The Blood of A Poet

Stills from The Blood of A Poet (Jean Cocteau, 1930), starring by Chilean actor Enrique Riveros as the poet

 

Le Sang d’un Poète is the first avant-garde film directed by Jean Cocteau. Photographer Lee Miller made her only film appearance in this movie, which features an appearance by the famed aerialist Barbette. It is the first part of the Orphic Trilogy, which is continued in Orphée (1950) and concludes with Testament of Orpheus (1960).

The Blood of a Poet is divided into four sections. In section one, an artist sketches a face and is startled when its mouth starts moving. He rubs out the mouth, only to discover that it has transferred to the palm of his hand. After experimenting with the hand for a while and falling asleep, the artist awakens and places the mouth over the mouth of a female statue.

In section two, the statue speaks to the artist, cajoling him into passing through a mirror. The mirror links to a hotel and the artist peers through several keyholes, witnessing such people as an opium smoker and a hermaphrodite. The artist is handed a gun and a disembodied voice instructs him how to shoot himself in the head. He shoots himself but does not die. The artist cries out that he has seen enough and returns through the mirror. He smashes the statue with a mallet.

In the third section, some students are having a snowball fight. An older boy throws a snowball at a younger boy, but the snowball turns out to be a chunk of marble. The young boy dies from the impact.

In the final section, a card shark plays a game with a woman on a table set up over the body of the dead boy. A theatre party looks on. The card shark extracts an Ace of Hearts from the dead boy’s breast pocket. The boy’s guardian angel appears and absorbs the dead boy. He also removes the Ace of Hearts from the card shark’s hand and retreats up a flight of stairs and through a door. Realizing he has lost, the card shark commits suicide as the theatre party applauds. The woman player transforms into the formerly smashed statue and walks off through the snow, leaving no footprints. In the film’s final moments the statue is shown with a lyre.

Intercut through the film, oneiric images appear, including spinning wire models of a human head and rotating double-sided masks.

The Blood of a Poet was funded by Charles de Noailles, who gave Cocteau 1,000,000 francs to make it. Cocteau invited the Vicomte and his wife Marie-Laure de Noailles, along with several of their friends, to appear in a scene as a theatre party. In the scene, they talked amongst themselves and, on cue, began applauding. Upon seeing the completed film, they were horrified to learn that they were applauding a game of cards that ended with a suicide, which had been filmed separately. They refused to let Cocteau release the film with their scene included, so Cocteau re-shot it with the famed female impersonator Barbette and some extras.

Shortly after its completion, rumors began to circulate that the film contained an anti-Christian message. This, combined with the riotous reception of another controversial Noailles-produced film, L’Âge d’Or (Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, 1930), led to Charles de Noailles’ expulsion from the famous Jockey-Club de Paris, and he was even threatened with excommunication by the Catholic Church. The furor caused the release of The Blood of a Poet to be delayed for over a year.

 

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To Raise Hell

 

Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) is a 1959 French drama film, the debut by director François Truffaut; it stars Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, and Claire Maurier. One of the defining films of the French New Wave, it displays many of the characteristic traits of the movement. Written by Truffaut and Marcel Moussy, the film is about Antoine Doinel, a misunderstood adolescent in Paris who is thought by his parents and teachers to be a troublemaker. Filmed on location in Paris and Honfleur, it is the first in a series of five films in which Léaud plays the semi-autobiographical character.

Besides being a character study, the film is an exposé of the injustices of the treatment of juvenile offenders in France at the time.

Truffaut made four other films with Léaud depicting Antoine at later stages of his life. He meets his first love, Colette, in Antoine and Colette, which was Truffaut’s contribution to the 1962 anthology Love at Twenty. He falls in love with Christine Darbon (Claude Jade) in Stolen Kisses. He marries Christine in Bed and Board, but the couple have separated in Love on the Run.

 

 

The semi-autobiographical film reflects events of Truffaut’s and his friends’ lives. In style, it expresses Truffaut’s personal history of French film, with references to other works—most notably a scene borrowed wholesale from Jean Vigo‘s Zéro de conduite. Truffaut dedicated the film to the man who became his spiritual father, André Bazin, who died just as the film was about to be shot.

Filmmakers Akira Kurosawa, Luis Buñuel, Satyajit Ray, Jean Cocteau, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Richard Lester and Norman Jewison have cited The 400 Blows as one of their favorite movies. Kurosawa called it “one of the most beautiful films that I have ever seen”.

The English title is a straight translation of the French but misses its meaning, as the French title refers to the idiom “faire les quatre cents coups”, which means “to raise hell”. And that’s precisely what the main character does. On the first prints in the United States, subtitler and dubber Noelle Gilmore gave the film the title Wild Oats, but the distributor did not like that and reverted it to The 400 Blows. Before seeing it, some people thought the film covered the topic of corporal punishment.

 

Two Fashion Icons Colliding

Catherine Deneuve and Kate Moss, photographed at the Shangri-La Hotel in Paris

 
 

In Vanity Fair February 2014 issue, Catherine Deneuve and Kate Moss appeared in their first portrait together, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier and text by James Fox. It’s hard to believe it hadn’t happened before. Two fashion icons colliding: one French, one British. One actress, one model. One a symbol of 60s and 70s glamour, one of 80s and 90s punk grunge. Yet something inherently stylish and historic draws them together. David Bailey introduced them.

