The Love of Zero is a rather remarkable, short experimental film, made for $200 by director Robert Florey, in 1927. Owing much to German Expressionist cinema, the film tells the story of a young man, Zero (Joseph Marievsky), and his love for a young woman called, Beatrix (Tamara Shavrova). It was Florey’s second film, and reveals the talent he would employ in his long and successful career as a Hollywood director of such films as Murders in the Rue Morgue, Ex-Lady, The Marx Brothers’ Cocoanuts and The Beast With Five Fingers, plus a whole range of TV series including episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits.
Les Avortés - a film to set your hair on fire, made by a group of friends, who shared a love of Artaud, Dreyer, Stroheim, and the Living Theater. Directed by Jorge Amat, with a soundtrack by Captain Beefheart, from 1970.
The plot of the Grandmother centers around a boy who, looking for an escape from his abusive parents, grows a grandmother to comfort him. “There’s something about a grandmother…It came from this particular character’s need - a need that that prototype can provide. Grandmothers get playful. And they relax a little, and they have unconditional love. And that’s what this kid, you know, conjured up.”
The film has little dialog and combines animation with film, in its exploration of the “myths of birth, sexuality and death.”
[David] Lynch’s wife, Peggy, told him of a dream her niece had during which she was reciting the alphabet in her sleep, then woke up and starting bouncing around repeating it. Lynch took this idea and ran with it. First he painted the walls of his upstairs bedroom black. Lynch painted Peggy’s face white to give her an un-real contrast to the black room, and had her bounce around the room in different positions as he filmed. This footage was edited together with an animated sequence where the letters of the alphabet slowly appear and a capital A gives birth to several smaller a’s which form a human figure.
The rest of ‘The Grandmother’ plus Lynch’s ‘The Alphabet’, after the jump…
Believed lost for fifty years, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first film, La Cravate (aka Severed Heads) was found in an attic in Germany in 2006, and released on DVD in 2007. Adapted from Thomas Mann’s short story, “The Transposed Heads - A Legend of India in Paris”, La Cravate was made between 1953 and 1957 and starred Denise Brossot, Rolande Polya, Raymond Devos, Saul Gilbert and Jodorowsky.
The film tells of a young man’s desire to win the love of a woman. To do this, he visits a store which allows customers to switch their heads, and thus their personalities. The young man trades in his head for a variety of different models, and while his body continues to woo the woman of his dreams, the store’s proprietor, a young woman, takes a fancy to the man’s original head and takes it home. The moral is never to lose your head over unrequited love, but find someone who loves you as you are. It’s bizarre, amusing and charming, and an impressive first film.
It caused nausea and vomiting when first shown at the Cinephone, Oxford Street, in London. Some of the audience demanded their money back, others hurled abuse and shouted “That’s sick,” and ““Its disgusting.” This was the idea, as writer William Burroughs and producer, Antony Balch wanted to achieve a complete “disorientation of the senses.”
Balch had a hard-on for the weird, unusual and sometimes depraved. It was a predilection born from his love of horror films - one compounded when as a child he met his idol, Bela Lugosi, the olde Austro-Hungarian junkie, who was touring Britain with the stage show that had made him famous, Dracula. Film was a love affair that lasted all of Balch’s life.
He also had a knack of making friends with the right people at the right time. In Paris he met and hung out with the artist Brion Gysin and druggie, Glaswegian Beat writer, Alexander Trocchi, who was then writing porn and editing a literary mag called Merlin, along with the likes of Christopher Logue. Through them, Balch met the two men who changed his life, Burroughs and Kenneth Anger.
Anger helped Balch with his ambitions as a cinema distributor, getting him a copy of Todd Browning’s classic Freaks, which was banned the UK, at that time. Balch paid Anger back when he later released his apocalyptic Invocation of My Demon Brother as a support feature.
Burroughs offered Balch something different - the opportunity to collaborate and make their own films. This they did, first with Towers Open Fire, an accessible montage of Burroughs’ routines, recorded on a Grundig tape recorder, cut-up to Balch’s filmed and found images of a “crumbling society.” Put together stuff like this and the chattering classes will always take you seriously. But don’t doubt it, for it was good.
But it was their second collaboration, Cut Ups which for me is far more interesting and proved far more controversial. Cut Ups was originally intended as a documentary called Guerilla Conditions, and was filmed between 1961 and 1965 in Tangiers and Paris. It included some footage from Balch’s aborted attempt to film the unfilmable Naked Lunch. The finished material was collated and then conventionally edited - but the process didn’t stop there, no. For Balch divided the finshed film into four sections of equal length, and then...