DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Doris Wishman Day

 

‘Chesty Morgan beats a man to death with her 73-inch breasts. Two scientists build a rocket and fly to the moon only to find overweight, scantily clad girls with pipe cleaners on their heads. A husband is mysteriously stricken after a spaghetti and meatball dinner, forcing his wife into a life of prostitution to pay the medical bills. A man has a doctor graft his best friend’s penis onto his own, only to find himself uncontrollably raping women who wear gold earrings. These are just some of the bizarre plots in the 18 movies directed by Doris Wishman, the unheralded queen of exploitation films. Wishman wrote, directed and financed her own movies, which ran the gamut from nudist-camp films to “roughies”(sleazy black-and-white shockers) to a Mondo-like documentary about sex changes.

‘Wishman didn’t set out to be a director. She attended the New York Avalon Drama School in the 50’s, where she was classmates with one Shelley Winters. “I was a far better actress than she was,”Wishman proudly recalls. But instead of pursuing acting, she got married and started working for Joseph E. Levine, the showman turned producer who imported foreign films (including Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Hercules). Dissatisfied with New York, Wishman and her husband moved to Florida, where he died suddenly. Devastated, Wishman was encouraged by her sister, Pearl, to throw herself into the work she knew. Pearl lent Wishman $10,000 to make a nudist-camp film-the easiest way to turn a few bucks, she figured. She directed her first feature film, Hideout in the Sun (1960), about two bank robbers who lay low at a nudist camp. With her niece, Judith (who went on to write several memorable theme songs for her films), Wishman headed for the Sunny Palms Lodge Nudist Camp to meet with manager Zelda Suplee, who agreed to let her film there, provided that the entire film crew be naked. Wishman nervously called her cameraman that night with the news, only to have him cheerily reply, “That’s great!”Wishman, however, remained clothed during the shoot.

‘The film turned a profit and she churned out others, like Diary of a Nudist, Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (starring the infamous stripper and former mistress of Louisiana governor Huey Long), Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls and the wonderfully loony Nude on the Moon. Bored with the nudist genre, Wishman returned to New York and started work on a series of sexy melodramas with lurid titles like Bad Girls Go to Hell, My Brother’s Wife, A Taste of Flesh and Indecent Desires.

‘Wishman has a signature style. Irritated by the actors’ nasal twangs, she post-dubbed all of her films and devised unusual ways of cutting away from actors while they talked to make it easier to synchronize later. At any given moment, the camera will zoom in on feet walking across a rug, or perhaps an ashtray, lamp, hanging plant or the ceramic knickknacks arranged on the mantle of Wishman’s Queens apartment, where she shot many of her films. When actors talk on the phone, the receiver obscures their lips. And, in some films, she has shots of people thoughtfully reacting to what is being said, which can be maddening to watch. These bizarre tactics-mixed with violence, busty women in lingerie and obligatory bubble-bath sequences-are Wishman’s trademarks. There’s an almost Jean-Luc Godard-like perversity to her technique. Even Michelangelo Antonioni, who used landscape, space and architecture to illustrate his characters’ alienation, never dollied in on an out-of-focus squirrel for several minutes during a crucial bit of dialogue like Wishman did in The Sex Perils of Paulette.

‘Wishman will perhaps be best remembered for the films she made with the Israeli-born stripper Chesty Morgan, whose real name was Lillian Wilckowsky. Chesty’s main assets were her freakishly large breasts, and Wishman fashioned two outrageous movies around them: Deadly Weapons, in which she seeks revenge for her husband’s murder by smothering people with her massive mammaries, and Double Agent 73, in which she plays a secret agent sent to break up a drug-smuggling ring by having a camera surgically implanted in her breast. What she doesn’t know is that the camera is actually a bomb set to explode in 48 hours. (“That made it more exciting,”Wishman says gleefully.) There was to be a third Chesty film called Crystal, but the thought of working with the difficult and woefully inept Morgan was too painful a prospect for the director.

‘Wishman tried her hand at comedy with Keyholes Are for Peeping, starring Sammy Petrillo, the low-rent Jerry Lewis, and Let Me Die a Woman, a documentary that included an actual sex-change operation that had patrons screaming up the aisles on 42nd Street when it debuted in 1978. Wishman has always vociferously denied that she ever made hardcore sex movies, but recently a porn film surfaced: Come With Me My Love, starring Annie Sprinkle and Vanessa Del Rio, about a horny ghost who has sex with the reincarnation of his lost love. The movie has all of Wishman’s unmistakable crackpot flourishes-from meandering plotlines to endless cutaway shots of inanimate objects. The credits read “Directed by Luigi Manicottale,”but Wishman often used pseudonyms like Louis Silverman, Dawn Whitman or Anthony Brooks when she was embarrassed by a film’s sexy nature. We contacted Sprinkle, who admitted that Wishman was the director and that they made several films of this nature together.

‘Wishman’s Waterloo came with a slasher film called A Night to Dismember, which she started in 1979 and which was ultimately destroyed by the lab. She spent three years trying to piece together a movie out of what footage she salvaged, and the result was a baffling, utterly fascinating mess that went straight to video. Depressed, Wishman returned to family and friends in Florida and took a job working at a sex boutique.

