The blog of author Dennis Cooper

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Early Alain Delon Day


‘There’s a disquieting moment in Purple Noon, René Clément’s 1960 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr Ripley, in which Tom Ripley muses upon his fresh murder. He sits, glass of wine in hand, sipping it, slowly. His eyes, the focus of the shot, are the clearest grey. Like marbles, they are beautiful, but they are cold, glassy and empty. They are Alain Delon’s eyes and they would make him an overnight star. Often dubbed the male Brigitte Bardot, it only took one film, Purple Noon (adapted again in 1999 as The Talented Mr Ripley, starring Matt Damon) for 25-year-old Delon to take the title as the most seductive man in cinema. Delon’s lazy insouciance, cold detachment, shady sophistication and angelic insolence – learnt, no doubt, from past connections with the French criminal underworld – carved him a niche: the pretty-boy killer. Delon was later credited as having created cinema’s “cerebral hitman”.

‘Classic followed classic, from Luchino Visconti’s Rocco And His Brothers in the same year of Purple Noon, to Visconti’s The Leopard in 1963, via Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï in 1967 and Jacques Deray’s seminal masterpiece La Piscine in 1969. With each film, Delon’s impossible beauty and impenetrably dark temperament would swell his status further. But because Delon rejected English-speaking roles (the effort entailed would scupper his trademark languor) and thus a contract with American producer David Selznick, he was God everywhere but Hollywood. He was idolised by men and women alike, from France to Japan. He dated everyone from Mireille Darc to Romy Schneider. From the Sixties to the mid-Eighties, Delon dominated the national box office and was the highest-paid actor in France’s history.

‘This year will mark Delon’s sixth, and last, decade in cinema. At 81 years old, with a repertoire of 80-plus films, for which he has won France’s highest film prize, the César, and was awarded the Legion Of Honour, Delon is retiring. The choice was easy: an exceptional past, a mediocre future. There’s no point in dawdling. He will do one more play and one last film with Patrice Leconte, starring opposite Juliette Binoche, then it will be over. Cut. The end.

‘Along with Charles de Gaulle, Alain Delon is one of the most recognisable Frenchmen in the world. When I meet him, he is standing by the general’s tomb in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, northeastern France, where de Gaulle died. He stands with his face turned towards the sun, looking up at the giant Lorraine cross which seems to tower above the whole of France. Moments earlier, he laid a wreath on the general’s tomb and crossed himself twice, observed by a couple of delighted onlookers asking for selfies. He searches for the right voice – slows his words, gives them weight – and begins to recite de Gaulle’s famous appeal, broadcast by the BBC 77 years ago, asking the French to join him in fighting the German occupying forces.

‘”I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite French officers and soldiers located on British territory, or those heading this way, armed or unarmed, as well as engineers and specialised workers of the armament industries, to contact me.” Alain Delon, who has always played the part of Alain Delon, now thinks he is General de Gaulle. And he gives himself fully to the part. How could he not? Once considered one of the world’s most handsome men, Delon is entitled to show off a little.

‘On 14 July 1958, Delon was standing near de Gaulle on the Champs Élysées during an inspection of the troops. De Gaulle was acknowledging the cheering crowd. Delon was an unknown orderly among thousands. De Gaulle did not recognise Delon in the crowd. “That was inevitable,” Delon explains, snootily. “In 1958, Delon was not Delon. And when he became Delon, he did not have the opportunity to meet the general.” When did he become Delon? “Only after Purple Noon,” he replies, unfazed that I, too, am talking about Delon in the third person. “The film was a great hit in Japan. I became an emperor over there. All the boys were crazy about Delon. They styled their hair like Delon. A taxi driver in Tokyo told me, ‘So you are a Frenchman? Like Alain Delon?’ They only knew two French names in Japan: de Gaulle and Delon.”

‘Delon made films with the greats, from Jean-Pierre Melville to Luchino Visconti, via Joseph Losey, Michelangelo Antonioni and Jacques Deray. He was their protégé and then he was their icon. Delon’s CV may as well be a list of French and Italian cinematic masterpieces. Modern cinema, however, doesn’t interest him. “It’s a shallow, worthless era soured by money. We no longer film with a moving camera but a digital thing stuck on the end of your fist,” he sighs. “No one gives a shit about anything any more. If Jean Gabin and Lino Ventura were alive today, they’d be completely stumped.” He’s talking like an old fogey and he knows it. “Those who use the phrase ‘It was better in my day’ are old fools. But when I say it, it’s different, because it’s true: in my day, it was something else, it really was better. You see, I don’t have anything to lose any more, I’ve had it all.” He opens one of the many photo albums weighing down the table. “Look, I had incredible luck. I’ve been happy all my life; I filmed with the best. I did what I wanted, with who I wanted, when I wanted. I dwell on the past more than I think about the future, yes, because my past was extraordinary. Today just doesn’t compare. A life like I had doesn’t come around twice. That’s why when it comes to retirement, I have no regrets.”

‘How can one not succumb to nostalgia when one has lived a life like Delon’s? But Delon takes nostalgia to new levels. His Parisian office on Boulevard Haussmann is astonishing: Alain Delon is everywhere. There isn’t a wall, table or corner without a picture of Alain Delon. Sometimes they are interspersed by pictures of his dogs or of Romy Schneider or Luchino Visconti. A little lost in all the clutter are pictures of a naked Marilyn, Edwige Feuillère and the Gaullist Jacques Chaban-Delmas. Just in case I missed the obvious, Delon says, with a sweeping gesture, “Here is Alain Delon.” The Delon tour is in the first person. “I am handsome. And it seems, my darling, that I was very, very, very, very handsome indeed. Look at Rocco [And His Brothers], look at Purple Noon! The women were all obsessed with me. From when I was 18 till when I was 50.” He chooses to omit the fact that he was the object of desire for as many men as women. He first became aware of this when a friend took him to Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the mid-Fifties, to meet the literati among the iconic Parisian cafés De Flore and Les Deux Magots. “I realised that everyone was looking at me. Women became my motivation. I owe them everything. They were the ones who inspired me to look better than anyone else, to stand stronger and taller than anyone else, and to see it in their eyes.”