According to the text by Fox, Even for Paris, This Was Impressive:

“They look as if they were emerging at dawn from a party, waiting to go home, these two apparently ageless, beautiful women. Consummate artists in front of a camera, they look at it as if they knew you—with a hint of humor at the imposition of the photograph. It is their first portrait together: Catherine Deneuve at 70 and Kate Moss at 40. Their separate images have illuminated the cultural landscape for decades—Deneuve with her great classic roles in the cinema, from the early Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965) and Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967) to the more than 100 other films she has made, and also as a living symbol of French style; Moss with her unparalleled domination of fashion, who turned modeling into a high art and became the chief inspiration for 25 years to many of the world’s top designers and photographers. The picture was shot on a Paris balcony; the two women had hooked up in Japan some weeks earlier at a “timeless muses” exhibition, dedicated in part to them. A joint photograph had long been in Moss’s mind. “We’d kind of talked about it before,” she says, “but really I just wanted to meet her. I’d finished a shoot with David Bailey [the photographer, Deneuve’s former husband], and he was speaking about her, and we laughed about that. And we hit it off. She’s amazing, beautiful and chic and everything I want to be, also as a woman growing old gracefully and with such class. So I was over the moon that she liked me and wanted to do the pictures.”

 
 

The Widespread Impact of Belle de Jour

Yves Saint Laurent would create some of the most iconic looks of the late 1960s and 1970s. Many were inspired by his designs and how muse Catherine Deneuve magically embodied his style. His “school girl” dress is but one example. At the time, other fashion designers like Mary Quant did their own “school girl” dresses, but it was Yves who somehow made it sophisticated and sexy. The impact of Belle de Jour was widespread, ranging from high fashion to ready-to-wear to sewing patterns for women who wanted to make their own clothing at home. This trickle-down effect from costume design to fashion design is shown below and even includes a dress from a pattern book of the late 1960s. Whether its the dress itself or look of the model, it screams of Belle de Jour style.

Recently the influence is equally extensive. In fashion, design houses such as ValentinoCalvin Klein, and Carven were inspired by Belle de Jour for Fall 2013. Some designers, such as Tommy Hilfiger, adore the movie so much that they continue to reference it in collection after collection. This is especially true of the military-inspired outerwear from the film. Fashionista Alexa Chung has adopted the “school girl” look as part of her personal style, even including the design in her own capsule collections for Madewell.  Modern magazine editors frequently name and style photo shoots after Belle de Jour as well.

 
 

Eniko Mihalik for Vogue Spain (September 2012) by Vincent PetersEniko Mihalik modelling for Vogue Spain, September 2012. Photo by Vincent Peters

 
 

Tommy Hilfiger, Fall 2012-2013

 
 

Burberry, Fall Winter 2013

 
 

Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli for Valentino Fall/Winter 2013-2014

 
 

Allure magazine August 2013. Vinyl trench coat by Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein

 
 

Alexa Chung by David Vasiljevic for Elle UK. November 2010

 
 

NARS Summer 2010  + Belle de Jour Cinema ConnectionNARS Summer 20101 2 + Belle de Jour Cinema ConnectionIn beauty, makeup artist François Nars has had a Belle de Jour shade of lipstick for many years in his eponymous line. He even expanded upon it in 2010 and styled model Amber Valletta to look like Catherine Deneuve for the advertising campaign

The Right Length

Catherine Deneuve at Yves Saint Laurent atelier, 1967. Photo: Reg Lancaster

 
 

With Luis Buñuel’s help and under his direction, Yves Saint Laurent managed to convince Catherine Deneuve not to wear too short skirts in Belle de Jour in a time when mini-skirts were in fashion, so that the film would never become outdated and grounded to a certain historical moment.

The style in this movie has survived through generations, a quality of all Yves Saint Laurent’s designs, noted for their ‘classic modernity’. Catherine Deneuve has always evoked an eternal femininity through the timelessness of her classic looks and clothes and the designer played a great role in this from that moment on.

Belle de Jour, Belle Toujours

From the beginning of Luis Bunel‘s 1967 classic Belle de Jour, audiences are awash in his signature surrealism and aroused by an eroticism that has made this movie his masterpiece. The story centers on Severine Serizy, a beauty blonde wife who, despite having a loving husband, discovers a need to live out her sexual fantasies as a whore. It is based on the 1928 eponymous novel by Joseph Kessel. In 2006 the Portuguese director, Manoel de Oliveira released Belle Toujours, imagining a future encounter between two of the central characters from the original film.

The title is a pun in French. The phrase “belle de nuit” is best translated by the English phrase “lady of the night”, i.e. a prostitute. Séverine works as a prostitute during the day, so she is “belle de jour”. It may also be a reference to the French name of the day lily (Hemerocallis), meaning “beauty of [the] day”, a flower that blooms only during the day.