‘Thanks to the release of Wishman’s movies on video, fans began to search her out, igniting her fever to return to filmmaking. She recently shot her first video feature, Dildo Heaven, about “Tess, Bess and Lisa-three girls who would do anything to satisfy their erotic desires!” Harvard University awarded Wishman an honorarium and held a symposium of her films. Author Michael Bowen is finishing an eagerly awaited book about her career, and this month Wishman herself will be the guest of honor at the New York Underground Film Festival, which will screen her 1965 film, Bad Girls Go To Hell, a movie that prompted Variety to compare Wishman to Alfred Hitchcock. “I wasn’t sure if it meant the way I looked or the way I directed,”she laughs.

‘It’s gratifying to see this maverick filmmaker get the recognition she deserves. In the male-dominated field of exploitation movies, she did it her way and is fiercely proud of her accomplishments. Once, when asked what she would be doing in the future, Wishman replied, “I’ll be making movies in hell!” See you there.’ — Dennis Dermody, Paper Magazine

 

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Stills








































































 

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Further

Doris Wishman @ IMDb
WHEN I DIE I’LL MAKE FILMS IN HELL: DORIS WISHMAN IN MIAMI
“She Was An Outsider Artist”
Doris Wishman profile @ Senses of Cinema
Interesting Motherfuckers – Doris Wishman
Doris Wishman: The First Lena Dunham
The Singular Doris WIshman
Embodiment and Realization: The Many Film-Bodies of Doris Wishman
John Waters and Sandra Bernhardt are among her thumbs-up enthusiasts …
Nus sur la Lune de Doris Wishman : L’étoffe des Éros
Needs Must When Doris Wishman Drives
Frame Analysis: The Title Sequence for Doris Wishman’s Bad Girls Go to Hell
Doris Wishman: Indie Filmmaker, 1912-2002

 

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Extras


Doris Wishman, Queen of Sexploitation


THE SEXPLOTATION OF DORIS WISHMAN


Doris Wishman talks Chesty Morgan


WHEN I DIE I’LL MAKE MOVIES IN HELL: The Late Films of Doris Wishman

 

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Interview

 

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16 of Doris Wishman’s 30 films

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Hideout in the Sun (1960)
‘In a way, it’s almost fitting that the first Doris Wishman film opens with a lengthy montage of shuffling feet. Brothers Duke and Steve rob a bank and, when their getaway plans fall through, they find themselves hiding out in the nudist camp that Dorothy, the girl they’ve kidnapped, works at. Cut to a lengthy sequence where Steve learns about the joys of nudism while eating naked lunch and playing nude archery. The brothers eventually make their escape, only to wind up at Miami’s Serpentarium, where Duke is killed by a cobra and Steve proclaims his love for Dorothy AND nudism. End film.’ — Evan


Trailer

 

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Diary of a Nudist (1961)
‘A reporter infiltrates a nudist colony hoping to expose its evil ways, but once there she learns she enjoys it. The self-taught woman filmmaker Doris Wishman decided to go into the film business on her own. Recent legislation had allowed nudity to be seen in film if it was in the context of documentary footage. Wishman borrowed $10,000 from her sister, and became one of the few women directors in the 1950s and 60s.’ — The Rogue Cap


the entire film

 

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Nude on the Moon (1961)
‘On an exploration mission the crew of the rocket find the planet to be inhabited with naked females.’ — DW


the entire film

 

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The Prince and the Nature Girl (1965)
‘In this rare, final 1965 “nudist” film by Doris Wishman, an attractive and successful businessman named Prince takes an interest in the blond half of a pair of newly hired identical twins. Mistaken identify hijinks ensue when the girls compete for his heart at the office and his favorite nudist camp!’– Provider


Trailer

 

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The Sex Perils of Paulette (1965)
‘A young girl arrives in New York City from Ohio determined to make it in the big city, but circumstances result in her becoming a waitress, then a prostitute.’ — trakt


Excerpt

 

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Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965)
‘With a running time that barely breaks an hour, it would be fair to assume that Doris Wishman’s ‘Bad Girls Go To Hell’ is a straight through and through film that leaves little space for baggage, it would also be fair to assume that this cult 60s sexploitation earned it’s status as a classic of the genre. In fact, it would be fair to assume many things about this film before watching it, none of which could prepare you for what you get. Overlong, meritless trash.’ — Cameron Sherwell


the entire film

 

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Another Day, Another Man (1966)
‘I have no choice but to declare Another Day, Another Man pretty much perfect as far as cinematic entertainment goes. Sure, the film relies too much on archival footage, but as far as perverted camera angles; unnecessary close ups of legs, feet and inanimate objects; never having the person reciting dialogue appear onscreen; and scenes that boast distressed blondes cradling their faces in her their hands go, this is pure Doris Wishman-based awesomeness from start to finish.’ — House of Self-Indulgence


Radio Spot/Trailer for Doris Wishman’s Another Day, Another Man


the entire film

 

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A Taste of Flesh (1967)
‘It’s not quite as memorable as some of the other roughies that Doris was making in the late 60s, but A Taste of Flesh has such a wacky Wishman plot – two hitmen hold a lesbian couple and their friend hostage so that they can assassinate the leader of the nation of ‘Netia.’ Add in the requisite stripteases, shower scenes, rapes and even a bizarro dream sequence (??) wherein one of the lesbians is dressed in male drag, and you’ve got a pretty fun, not-too-scuzzy 70 minutes.’ — Evan


Excerpt

 