‘Delon no longer looks like Delon. His life of fame and seduction has taken a toll on his skin. Yet, wherever he goes, he still seeks the most flattering light. Finding the best angle is a reflex. And as he finishes his monologue about his sparkling life, I get the strange feeling it’s a collective life. It belongs to everyone. Whether we like it or not, he is right: the golden age of French cinema began and finished with Delon, with that humourless smile and Tom Ripley’s clear, grey eyes.’ — Marion Van Renterghem





Alain Delon @ Wikipedia
Alain Delon @ IMDb



Alain Delon – Interview (1959)

Alain Delon : “J’ai un très très mauvais caractère” (1975)

Alain Delon – Oiseaux de nuit (1979)

Gros plan sur Alain Delon (1984)




Veteran French film star Alain Delon said Thursday that he was so sick of the world he would be happy to die now — but he wants his dog to go with him.

“I hate the times that we live in, it makes me vomit,” said the 82-year-old actor, one of the handsomest men ever to grace the silver screen.

“There are people that I hate. Everything is false, and only money counts. I will leave this world without regret,” he told Paris Match magazine in a frank, tell-all interview in which he admitted to not being much of a father to his children, one of whom he still refuses to recognise.

Delon, who lives alone outside Paris, said he wants his two-year-old Belgian Shepherd dog, Loubo, to die with him.

“If I go before him I will ask the vet for us to go together. He will inject him so he can die in my arms.

“I would prefer that rather than leaving him to die of grief on my tomb,” said the star of such classics as Visconti’s “The Leopard”, “The Samurai” and “Purple Noon”, which was later remade as the “Talented Mr Ripley”.

Yet Delon did not rule out making room for the right woman to shares his last days.

He said there were about 10 candidates, “but for now none are quite right.”

He added he might even consider breaking his vow to never remarry if the right woman “was ready to accompany me to the end.”

The actor, who made his name playing pretty boy killers and cads, talked of his fear that he might be dug up after his death for DNA for a paternity test.

“I’ve told my daughter, ‘Please don’t let that happen to me when I’m dead’,” he said.

Delon has long denied he fathered a son with Nico, the late German pop star and muse of Andy Warhol.

However, Delon’s mother later adopted the boy, making him his half-brother.

Yet Delon’s own miserable childhood badly marked him, he told the magazine. “My parents got rid of me when I was four. I found myself with a foster family like an orphan.”

“Both of them came running back to me when I was famous. All of a sudden they remembered they had a son,” he said bitterly.

Nor has he forgiven them for signing his army papers so he could be thrown into the bloody Indochina War at 17. “It was them getting rid of me a second time,” he said.

Delon put down his tumultuous love life and much of his woes with women to being abandoned.

“You cannot get back the love that wasn’t given to me as a child. These are holes that can never be filled. Even when I love a woman, I feel alone. I was only four when I understood that those you love the most can abandon you.”

The tell-all interview, over oysters, was conducted by Valerie Trierweiler, the estranged partner of former French president Francois Hollande.

She effectively torpedoed his presidency with a bestselling account of their relationship, “Thank You For This Moment”, after he left her for an actress.

The journalist recently denied that she and Delon were an item.

The actor admitted that he had not always been the perfect gentleman.

“I am like that, I do stupid things. I have been in prison. I was a little thug. All I had was my face,” he said.

Yet women have always fallen at his feet, even as a baby, he said. “My mother had to put a sign on my pram, ‘You can look, but you can’t touch!'”

“I have been loved all my life,” he said, particularly by the German actress Romy Schneider and Mireille Darc, who died last year.

“Very few men have been loved like me.”

But Delon said he never slept with Brigitte Bardot, who was the Venus to his Apollo in French cinema of the 1960s.

“Strange though it may seem… given the torrid scenes we did, we were only friends, but good friends,” he told Paris Match of the actress, who like him has been a vocal supporter of the far-right National Front party.

“I really like her and we share a passion for animals. If she had not her great love of animals I am sure she would have killed herself by now, like so many other great sex symbols. It is very hard for a woman to no longer see desire in men’s eyes.”


21 of Alain Delon’s 103 roles

Le rapt (1949)
‘Alain Delon’s first film appearance. This was apparently shot by his school chums in 1949 & titled Le rapt aka The Rapt. Delon was just 14-years-old at the time but already typecast as a “criminel tragique.”’ — Kimberly Lindbergs

Brief montage


René Clément Purple Noon (1960)
‘Alain Delon was at his most impossibly beautiful when Purple Noon was released and made him an instant star. This ripe, colorful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s vicious novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed by the versatile René Clément, stars Delon as Tom Ripley, a duplicitous American charmer in Rome on a mission to bring his privileged, devil-may-care acquaintance Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) back to the United States. What initially seems a carefree tale of friendship soon morphs into a thrilling saga of seduction, identity theft, and murder. Featuring gorgeous location photography of coastal Italy, Purple Noon is crafted with a light touch that allows it to be at once suspenseful and erotic, and it gave Delon the role of a lifetime.’ — The Criterion Collection




Luchino Visconti Rocco and His Brothers (1960)
‘Luchino Visconti saw an innocence in the catlike beauty of Alain Delon that countered the rest of the French actor’s career and character. In his heyday between the 1960s and ’80s, Delon had a magnetism that gave him dangerous powers, as well he knew. “I was very, very, very handsome,” he told GQ in 2018. “Women were all obsessed with me.” Directors cast him in parts that exploited those looks to nefarious ends. His most famous roles ran from coolly detached in a trench coat in Jean-Pierre Melville’s stripped-back crime thrillers to downright murderous as the original talented Mr Ripley in René Clément’s Plein Soleil.

