Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Javier Gil

Suzanne Ballivet (1904-1985)

Singapore Sling (1990)


As subversive in its themes of sexual abandon, power exchange, and enforced deviation as it is impressively scathing in its brutally honest, non-blinking presentation of such exploitable phenomenon as enforced sex, bondage, and torture - ages before Hostel grabbed its first pair of pinchers! - Singapore Sling is a bitch-slap in the face of self-complacent filmmaking as well as an attack against audience expectations. Daring you to watch it, seeking no friends or understanding, this is exploitation filmmaking at its finest (and most primal). Owing something of its gritty, daring psycho-sexual subject matter to Drive-In fare and the roughies of 42nd Street infamy, this purplish bruise against timidity juxtaposes images of perverse sexual violence with elegantly filmed, lush interior designs captured in an impressive polish of bizarre beauty. A poem of perversity, director Greek cult filmmaker Nikos Nikolaidis crafts in this opera of dementia, power struggle, and sexual gymnastics a decrepit yet gorgeous film as disturbingly brilliant as it is lovely to look at.
A jab in the mind, this admirably complex, naturalistically approached story is also a poke to the crotch, embracing you like a diseased prostitute, mocking your contradictory desire and repulsion towards its charnel charms. Beginning, appropriately enough, in a symbolic darkness (dark as lust, dark as sin) in the alienating countryside (a representation of the wild, unrestrained instincts about to be unleashed?), a half-dead, panting mystery man (Thanassoulis) is found during a rainstorm by two women donning goggles -- Mother (Herold) and daughter (Valley), who just happen to be hiding the remains of their latest playthings. Bringing the man to their lushly photographed home, whose shadow-drenched of decrepit elegance mirror physically the women's disturbing mixture of erotic yet deadly beauty and insanity, the cold women name their new pet 'Singapore Sling.'
Before long we're as enraptured by the demented desire and power-games of these fem-fatales as their hapless plaything, provoked into a surreal world where death is a game, and sex is how you play. Re-enacting the deaths of previous victims (including, at one point, the demise of the young woman whom the man was initially searching for), emotional integrity is quickly butchered no less thoroughly as any pretense of sanity or justice. The women - clearly, beautifully mad - indulge in such pleasing pastimes as bondage, sadism and masochism, and shocking games enjoyed with various bodily fluids. Sickness of heart and mentality are the focus as each of these three meat puppets - each, in turn, both victims to one another and of their own natures - descend further into an alienating filth of madness, perversion, and pain.
In Singapore Sling death is made beautiful and suffering of both internal and external natures is fondled with the loving subjectivity of a hand grasping battered flesh. Making decadence attractive, capturing it with stunning black-and-white elegance, a retrospective screenplay and enthusiastic direction, Nikolaidis evokes disgust, fear, and awe not simply by highlighting violence in an honest, brutal fashion but, in addition, by refusing to commend or condemn either the characters. He breaks the banal cinematic tradition of moralizing. Presenting the risky, emotionally charged theatrics of its near hardcore action neither as sympathizer nor moralizer, Nikolaidis instead opts (wisely) to take the perspective of an unbiased, unemotional outsider. A formalist, he watches the heated psychological vivisection between these three deranged and desperate personas without emotion, thereby allowing us to enjoy our own. Any decisions to be made, any condemnations, must be made by us.
In a story as daring as it is intelligent, Singapore Sling is as concerned with characterization as it is with surface titillation and terror. Sex and violence are depicted herein as different sides of a similar impulse, extensions of similar instincts. Long treated suggestively - when approached in either mainstream or even exploitation art at all - the relationship between intimacy and sexual gratification, pain and violence (both mirrored reflections of birth and death, creation and annihilation) have been largely tip-toed around by a culture and capitalist medium more concerned with appealing to housewives than in approaching any pretense at emotional honesty or artistic integrity. Stripping away the puritanical associations of sex and physical love, Singapore Sling likewise eliminates the emotional safety artificially installed by most films where pain and pleasure are kept safely apart. Even more admirably, the director refuses to adapt the tired, hypocritical stance of the modern mainstream horror movie, which often demands that sexual liberation be followed by violent pain and death - a retribution for the pursuit of physical pleasure. Such problematic, rather idiotic (and decidedly sick-minded) 'conservative' posturing of sex and violence are stripped away in this problem child of cinema. Morality is drowned in urine, and disgust and lust are forced to wrestle together in the same pit of sweat, skin, and blood. The result? A film as capable of arousing thought as emotion.
There is no escape for these people - neither the two women who, strangely enough, make themselves as much victims as victimizers, or the man whose identity is played as both an individual persona with a mysterious history as well as a more general representative of Man in general, caught in a cyclical ménage of madness, passion, and destruction. The helplessness and hopelessness of the premise (and characterizations) are wonderfully captured by the 'look' of the film. Photographed in black-and-white by cinematographer Aris Stavrou, the picture attains a trace of German expressionism further enriched by a lucid sense of naturalism that manages to both defy and emphasize the surreal atmosphere of these deviants, caught in a dream-world of their own making. The movie owes even more to the Noir cinema of the late 30's and 40's, lending gritty actions a proper feeling of the commonplace, instilling them within the world of realism without loosing its beauty as art - which this film surly is. Neither solely an art film nor exploitation vehicle, horror or rough erotica, this film occupies its own nightmarish geography. Burrowing the sentiments, storytelling traditions, and stylistic underpinnings of each of the aforementioned genres, Sling refuses to obey the tenants of either one, bending tradition to its own dictate.
Synapse should be commended not only for their gutsy decision to rescue from obscurity such a scathingly emotional movie, realizing its importance as a rare hybrid of exploitation sensation and art-film, but, in addition, for the care and respect with which they treat the presentation of the picture. Carefully prepared, the film is offered in 1.66.1 (anamorphic widescreen). The picture lacks any discernible lines, scratches, or blemishes save for a faint line that in no serious way hampers the presentation. Audio is in clear Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 mono, and sub-titles are burned over the small portion of the film where characters don't speak English. While disappointingly few, the extras are enjoyable, including the theatrical trailer and a stills gallery.
Not for the weak-hearted or idealist, this ambiguous beast of sin-cinema threatens everything and fears nothing. Daringly original in its presentation of humanity devoured by its own fetishistic instincts and desires, the movie is also unshakable in its determination to merge sex and pain into an uncomfortable duet. The ending is as problematic to traditional narrative structures as its themes are dangerous to a cinematic world raised on the idiocy of mainstream culture. Bleak, brazen, and decidedly decadent, this is terrorist art at its most primal. A deadly, enticing combination!
Review by William P Simmons    Review originally posted here