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Too Much Too Often! (1968)
‘When swaggering and conceited teddy boy Mike (played by fleshy-faced BUCK STARR) isn’t combing his wavy hair in a stance reminiscent of The Fonz, he’s latching onto each and every female who crosses his slimy path. The guy is bad news and has everybody fooled, except Mr. Dite (rotund BOB ORAN), an advertising executive and recent recipient of Mike’s services as a whip-wielding sadist. Taking advantage of the weak-willed masochist, Mike blackmails Dite into giving him a cushy job, then takes advantage of his new position by stealing Dite’s clients, seducing Dite’s elegant daughter, Sara (JOANNE CUNNINGHAM), and climbing his way up the social ladder.’ — letterboxd


Excerpt

 

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The Amazing Transplant (1970)
‘A seemingly pleasant fellow, Arthur, goes berserk and rapes any woman in front of him, wearing gold earrings. One woman tells the investigating detective (who is Arthur’s uncle), she was raped, and flashes back to an erotic love making scene. Another one, a lesbian, relates a story that has to be seen to be believed, other women flashback to their encounters with Arthur. We find out from a doctor, in another flashback, that Arthur underwent a penis transplant with a just-dead friend, unknowing his friend was a serial rapist who preyed on golden earring-ed women.’ — Film Gorillas


Trailer

 

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Love Toy (1971)
‘This film was supposedly written by Judy J. Kushner, Wishman’s niece. She also wrote A Night to Dismember and Double Agent 73, among other favorites. So it’s a family affair. Wishman never liked to film the sex scenes, so all the sleaze was left to the cameraman. As a result, the groping and the goofy kinks in Love Toy are pretty standard sexploitation, but the story and dialogue surrounding them is classic Doris Wishman. There are plenty of shots of inanimate objects and endless city traffic, and the dialogue does not in any way model how people talk in real life. There is a lot of role-playing, messy make-out sessions, butt shots, bush shots, and crotch grinding, and there are many flashes of a peen that is not particularly excited to be there, if you catch my drift, which I think you do.’ — Bleeding Skull


Excerpt

 

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Deadly Weapons (1974)
Deadly Weapons is one strange film, which was par for the course of the late, great Doris Wishman, the same woman behind Nude on the Moon and Bad Girls Go To Hell. On one hand, it is a completely, dyed-in-the-wool piece of cinematic ridiculousness. The rapt obsession with Chesty’s breasts permeates almost every frame of the film, but with the effect being less sexual and more surreal. Part of this is due to the somnambulist-esque performance of Chesty herself. She ranges at times between looking confused and tired but then peppers it with these odd attempts to make a sexy, licking-her-lips face. The bizarre fashion choices only add to this, whether it is the awkward silver wigs, secretary-type pantyhose or the occasionally frumpy blouses. Of course, she does don some legitimately burlesque type clothing for her act and in half of the film, she lounges around in a frilly pink number, but the whole thing feels more like some bosom-mad fever dream than anything else.’ — Dangerous Minds


Trailer

 

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Satan Was a Lady (1975)
‘It’s far less gross than her other hardcore film, the ghost sex opus, Come With Me My Love (aka The Haunted Pussy), but, at the same time, it’s also far less quirky and memorable. Here, Annie Sprinkle is experimenting in light bondage with one guy while also making it with her sister’s fiancé, who’s also making it with some other lady. The copious amounts of sex are whatever – I’m not in the target demo for straight sex – but the film is entertaining regardless. Doris’ apartment is garish as always, with the eye-searing red carpet from her earlier films now a deep green and with a matching, puke colored sofa that gets some action. Doris herself provides the inner monologues for our two lead female characters, and we’re treated to no less than two scenes wherein one of them wanders around Central Park while ‘The Entertainer’ plays on the soundtrack and we hear Doris wondering about things.’ — Evan


Excerpt

 

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Let Me Die a Woman (1977)
‘From Doris “Queen of Exploitation” Wishman comes LET ME DIE A WOMAN, one of the most jaw-dropping and unclassifiable films ever to ooze forth from the Seventies grindhouse. A stunning sleaze-umentary on the medical condition known as gender dysphoria, this doco-style sleaze-fest includes unabridged interviews with post-ops, bull dykes and drag queens, probing anatomical examinations, and real medical stock footage from an actual sex change operation! It’s enough to make you want to put on an iron jock strap! See a man turn into a woman right before your eyes! Watch as ambiguously gendered he-shes perform unspeakable sex acts (or at least pretend to)!’ — Synapse Films


Trailer


all footage and audio of men removed, and most of what was left recut

 

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A Night to Dismember (1983)
‘Even by Doris Wishman’s own high standards, A Night to Dismember is a veritable jaw-dropper. Lensed mainly in 1979 yet unreleased ’till 1983. Essentially, the film lab lost a large proportion of the negative and the weary director was forced to assemble a new plot around the odds and sods that remained, relying on overblown narration to fill in the huge gaps in the story. She failed, dismally. What remains is an incomprehensible, choppy, half-film about the nutty Kent family and their bid to send loopy Mary (adult movie actress Samantha Fox in a non-speaking role) over the top. Sounds simple? Not when the voice-over rarely matches the on-screen “action” and any notions of narrative filmmaking are conspicuously absent! Shoddy attempts to emulate the gloopy gore seen in the likes of Herschell G. Lewis’ movies only adds to the appeal.’ — Horrorpedia


Trailer


the entire film

 

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Dildo Heaven (2002)
‘There’s something so light and effervescent about Dildo Heaven. Just a bunch of gals trying to bed who they want and buying dildos and laying around in their underwear fantasizing about having sex on beige couches. Doris Wishman is a perfect human, incapable of error. The celestial silhouette of saintly angel person. Strange SOV fantasies in which women are trying to get the attention of their bosses and failing. They get SO frustrated saying things like “I’ve done everything I can, what am I going to do?!” Like there’s no way to function WITHOUT sleeping with your boss. It’s endearing that these are scenarios that an 89 year old woman cooked up.’ — Scumbalina


Doris Wishman promotes “Dildo Heaven” and chastises Ebert about his sexual frustrations.