‘Back in the ’60s, Visconti tapped into a reservoir of simple goodness both times that he cast Delon. The actor possesses a watchful stillness that often resembles a predator sizing up its prey. In 1960’s Rocco and his Brothers that same stillness is used to convey a quiet boy who fades into the background of his rambunctious family until they need him, at which point his will to martyrdom knows no rational bounds.’ — SOPHIE MONKS KAUFMAN



Michelangelo Antonioni L’Eclisse (1962)
‘The concluding chapter of Michelangelo Antonioni’s informal trilogy on contemporary malaise (following L’avventura and La notte), L’eclisse tells the story of a young woman (Monica Vitti) who leaves one lover (Francisco Rabal) and drifts into a relationship with another (Alain Delon). Using the architecture of Rome as a backdrop for the doomed affair, Antonioni achieves the apotheosis of his style in this return to the theme that preoccupied him the most: the difficulty of connection in an alienating modern world.’ — The Criterion Collection




Luchino Visconti The Leopard (1963)
‘Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) is an epic on the grandest possible scale. The film recreates, with nostalgia, drama, and opulence, the tumultuous years of Italy’s Risorgimento—when the aristocracy lost its grip and the middle classes rose and formed a unified, democratic Italy. Burt Lancaster stars as the aging prince watching his culture and fortune wane in the face of a new generation, represented by his upstart nephew (Alain Delon) and his beautiful fiancée (Claudia Cardinale). Awarded the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, The Leopard translates Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel, and the history it recounts, into a truly cinematic masterpiece.’ — The Criterion Collection




Henri Verneuil Mélodie en sous-sol (1963)
‘Charles (Jean Gabin), a sixtyish career criminal fresh out of jail, rejects his wife’s plan for a quiet life of bourgeois respectability. He enlists a former cellmate, Francis (Alain Delon), to assist him in pulling off one final score, a carefully planned assault on the vault of a Cannes casino. Bad luck and Francis’s lack of professionalism set the caper maddeningly askew, and the stolen cash resurfaces in an unexpected manner.’ — Michael Krugman



René Clément Les Félins (1964)
‘Probably Clement’s best thriller. Only “Plein Soleil” (“Purple noon”) -the first Delon/Clement collaboration, is superior. The director’s other thrillers were marred by unbearable metaphysical pretensions (“La Maison Sous les Arbres” ” la Course du Lièvre à Travers Champs” “Babysitter” …) which the use of American actors did not help. A black and white film, a strange choice for a story which takes place in a luxury mansion on the Cote d’Azur, the cinematography is in direct contrast to that of “Plein Soleil”. Whereas the former work was often filmed in open air, at sea, in “les felins”, we almost never go out of the Fonda/Albright’s place. The screenplay is absorbing ,a la Boileau-Narcejac (who wrote “Diabolique” and “Vertigo”) and the suspense is sustained throughout the story. It was actually René Clément’s last good movie. All that follows is virtually disposable.’ — dbdumonteil


LES FÉLINS: Behind the Scenes – Alain Delon and Jane Fonda


Ralph Nelson Once a Thief (1965)
‘A jazzy melancholy Neonoir, shot in beautiful black and white by Robert Burks (a Hitchcock main stay). A gorgeous and nihilistic Delon, Ann-margret on the edge of a nervous breakdown, Palance the man with the plan, Heflin grizzled cop with a vendetta and John Davis chandler as the odd ball crook that always seems to exist in these films. Opens and closes with a bang and middle is well paced and layered. This seems to be a lost gem, which is odd with this amazing cast.’ — ikpollutra

opening titles



René Clément Is Paris Burning? (1966)
‘Not bad looking. With a superb script by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppula and directed by Rene Clement. Filmed in Panavision (was Oscar nominated for its stunning black and white cimematopgraphy), this film boasts an all star cast which features Charles Boyer, Leslie Caron, Glenn Ford, Alain Delon, Henry Fonda, Robert Stack and a exceptional performance by Kirk Douglas as General Patton. Be forewarned here since this picture runs over three hours long.’ — Mister C



Jean-Pierre Melville Le Samouraï (1967)
‘This film was made in 1967, the French nouveau vague already apparent all over the place, but Melville’s films were old-school, and at the same time revolutionary, in a delicate way. Take for example the ‘chase’ scene through the Metro. Practically nothing happens: there are no gunfights, no combat sequences, perhaps just a small chase. But it is Melville’s camera and Delon’s inimitable performance that keep the audience mesmerized all the way.

‘The camera practically flirts with the audience throughout the whole movie, picking the most interesting angles and achieving so much practically without any effort. Delon’s character changes his expression only once or twice during the movie, shoots faster than even Leone’s gunslingers and never forgets to feed his canary. To me, one of the most accomplished antiheroes of the whole genre.

‘The dialogue is barely there, but when it is, then it’s something you’d probably wish you would have come up with yourself. It is a minimalist work that achieves the absolute maximum. Simply put: one of the best crime noirs ever made.’ — i-grigoriev



Jean-Pierre Melville : “Le Samouraï” avec Alain Delon


Federico Fellini, Louis Malle, Roger Vadim Spirits of the Dead (1968)
‘In one chapter of this three-in-one feature inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s tales, a countess (Jane Fonda), shunned by a horseman (Peter Fonda), kills the man and his animals yet pays dearly for her deadly act. Another focuses on a religious man (Alain Delon) who seeks absolution for a murder only to find that his violent impulses come rushing back. The third is about a boozing actor (Terence Stamp) who accepts a car as compensation for a role, but is ultimately defeated by addiction.’ — RT



Jack Cardiff The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968)
‘According to Wiki, this was the 6th highest grossing film of 1968 in the UK. Really? The year of 2001, If, Charge of The Light Brigade, Yellow Submarine, Mayerling, Oliver!, The Lion In Winter, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? I found that hard to believe, BUT I remember going to see it, and I remember everyone I knew at university going to see it. I don’t remember anyone expressing admiration, though a spotty lad in my student residence saw it several times in a week.

