Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Surrealism and Euro-horror / trash

In Stephen Thrower's essential study of Fulci's films Beyond Terror there is a point where he takes to task mainstream critics who apply – or misapply – the term Surrealist to Fulci as a means of recuperating his work within their comfort zone in a so near, yet so far way.

It's a point which has long vexed me, and which I sometimes feel self-conscious about: it is easy to say that a Fulci, Argento or whoever film has surrealist aspects, without looking further – e.g does the classic masked giallo killer refer to Rene Magritte or his pre/proto surrealist precursor here, Giorgio Di Chirico; which artists did Bava prefer – or examining one's own critical / intellectual background and the ways it makes it easy to see and say X and not Y.

Yet, I also feel that many of these directors – less Argento than Fulci, Polselli or Questi – were in some ways true inheritors of the Surrealists in the 1960s because they refused the high/low respectable/not respectable division in their work and simply did things at a less conscious level, without too much thought for how the critics would respond or the consequences thereof.

And that, I feel, is the way in which cinema can best progress...


Anonymous said...

But surrealism in the context of horror/giallo - all these murders and scenes of degredation, don't they close off the radical, liberating, original surreal by blocking it with images and plot-turns which are cynical or despairingly final? Fulci and Argento I'd maybe situate in the closed, irrational, highly conservative universe of Nonsense.


K H Brown said...

I suppose it depends on what we mean, the value we attach to a word:

Degradation could be too univocal, if we think of someone like Genet who celebrates the abject or degraded.

Likewise, is the irrational or nonsensical closed or open? What do we mean by cynical - the original Diogenes or contemporary misappropriations of his philosophy?

The ending of The Beyond, as Fulci's Artuadian film, could be read as despairingly final or as opening up new possibilities. It depends on how you read that statement: "And you will face the sea of darkness, and all therein that may be explored." What is there to explore in the void / nothingness / a featureless eternity extending in all dimensions?

I've had too much to drink this evening, so treat whatever I say here with a large dose of NaCl...