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Psychedelic Day-Glo screenprints of Marilyn Monroe by ‘Last Sitting’ photographer Bert Stern
09:52 am

Pop Culture

Marilyn Monroe
Avant Garde
Bert Stern

Photographer Bert Stern is forever tied to the legacy of Marilyn Monroe by dint of one fateful job in 1962—a three day photo shoot/bender with Monroe at L.A.’s Hotel Bel-Air, which turned out to be the last shoot Monroe would pose for before her overdose death. Posing nude on white luxury hotel linens with champagne and gauzy scarves, Monroe produced some of the most iconic images of her career, with a simultaneous playfulness and resignation poking through the photos’ sex appeal, mirroring her career as a comic actress whose gifts could never emerge from under a crafted glamorous image too powerful to yield to a real human being. The fact of her death so soon after the shoot made the photos a badge for her martyrdom to the star system, which was creepily underscored by the many images in which she’s Xed out with red marker—Monroe had crossed those images out of the contact sheets herself, but her death gave them an unintended meaning. The shots have come to collectively be known as “The Last Sitting,” and naturally, they’ve been the subject of a few books.

Less well known than those photos was the series of psychedelic silkscreen prints Stern produced from those images a few years later, printed in Day-Glo colors so bright as to threaten the viewer with a subconjunctival hemorrhage. The March 1968 issue of Avant Garde magazine published a portfolio of the prints, and they had this to say about it:

Hundreds of artists have been hung on Marilyn Monroe ever since she died five years ago (including Dali, De Kooning, Linder, Rauschenberg, and 38 other greats who participated in an “Homage to Marilyn” show at the Janis Gallery in New York last month. Perhaps none has been more preoccupied with the image of Marilyn, however, than photographer Bert Stern who, through a quirk of fate, became the last man to photograph her. Stern’s portraits of Marilyn, shot at the Bel Air Hotel in Hollywood on June 21, 1962 are classic and have been published time and again. “Still, I have never been entirely satisfied with them,” says Stern. “Because of photography’s technical limitations, they never quite communicated the dazzling image of Marilyn that existed in my mind’s eye at the time I photographed her.” As a result, over the past five years Stern has been experimenting with various new techniques that would enable him to capture and preserve the image of Marilyn he saw at the time he photographed her. Just this past fall he hit upon the answer: an amalgam of the dramatic technique of serigraphy and the blazing colors of Day-Glo ink.

Stern must have made TONS of the prints, because they’re astonishingly affordable to procure. There seem to always be some available on auction sites, and they tend to go for ballpark $30-50ish. Comparisons to Warhol’s 1962 Marilyn screenprints are unavoidable, but Stern’s prints, despite the magnified vividness of their colors, are coarser works that delight in a psychedelic extremity that the Warhol works can’t touch. The images that follow are spreads from the aforementioned Avant Garde portfolio. Clicking spawns a larger image.


More Marilyn after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘The Love of Zero’: Robert Florey’s Avant Garde short from 1927
06:39 pm


Avant Garde
Robert Florey

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.


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‘Les Avortés’: Surreal short film with music by Captain Beefheart, from 1970

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.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Two of David Lynch’s Early Films: ‘The Grandmother’ and ‘The Alphabet’

A taste of things to come - two of David Lynch’s early films.

The Grandmother (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.”
The Alphabet (1968):

[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…

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Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first film ‘La Cravate’

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.

Previously on DM
Exclusive Clip of Alejandro Jodorowsky for Dangerous MInds Readers
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Shamanic Funnies

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A Complete Disorientation of the Senses: William Burroughs’ and Antony Balch’s ‘Cut Ups’

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...

Bonus clip of ‘Bill and Tony’ after the jump…
Previously on Dangerous Minds

William S. Burroughs’ The Junky’s Christmas


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