‘It’s mainly about unzipping Marianne Faithfull’s very tight body hugging leather motorcycle leathers. It happens a lot. Yes, you do get to see more. I’ve been perplexed by fetishism in that neither leather clothing nor stocking tops have ever turned me on, but you get both here. You can add crotch shots bumping up and down on the bike and a lot of shapely rear end. Many of these were deleted from the heavily-censored 1968 version, but restored in the 1990s.It also had a re-issue under a different title, possibly for less-mainstream cinemas. It was the first X-film under the new rating system in 1968, but changing times mean the current DVD is a 15.’ — Peter Viney




Jacques Deray The Swimming Pool (1969)
‘Certainly, La Piscine has a good chance of being recognised as the most Gallic of the French films made in the post-nouvelle vague period. With this decidedly upper-middle- class movie as languorous in its pace as one might feel in the heat, every few minutes viewers are left with the need to jump into a pool as mentally refreshing as the perfectly blue centrepiece must feel physically. It is a story of long eye contact of uncertain meaning, of lascivious looks, of a kind of slow, self-destructive voyeurism, and of dialogue as minimal as the wardrobe. Intentionally or not, the more sexually loose the protagonists become, the more buttoned-up their dress becomes — Schneider graduating to mumsy, preppy shirt and pedal pushers, Delon to a black T-shirt. It’s as though they want to cover up their indiscretions. Sunglasses, characteristically huge, are worn less and less. The characters literally see the light.’ — Josh Sims



Jacques Deray Borsalino (1970)
Borsalino is among Jacques Deray’s most successful and memorable films, a respectful yet slightly tongue-in-cheek homage to the classic American gangster films of the 1930s and ’40s. With its gangster theme, stylish look and strong production values, the film presages Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). Deray’s recreation of 1930s Marseilles shows a meticulous attention to period detail, with sets, costumes and a catchy score that are instantly evocative of the era. The film is beautifully shot and includes some impressive set piece action sequences. Deray does occasionally get a little too preoccupied with the film’s background, including sequences that look pretty but which serve neither the characterisation nor the plot.

‘Despite their good working relationship when making the film, Delon and Belmondo fell out over the placing of Delon’s name on the film’s poster. In his contract, it was stipulated that Belmondo’s name would precede Delon’s. Delon justified the placing of his name on the poster because he was the producer. This led to a court case which Belmondo ultimately won, although the two men claim that the affair did not injure their friendship.’ — James Travers



Jean-Pierre Melville Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
‘Melville described LE CERCLE ROUGE as his penultimate film and it is indeed a masterfully stylized policier. He also claimed he wanted to shoot a film noir in colour and in many ways he succeeded. The two primary influences for this film were John Huston’s 1950 heist movie THE ASPHALT JUNGLE and Jules Dassin’s RIFIFI (1955). But unlike these films, where we learn much about the background of the individual gang members, with all their petty needs and worries that motivate them, making clear these are not just ruthless underworld types, but ordinary individuals engaged in a world of everyday worries and human endeavour, Melville, though, tells us almost nothing about his criminals. Why was Corey (Alain Delon) in jail? Why was his associate, Vogel (Jean-Marie Volonté) arrested in the first place? Or why the ex-police marksman Jansen (Yves Montand) left the force, was it his alcoholism? We never learn the motivations behind their actions and never find out what drives these men. Women are even more absent than in his earlier films, with the “emotional” ties exclusively between men. They don’t even seem to have personal lives. A sort of an emotional twilight zone and although the setting is not as abstract as in his earlier LE SAMOURAI (1967), Melville still sketches a very eerie world. Melville’s favorite actor, Alain Delon, is perfect and almost outdoes himself in coolness, if imaginable.’ — Camera-Obscura




Joseph Losey The Assassination of Trotsky (1972)
‘1940, the last months of Leon Trotsky, exiled in Mexico, where he lives barricaded in his house for fear of assassination. Until a mysterious and charming stranger manages to approach him by using Trotsky’s secretary. More than a political film, it’s the game of reciprocal attraction between executioner and victim. With Richard Burton, Alain Delon, Romy Schneider and Valentina Cortese.’ — TFF



Jean-Pierre Melville Un flic (1972)
‘Let’s start at the end. Un Flic, the last film Melville ever made, is not often in the discussion as one of his masterworks. And it doesn’t get lumped in with the other noir classics he wrote and directed—despite a starring role for actor Alain Delon, despite being built around the same cops-and-robbers framework, despite its terrifically lean premise and despite being quite good. These are extremely imperfect metrics, but it’s hard not to chuckle at Un Flic’s Rotten Tomatoes rating of 78 percent, the lowest among the films Melville directed; it also happens to be one of just four Melville films that hasn’t earned a spot in the Criterion Collection. So yes, while it’s fair to say Melville himself is definitely not underrated, Un Flic has been a tad left out. Fortunately, that place in history suits the film quite well.

‘That’s because in effect Un Flic is an abstraction. It is Melville’s style distilled to its essence. It is a film with a potent emotional punch delivered subtly by a craftsman of unique ability. And while he may have achieved this more successfully with Le Samourai, Melville’s final film acts as a more fitting grace note to his entire career.’ — Daniel Reynolds




Joseph Losey Mr. Klein (1976)
‘One of the crowning achievements of blacklisted Hollywood director Joseph Losey’s European exile, Mr. Klein is a spellbinding modernist mystery that puts a chilling twist on the wrong-man thriller. Alain Delon delivers a standout performance as Robert Klein, a decadent art dealer in Paris during World War II who makes a tidy profit buying up paintings from his desperate Jewish clients. As Klein searches for a Jewish man with the same name for whom he has been mistaken, he finds himself plunged into a Kafkaesque nightmare in which his identity seems to dissolve and the forces of history to close in on him. Met with considerable controversy on its release for its portrayal of the real-life wrongdoings of the Vichy government, this haunting, disturbingly beautiful film shivers with existential dread as it traces a society’s descent into fascistic fear and inhumanity.’ — The Criterion Collection



David Lowell Rich The Concorde… Airport ’79 (1979)
The Concorde… Airport ’79 (1979) is not only the worst picture in the Airport series, it’s one of the worst of all ‘70s disaster flicks (and that’s really saying something). A scientist (Robert Wagner) involved in illegal arms dealing must kill his girlfriend (Susan Blakely) after she finds out about his dirty activities. But rather than, say, strangling or shooting her, he arranges to have the plane on which she’s traveling be blown out of the sky. Awful in every respect, it does feature a wonderfully kitschy cast: Charo, John Davidson, Martha Raye and Jimmy “Dyn-o-mite!” Walker. And, yes, George Kennedy is back again. His character is inexplicably now a pilot, and he gets to answer a stewardess’ claim that “You pilots are such men!” with “They don’t call it a cockpit for nothing!”’ — Matt Brunson

the entirety


Volker Schlöndorff Swann in Love (1984)
‘All of the reviews I’ve read of Volker Schlöndorff’s “Swann in Love” treat it like a classroom assignment. The movie is described as a version of one of the stories that make up Remembrance of Things Past, the epic novel by Marcel Proust, and then the exercise becomes almost academic: “Compare and contrast Proust and Schlöndorff, with particular attention to the difference between fiction and the film.” Imagine instead, that this is not a film based on a novel, but a new film from an original screenplay. It will immediately seem more lively and accessible. Because not one person in a hundred who sees the film will have read Proust, this is a sensible approach; it does away with the nagging feeling that one should really curl up with those twelve volumes before going to the theater.’ — Roger Ebert