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Yes, Gisele spent time at Vent Haven doing research when we were making ‘The Ventriloquists Convention’, and a convention of ventriloquists that they hold there every year was the original inspiration for the piece. Thanks for the alert, pal. ** Steve Erickson, It’s a wonderful novel. Well, probably a foreign book needs to have sold very well abroad to get published by a American major press, but these days finding really good novels from most major presses is almost like getting a lucky break. The new Helena Hauff is growing on me. She’s interesting, yeah. Yes, and I enjoyed and felt enlightened by the Medium review. ** Tosh Berman, I feel fairly positive you’ll love that Schuhl novel. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing you in great Paris. I’ll be back from NYC on the morning of the 10th, and we should hook up straight away if that suits you. ** Ferdinand, Hey, man, nice to see you! Great project you’ve got there. I’m excited to get to read it. Let me pass along your query. Everyone, Here’s Ferdinand with an exciting and possibly lucrative (for you) possibility: ‘Im looking for short story submissions for a DIY zine entitled Striptease I am starting. A scrapy physical (i)lit zine. Mail me at ferdbird77@gmail.com for theme. Not so keen on contrubuters to more established online lit blogs like Queen mobs teahouse. Contributers to Online zines or small self-run blogs welcome.’ Hit him up, guys. ** Jeff J, Hi! Yeah, it’s fantastic. So sorry to hear your shoulder is being so slo-mo. That’s too bad that you can’t make the Lincoln Center events, but, yeah, understood that it would be quite a trek for you. I’m waiting to see if the clips I want to show are ones that LC can gets their hands on or if I’ll have to choose some alternates, but I’ll tell you what they are when that’s finalised. Great luck with those gigs. I hope you or someone records them for youtube and us. Great that you’ll be on Bookworm! Give Michael a crushing bearhug for me. Not reading that much due to too much writing I have to do. The Schuhl, the new issue of ‘Film Panic’ magazine which is devoted to the awesome films of Rouzbeh Rashidi, and not much else, sadly. What about your reading recommends? ** Misanthrope, Ah, great about LPS getting the slide. I hope he watches himself like a hawk, at least til year’s end. Excellent about NYC’s sorting! I’m happy and grateful that you’ll be there, man. I hear you about what the next spate of novel writing needs, of course. Very different zone. One of then most exciting to be in once you find the groove. ** Jamie, Hey, J! That book’s a sweetie. Sure, I know that Gary Indiana book. He’s an amazing writer almost always, fictional and nonfictional. My day was, as usual, work filled, and filled by the usual work. Creeping along. Yeah, not much else. Took a nice walk. Weather’s stellar here. I want to see that new ‘Mission: Impossible’ for both obvious and inexplicable reasons, but no one I know wants to see it, and I’m not the hugest fan of going to the movies alone, I don’t know why, so I reckon that’s a future in-flight pick if I ever saw one. Did you see it, or, if not it, what? You can’t really go wrong with a carnival, any carnival. That’s kind of my motto. I think my weekend will involve more work of the same sort. I think Zac might come back to town by Sunday, I’m not sure. But, yeah, seems destined to be grindstone-oriented weekend. How was yours? May yours involve you winning every giant stuffed animal that every carnival game booth dangles. Parsed as opposed to bisected love, Dennis. ** Dominik, Hi! I’m … hold on, let me check … good. My week has been very quiet and full of work that I’ve been kind of semi-successful at occasionally. I’m on something like my 10th attempt to figure how to write a synopsis that will make our very non-conventionally exciting film sound somewhat conventionally exciting. We’ll see if the 10th time is the charm. Ha, yes, people ask me what I do, and I say (or often say), ‘I write novels’, and then they ask, ‘What are your novels about?’ And then pause and smile and cringe at them at the same time and say, ‘Young people?’ That does sound an unusually fun and fresh goth event. Yeah, when you mentioned it, I did imagine a place full of people in their early forties, a little thick around the waist, with lengthy dyed black hair and narrowed, mascared eyes, wearing slight variations on a little too tight Bauhaus t-shirts. Which isn’t unfun necessarily, but what you actually attended sounds much more so. Thank you for the video intro to Bohemian Betyars. I’ll watch that as soon as I get out of here. Wow, you make me super wish I could see them live. Maybe I will. I hope your weekend is as exciting as that gig, but less physically exhausting maybe. See you on Monday! ** Damien Ark, ‘Tamala’ is super odd. If you watch it, you’ll see what I mean very quickly. Oh, well, it’s only my pleasure to talk with you about that stuff. You’re really kind about the blog, thank you. The two short Duverts are very nice and not difficult. My copy of the new Sotos is winging its way to me, apparently, and I’m psyched. The publisher is Nine Banded Books. You could try them re: your mss. It’s a pretty adventurous house, that’s for sure. I agree with your bf 100% about starting a new writing project to help you through the publisher searching hell phase. With rare exceptions, I’m always working on a new novel when that’s happening, and, just as helpfully, when the book is actually published, because that’s an emotionally fraught thing to go through even in the best of circumstances. So, yes, if you can start something, do, I agree. Yes, it was very interesting and refreshing to write ‘God Jr.’ for the reasons you mention. It was very interesting to see what happened to my writing when sex wasn’t a back seat driver. Same with making ‘PGL’, which has no sex and almost no interest in sex in it apart from a brief scene of one character masturbating under his bed covers. I recommend trying that, yes. You take care too, and have a lovely weekend. ** Right. I have to credit to the wonderful Dennis Dermody and his addictive site Original Cinemaniac for putting the idea of making a post about Doris Wishman in my head. See you on Monday.