Perfectly played by a 23-year-old Catherine Deneuve, it’s easy to see how the part made her an international star. Her performance is subtle, remaining cool even as Severine’s experiences fluctuate between pleasure and pain…morality and immorality…and exploring just how subjective each of those extremes are. Despite the storyline, the sexuality never seems too strong and much of this has to do with the film’s now iconic style. Classic and timeless with a twist of fetish, Belle de Jour‘s costumes are courtesy of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

 
 

 In the ski resort Séverine is wearing a beautiful cream sweater with asymmetrical zips. A very interesting shorter sleeve length, above the wrist, leaving room to show the white cuffs of the garment underneath.

 
 

In a tennis attire

 
 

The safari dress. Sand tone, patch pockets, chain gold belt, fly front zip, epaulettes, shirt cuffs. In the sixties Yves Saint Laurent marked a turning point in the safari style with his iconic jacket.

 
 

Another incredible piece in Severine’s wardrobe is this YSL vinyl trench coat. Black patent trench coat with wool sleeves and very thin belt. A coat she’s wearing when she goes back to the brothel, a sign that she wants to continue with her double life. Tortoiseshell rimmed sunglasses.

 
 

Down comes the prim and proper updo as Severine assumes the role of Belle de Jour. The hairstyle once again demonstrates the difference between Severine, the good wife and a return to being Belle de Jour

 
 

The elegance of a monochromatic outfit. Fur trimmed brown leather coat, double breasted, leather buttons, rear vent and half belt back. Accessorized with short brown leather gloves and tote.

 
 

Under the sumptuous leather coat she is wearing a sleeveless, slightly flared dress, in the same brown colour. The simplicity of this trapéze dress is exceptional

 
 

Note scalloped edges of the black pumps (most likely Roger Vivier, who originated the stiletto heel) that are paired with this seemingly innocent frock

 
 

The YSL “school girl” dress–whose design owes a lot to 1930s film fashion as well as Chanel– has become iconic in fashion today

 
 

Almost all of Séverine’s clothes are military inspired, referring to the rigorous way she lives her life as a bourgeois. The grey wool coat she wears when she steps into the brothel for the first time is double-breasted, ventless, with wide-spread collar, epaulettes and just above the wrist sleeves.

 
 

Two-tone red, slightly  A-line dress with button shoulder straps and belt, worn with a short red Eisenhower jacket, double breasted.

 
 

Red and white, very symbolic colors that reminds a little bit to Saint Sebastian’s martyrdom

 
 

Another aspect of Deneuvian style are Roger Vivier’s legendary “pilgrim” pumps, which she favored both on and off screen along with other timeless style icons like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

The Ice Maiden

Catherine Deneuve first portrayed the cold but erotic persona, for which she would be nicknamed the “ice maiden”, in Roman Polanski‘s suspense classic Repulsion (1965), reinforcing it in Luis Buñuel‘s Belle de Jour (1967), and reaching a peak in Tristana (1970).

Venus in Furs

“Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girl child in the dark
Comes in bells, your servant, don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Downy sins of streetlight fancies
Chase the costumes she shall wear
Ermine furs adorn the imperious
Severin, Severin awaits you there

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears

Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Severin, Severin, speak so slightly
Severin, down on your bended knee
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Taste the whip, now plead for me

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears

Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girl child in the dark
Severin, your servant comes in bells, please don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart”

Lou Reed

Venus in Furs

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

 
 

Fanny Pistor (in furs, with whip) and Sacher-Masoch

 
 

On 9 December 1869, Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch and his mistress Baroness Fanny Pistor signed a contract making him her slave for a period of six months, with the stipulation that the Baroness wear furs as often as possible, especially when she was in a cruel mood. Sacher-Masoch took the alias of “Gregor”, a stereotypical male servant’s name, and assumed a disguise as the servant of the Baroness. The two traveled by train to Italy. As in Venus in Furs, he traveled in the third-class compartment, while she had a seat in first-class, arriving in Venice (Florence, in the novel), where they were not known, and would not arouse suspicion.

 
 

The Titian painting Venus with a Mirror (1555), from which Severin gets the idea of “Venus in furs”

 
 

Sacher-Masoch is the great-great-uncle to the British singer and actress Marianne Faithfull on the side of her mother, the Viennese Baroness Eva Erisso

 
 

The novel Venus in Furs was to be part of an epic series that Sacher-Masoch envisioned called Legacy of CainVenus in Furs was also part of Love, the first volume of the series. It was published in 1870

 
 

The framing story concerns a man who dreams of speaking to Venus about love while she wears furs. The unnamed narrator tells his dreams to a friend, Severin, who tells him how to break him of his fascination with cruel women by reading a manuscript, Memoirs of a Suprasensual Man.

This manuscript tells of a man, Severin von Kusiemski, who is so infatuated with a woman, Wanda von Dunajew, that he asks to be her slave, and encourages her to treat him in progressively more degrading ways. At first Wanda does not understand or accede to the request, but after humouring Severin a bit she finds the advantages of the method to be interesting and enthusiastically embraces the idea, although at the same time she disdains Severin for allowing her to do so.

Severin describes his feelings during these experiences as suprasensuality. Severin and Wanda travel to Florence. Along the way, Severin takes the generic Russian servant’s name of “Gregor” and the role of Wanda’s servant. In Florence, Wanda treats him brutally as a servant, and recruits a trio of African women to dominate him.