Jean-Luc Godard Nouvelle Vague (1990)
‘The very title suggests Godard’s vast ambition: a two-part story starring Alain Delon as two brothers who may be the same person conjures a vision of an Old and New Testament that is also the story of the classic cinema and Godard’s own. It’s filmed on a vast estate akin to the one owned by Godard’s maternal grandparents, and the movie is filled with the social and artistic graces of his privileged childhood, offering a painterly, verdant, glossy, and sea-splashed beauty.’ — Richard Brody


Alain Delon – Nouvelle vague (Behind the scenes)




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Thanks for the side trips. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Yeah, I used to go to festivals a lot when I was younger, and I had a lot of fun with the help of recreationals, but when I remember them now, all I remember is the hassle and boring parts, and it’s hard to imagine an act that would get me to one now, although I did almost go to HellFest one year to see Black Sabbath’s only farewell tour Paris-related stop. ** Steve Erickson, No, ha ha, I was trying to stay as literal as I could. No, I’ve never read Edouard Louis. It’s interesting because I know a number of people in the US who really like his work, but no one I know in France likes his work, I don’t know why in either case. But, yeah, I need to read him and see what the deal is. ** Misanthrope, Alright then. I thought it would be more interesting or memory-inducing or dramatic, but whatever. Doable, good. Me, I’m trying to make it while too many people around me are faking it. Basically. ** Clayton, Hi, Clayton! Yeah, sorry about the overload aspect. I have weird energy. Oh, interesting, I was daydreaming about how those Boyle Family pieces would hit one in the real, and I guess hoping others might go there too. They do seem like kind of just a cheap thrill type of thing? Blockbuster-style? Interesting. Thanks for the report, and do hang out again if you feel like it. What’s going on with you? ** Jeff J, Thanks, Jeff. I know I’ve had Fornes in group posts, but maybe not a whole show. I wonder if there’s enough out there to do her justice in this format. I’ll check. Hm, not sure what’s up with that glitch. Nothing surprises me with this glitchy place. I haven’t heard that from anyone else, but everyone else might just being polite or something? Huh, I wonder what Hedi doesn’t like about the translation. Again, I’ll go to him for the answer. Yes, I had assumed Michael stepped away from Bookworm for a pre-planned vacation, but I just heard a few days ago that he’s having serious health problems and may not be able to return to the show. I have no idea what the issues are. I’ve written to him, but I haven’t heard back. I have some queries out mutual friends, and I’m waiting to hear back. I’ll let you know. It’s very, very concerning, obviously. ** Bill, Very nice about the Butoh kick. I was really into Butoh for a while some years ago. Such great work. I did a Butoh post ages back. I’ll either restore it or make a new one. The goings on in the US are terrifying and mind-boggling. My god. ** Okay. For whatever presumably good reason I decided to foist the early and early-ish portion of Alain Delon’s acting oeuvre on you guys today. I hope it sits well. See you tomorrow.


Regina José Galindo Tierra, 2013
‘In 2012, José Efraín Ríos Montt, the former President of Guatemala, was prosecuted on charges of genocide, terrorism, and torture; Regina José Galindo’s video is a haunting reinterpretation of the atrocities recounted during his trial. Tierra begins with the artist standing naked in a verdant field, the tranquility of which is shattered by an earth-moving machine. Here, Galindo alludes to the incident in which innocent citizens were murdered and cold-heartedly buried in a bulldozer-dug mass grave. The stark contrast between the machine’s huge, armored bulk and the artist’s vulnerable body captures the injustice of Montt’s regime, while the abyss that grows around her serves as a poignant symbol of the despair and alienation born of political violence in general, and Montt’s post-conviction acquittal in particular.’


Yusuke Asai yamatane, 2014
‘Japanese artist Yusuke Asai uses nothing but natural pigments and water to create his intricate large-scale murals that he calls “earth painting”. The materials of his works are almost always collected on-site, or site-specific, made using a variety of different textures and types of local mud, dirt and dust. Each piece begins with applying masking tape to walls, then drawing shapes of plants and animals over it to create infinitely swirling images. Asai rejects commonly used art supplies that are manufactured in favor of mud, a sediment where microscopic organisms make their home, for its special connection to nature.’



Claes Oldenburg Placid Civic Monument, 1967
‘The piece, one the earliest examples of so-called earthworks sculpture, was a six by six by three foot ditch (conceived as a kind of negative-space sculpture) excavated as part of an exhibit entitled ‘Sculpture in Environment,’ for which a number of different artists were asked to create public art in various locations (of their choosing) around New York City; in this case, behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, near the Obelisk. Oldenburg hired two off-duty gravediggers, for $50 each, who dug the hole while he filmed–a few hours later, the hole was was re-filled.’


Richard Long Chicago Mud Circle, 1996
Mud on wall


Robert Rauschenberg Mud Muse, 1968–1971
‘In Robert Rauschenberg’s fifty-year-old artwork “Mud Muse” (1968–1971) sonic vibrations create random bubbles in a large, open, vat filled with synthetic sludge.’


Shiraga Kazuo Challenging Mud, 1955
‘How might an artist react meaningfully in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat, and its near total destruction, at the close of the Second World War? Kazuo Shiraga’s 1955 performance work, Challenging Mud, proposed a rethinking of the boundaries and definitions of art making to clear a path forward. Shiraga performed his body/mud composition in the front courtyard of Tokyo’s Ohara Hall three times over the run of the first Gutai Art Exhibition. The photographs that survive record the different effects of each iteration of the performance. Each time Shiraga molded, smeared, and grappled with a different combination of cement, kabetsuchi, and aggregates such as sand and gravel. Somewhere between painting, sculpting, and wrestling, Kazuo’s radical actions defied categorical boundaries.’