Please welcome to the world … Jean-Jacques Schuhl Dusty Pink (1972/2018, Semiotext(e))

 

‘Étienne Decroux, father of corporeal mime, proposed a ban on speech in theatre for 30 years, or until actors are able to use their full range of expressive ability. At that point, noise and speech would be re-introduced gradually and as necessary, not out of laziness and lack of invention. It was the notion of artistic tradition and lack of originality in theatre which he detested, and against which he proposed these ascetic methods. When sound was introduced into the medium of film from the period 1928-1931, there was a “rigorous stuttering” and gestural gratuity which Jean-Jacques Schuhl, observes in his 1972 French novel Dusty Pink (Rose poussière), a text which explores the state of replication and its relationship to the changing world of communication and popular culture. “The only revolution that could have been interesting,” he writes, “would have been a revolution that negated Hollywood while preserving it, overtook.”

Dusty Pink is a cluttered, chaotic text which meets you only as far as you’re willing to meet it. It can be flipped through with as much attention as scrolling through an instagram feed, to which it will give confused and disjointed impressions which buzz above the cerebral cortex. Or it can be studied and meditated on, to which it will still give confused and disjointed impressions, but along with that, some contemporarily eternal thoughts on simulacra. Taking place in the underbellies of Paris and London from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, among the 1968 French student riots and the Brian Jones-era Rolling Stones, Dusty Pink does not so much live in its time as it fetishizes it and then relishes in its fetish. Cobbled together from magazine excerpts, quippy ads, photographic ekphrasis, dadaist fantasy, and anecdotal observation, it eludes classification (not a necessarily a sign of a great art piece, but a common side-effect of great work). It inhabits the category of fiction as uncomfortably as it inhabits the categories of prose poetry and creative journalism.

‘The references in Dusty Pink, which include Marlene Dietrich films and obscure Edgar Allen Poe stories, as well as vernacular images of time and place (France-Soir newspaper clippings, department stores, The Rolling Stones), have almost entirely lost their meaning. They are, at this point, relics through which we can attempt to infer what life was like and how people were. That is, perhaps, too naive–their remaining attributes are the relics which are worn as accessories. The original dies, and its caricature lives in as commodity and performance, through emulation and integration into movements and culture. Marlene Dietrich was alive only in the portions of her which have been referenced and emulated as symbols. That is to say, only in Camp (I, of course, am pulling from Susan Sontag here). She possesses drag queens like a demon. Even though The Rolling Stones are somehow still alive and touring, what makes them real is the cargo shorts worn by suburban dads at the college stadiums they sell out. Mick Jagger now performs drag of his younger self, and it’s deliciously atrocious. There is a point in time when originality is so far gone, it’s hard to fathom it ever existed. In a way, that’s a kind of transcendence.

‘The whole thing, in fact, is reduced (or uplifted!) to the status of Camp. The text itself, in addressing the world in Camp, has secured its place as a “cult novel”. It too, is Camp. Dusty Pink lets sentimentality run wild, all the while detachedly smoking a cigarette and raising an eyebrow at notions of sentimentality, and considering that the mechanization of the process by which notions achieve cult status is a rather elegant thing. What drew me to Dusty Pink, quite frankly, was a desire to emulate (or perhaps simply obtain) the aestheticism and cool grit of the time Schuhl pokes his scissors into. It’s the same motivation the resulted in the shaving of my eyebrows (to pencil in thin Marlene Dietrich brows for a stage persona), or to buy a basket from Goodwill and use it as handbag (to capture and hold some essence of Jane Birkin). My eyebrows remain shaven, although I have stopped putting forth the effort to pencil in Marlene, and my Jane basket has become something of a decorative piece. Their remaining reference to Marlene and Jane are like visual stutters.

‘Schuhl lets the electricity and mechanics of modes of communication litter these cities. He builds trash heaps of words so high that those speaking them forget what they’re saying. One can compare the rises of the telephone and television, accompanied by the concept of popular culture, to that of the internet–such shock and revelation Marshall McLuhan once experienced at the dawn of new media. The human attached to the machine becomes another human entirely, Schuhl and McLuhan declare. That’s certain, but a stuttering transitional stage to where we have arrived at now, surely its own transitional stage to a state at which we will shun our outmoded expressions, symbols, and habits. Schuhl’s approach is a kind of laissez-faire parenting, to let it happen, and consider the consequences from afar.