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dictionnaire Infernal

"Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy (1793-1887) was a French occultist, demonologist and writer; he published several works on occultism and demonology. He was born in 1793 in Plancy-l'Abbaye and died in 1887. He was a free-thinker influenced by Voltaire. He worked as a printer and publisher in Plancy-l'Abbaye and Paris. Between 1830 and 1837, he resided in Brussels, and then returned to France after it returned to the Catholic religion.
Collin de Plancy followed the tradition of many previous demonologists of cataloguing demons by name and title of nobility, as it happened with grimoires like Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, and The Lesser Key of Solomon among others. In 1818 his best known work, Dictionnaire Infernal, was published. In 1863 were added some images that made it famous: imaginative drawings concerning the appearance of certain demons. In 1822 it was advertised as:
"Anecdotes of the nineteenth new century or historiettes, recent anecdotes, features and words little known, singular adventures, various quotations, bringings together and curious parts, to be used for the history of customs and the spirit of the century when we live compared with the last centuries."
It is considered a major work documenting beings, characters, books, deeds, and causes which pertain to the manifestations and magic of trafficking with Hell; divinations, occult sciences, grimoires, marvels, errors, prejudices, traditions, folktales, the various superstitions, and generally all manner of marvellous, surprising, mysterious, and supernatural beliefs.
By the end of 1830 he ostensibly became an enthusiastic Catholic -- to the confusion of his former admirers and detractors.
In 1846 you could purchase (for 16 francs for two volumes) the Dictionnaire Sciences Occultes et des Idée'es superstitieuses which is another listing of demons.
Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy was the father of Victor Emile Marie Joseph Collin de Plancy (1853-1924) who for nearly a decade starting in 1884 served as French Minister to Korea and whose collected art works and books went on to comprise a core of the Korean collections of the French Bibliothèque Nationale and the Musée Guimet in Paris.
The Dictionnaire Infernal (English: Infernal Dictionary) is a book on demonology, organised in hellish hierarchies. It was written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy and first published in 1818. There were several editions of the book, but perhaps the most famous is the edition of 1863, in which sixty-nine illustrations were added to the book. These illustrations are drawings which try to depict the descriptions of the appearance of several demons. Many of these images were later used in S. L. MacGregor Mathers's edition of The Lesser Key of Solomon though some of the images were removed."