Sen Uesaki, Daishiro Mori & Grand Openings Challenging Mud as Archive, 2011
‘After Shiraga Kazuo’s performance-painting, Challenging Mud.

Shiraga executed Challenging Mud on October 19, 1955, for the opening of 1st Gutai Art Exhibition, in the front yard of the Ohara Kaikan in Tokyo.

I challenged mud.
After a series of e-mail exchanges with Ei Arakawa,
who told me, on July 15, 2011, that he would soon present a 13-day performance with his group, Grand Openings, with daily changing programs.

I challenged mud.
After I confessed to him that I didn’t have a formal dress to wear for Grand Openings’ “Formal Dress Day” (7/27).
He wrote, “then please come also 23rd when sen is doing a challenging mud. you could bring a change of clothes. only historians and archivists will be allowed to challenge mud.”
To this, I innocently responded: “that sounds cool.”

I challenged mud.
After I finally understood that he and Sen Uesaki intended to create a “metaphor” of archiving using Challenging Mud.
That Sen would play a metaphorical role of “gravedigger” (!?).
What’s a historian have to do with “metaphor”?
This historian is all about facts, if not just facts. But metaphor is not her forte.

I challenged mud.
After the artist finally figured out that the historian got to do what she got to do.
A wise move.
Only an artist would think of putting a historian in the mud pit.
A historian would put an artist in the mud pit.

I challenged mud.
After we decided to base our attempt on Shiraga’s 1st set, out of three sets he executed that day.
The 1st set was least challenging, it was a “fake.”[ii]
Because the mud was hardening and became slippery, as the artist waited around for a press person to arrive. It rained, it got colder, and journalist Jean Launois came late.
So, the artist had to “fake.”
He “dug it up with my knees, punched it with fists, and grasped it by fingers.”

I challenged mud.
After Ming Tiampo decided to join our attempt by playing the role of photographer.
She is another historian. She happened to be in town to work on a forthcoming Gutai show at the Guggenheim.
Without the presence of the press, our attempt would have been incomplete.
Gutai’s performative works were either press events or onstage presentations.
Without the effort of self-documentation, we would have been disloyal to Gutai’s tradition.
So, Ming would play the double role of a press photographer and a documenting member.
She requested the use of a ladder. A wise move.

I challenged mud.
After I decided my outfit.
Shiraga wore only a pair of white shorts. Otherwise, he was bare.
Because of the impurity of his mud, his body was heavily cut and bruised.
In the 2nd and 3rd sets, he “pushed it with my shoulder, rather than using my hands; I gave a final flourish to it, by twisting my body.”
No wonder, he got cuts and bruises.
Safety was a big concern for me, even if I would follow the tamest 1st set.
Ei agreed: “We don’t have to hurt ourselves in [our] version.”
To protect my body, I acquired a pair of gray yoga pants, a half-sleeved black T-shirt, and a box of latex gloves. I would be well protected.

I challenged mud.
After I got my historical facts straight.
To the best of my knowledge, it would be the first ever serious attempt, whether by the artist himself or somebody else, since Shiraga executed three sets in 1955.[iii]
There was no instruction left, no recipe made for doing it again. Only his recollections and documentary photographs.
Looking at a photo of his 1st set, I visualized myself getting down on my knees, supporting my body with two hands also stuck in the mud, and shifting the mud with one of my knees.

I challenged mud.
After I arrived at MoMA at the appointed time, feeling somewhat scared. Trepidation or anxiety may be a more dignified word, but “scared” honestly expresses what I felt.
A shallow wood box was already there, at the end of the Sculpture Garden, just outside the glass partition. Chairs for the panel discussion (to follow my act) were arranged next to it. That was my stage.
The 8-foot square box looked smallish. Back then, one critic described the mud work he saw outside the Ohara Kaikan to be as large as three tatami-mats.
Bags of cement piled on one side, bags of garden soil piled on the other side of the box.

I challenged mud.
After Ei told me “Cement is toxic. Would you like to have vinegar for cleaning afterward?”
His words amplified my apprehension, also reminding me that I forgot to bring a pair of socks with me. We sent a member (or an associate or a volunteer?) of the group to get a pair, along with vinegar.

I challenged mud.
After we mixed soil and cement.
But, why cement?
Because Shiraga was not simply demonstrating an act of challenging mud,
he was creating a “painting” with mud.
That is to say, he painted with mud.
And he wanted his mud painting to last for 10 days, remain on view for the duration of the exhibition.
The mud, or kabetsuchi (wall mud), alone would have cracked.
Indeed, the second “painting,” made without cement cracked after a few days.
(Certainly, he was experimenting on that day; after the hardened mud for the 1st set, he apparently did the 2nd set without cement.)

I challenged mud.
After Ei and Jay spent more than half an hour creating the mud in the sweltering summer heat.
Shiraga brought in a small truck load of wall mud, about one ton (1000 kg) or so.
He mixed some 10 bags of cement in, the ratio being 3 parts mud and 1 part cement.
It took Shiraga (and his helpers, I imagine) a great deal of time to manually mix it.
We began by dry-mixing 3 bags of soil and 1 bag of cement, added more bags of soil, perhaps another 3 or 4, then poured in water bit by bit.
The sight of twigs and pebbles in “garden soil” horrified me, making me think of cuts and bruises I might get.

I challenged mud.
After we got what I thought would be an ideal consistency of mud.
We looked at the documentary photographs to get a sense of Shiraga’s mud.
I made a test-mixture in a cup.
Perhaps much thicker than pancake dough, a tad heavier than muffin dough, but not as dense as bread dough.

I challenged mud.
After the audience gathered around the box and Ei began the proceedings, introducing me to them.
I began by giving a talk. It’s a hands-on “demonstration lecture,” rather than “slide lecture.”
I explained the basics of Shiraga, a Gutai member who painted with his feet.
His foot painting embodied his concept that his “act” made his painting.
Challenging Mud extended his act/concept of painting from his feet to his whole body.
In 1955, the 2nd and 3rd sets he executed were more violent than the 1st “fake” set.
He dived into the mud, twisting in the mud and using his whole body to move the mud, to create his mud painting.
He struggled with mud until he was completely exhausted.

