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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Roland Topor’s Brains

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‘Roland Topor was the modern enfant terrible of French art and letters. He was short and leprechaun-like, giving the impression of constant, untiring activity. He dabbled in films, produced art derived from Surrealism, and could seldom be accused of good taste. In 1962, he created the Panic Movement (mouvement panique), together with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Fernando Arrabal. Inspired by and named after the god Pan, and influenced by Luis Buñuel and Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, the group concentrated on chaotic performance art and surreal imagery. Among the films made from Topor’s written work was Roman Polanski’s The Tenant (1976), which was recently reissued in 2006 with an introduction by the writer Thomas Ligotti. Topor also worked as an actor, his most famous part being Renfield in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979).

‘His greatest success was as a macabre cartoonist. He used his work to illustrate his novels, plays and other writings, produced many volumes of graphics, and exhibited his work widely in galleries both in France and abroad. His drawings in many ways resembled the graphic novels of Max Ernst and the similarly grim work of the Alsatian artist Tomi Ungerer, but the humour was always there in the absurd situations he depicted, many based on fantastical images of the deeper associations of sex and erotica, others on pictures that linked mankind to the world of worms and insects or reptiles.

‘Although ebullient in public, it was known among his friends that he had black periods of extreme depression, and the bizarre fantasies that he drew and painted undoubtedly reflected a mind that brooded on death and decay and the many germs and viruses that live in our bodies. His novels tackled the same themes, cruelty and metamorphosis being depicted in a matter-of-fact, unemotional way, his characters Rabelaisian and his plots stretching the imagination to its limits. Coprophagy is a frequent theme and religion a favourite target in much of his work. Giving offence came so naturally to Topor that he was almost unaware of the shocked reactions he was likely to get, as for instance from the series of dialogues, accompanied by drawings, examining all the possible uses of a baby, starting by nailing one to your front door.

‘Toward the end of his life, Topor wrote the screenplay for the cultishly revered film Marquis (1989), directed by Henri Xhonneux and loosely based on the life and writings of Marquis de Sade. The cast consisted of actors in period costumes with animal masks, with a separate puppet for de Sade’s anthropomorphised “bodily appendage.” He also co-wrote and was the production designer of the innovative and popular animated film Fantastic Planet, directed by René Laloux. At the age of 59 Topor suffered a massive stroke and brain haemorrhage in 1997, having appeared until then in the best of health.’ — collaged from various sources

 


Roland Topor’s self-designed grave marker

 

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Further

Topor et moi: A Roland Topor Resource
Roland Topor Page @ Facebook
Books in English by Roland Topor
Roland Topor’s books @ goodreads
A Roland Topor Photo Gallery
Roland Topor posts @ Thomas Ligotti Online
‘Roland Topor, a Graphic Wit’ @ The New York Times
‘The Wilder Planet of Roland Topor’

 

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Portrait Gallery

 

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Films

Les Escargot (1965) was a collaboration between Roland Topor and director Renee Laloux, but it is Topor’s distinctive visual sensibility that dominates. Les Escargot is apocalyptic, teeming with allegory of self-perpetuated human destruction. Like in other works by Topor, the ordinary is blown up to monstrous and absurd proportions. Fed by plants stimulated by human tears, enormous garden snails run amok, destroying the cities.’ — Ashcan Magazine

 

‘What is man ? Man makes war, man kills man, man hunts, man is executed. Les Temps Morte (1966) is montage film mixing original drawings by Roland Topor and direction by Rene Laloux involving both original shots and stock shots that ironically analyze what man is.’ — worldnews

 

‘Roland Topor and René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet (1973) is a sci-fi epic like none you’ve ever seen. A 70’s euro-funk soundtrack backs the eerie psychedelic visuals of an alien world. On the fantastic planet, humans are kept as pets by the gigantic Oms, a blue-skinned humanoid species who live for thousands of years and have a highly evolved culture and technology. Revolutionary metaphors abound, and like much science fiction literature, but unlike most science fiction movies, the film is really about our contemporary situation despite the fantastical setting.’ — Justin Allen


Trailer


Excerpt


Roland Topor: The Unrecognizable Genius Behind FANTASTIC PLANET

 