The relationship arrives at a crisis when Wanda herself meets a man to whom she would like to submit, a Byronic hero known as Alexis Papadopolis. At the end of the book, Severin, humiliated by Wanda’s new lover, loses the desire to submit. He says of Wanda:

That woman, as nature has created her, and man at present is educating her, is man’s enemy. She can only be his slave or his despot, but never his companion. This she can become only when she has the same rights as he and is his equal in education and work.

 
 

 
 

The book inspired Venus in Fur, a 2010 play set in the modern day by David Ives, which had its Off-Broadway premiere at the Classic Stage Company in New York City starring Nina Arianda and Wes Bentley. In February 2012, a new Broadway production of this play premiered at the Lyceum Theatre starring Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy. In late 2012, Roman Polanski directed a film adaptation of the play starring Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric.

 
 

Still from Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967)

 
 

The name of Catherine Deneuve’s character, Séverine, is a femininization of the name of the male protagonist of Baron von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, Severin. As the literary origin of the term masochism, Sacher-Masoch, along with his 1870 novel, no doubt presented an irresistible reference point for Joseph Kessel, the author of the 1928 novel Belle de Jour, on which the film is based.

 

Lifelong Muse

Salvador Dalí painting The Madonna of Port Lligat, 1949

 
 

In August 1929, Dalí met his lifelong and primary muse, inspiration, and future wife Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova. She was a Russian immigrant ten years his senior, who at that time was married to surrealist poet Paul Éluard.

A mysterious and highly intuitive woman, she was able to recognise artistic and creative genius when she saw it, and had relations with a number of intellectuals and artists.

The truth is nevertheless that very little is known about this personality: she had two older brothers, Vadim and Nicolai, and a younger sister, Lidia; she spent her childhood in Moscow, and her father died when she was eleven years old. Her mother remarried later to a lawyer, with whom Gala related very well and thanks to whom she managed to acquire a good education. She was a brilliant student, completing her studies at the M.G. Brukhonenko academy for young ladies with a very high average mark; a decree from the tsar authorised her to become a primary school teacher and to give lessons in people’s homes. In 1912 she suffered a worsening of the tuberculosis that had afflicted her for some time, and her family decided to have her cared for at the Clavadel sanatorium in Switzerland, where she met Eugène Grindel (later to be known as Paul Eluard). Their similar ages and love of reading led the two to become firm friends. Both were discharged from the sanatorium in 1914. Gala returned to Russia and Eluard went to the war front, though not before the couple had proposed to each other. They married in 1917, and the following year saw the birth of the girl who was to be Gala’s only daughter, Cécile. Eluard, who had already been revealed as poet and had changed his surname, related with the leading figures of the surrealist movement, and particularly the creators of the Littérature magazine: André Breton, Philippe Soupault and Louis Aragon. Gala also attended some of their meetings. In 1922 she started a relationship with Max Ernst, which broke off in 1924. Max Ernst painted her in a number of portraits. Also worthy of note was her friendship with the poet René Char, and particularly with René Crevel.

It was in 1929 that she met Salvador Dalí. In April of that year Dalí went to Paris to present the film that he had made with Luis Buñuel, Un chien andalou, and it was there that Camille Goemans, a Belgian poet and gallery owner, introduced Dalí to Paul Eluard. Dalí invited them to spend the summer in Cadaqués. Goemans and a friend of his, as well as René Magritte and his wife, and Luis Buñuel, Paul Eluard and Gala, and the couple’s daughter Cécile, all spent some time there.

It is during this visit that Dalí falls in love with Gala. She considers him to be a genius. According to The Secret Life, Dalí’s autobiography, “She wanted something-something which would be the fulfillment of her own myth. And this thing that she wanted was something that she was beginning to think perhaps only I could give her.”

The courtship continues among the rocks and groves of Cadaqués to the end of September. On a particular walk along the surrounding precipices, Dalí asks Gala what she wants from him-she replies, “I want you to kill me.” This “secret,” Dalí claims, cures him of his madness. The laughing fits and hysteria he was experiencing prior to her arrival cease.

When the painter met Gala he fell in love with her. In his Secret Life, he wrote: “She was destined to be my Gradiva (the name comes from the title of a novel by W. Jensen, the main character of which was Sigmund Freud; Gradiva was the book’s heroine and it was she who brought about the protagonist’s psychological healing), the one who moves forward, my victory, my wife”. And Gala was indeed to remain ever thereafter at the painter’s side, so that from that time on her biography was linked with that of Dalí.

In 1948 Dalí and Gala returned from the United States following eight years of exile there. Dalí had achieved recognition in his own country, and his father had come to accept his son’s relationship with a separated Russian woman. From that time onwards, the Dalís would spend the spring and summer in Portlligat and the autumn and winter between New York and Paris.

In 1958 Dalí and Gala married at the Àngels chapel, near Girona. In 1968 the painter bought Gala a castle in Púbol, Girona, and it was agreed that the painter could not go there without her prior permission in writing to do so. Between 1971 and 1980, Gala would spend periods of time at her castle, always in summer. It was there that Gala was buried, following her death in 1982. Since 1996 the castle has been open to the public as the Gala-Dalí Castle House Museum in Púbol.