I challenged mud.
After clarifying that I was neither “re-staging” nor “re-enacting” Shiraga’s painting act.
I was merely making a “historical investigation” of Shiraga’s painting act.
Shiraga was a man’s man. He was a jock, practicing jūdō and sumō at school.
Back then, he was in his early thirties, he was an athletic, energetic male.
I am a middle-aged art historian, a female of delicate constitution.

I challenged mud.
After I first tested the mud’s consistency, explaining how he mixed his mud.
I poke my feet into the mud.
It felt wet.
More talk.
And I finally got down on four in the mud.
I punched the mud, moved it with my knees, grasped it and pushed it with both my hands, just as I imagined he had done.
I kept talking, as Ei stuck the microphone at me.
I kept my eye on the composition, spreading the mud like Shiraga had done in different directions to make a polygon shape.

I challenged mud.
After a while, I stopped, asking how much time had elapsed.
I was told: Only 3 minutes!
Shiraga continued 15 to 20 minutes before he was done.
Who could possibly compete with him?
Not me.
Ming urged me to continue, now perching atop the ladder.
With a change of her camera angle, I gave another round of punching, kneeing, pushing . . . playing for the camera.

I challenged mud.
Afterward, as Ming pointed out the historical accuracy would have demanded that I change into regular clothes and have myself photographed next to my “mud painting.”
That’s what Shiraga did, and the shot became a Gutai postcard.
But that was an afterthought for me. I hadn’t thought of afterward, except for how to clean myself.’


Cveto Marsic Bath in Salty Mud, 2021
Oil on canvas


Paul Seawright Mounds, 2002
‘In 2002 IWM commissioned Paul Seawright to respond to the war in Afghanistan, which had started the previous October. The resulting photographs of minefields show a seemingly empty landscape, which in reality is both lethal and inaccessible.’


Neil Leifer Joe Namath In The Mud, 1974


Boyle Family Studies of Brown Mudcracks with Tire Tracks and Coal Dust, 1974
‘Boyle Family works simulating muddied land used resin, fibreglass and other binding materials. The effect was hyper real, a situation that took photorealist painting in the tactile direction of sculpture.’


Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla Hope Hippo, 2005
Mud, whistle, daily newspaper, and live person


Yan Bing Wind – Aridity, 2010
Electric Fan, Mud


Allan Kaprow Trading Dirt, 1982-5
‘Kaprow produced the extended piece, Trading Dirt, when studying at the Zen Center of San Diego. He began by trading the soil in his garden for the “Buddhist dirt” of the center. This was then traded with various types of dirt collected by Kaprow. This sequence of events went on sporadically for three years, each exchange accompanied by an anecdote, recorded on film. Kaprow presents dirt as a metaphor that only gains meaning as it is exchanged or “traded.” This occurred in 1983, long after Kaprow had replaced the Happening with the Activity.’

Allan Kaprow – Trading Dirt story


Marcos Grigorian Strain, 1991
mud, metal strip, straw and glue on burlap laid down on board


Li Binyuan Freedom Farming, 2014
‘In the countryside of China, land is a heavy issue. Each plot of land has its own destiny and character, and behind it is the people’s destiny. In 1999, when my father passed away in an accident, the land that he had cultivated was handed down to me. I was at a loss, and avoided returning to my hometown, ashamed to face the reality. But the problem was not solved because of my detachment, and my sense of identity gradually disappeared.

‘In 2014, I decided to use one of the plots of land to produce a work, to re-examine my relationship to my birthplace, which felt both strange and amiable. Finally, I made my peace through the fatigue that came from the constant falls into the field and the mud.

‘The name of the work, Freedom Farming, comes from the land certificate issued by the village committee, and from the sense of salvation that came from the performative act itself. Freedom Farming is a work about the dialogue between me and my father, and my present reality. I attempt to find a balance between the three, or save some things that are already lost through this behavior; also I want to confirm my sense of identity, of belonging, via this path. As for me, every jump of mine is a departure, and each fall is a return. Regardless of each departure or return, there’s always something missing.’


Helmut Smits Dead Pixel in Google Earth, 2009
burned square, the size of one pixel from an altitude of 1 km.


Alastair Mackie Mud Hut, 2010
mud, straw, and horse manure


Ugy Sugiarto Various, 2009
acrylic on canvas

Immortal Fighting

Don’t Let Me Drown


Xuhong Shang Horizon, 1995
wooden deck, painted baseboard, mud, branch bark, plant


Ashby Lee Collinson Episode XVI: Princess Dies – The Crowning, 2011
Airing on Portland Community Media: 5/15/11 10:30 pm Sun — Channel 22, 5/21/11 12:00 am Sat — Channel 11, 5/27/11 11:00 pm Fri — Channel 23


James Croak Dirt Baby, 1988
cast mud


Dineo Seshee Bopape Mabu, Mubu, Mmu, 2017
Soil, mud, ceramics, herbs, crystals, coal, ash created with a clenched fist.


Chris Burden Exposing the Foundation of the Museum, 1986
‘The installation, known as the Exposing the Foundation of the Museum, comprises three trenches next to the exterior walls. Visitors descend the excavation or tunnel to witness the concrete footing.’


Urs Fischer You, 2007
You was an eight-foot deep crater that measured approximately 11,6 x 9,1 m (38 x 30 ft.), extending almost to the walls of the gallery. According to New York Magazine, the pit took ten days to build and approximately $250,000. The same report shows that it was dug using jackhammers to remove the concrete floor. The workers used a backhoe to clear the tons of debris around the area. A sign at the door warned: THE INSTALLATION IS PHYSICALLY DANGEROUS AND INHERENTLY INVOLVES THE RISK OF SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH.’


Rabyn Blake Mudpool, 1976
‘Splatter. Plop. Plop. Plop. A dribble of thick liquid spatters down into a growing mound of silver sludge. Then the scene changes and we see insects, a toad, and other small life-forms sitting patiently as their ecosystem awakens. The ground begins to move as human bodies slowly start churning liquid earth into a slurry of dirt that coats their skins. This is how Rabyn Blake’s revolutionary video artwork Mudpool (1976) begins.