‘The pillars upon which popular culture rests (and then unraveled) include instantaneous gratification, commodity, and reproduction. Forgive me, the idea of pop culture being so ancient a structure to rely on pillars is likely a messy metaphorical device, as these foundational support members are so structurally intertwined. Additional structural members of the institute of popular culture include counterculture/subculture and authority, concepts which cannot exist outside of each other. Technologies which can generate rapid copies and messages move dialectically–as they contract into forming a cohesive popular image and narrative and give birth to fads, so to do they expand, allowing individuals to curate their exposure. Meaning is transmitted in communication until there is so much information communicated that it is indistinguishable from noise. Whatever narrative formed by conglomeration unravels shortly after the collective setting is established.

‘The tools of reproduction and imitation allow for the death of the individual ego (often, though not necessarily, under the illusion of asserting individualism). The ego is lost through assimilation into collective narratives and by adoption of reproduced symbols of the past. Mick Jagger is not the only one whose persona is a disguise (a disguise for what?). The collective and the symbolic totem are comforting, although they are easily stripped–and what remains after the ego, the collective, and historical identifiers have faded away? To Schuhl, little more than mechanical waste, spare parts for recycling. The very countercultural social movements which are birthed in mass communication, and sometimes out of a rejection of it, die as they are proliferated past the extent that they are able to be countercultural. Youth movements are always aging out into middle class, suburban norms. Many a contemporary suburban dad was once a skate punk. Mass communication constantly isolates the present from history, reproducing information always out of context, only holding onto the past subliminally or as an illusion. At this point, mass communication is a machine which neither requires nor services humans, only itself. Humans are left to acclimate to this new disenfranchised state.

‘Schuhl says it’s a kind of evolution, and in some respects, finds it elegant. That we are left with purposeless tics, vestigial organs, alien to our own bodies. In what way he finds this beautiful is hard for me to say–whether because it is glamorous or essential. That we make beauty products from war, make a cat eye from the ash of civilization. That Vogue may market our undoing as a chic must-have. It may even market its rejection of markets. Anything organic about us is boiled down to the synthetic, and then sold as organic. [An excerpt from yesterday’s online Vogue: On top of a 45-minute sleep session, they offered Sleepy Jones pj’s (not to keep), Sunday Riley beauty products (those you can take home), eye masks, earplugs, and a toothbrush and paste (you can have those, too)—and all for $25. In the current wellness world of $11 juices made of kale and chlorophyll and a price tag of $85 to freeze your entire body for three minutes, that’s a steal.]

‘Though it is, to me, such a clumsy, careless thing to be undone by the doing. If simplicity is elegance, I concede–how simple and inevitable for us to have ended up here!’ — Katherine Beaman, Commonplace Review

 

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Further

Jean-Jacques Schuhl Site (In French)
Dr Tony Shaw: Jean-Jacques Schuhl: Dusty Pink
Rachel Kushner on ‘Dusty Pink’
Excerpt: Ingrid Caven A Novel: The Sheet of Paper
Jean-Jacques Schuhl, mythe majestueux
Dire l’Histoire par les chansons : une question littéraire
Jean-Jacques Schuhl: un vampire s’en va au bal
Entretien avec Jean-Jacques Schuhl
Entretien avec Jean-Jacques Schuhl
Jean-Jacques Schuhl: Frankenstein le dandy
JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL, LÉGENDES DU CINÉMA
Buy ‘Dusty Pink’

 

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Extras


interview Jean Jacques Schuhl


au fond, jean-jacques schuhl, c’est moi


Jean-Jacques Schuhl : Écrire aux ciseaux

 

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Interview

 

OLIVIER ZAHM – Do you still belong to the underground?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – The underground, it does not exist any more since now everything is in the light. It’s horrible ! It’s no longer attractive … It’s like poetry. In France, a poet is someone who has not known how to make a novel … In Germany, it is different: poetry has another status. Kafka, for example, is considered a “dichter”, that is, a poet in a very strong and wider sense … In America, too, with the poets of the Beat Generation … Even Edgar Allan Poe is Curse, but with all that entails prestige. Here, it is still and always head in the moon! The underground, no longer exists because it was recovered by the mainstream. And it is no longer erotic to say underground in the current context of the unprecedented cult of money and power.

OLIVIER ZAHM – Is the term “novelist” better for you?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – I received the Goncourt prize with Ingrid Caven … I have no problem with it. At the bottom I have almost written nothing … Three books in all and for all … That I am hardly classifiable, I want … Well!

OLIVIER ZAHM – You have written little, yet you play the figure of the novelist for a whole new generation.

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Maybe it’s because I’ve disappeared! After Dusty Pink came out in 1972, I did not write for very long. There was indeed Telex No. 1 . Then I left in the stratosphere: radio silence … But I returned with a literary brilliance and a price for Ingrid Caven.

OLIVIER ZAHM – Your trajectory is enigmatic, mysterious, very unusual today. It has an elliptical shape that enhances the “Schuhl myth”.

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – In silence and absence are made fantasies … What has he done all this time? Where was he ? If I had definitely disappeared, we would no longer ask the question, but I came out of the silent desert to make a surprise mediaatic-literary hold-up! A beautiful booty indeed! Surveillance cameras have not spotted me! Stories of ghosts, it works always…

OLIVIER ZAHM – But this mystery has been linked with your vision of writing and probably with the decline of literature which is now a machine to reveal everything from the author (memoirs, autobiography, autofiction …).

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – For there to be an echo or a resonance, there must also be a little emptiness around. The music resonates with silences that count as notes, as in printing, the white has value in the typography of signs in its own right. We must never lose sight of silence. One always thinks of the full, it is the fault of the West. Without silence, without emptiness, things do not resonate or very badly.