 
 

Galarina, (1944-45)

 
 

My Wife, Naked Looking at her own Body,which is Transformed into Steps, Three Vertebrae of a Column, Sky and Architecture (1945)

 
 

Three Faces Of Gala On The Rocks, (1945)

 
 

Atomic Leda (1949)

 
 

The Madonna of Port Lligat (1949)

 
 

Galatea of the Spheres (1952)

 
 

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1959)

 
 

Ecumenical Council (1960)

 
 

Dali from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected (1972-73)

 
 

Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Eighteen Metres Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln -Homage to Rotkho- (1976)

 
 

Dali Lifting the Skin of the Mediterranean Sea to Show Gala the Birth of Venus (1977)

Eternal Love Priesthood

Luis Buñuel took the photo of Dali in 1929 and Dali took that of Gala in 1931

 
 

Salvador Dalí‘s father violently opposed his son’s relationship and banished him from the family home. Before leaving for Paris to join Gala, Dalí shaved his head as if he were a devotee Buddhist monk preparing for priesthood and buried his hair on the beach of Cadaqués.

A Dog Named Pain

A Dog Named Pain contains moments of intense beauty in which we note risk but also the grandeur of men who had surrendered to art with truly passion”
Ernesto Sabato

 
 

The drawings were made using Staedler pens and white card boards. Aute spent five years illustrating all the panels for the film

 
 

A Dog Called Pain is a film drawn and animated by singer/songwriter and artist turned filmmaker, Luis Eduardo Aute, who made more than four thousand drawings which were later processed with the digital technology for rending into 2D and 3D. It was a colossal enterprise that began with the first drawings in 1995. Aute has dedicated the past two years wholly to the film. The film borrows its name from the dog owned by the late Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

The film, comprising seven stories or portraits, is focused on the artist-model relationship, and continuity is supplied by the dog, co-star of nearly all the episodes. Luis Eduardo Aute reconsiders the relations of such painters as Francisco de Goya, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Joaquín Sorolla, Julio Romero de Torres, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí, and Diego Velázquez with their models, their environments, and their times. This reconsideration is, above all, a movie, and it employs the most classic film language, but at the same time it is a reflection about art and artists, their inner lives and their worlds.

In addition, homage is made in the film to such cinematic greats as Serguéi Eisenstein, Luis Buñuel, Groucho Marx and Woody Allen. One of the great triumphs of A Dog Called Pain is the sheer beauty of Aute’s projected images. Intimately paced, viewing the film is like a cinematic walk through a museum. At times, long-held images will have subtle movements such as a blink of an eye that creates the effect of the movie screen as a canvas. Nominated for a 2001 Goya (Spain’s Oscars) for Best Animated Film, A Dog Called Pain is a unique work of art.

The film, an exciting blend of humour, violence and sex – in a word, of art. The story employs the simplest resources of cinema, and is the singular creation of an artist in love with the camera, as well as with music and painting, two fields in which he has gained fame. Luis Eduardo Aute is a living Spanish national treasure, acclaimed and loved for his music, artwork and poetry.

Suppressed Human Emotions

Stills from Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog)

 
 

Federico García Lorca crowded his thoughts onto a sheet of stationery from a Barcelona cafe. “I want to weep,” he wrote to Salvador Dalí. “I’ve behaved like an indecent donkey’s ass with you, you who are the best thing in the world for me. As the minutes go by I see it clearly and I am truly sorry. But this only increases my affection for you and my attachment to your way of thinking and your human quality.” Lorca avoided saying more about what had taken place between the two men.

The friendship with Lorca had a strong element of mutual passion, but Dalí rejected the erotic advances of the poet. With the success of Gypsy Ballads, came an estrangement from Dalí and the breakdown of a love affair with sculptor Emilio Soriano Aladrén. These brought on an increasing depression to Lorca, a situation exacerbated by his anguish over his homosexuality. He felt he was trapped between the persona of the successful author, which he was forced to maintain in public, and the tortured, authentic self, which he could only acknowledge in private. He also had the sense that he was being pigeon-holed as a “gypsy poet”. He wrote: “The gypsies are a theme. And nothing more. I could just as well be a poet of sewing needles or hydraulic landscapes. Besides, this gypsyism gives me the appearance of an uncultured, ignorant and primitive poet that you know very well I’m not. I don’t want to be typecast”. Growing estrangement between García Lorca and his closest friends reached its climax when surrealists Dalí and Luis Buñuel collaborated on their film Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog). García Lorca interpreted it, perhaps erroneously, as a vicious attack upon himself. At this time Dalí also met his future wife Gala. Aware of these problems (though not perhaps of their causes), García Lorca’s family arranged for him to take a lengthy visit to the United States in 1929–30.

 
 

 
 

Un Chien Andalou is a 1929 silent surrealist short film by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. It was Buñuel’s first film and was initially released in 1929 with a limited showing at Studio des Ursulines in Paris, but became popular and ran for eight months. The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes. The film was financed by Buñuel’s mother, and shot in Le Havre and Paris at the Billancourt studios over a period of 10 days in March 1928.

The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.

The film opens with a title card reading “Once upon a time”. A middle-aged man (Luis Buñuel) sharpens his razor at his balcony door and tests the razor on his thumb. He then opens the door, and idly fingers the razor while gazing at the moon, about to be engulfed by a thin cloud, from his balcony.

