Udo Kier has left the building.
That is, Kier's characters -- his spirits, have left the building -- along with a lot of other gifted actors and crew and assistants and curious onlookers, who haunted the Pompidou, and made this filmmaking -- this happening -- this fascinating, concentrated experience what it was. And of course, Guy Maddin has left the building, which still feels like a dream in itself. There were days I watched Guy directing and wondered, to quote one of Roger Ebert's greatest lines (via one of Russ Meyer's greatest movies), "This is my happening and it freaks me out!"
Yes. A Happening. If the Carrie Nations showed up singing "Sweet Talking Candy Man" with hot pink ectoplasm flying out of their mini skirts, I would not have been the least bit surprised. Guy Maddin's SPIRITISMES, his ongoing project of shooting short, psychically divined adaptations of long, lost, aborted and unrealized films has ended -- at the Pompidou in Paris. Guy made seventeen films, one a day, for seventeen days straight in Paris. And that's just the start. The project will live on in newer places, with more films to be made. Many, many more. And so many more with Udo. A man who can play any role, a man who has lived, a man of fine taste, a man who has worked with Paul Morrissey to Fassbinder to Van Sant to Von Trier and so many more... and a man who knows his way around a good Steak Tartar.
But back in Paris -- the beautiful set (created by Guy's superb, artistic production designer, Galen Johnson) has been broken down, the costumes (by the excellent, creative, sublimely patient Elodie Mard) have been boxed up, the live stream voyeur cams have been turned off, the Pompidou onlookers are staring at other exhibits and not at... Charlotte Rampling chastising Udo Kier as a sheriff clad in sexy baby doll nightgown (from William Wellman's Ladies of the Mob); or Mathieu Amalric pretending he purchashed duplicates of his own precious collection of objects, including a boar's head and gifting them to his wife, Amira Casar, only to learn that all of his snowballing misdeeds are occurring in an elevator (from Lottie Lyell's The Blue Mountains Mystery);
or an intense, heartbroken Andre Wilms as a deaf barber slowly approaching his beguiling wife, Charlotte Rampling, with a pair of scissors, afer he discovers a mysterious device that allows him to hear again -- to hear his wife having an affair (from Marshall Neilan's Bits of Life);
or Amira Casar facing the corpse of the man (played by Christophe Paou) who killed her husband, dragged into her home by Jacques Nolot, who murdered the murderer, and then -- Amira -- falling in love with the corpse, making love to the corpse, ripping off her nylons over the corpse and oh my ... Jacques Nolot is not happy about this (from Benjamin Fondane's Tararira).
And then so many of the other terrific actors, from the mesmerizing Slimane Dazi, so touching and soulful in George Schneevoigt's Gardener Boy Sought, and then so sexy and debauched in Erich von Stroheim's Poto-Poto; to Elina Löwensohn, doing the most beautifully crazy Moe Howard impersonation in Jack Cummings' Hello Pop; to an incredibly powerful Victoire du Bois, losing her mind and screaming for all the musuem to hear while tangled in fishnet (in Alfred Hitchcock's The Blind Man, here she is The Blind Woman); to the on-screen, live streaming meeting of Charlotte Rampling and Amira Casar (in Jacques Feyder's Therese Raquin) -- exciting not only for their acting and chemistry, but for something not many women have in common -- they both famously modeled for Helmut Newton.
And everyone so gifted, consummate, bringing their own unique faces and acting to the project -- Miguel Cueva, Mathieu Demy, Victoire du Bois, Jeanne de France, Adèle Haenel, Ariane Labed, Maria de Medeiros, Jacques Nolot, Christophe Paou, Jean-Baptiste Phou, Jean-François Stévenin, Robinson Stévenin and of course, Geraldine Chaplin and Luce Vigo. And always, always the brilliant Udo.
Watching the daughters of Charlie Chaplin and Jean Vigo hold hands in seance and look into each others eyes (conjuring Jean Vigo's unrealized Lignes de la main) was exceptionally moving. For them as well. It brought tears to Chaplin, Vigo and Maddin's eyes. And Luce was generous enough to provide the set (for that day only, she made sure to return it safely home) with something of her own -- so precious to her, and so powerful to see hanging on the wall -- an actual portrait of a very young Jean Vigo, painted when the brilliant artist was a slumbering child.
But the project continues on -- Guy will march along, making his one hundred short films all over the world -- at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, in Sao Paulo, Brazil and at New York's MOMA (you can read more about it in this interview with Guy at The Playlist and on here too), for this ambitious project that I'm excited to be a collaborator.
And Guy threw me in the mix. I was a whore tempted by a priest played by the great Dazi (in Erich von Stroheim's Poto-Poto), married Udo Kier only to be killed by Elina Löwensohn's wedding gift -- a swan (in Nino Martoglio's Lost in the Dark), and I inhabited Curly (in some fashion), from the lost Jack Cummings' Three Stooges' short Hello Pop alongside Victoire du Bois and Elina Löwensohn.
That one was particularly, wonderfully insane. Three women thinking they're the Stooges for reasons unknown. It felt like an especially glamorous/horrifying/possibly funny (it was funny to us) look into an unseen corner of The Snake Pit or the side antics of those nymphos from Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor, complete with eye gouges, face slaps and rolling punches.
So with that, I can't wait to see all of the films -- these lost or unrealized films -- re-done by Maddin in often wildly experimentally different directions, by filmmakers as diverse as Jean Vigo, Alfred Hitchcock, Kenji Mizoguchi, Lois Weber, Erich von Stroheim, Ernst Lubitsch, Jacques Feyder, Alexandre Dovjenko and more. And more to come.
One thing I happily discovered was the talented on set photographer Cecile Grâce Janvier who has provided all of the pictures in this post, with permission of Maddin.
She took many beautiful, mysterious, wonderfully inventive photos (some on digital, but mostly with a film camera -- film god bless her), and you can look at more of her work here.
As Guy said: "Every day my actors will plunge themselves deep into a trance, and open themselves up to possession by the unhappy spirit of a lost film. And every day my actors will act out the long forgotten choreographies that once lived so luminously on the big screen for thousands, maybe millions of viewers."
They did. And they will continue to do so. To a museum, website, live streaming web cam and a theater near you. Coming soon...
And thank you Luce Vigo, for everything.