OLIVIER ZAHM – This silence for more than twenty years has not been deliberate?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – There is undoubtedly a share of powerlessness in that or the requirement of something I could not develop after Dusty Pink. This narrative was intended as a manifesto for a sort of impersonal writing, made up of a mosaic of genres, quotations, observations, press articles, poems made of AFP dispatches, telexes with horse names Or hotel listings … It was something very personal. And impersonality leads quite normally to withdrawal and silence. I wanted to capture the air of the time without being too present. It was about being a simple sensor-transmitter … It was three times nothing, hardly a book, and that wrote itself, without me … I should not have signed it!

OLIVIER ZAHM: But why have not we pursued other texts?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – As of 1975-76, for me things are a little extinct. I was no longer stimulated as I had been in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Perhaps I could no longer observe, seize, listen to or see all these frail indecisive indices, but it was That I had no more matter. It was perhaps an alibi to justify a personal state. Perhaps a laziness. Take fashion in 75-76 for example, it has already swung into what it has become now: a market, economic powers, a kind of globalization and standardization, the dictatorship of commercial demand. Already was foreshadowed the resumption in hand by new forces … All that there was of savage and which had interested me, a kind of spontaneous emergence, was diluted … Everything that had fascinated me also in the English musics , Or the stuff that came from the East – including the history of the Chinese Red Guards – all this happened without warning, strikingly and unpredictably … It was very clear in fashion. I remember one of the first parades of Claude Montana in 1976-77, room Wagram, an old boxing room. There was an effect of unpredictability, of sudden emergence. I do not want to be nostalgic, say it was better before! Not at all ! But today we see quickly where things happen: revival, cloning, return of the same, reinterpretation, mixing weakened … So in more and more stifling … We see where it comes from! Not that before, it did not come from somewhere, but there was a dazzling and subversive rise that blurred immediate comprehension. What inspired and fascinated me was the savagery of something remote or foreign. Maybe I can no longer see or hear him. I always ask myself the question. Is it me or the world?

OLIVIER ZAHM – This is the question that despairs everyone …

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Hence the persistent fascination for the 60s and 70s. It is this period of emergence that keeps coming back to the heads and phagocytating us. Retro fashion and disembodied technology. But I’m still alert. In Search of the Present Time!

OLIVIER ZAHM – During all these years of silence, I have the impression that you have never given up, nor stopped observing, refine your perceptions. One feels it in Ingrid Caven which finally covers the time of this prolonged silence. As well as in your next novel of which I have read a few pages.

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Dusty Pink was made in chance. It is an assemblage of things that were in the air: the newspaper, the English fashions, a few dialogues of films, short portraits, a personage that I had wanted a little futuristic, Frankenstein-le-Dandy. All that made scarcely a book, between the manifesto, the narrative, the newspaper. Dusty Pink was directly connected to what can be called “reality”. With Ingrid Caven , I told a biographical romanticized story. Now I write through the screen of artistic elements, with filters. I look at David Lynch. I dive into Edgar Poe. Whereas at the time I read very little, and almost not … except the press, France Soir and magazines … I went out at night in clubs, I watched the street, fashions, styles, clothes … The Red Guards wanted the books burnt … Today I keep looking around. I read fashion magazines, but I’m less interested. I return to literature and cinema … In the excerpts of my next novel you read, I placed a character of mannequin with a certain reluctance, because it interests me less than before. It’s just the idea of ​​the mannequin, this automatic, inhuman or say non-human and manipulated thing, that always fascinates me.

OLIVIER ZAHM – How do you explain the confidential and persistent success of Dusty Pink through the years?

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – An extract from a newspaper can be as important as a book. I like what passes and leaves very little trace: an extract of article, fugitive tracks on newspapers or magazines, words on the sand … But precisely, Dusty Pink which was hardly a book, Crossed the time. Before it was published, I brought some fragments of texts to Gallimard, like that, without thinking of anything … It was made of bric-a-brac, a kind of ephemeral collage of telex, newspapers, film dialogues and a few Texts from me. I am glad that this thing has become a little cult book … A friable and light thing that first sold to a hundred copies and then a few thousand and more. You yourself asked me to use the title for an exhibition on French art at the Grand Palais, La Force de l’Art . One day I was at a parade of Christian Lacroix. I did not know him personally and he whispered in my ear: “Dusty Pink” … Like a password … I had wanted to put in featured accessories. Pink Dust was a shade of make-up I’d seen in London: Dusty Pink . My title is a makeup! Now, accessories have become the essential, 70% of the brands revenue. They clutter up everything, they see nothing but themselves. They too are in full light. I do not care. What I like, these are the stars in the shadows! Personally, I prefer Ingrid Caven , I think it is a novel more accomplished.

But what made it so that Ingrid Caven sell 350,000 copies and Dusty Pink became a cult book with so much resonance, the great echo of a little thing …

OLIVIER ZAHM – It’s the butterfly effect!

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Yes, it’s relatively hushed for years and it’s growing and spreading. In fact objects found came to fit in a book and I was medium of the times. The best of arts is a medium. People are barring this today with the cult of “Me I”. If one is a medium, as the fisherman tends the net, things come to it.

OLIVIER ZAHM – You still have to know how to throw the net, because you are a great stylist.

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – Yes, of course, you have to open your ears and your eyes, be there without being there … Everyone can be a medium at times on his zone. Go for a walk in the night for example and let things pass through you … Intermittent medium, voila!