 
 

There is a cut to a close-up of a young woman (Simone Mareuil) being held by the man as she calmly stares straight ahead. Another cut occurs to the moon being overcome by the cloud as the man slits the woman’s eye with the razor, and the vitreous humour spills out from it.

 
 

The shot of the eyeball (actually that of a dead calf) being slit by Buñuel

 
 

The subsequent title card reads “eight years later”. A slim young man (Pierre Batcheff) bicycles down a calm urban street wearing what appears to be a nun’s habit and a striped box with a strap around his neck. A cut occurs to the young woman from the first scene, who has been reading in a sparingly furnished upstairs apartment. She hears the young man approaching on his bicycle and casts aside the book she was reading (revealing a reproduction of Vermeer’s The Lacemaker). She goes to the window and sees the young man lying on the curb, his bicycle on the ground. She emerges from the building and attempts to revive the young man.

 
 

An image from Dalí’s dream, part of the inspiration for the film

 
 

The idea for the film began when Buñuel was working as an assistant director for Jean Epstein in France. Buñuel told Dalí at a restaurant one day about a dream in which a cloud sliced the moon in half “like a razor blade slicing through an eye”. Dalí responded that he’d dreamed about a hand crawling with ants. Excitedly, Buñuel declared: “There’s the film, let’s go and make it.'” They were fascinated by what the psyche could create, and decided to write a script based on the concept of suppressed human emotions.

 
 

Jaime Miravilles and Salvador Dalí as the confused priests

 
 

In deliberate contrast to the approach taken by Jean Epstein and his peers, which was to never leave anything in their work to chance, with every aesthetic decision having a rational explanation and fitting clearly into the whole,  Buñuel made clear throughout his writings that, between Dalí and himself, the only rule for the writing of the script was: “No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.” He also stated: “Nothing, in the film, symbolizes anything. The only method of investigation of the symbols would be, perhaps, psychoanalysis.”

 
 

 
 

Over the course of his long career Dalí associated his work with a wide range of predecessors (including Paul Cézanne, Le Corbusier, Giorgio de Chirico, Arnold Böcklin, and later Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci), but none of them came close to rivaling Johannes Vermeer. Throughout his life Dalí remained entirely unwavering in his belief that Vermeer was the greatest painter who ever lived and the artist whom he most dearly wished to emulate.

The first screening of Un Chien Andalou took place at Studio des Ursulines, with an audience of le tout-Paris. Notable attendees of the première included Pablo Picasso, Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau, Christian Bérard and George Auric, in addition to the entirety of André Breton‘s Surrealist group. The audience’s positive reception of the film amazed Buñuel, who was relieved that no violence ensued. Dalí, on the contrary, was reportedly disappointed, feeling the audience’s reaction made the evening “less exciting.” Buñuel since claimed that prior to the show, he had put stones in his pockets “to throw at the audience in case of disaster”, although others had no recollection of this.

 
 

A death’s-head moth

 
 

Against his hopes and expectations, the film was a huge success amongst the French bourgeoisie, leading Buñuel to exclaim in exasperation, “What can I do about the people who adore all that is new, even when it goes against their deepest convictions, or about the insincere, corrupt press, and the inane herd that saw beauty or poetry in something which was basically no more than a desperate impassioned call for murder?”

Modern prints of the film feature a soundtrack consisting of excerpts from Richard Wagner‘s “Liebestod” from his opera Tristan und Isolde and a recording of two Argentinian tangos sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Olé guapa.” This is the same soundtrack that Buñuel chose and played live on a phonograph during the original 1929 screening in Paris. They were first added to a print of the film in 1960 under Buñuel’s supervision.

Film scholar Ken Dancyger has argued that Un Chien Andalou might be the genesis of the filmmaking style present in the modern music video. Roger Ebert had called it the inspiration for low budget independent films.

Honey is Sweeter Than Blood

“! O friendship, how piercing are your darts..”

Virginia Woolf

The Waves

 
 

We know from correspondence with Federico García Lorca and other friends of the painter such as Sebastià Gasch that Salvador Dalí used to refer to the now-disappeared painting as the Apparatus Forest, while on this oil painting we can clearly read in the lower left-hand corner: Etude pour “Le miel est plus douce que la sang” [sic]. The highly poetical expression of the title takes its inspiration, as Dalí explains in The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, from words used by Lídia de Cadaqués: “[…] Lídia began to pluck it, and soon the whole room was covered in feathers. When this operation was over, she cleaned the chicken, and with her fingers dripping with blood, she began to pull out its viscera which she arranged neatly on a separate dish on the crystal table, where I had laid a very expensive book of facsimiles of the drawings of Giovanni Bellini. Observing that I jumped up anxiously to remove the book against the possibility of splashing, Lydia smiled bitterly, and said, “Blood does not spot” and then she immediately added this sentence, which a malicious expression in her eyes charged with erotic hidden meanings, “Blood is sweeter than honey. I,” she went on, “am blood, and honey is all the other women! My sons…” (this she added in a low voice) “at this moment are against blood and are running after honey.’”