‘Roland Topor and Henri Xhonneux’s Marquis (1989) is an audacious rendering of the political, social and sexual manners of the ancien regime and the class division and social disruption that produced the French Revolution. Adapted from the writings of the Marquis de Sade, this witty film uses elaborate puppets in human form to act out erotic and sexual decadence. Marquis is an elegantly naughty film with wry, intellectual satire that plays out all manner of human desire.’ — J. Hoberman

 

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Miscelaneous


Roland Topor in Herzog’s ‘Nosferatu’


Roland Topor [1983] : Les archives de Radio Nova


Roland Topor, un petit film


Roland Topor et Jacques Sternberg au Café de Flore

 

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100 Good Reasons to Kill Myself Right Now
by Roland Topor

 

1) Best way to make sure I’m not dead already.
2) It’ll throw off the last census.
3) They’re waiting on me down below to start the party.
4) They shoot horses, don’t they?
5) I’ll rise in the esteem of my peers.
6) I’ll no longer dread the millennium.
7) Just like Werther! They won’t call me ill-read anymore.
8) I’d make a fool of my cancer.
9) I’d make a liar of my horoscope.
10) To be my therapist’s ruin.
11) To get out of voting.
12) An infallible cure for baldness.
13) To make a fresh start!
14) Death ennobles: knighthood at last!
15) I’d feel less alone.
16) I’d be fêted next All Saints’ Day.
17) The cost of living rises, but death remains affordable.
18) Good way to find your roots.
19) Finally, a martial arts move I can manage.
20) To be green and fertilize the lawn.
21) To mark the day with a white stone.
22) Others could put my organs to better use.
23) To make way for youth.
24) At last, a starring role!
25) To take advantage of the exhibitionism inherent in dissection tables.
26) To taste the subtle delights of reincarnation.
27) The nightmare of leap years, over at last!
28) To give my body of work a moral dimension.
29) To make people think I’m honorable.
30) To turn this list into a last will and testament.
31) I’ll become a citizen of the world.
32) Euthanasia wasn’t made for dogs.
33) I’ll have the last word.
34) 67% of French people support the death penalty.
35) ‘Cause it’s a good way to quit smoking.
36) To simplify my duality: I’ll see things more clearly with only one of me left.
37) A deliverance less laborious than a delivery.
38) There’s nothing left to do.
39) I don’t want to aggravate my lack of social security.
40) To kill a Jew, like everyone else.
41) To join the silent majority. The real one.
42) To leave behind a widow simply bursting with youth.
43) I can’t live in worry now that my deodorant’s stopped working.
44) To dodge the general draft.
45) To preserve the mystery surrounding me.
46) To prove the neutron bomb can’t hurt me.
47) To lose weight without a diet, or even lifting a finger!
48) I insist on complying with the federal plan for staggered vacations.
49) I’m trying to spare someone else the unfortunate consequences of an assassination.
50) To save energy, coffee, and sugar.
51) So I won’t be ashamed to look in the mirror anymore.
52) What if I’m immortal? Might as well find out as soon as possible.
53) One less mouth to feed.
54) To prove to EVERYONE that I’m no coward.
55) To count how many people cry at my funeral.
56) To see, from the other side, if I’ve made it over.
57) Instead of tearing my gray hairs out one by one, might as well tear my head off all at once.
58) With a revolver: to be noisy after 10pm.
59) With gas: to savor the charms of that last cigarette.
60) By hanging: to turn an ordinary rope into a delightful good luck charm.
61) Under a train: to extend other people’s vacations.
62) With barbiturates: think I’ll sleep in tomorrow morning.
63) By electrocution: to shake things up a little.
64) By defenestration: to escape my fear of elevators.
65) I’ve heard death is an easy lay. I’m gonna have me some good times.
66) If I put my subscriptions on hold, I won’t miss a thing.
67) To be good with (tiny) animals.
68) To die the same year as Elvis.
69) To skip out on taxes.
70) To skip out on rent.
71) To stop snoring.
72) To come back in the wee hours and tug on my enemies’ feet.
73) To keep from ripping myself off as I get older, like de Chirico.
74) Because I’m an endangered species and no one is protecting me.
75) Because I’ve prepared a choice phrase for the final moment, and if I wait too long I’ll forget it.
76) To sever my umbilical cord once and for all.
77) To be the founder of a new style: Dead Art.
78) To watch the movie of my life at a very exclusive screening.
79) To see if there are any virgins left on the other side.
80) So they’ll deck me out when they lay me out.
81) Because I can’t wait to use the amusing epitaph I made up: GOOD RIDDANCE.
82) To see if paralytics will be healed on my tomb.
83) So the twentieth century will finally contain an important event.
84) To feast on the exquisite blood of young women, once I’m a vampire.
85) Because I’ve always wanted to speak a dead tongue.
86) So I can, quite strikingly, inform everyone of my position on suicide.
87) Because Paris just isn’t what it used to be.
88) Because Groucho Marx is dead.
89) Because I’ve read all the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
90) Because weather forecasts let me down.
91) So others will follow my example.
92) To start a revolution.
93) To prove my skill, if I don’t miss.
94) For a change of friends.
95) For a change of scene.
96) To be above the law.
97) Because a well-done suicide is worth more than an average lay.
98) So I won’t die at a hospital.
99) So my blood will make a nice stain on a canvas.
100) Because I’ve got 1,000 good reasons to hate myself.