OLIVIER ZAHM – There are very few writers who, like you, go out at night, read fashion magazines, are interested in modern and contemporary art. In Paris, it is the self of the writer, self-fiction and psychology that predominate …

JEAN-JACQUES SCHUHL – I really like journalism. Mallarmé directed and wrote his own newspaper, La Dernière Mode , all the sections, including under feminine pseudonyms … I put my rare articles on the same level as my books. I do not make any difference. A writer should be at least a little journalist in the twist: openness to the world, capture of what is happening, precision of copyist, scribe …

 

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Book

Jean-Jacques Schuhl Dusty Pink
Semiotext(e)

‘Written with the hope of achieving a “dreary distant banality,” Jean-Jacques Schuhl’s first novel is a subjective stroll through an underground, glamorous Paris, a city that slips into the background but never disappears, hovering on the verge of its own suppression. An elegiac and luminous cut-up, Dusty Pink brings together race wire results, editions of France-Soir, the lyrics to well-known British songs, scripts from famous old films, pharmaceutical leaflets, fashion ads, and strips and scraps of culture in which the avant-garde and academicism blur in an overview of the cultural scene. This world of atmospheres, portraits, and dazzling associations of ideas creates a plane of shimmering surfaces.

‘Published in French in 1972, Jean-Jacques Schuhl’s Dusty Pink became a cult classic. This is its first translation.’ — Semiotext(e)

 

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Excerpt

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** There are those like myself who’ve been waiting a long, long time for Schuhl’s legendary first novel to be translated into English. And now it’s finally Englishized thanks to translator Jeffrey Zuckerman and the great Semiotext(e), and it’s the amazing thing my French friends promised. I don’t know if the book is actually in stores as of today, but you can order it, and I’m recommending you do, obviously. ** David Ehrenstein, So ubiquitous to even say at this point, but, yes, RIP the great, great, great artist Aretha Franklin. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh. Indeed and agree on all counts. His book is sublime. Ha ha, I know, I keep saying ‘LA’ and then hallucinating that a mini-Tom Andersen is sitting on my shoulder and catching myself too late. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Ah, I just tried again and this time Medium let me in, so I’ll read it. Yesterday it said I had used up my three free opportunities for the month. Thom Andersen is such a wonderful speaker/talker, no? Zac was a student of TA’s during his student time at Cal Arts. Reviews! Everyone, Mr. Erickson’s reviews on display for you today include his take on these albums: Object As Subject’s PERMISSION and Blood Orange’s NEGRO SWAN. ** Jamie, Hi! I’m all right. Could have used another hour or so of sleep last night, but bfd. I don’t think you will be sorry once you’ve watched all of Thom Andersen’s films. So sorry to hear you were down in the dumps, man. Those dumps are hateful, and they’re unpleasantly persuasive bullshit artists too. Says me. Oh, thank you about ‘Ups and downs’. No, it was purely a simple exercise just to see if an idea I had that stacking gifs involving that motion would be fun and intriguing or not. It never had any narrative or subtextual intent or anything. So it’s like a different practice, maybe like writing a postcard as opposed to a novel or something, I guess? Busy-ish, me, yes. All of my friends have either been away on holidays or have a broken foot, so I’ve been working basically. Still polishing the film script, finished a draft of the treatment and working on the synopsis/logline now. On a short but blissful break from the TV script until next week. Figuring stuff out for the NYC and London PGL screenings. For the second night of the Lincoln Center thing I had to pick a bunch of film clips from films that either influenced me or that I had something to do with to intersperse through a conversation I’m supposed to have about my work and cinema’s influence, so I did that. Stuff like that. Ack, the kid play didn’t pan out, sorry. It did sound like a tough cookie. Live and learn, I guess? Yeah, my grandma did that ‘curly hair’ thing with me too, but about something other than bread crusts, I can’t remember what. What a bunch of liars. Bullshitting to kids about Santa Claus is a slippery slope. Friday: more work of the sort I laid out above, basically, I think, unless I decide to wander into a movie theater or something. You? I hope your Friday kills not only every mosquito for kilometres around you but in the entire world itself. Lollipop that is as delicious as it is pretty love, Dennis. ** Bill, Cool. Wow, that’s gorgeous set up James Fei has right there. Eek, yes, garlic and upside-down cross about that head cheese, my God, nightmares, but if they have a vegetarian friendly version, I’m there, thank you. ** Misanthrope, You’re doing all sorts of things with your life, man, I mean, obvs. You can’t do everything. I hope your laissez fair attitude about LPS’s hearing this morning was because you are psychic. No, I didn’t hear that Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart died. Oh, that’s sad. He was so sweet. RIP. ** Damien Ark, Hi, man. The submitting to publishers phase will drive you crazy if you’re not careful. It’s the roughest period, and you need to chill as much as possible until you find the home because, mostly, there’s inevitably a lot of rejection — especially with your first book –that doesn’t mean as much as you’re likely to think it does, and it’s important to hang tough and try to be as patient as you can be. ‘Closer’ was rejected so many times before Grove took the bait that it was seriously ultra-depressing, but then the novel finally found its fit, and none of the failures mattered anymore at all. Keep your eyes on the future. I don’t know ‘Stephen Florida’, no, but I’ll investigate it for sure, thank you. I like anime, of course, although I haven’t been focusing on it in recent years so much for no good reason. If you ever come across ‘Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space’, watch it. ** Okay, I intro’d the post above, so … see you tomorrow.

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