 
 

The Rotting Donkey, Salvador Dalí,  1928

 
 

This work is also of great interest due to its being the study for a now-disappeared painting called Honey is Sweeter than Blood, dating from 1927. In the Study we might particularly note the same iconographic features that make the finished work so special: the apparatuses, the severed head, the blood, the rotting donkey, etc., features that refer us back to the painter’s “new aesthetic” and in which we can observe the first clear references to Surrealism. This “new aesthetic” is the one formally announced in some of his articles published in L’Amic de les Arts, such as Sant Sebastià or La meva amiga i la platja, and also discussed with his friend the poet García Lorca in the letters they exchanged over that period.

We are likewise aware that Dalí’s pictorial work cannot be separated from his written work. This characteristic trait of the painter’s trajectory arose at this very time, while he was gestating Honey is Sweeter than Blood and therefore engaged in this study for that work. These paintings and the text are indicative of a turning point in Dalí’s art following a period of several years in which he had been experimenting with a broad diversity of modern and contemporary styles.

 
 

Study for Honey is Sweeter than Blood, Salvador Dalí, 1926. Dalí placed a likeness of Lorca’s head, with its neck severed, eyes wide open, and a trickle of blood seeping from its mouth near the donkey.

 
 

Apparatus and Hand (1927)

It is a landmark work that, along with Little Ashes and Apparatus and Hand represents Dalí’s first mature articulation of the neurotic dream-like imagery for which he is best known.

 
 

Honey is Sweeter than Blood (1926)

 
 

Aside from Parisian Surrealism and Brueghel however, the primary, overriding and determining influence on both Honey is Sweeter than Blood and Study for Honey is Sweeter than Blood was that of Dalí’s closest friend and confidant at this time, the poet Frederico Garcia Lorca. Lorca had spent the month of July with Dalí in Cadaqués and it was he who gave these works their original title of The Wood of Gadgets while also seeming to have inspired their later title writing to Dalí about the headless female corpse that appears in both paintings that, ‘the dissected woman is the most beautiful poem about blood you can create’ (Frederico Garcia Lorca, letter to Dalí quoted in Félix Fanés Salvador Dalí: The Construction of the Image 1925-1930 , London, 2007, p. 67).

As stated before, Honey is Sweeter than Blood and the study for it are thus works that mark a process of stylistic change in which there appear some elements from the previous period, such as the severed heads that reveal to us the stamp of his new classicism, and particularly the influence of Pablo Picasso (Table in front of the Sea, 1926; Still Life by Moonlight, 1926; Composition with Three Figures;  Neo-Cubist Academy, 1926) ; objects that become “pieces of apparatus” and that show Dalí’s interest in “machinism”.  We also have the initial influences of other contemporary artists such as Joan Miró, Yves Tanguy and particularly Giorgio de Chirico.

The phrase ‘honey is sweeter than blood’ is one that seems to have haunted Dalí at this time. It crops up in numerous instances in his life, its most notable appearance perhaps being in his book The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí where as Dawn Ades has pointed out, Dalí describes the solitary pleasure of masturbation as ‘sweeter than honey’ while Lorca is said to have regarded sexual intercourse as a fearful ‘jungle of blood’ (D. Ades, Dalí, The Centenary Retrospective, London, 2005, p. 90). Fear of sex and the female along with the guilt, pleasure and addiction of masturbation are constant themes running through much of Dalí’s work of this period culminating in his 1929 paintings The Lugubrious Game and The Great Masturbator. Here, in Study for Honey is Sweeter than Blood such fetishistic motifs appear to be being born on the grey sandy beach-like plain cutting across the picture plain after the mutilation of a female corpse. It is Lorca’s face too that appears in this work as a decapitated double-sided head split in two and dissecting its mysterious diagonal borderline of sea-bed/plain and sea/sky.

At the heart of Lorca’s influence on these paintings however, stands his and Dalí’s shared obsession with Saint Sebastian. Already having informed much of Dalí’s work, the poet and the painter had developed a kind of coded language of association about the Saint, both recognising a part of themselves and each other in the story of this agonised martyr. Here, the cold, geometric machine-like needles or eye tacks puncturing the skin-like surface of the plain echo the nature of Sebastian’s martyrdom, while the split head seems to indicate a notion of a one-person duality in the form of Dalí and Lorca. In the final painting Dalí’s own visage appears on the head lying near the headless female corpse, while here, the sleeping head simultaneously bordering land and sky seems to anticipate the later soft sleeping heads able to transcend different realms and realities that Dalí frequently depicted in his work of the late 1920s and early ’30s. The veins and blood vessels visible in the top half of this head are echoed elsewhere in the picture on other truncated limbs, sprouting like a forest and also in what appears to be a small shoal of red fish swimming in the sky-like sea. This predisposition towards diagrammatic tree-like veins appears, like most the elements of this painting, in different but extended form in Apparatus and Hand and are derived from Dalí’s fascination with an illustration in an advertisement for a cure for varicose veins. With their coral-like forms, they also echo the use of red coral as a symbol of Christ’s blood in much Spanish religious painting.

