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cinema of the mind

April 15, 2010

In Los Angeles in the 1940s, Frankfurt School philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer spent nearly six years working on a screenplay about prejudice. The final draft, titled “Below the Surface,” features a violent commotion on a subway car, during which a woman carrying a vacuum cleaner either falls or is pushed onto the tracks. A one-legged peddler tries to rally the passengers against a Jewish man, who had previously jostled him. At the end of the film, the audience is to be polled regarding the guilt or innocence of the Jew; other audiences might be shown a similar film in which the Jew would be substituted by a “Negro” or a “Gentile white-collar worker.” “Below the Surface” was batted around Hollywood for years, subjected to numerous scriptwriting consultations, and pitched to the likes of Jack Warner and Elia Kazan. It was never produced.

In 1944, the French writer and philosopher Georges Bataille, the so-called “metaphysician of evil,” decided to write a “commercial” film starring Fernandel, a singer-comedian particularly famous for his horselike teeth. In a departure from earlier roles, Fernandel was to play a bourgeois Marseilles soap manufacturer who, during his children’s holidays, assumes the costume and character of the Marquis de Sade. With the participation of some local prostitutes, he reenacts the practices described in “120 Days of Sodom,” Sade’s novel about four scientific-minded libertines who lock themselves for months in a medieval castle, subjecting forty-six innocent young people to escalating sexual torture, culminating with murder. When the soapmaker’s experiments likewise result in the death of a prostitute, he commits suicide, effecting “the triumph of morality.” After approaching one producer, who was not encouraging, Bataille abandoned the script, which has been lost to posterity. (read)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 2:14 pm

    this is so great:

    “Crucial moments in the script included a square rolling on its side to form a circle, and a cross pivoting on its axis to become a cube” (in Malevich).

    i have to re-think my story line for the next video 🙂

  2. April 15, 2010 4:07 pm

    i do wish Malevich had completed the project. the ultimate suprematist film would have been something to see i am sure.

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