretation, is the third meaning, the obtuse meaning, the surrealist meaning lost?

Barthe’s “obtuse meaning”—isn’t that what Cornell does? He has this lover’s discourse, this quarrel with “talkies” cinema as opposed to silent film & stills?

It seems to me to be that way with Cornell’s treatment of the early “talkie” film “”East of Borneo” (1936)—criss-cutting, condensing, removing the sound track. Changing the frame-speed to the silent film level when creating his surreal film “Rose Hobart” (1941).

That & the fact that Cornell spent so much of his life after “Rose Hobart” down in his NYC basement studio constructing his surreal “boxes”—which could very well remind one of movie stills—3D scenes from an ongoing surreal readymade film of his surreal “secret flix” (Jack Smith) imagination.

I see both “Rose Hobart” & Cornell’s boxes as example of Barthes’ “Writing Degree Zero”—in the sense that Barthes’ obtuse and/or third meaning concepts can be applied along the lines of “Filming Degree Zero.”

On their website, the photographers write, "Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes ... the volatile result of the change of eras and the fall of empires. This fragility leads us to watch them one very last time: to be dismayed, or to admire, it makes us wonder about the permanence of things."

United Artists Theater
This spectacular Spanish Gothic theater, built in 1928, was closed in the 1970s.,29307,1882089_1850980,00.html