Continuing the pervasive theme of a painful collusion between cold hard-edged mechanical form and soft, blood giving flesh, the central image of this picture is a decapitated female corpse with truncated arms and legs pouring blood into the soil which elsewhere seems to sprout into vein-like trees. This, along with the fetishistic image of a pair of disembodied breasts, perhaps another symbol of martyrdom referring to that of Saint Agatha, is also seemingly attacked by metallic needles and shown floating in the sky, while the arms of the corpse are seemingly depicted in a dual state of growth and decay on the beach. Reminiscent of a number of ‘headless women’ created by Max Ernst at this time, the mutilation of the female nude is a clear anti-art act and symbol, but also one celebrated here as an apparent source of life-blood and creativity. Nearby and in direct contrast, lies another anti-art symbol: one of the quintessential Dalínean images of putrefaction: the rotting donkey.

Perhaps most familiar now from its appearance in Dalí and Luis Buñuel‘s shocking first feature film Le Chien andalou, the image of the rotting donkey carcass surrounded by flies was a staple of many of Dalí’s pictures in the 1920s. A symbol of horror and repulsion and of the ugliness of reality with which avant-garde artists wished to challenge the complacency and bourgeois values of the traditional society they abhorred, the rotting donkey invokes a rich seam of satire known as ‘the putrefact’, that, as Dawn Ades has pointed out, was ‘mined in numerous drawings by the group in the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid which included Dalí, Lorca and Pepin Bello who was credited with inventing the term… The origin of the ‘putrefying’ donkey itself lies in a sentimental tale by the ‘arch putrefact’ as Dalí called him, the poet Juan Ramon Jiménez (whose) Platero y Yo recounts the life and death of a beloved donkey’ (ibid, p. 92). Here, as it was to appear in numerous other Dalí works, the artist has depicted this donkey decomposing into the soil of the painting surrounded by flies – another hard and horrifying anti-artistic symbol of the dark, nightmarish side of life, not usually associated with fine art.

As Dalí was also at pains to point out in an article he wrote about these works in 1928 however, all this horror takes place not in the real world, but within the magical realm of the picture plane. ‘We can verify,’ he wrote, ‘that the decapitated figures live their perfect, organic life, they rest in the shadow of the bloodiest vegetation without getting bloodstained, and they go on stretching out naked on the sharpest, spikiest surfaces of very special marble, without risk of death’ (Salvador Dalí, ‘Nous limits de la pintura’, 1928, quoted in Feliz Fanés Salvador Dalí: The Construction of the Image 1925-1930, London, 2007, p. 67).

An Underestimated Bond

Federico García Lorca with Salvador Dalí in uniform, 1927

 
 

The “legendary friendship” of Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalì began in 1923 when Dalí arrived at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid to study at the Special School of Drawing at the Academy of San Fernando. The first time they met, Lorca was amazed by Dalí’s unconventional style of dress while Dalí “in turn, was captivated by Lorca” and his first impression of Lorca was of a “poetic phenomenon in its entirety and ‘in the raw’ appearing suddenly before me in flesh and blood”. Despite their antithetical personalities (Dalí was very shy while Lorca was “a font of laughter and music”) and frequent disagreements about art and literature, Dalí and Lorca became fast friends and Lorca helped Dalí integrate into social life at the Resi.

 
 

Portraits of Dalí by Lorca, (from 1925 to 1927)

 
 

Triple Portrait of Lorca, Salvador Dalí, 1924

 
 

Neo-Cubist Academy (Composition with Three Figures), Salvador Dalí, 1926

 
 

From 1925 to 1927 the relationship between Dalí and Lorca grew as their admiration for one another and their influence over each other’s work intensified. Lorca fell in love with Cadaqués, a coastal village just north of Barcelona, where he went to stay over Easter holiday in 1925 with Dalí and his family in their summer home there. There, they spent their time walking through town, laughing with Ana María, Dalí’s beautiful sister, wandering the beach and watching each other work.

 
 

El Beso (The Kiss), drawing by Lorca, 1927

 
 

Lorca and Dali’s frienship was something more than that, “an erotic, tragic love, out of the fact of not being able to share it,” the painter himself would explain in 1986, in a letter to the editor published in EL PAÍS and meant for the Lorca historian Ian Gibson, whom he accused of underestimating his bond with the poet, “as though it had simply been a sugary sweet romantic novel.”

The relationship between both geniuses lasted, with all its ups and downs, from 1923 to 1936 (the year of Lorca’s execution at the onset of the Spanish Civil War). Besides the artistic partnership, the link gave rise to an intense exchange of letters that can now be read entirely, for the first time, in Querido Salvador, Querido Lorquito, a compilation by the journalist Víctor Fernández.

 
 

Portrait of Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, 1924

 
 

The gap left behind was filled by Luis Buñuel, who was jealous in his own way and “acted as a sapper in that relationship.” The filmmaker, who until then had had little intellectual and popular impact, would end up writing the script of Un chien andalou with Dalí. Lorca, who was from Andalusia, always felt the title was a reference to himself. Nevertheless, after Lorca’s death, he began to reappear in Dalí’s drawings and paintings.

 
 

Invisible Afghan with the Apparition on the Beach of the Face of Garcia Lorca in the Form of a Fruit Dish with Three Figs, 1938

 
 

When Gala died in 1982, Dalí regressed mentally to his student days in Madrid, where he first met Lorca and Buñuel in 1923. In the end, when he was refusing to eat and was down to 34 kilograms, one of the nurses who cared for him said that in all the time he was in her care, she only understood one sentence that he said: “My friend Lorca.”