 

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Drawings & paintings


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p.s. Hey. ** Shane Christmass, Hi, Shane, good to see you. Yes, I got your email, and I meant too write back but my poor emailing skills got the worst of me. My pleasure, honor re: listing your book. That was a no brainer, so to speak. Great about your new book! I really look forward to it. ** Corey Heiferman, High five on the fellow topographic map love. Cool that those posts interested you. Well, not quite the same, but at a Nuit Blanche here a few years ago, Cai did a fireworks thing in close proximity to a recreation of Stockhausen’s piece where a number of circling helicopters ‘played’ a work by him, and they did bleed together a bit. Thanks about the gallery show. It opens tonight. I don’t like art openings, so I’m anxiously awaiting its demise. Paris is good shape if you spring for a ticket. Nice and chilly and the metro’s working again even. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Ha, swell quote. I jut now checked my email, and there is an email from you that was lodged in my spam folder for unknown reasons, so, yes, I have it, and thank you very much! ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff! Sight for sore eyes and all of that! What a lovely time to be off Facebook. It is at its ultra-worst at the moment. Jeez, what an ordeal with your laptop. Glad it’s righted. I’m good. Yes, my novel has a French and a German publisher so far. And I’m ‘praying’ the US finally gets locked in ASAP, but we’ll see. I finished the dreaded ARTE TV script for now, so I have a much needed break for a month or two at least. I’m trying to finish my new GIF novel. It’s pretty close. There’s a gallery show here featuring some of my GIF fictions alongside the paintings of a French artist that opens tonight. Fundraising for Zac’s and my new film, still in the early stages. Dabbling with a new fiction idea. That’s the current deal, I guess. I hope the reading went well. How did it feel? I generally won’t read from in-progress work after a bad experience years ago, but I did read from my new novel before it was finished, and it went so well that it kind of pushed me to finish it. Hoping for something like the same for you. Sweet film program you set up there. I just made an Owen Land post for the blog. Great trio. I don’t believe I’ve seen that Brakhage. Wow, I need to. Good to see you, bud! ** Sypha, Hi. Ah, you’ve seen ‘TD,P’! Yes, it’s my favorite film of all time, in fact. A downer? Really, you think so? Ha ha. ** NLK, Hi, Nate! I’m good, thanks. Oh, wow, you interviewed Jodie Mack! I’ll be all over that pronto. Everyone, Remember that post I did a couple of days ago about the wondrous filmmaker Jodie Mack? Well, NLK aka Nathan Kouri interviewed her last year, and that should be quite a minds-meeting kind of deal, so maybe you should go read it, eh? Right here. Ah, interesting: the prospect of you teaching English here. Obviously, I urge you in that direction. It would be easier to talk Paris living in another context. Want to chat or Skype or something? Happy to. Short answer: all of central Paris is pretty liveable. There are preferred, monist desired areas of course. Integrating: depends on how integrated you want to be. I’ve lived here for almost 13 years barely speaking French, for instance, and I feel pretty integrated to the degree I want. Anyway, yeah happy to talk with you about that in more detail if you like. Let me know. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. For me Hatari was just a tiny, sort of interesting blip in a blip of interest in my brain pan, so I don’t think I even care enough to check out their album, to be honest. Nice blog you found there. Yeah, weird, remember when blogs like that were all over the place? Score. I didn’t even know Errol Morris published a book, so, no, I haven’t. There’s a very good film book shop right near my pad, so I’ll go see if they have it. Thanks! ** Bill, Hi, sir. New Pink Dots! Yeah that sounds very tasty. And ‘live’ makes it sound like a spot hitter. Cool, yeah, I’ll go indulge in that. Thanks a bunch. ** Okay. Roland Topor is a really strange and pretty great artist who was a big deal years aho and has been rather forgotten at least for the moment, so I thought I would do my part to up his thing just a little. See what you think. And see you tomorrow.