‘The work is as sensual as it is strange. As the eight-minute black-and-white video progresses, we see figures emerging out of a primordial soup, then resubmerging their naked bodies in the silky mud. A reclining man sits up in the sunken pool, syrupy mud pouring down over his face and through his long hair and beard. The camera pans closer, closer, as corporeal forms roll and tumble, their movements and shapes evocative of concrete mixers, classical reliefs, lovers in bed, slow-motion mud wrestling. We can feel the suction as the thick liquid blanket sleeves over their trunks and limbs. It is strange in its uncanny familiarity; it feels both timeless and ancient. We are watching Mother Earth devour bodies and return them to their origins.

‘Understanding the context of Mudpool has been, for me, like picking through the tufts of a floor carpet, searching for small crumbs that escaped the oblivion of time—the great existential vacuum cleaner. Very few of Blake’s artworks are extant. Next to nothing is archived online, and the community of people who knew her is fading away. The lack of information plagues much early video work, and of course most performative and participatory happenings that were experiential and pre-internet. It is also no surprise that Blake’s work has not received greater acknowledgement in what was (and is still) a male-dominated field.’


Andrew Birk Life Shroud, 2017
‘Andrew Birk presents a series of Life Shrouds, an exercise of dirt-on-denim pieces made with the imprint of his own body. Dirt is pigment and denim is canvas; dirt is body and denim is labour. Stripping down art history’s canons and praising the unrefined, Birk uses wearable, industrial cloth, to cover himself covered in mud. As in a death shroud, body and dirt become one thing in a cycle of both scientific and religious undertones. Beyond the anthropocentric and constructed distinction between artificial and natural, human beings appear as an undivided species within a larger system of entities, living in a world of structures – biological, social, linguistic. Seen as accumulations of materials formed and solidified through time, historical narratives then become geological, and humans, made from synthetic processes and constantly provoking new ones, like rocks and plants and bacteria, become a planetary force.’


Jack Woods Equinox, 1970
‘Four friends are attacked by a demon while on a picnic, due to possession of a tome of mystic information.’


Petrit Halilaj Kostërrc, 2011
Kostërrc, the work—which filled an entire gallery, leaving its gallerists to hover in the lane just outside—comprised a perfect wave of dirt about to break. At its crest was a hint of grass, like tufts of green-blue hair. The earthy smell of the soil (60 tons of it) and the sod was oddly gratifying. The soil was excavated from the hill in Kosovo where the artist was born, then brought to Switzerland on a truck.’


Richard Bartle MUD, 1978
‘MUD was created in 1978 by Roy Trubshaw at Essex University on a DEC PDP-10 in the UK. Richard Bartle, a fellow Essex student, contributed much work on the game database, introducing many of the locations and puzzles that survive to this day. Later that year Roy Trubshaw graduated from Essex University, handing over MUD to Richard Bartle, who continued developing the game. That same year, MUD1 became the first Internet multiplayer online role-playing game as Essex University connected its internal network to the ARPAnet. In 1983, Essex University allowed remote access to its DEC-10 via British Telecom’s Packet Switch Stream network between 2 am and 7 am each night. MUD became popular with players around the world, and several magazines wrote articles on this new trend.’




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Gilliam’s version is an homage to Zeman’s. ** Stephen M, Hi, Stephen. Thanks much for the suggestions. That’s where I’ll go. Hope all’s great with you. ** _Black_Acrylic, Zeman seems to be the animation equivalent of the writers’ writer, hugely influential in the field but not so known outside of it. Strange that. I was with some friends on Saturday, and things got a little dull, so I put on Play Therapy, and awkward silence was replaced with bliss-faced wiggling and nodding, and you saved yet another day! ** Yards-a Thorns, Hi there. Intriguing and excellent name. Thank you, my total pleasure. Yes, super shocking about the Oslo incident. Huge hopes that it was an isolated madness. Sleep is precious, just ask my friends in the USA. I’m so sorry you’re having to go through that. Stay imaginative and optimistic, it’s very important. xo. ** Billy, Hi, Billy. Yes, I’ve been really intrigued by Dall.e mini and what it’s capable of. Thank you for the nudge. I’ll go wade in and see what happens. You doing great, I hope? ** Bill, There’s some truly gorgeous stuff visually in his films. Still mind-blowing in places, even now. I don’t imagine the Charles Busch film will play here, although it might get screened perhaps. I’ll peel my eyes and look online if nothing else. It’s truly terrifying about the Supreme Court. Boy, if that shit doesn’t finally wake people over there the fuck up, I don’t know what will. Here in France the govt. is reacting by proposing to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution. ** Impossible Princess, Yes, please do let me know how you get on with the Princess. Mm, I don’t remember any weekend twinks. Well, across the metro cars, which is good enough. I’m happy you’re getting your mojo back, needless to say. It’s your greatest weapon. I was sure I’d done a Mishima post, but I just did a search of the blog’s archives and came up empty. Weird. I will do one of some sort soon. Mm, I think my favorite is still ‘Confessions of a Mask’. Kind of a boring choice, but … I liked the ‘Sea of Fertility’ novels a lot when I read them ages ago. And ‘The Black Lizard’. Off the top my head. Kisses back from the mere DC. ** Misanthrope, Wow, that sounds kind of exciting to me, but I’ve never had a desk job, so what the fuck do I know. How was it? ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. Very happy that post was of use. I can watch the Criterion Channel with VPN but the connection is really, really slow, so it’s kind of a big chore to watch things on there, but I do, of course. What is the translation problem with ‘SL’, do you know? That they cant get the rights to the original translation or they don’t like it or their new translation isn’t good enough or … ? You probably don’t know. I should just ask Hedi. Novels just get slow sometimes. I figure they need to for some reasons. As long as it’s growing, you know? Nice about the Julien Calendar gig. It’s been ages. A fair number of people with good taste like ‘Memoria’, but I still think it’s a misfire. See what you think. ** Right. I’m giving you some conceptual mud to play in conceptually today, so to speak. See you tomorrow.

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