Caym is a great president within the echelons of Hell and rules over thirty legions of demons. He appears in the form of a black thrush, but he also takes the shape of a man with a sharp sword. He is a talented debater and gives to men the understand of the voices of non-human creatures such as dogs and birds.

Abigor is a Great Duke of Hell that rules over 60 legions of demons. He discovers hidden things and can see when future wars will occur.

Amon is a Marquis of Hell. He is the seventh of the 72 Goetic demons who governs forty infernal legions. He brings love and reconciliation between quarreling friends.

Andras is a Great Marquis of Hell and he commands over 30 legions of demons. He is used to sow discord among people and gives advice on how to kill.

Furfur is a count of Hell that rules over 26 legions of demons. He is a liar unless compelled to enter a magic triangle where he gives true answers to every question, speaking with a rough voice. Furfur causes love between a man and a woman, creates storms, tempests, thunder, lightning, and blasts, and teaches on secret and divine things.

Bael is first king of Hell with estates in the east. He has three heads: a toad, a man, and a cat. He also speaks in a raucous, but well formed voice, and commands 66 legions. Bael teaches the art of invisibility, and may be the equivalent of Baal.

Eurynome is a high ranking demon and prince of death.

Yan-gant-y-tan wanders the nights in Finistere and is considered an evil omen among the Bretons. He holds five candles on his five fingers, which he is able to turn quickly.

Belzebuth (aka Belzebub, Beelzebuth), whose name means "lord of the flies" is prince of demons according to the Scriptures. Milton calls him foremost in power & crime after Satan, and most demonographers call him supreme chief of hell. Bodin claims he is no longer seen in his temple. Belzebub was the god of the Canaanites, who represented him with the figure of a fly or with attributes of a sovereign power. He was known to give oracles, as King Ochozias was reprimanded by Elijah for consulting him. Belzebuth is also known to rid harvests of flies.

Demonologists present him in different ways. Milton said he was imposing with a wise face. Some say he is as high as a tower or of similar size to us. Some say he has the figure of a snake with feminine traits.

Palingene wrote in Zodiaco vitae that as the monarch of hell, was of a prodigious size with a swollen chest & a bloated face with flashing eyes and raised eyebrows. He also gives a menacing aura & sits on a throne surrounded by fire. He is black as a Moor, with large nostrils and 2 horns on his head. He has 2 bat-like wings attached to his shoulders, 2 duck feet, a lion's tail, and is covered from head to foot in shaggy fur.

Porphyrus confused Belzebuth with Baccas, while others say Priapus is greater. Others claim he is associated with the Slavic god Belbog or Belbach (white god), because his images were always covered in flies, like Belzebuth among the Syrians. Sometimes he was associated with Pluto, or possibly identified with Bael, whom Wierus made emperor of hell. The name Belzebuth is not found in Wierus' infernal monarchy.

In Solomon's Clavicules, Belzebuth appeared as an enormous calf or a goat with a long tail, but with the face of a fly. Belzebuth appeared to Faust 'dressed like a bee and with two dreadful ears and his hair painted in all colors with a dragon's tail.' The Marechal of Retz described him as a leopard. He breathed fire and howled like a wolf when angry. Sometimes Astaroth appears with him in the form of an ass. -

Dictionnaire Infernal at Wikipedia