13 Comments

  1. doesn’t it remind you of Monty Python animation ?

  2. I’m sure Terry Gilliam is quite familiar with Topor.

    “The Tenant” is one of Polanski’smost fascinating films in that in addition to dramatizing his own entirely justified paranoia he projects himself into Roland Topor — body and soul. Made in France it was shot in English as he cast Shelley Winters and Melvyn Douglas in leading role along with Isabelle Adjani (not shown in that trailer) in a semi-minor one.

    What IS Adjan up to these days. She seems to have vanished after “Ishtar.” I kow you menyioned she had some rather disastrous plastic surgery, but can’t that be corrected?

    Besides the Herzog “Nosferatu” Topor appears to great effect William Kelin’s magnificent Qui Etes-Vous Polly Maghoo?, Dusan Makvejev’s Sweet Movie, Volker Schlondorf’s Swnnin Love and Raul Ruiz’s Three Lives and Only One Death

    Beside Walerian Borowczyk, his drawings and illustrations have much in common with Balthus.

  3. Hi Dennis, just wanted to follow up. How are you? That would be amazing if you have suggestions about manuscripts for invert/extant (the top secret press) heh. As you know your taste and opinions are very high up in my regard and would be useful to set the tone for what comes next! So, thank you for that. It’s funny so was talking to Zak about what I have been working on and apparently ideas are contagious as now he is starting his own and is very exciting. Maybe I ca do a little shout out for him as he has a call going now as well and I suspect there are people here who would be great contributors? https://www.facebook.com/sweatdrenchedpress/photos/pcb.110788920464305/110785257131338/?type=3&theater
    (haha sorry can’t remember the code for embedding image on here)

    Zak: Due to the amazing response and encouragement and enthusiasm of so many for Sweat Drenched Press, we have decided to open SUBMISSIONS for our special EXPERiMENTAE-Chaps, chapbook series, so if you want to be part of the EXPERIMENTAE series/imprint (that all chapbooks will be released under), well come on and send them Chapper-Chapper-CHAPBOOKS.
    Open from 20TH January- March 1st 2020, so just contact us over on sweatdrenchedpress@outlook(dot)com, that is sweatdrenchedpress@outlook.com.
    Only rule is, ensure it is not below 1,200 words or over the 1,600 word count, but, it doesn’t have to be exactly that, oh no no no, as a few hundred or a few thousand more words over never hurt nobody.
    Looking forward to reading your submissions.
    Best wishes, Zak Ferguson

  4. I love Roland Topor. He is one of those great figures that manage to fall between the cracks of culture. I really feel the depression that comes out of his drawings. And yet, they’re so funny. He’s amazing.

  5. hey den, what a great day, i love roland topor’s drawings, but i didn’t know he was a writer! also the full marquis on youtube?? heaven! i’m dying to watch it. the cai guo qiang day was also heavenly. a few years ago i went to this nye fireworks display put on by the city, and i was really stoned, and i got so obsessed with looking at the sky behind the fireworks and the patterns the smoke was making. it looked like veins, it was so beautiful. so now i’m really into that. this nye we watched the fireworks from this spot right down the street from our house and we had the craziest panorama view of oslo and all the fireworks along the skyline. i looked up the place where schneider’s house is, it’s supposed to be a 5 hour drive from paris, which doesn’t sound bad to me. but i can’t drive anyway, so idk, what do you think? the ready-made class was pretty good, a little dry at first, but it got interesting. the 2nd day we talked mainly about cady noland, our teacher had been to a big show of hers recently and since there was no catalog and no documentation available (and her work is practically never shown) she had taken photos of everything and showed it to us which was amazing. today i’m in my studio, i’ve just been drawing and catching up on the blog. my friend in the ceramics department is in a group show opening tonight so i’m going there soon, and then my roommate’s cooking dinner for us, and that’s about it for today. i just today started listening to ‘send,’ the wire album, because you had a song from it in your bday post right? and it’s sooo good so that felt amazing. hope the gallery opening went well and wasn’t too painful! tell me about your day? love, me

  6. Hey Dennis. I like the drawings. The Lettuce baby and that penis tho! The weather was good in paris, returned on teusday and was happy to have daught those two exibits of Bacon and Hujar, both on their last day of exibition. The Bacon was the most exciting between the two, even tho I would of thought I admired Hujar more, he just didnt have that many pictures and i guess I dont agree with his lack of scale in his reproductions and how he believes each image all be the same size and of the same importance… I dont know with the Bacon there was just total immersion. This exibition focused on his last phase. Im curious that despite a potential shared interest in the mutilation of the body you two have, why you dont find his work that absorbing. Is it that you find his images sensationalist and or because he’s a giant in the art world? I didnt like all the work but theres an elegance to his work and this otherworldly quality I admire, and his precision and distortion. Its pretty cold here in Belgium compared to paris. Better to just stay in.

  7. Amazingly I still haven’t read Topor’s THE TENANT, but I think I read somewhere that it’s being republished by Valancourt Books later this year, so maybe I’ll get to it then.

    Dennis, yes, ‘TD,P’ seemed very “you,” ha ha… didn’t you do a book called “Antoine Monnier”? While watching the film I kept thinking of one of my favorite jokes from an old episode of FRASIER, when Niles Crane asks his brother “What is the French word for ‘light-hearted’?” and Frasier, after thinking about it for a moment, replies, “There isn’t one.”

  8. Ooh turns out I’m a Roland Topor fan without knowing it, having screened Fantastic Planet as part of my Cine Salon thing back in the day. His drawings are so incredible too, wow. And I’ll watch Marquis on YouTube this weekend, all thanks to this enlightening Day here. Very much appreciated!

    Earlier today I bought my first vintage record in quite a while, this fairly obscure 1988 Canadian Hi-NRG tune that is Janet D’Eon – Anything Like You (Euro-Instrumental), £15 via Discogs from a UK seller. To me it’s the musical equivalent of a Swizzels lollipop, a synthetic rush of giddy euphoria, but to my friend and fellow DJ Scott it sounds unbrearably sad. I can hear that too, since he pointed it out.

  9. Hi Dennis. This post is connecting a lot of dots for me. Roland Topor is one of those names I didn’t realize I knew from so man disparate places! His drawings remind me a bit of Bene De Alessi’s but more aggressively surreal. Hope you’re doing well.

  10. Exciting news about your upcoming novel & GIF fiction in the PS above! For the GIF fiction, were there new ideas or approaches you were trying out this time around? I’m really curious about how you develop your art in a form with basically only yourself as precedent.

    It’s not an interview as much as report/lecture notes but thank you for the enthusiasm! & I’d love to talk with you more on the subject. I don’t have webcam capabilities but I could give you my email. & I know you’re busy so there’s no hurry. It wouldn’t be happening soon regardless. Best!

  11. Hey Dennis – What a wonderful day of Torpor! Hadn’t seen many of those drawings or his list of 100 reasons to commit suicide and glad to know them now. It’s a shame so much of his fiction remains OOP in the U.S. — hopefully some smart press will remedy that.

    Happy that the novel has been picked up in France and Germany already. Hope there’s good news on the U.S. front very soon. And I’m excited to hear that a new fiction idea is surfacing. Plus the GIF novel nearing completion.

    How did the GIF show opening go last night? Did you do anything different to showcase it in the gallery?

    The reading last night went well. I read the (provisional) opening of the book and it held the crowd and there was an encouraging reaction afterward. Got me thinking some more about the narrative voice I’m using too, how it could be fine-tuned.

    The band seems to be emerging its torpor (to stay with the day’s theme). We’re playing two shows in the next two weeks, new set with songs that are much more dance-y though still noisy. Maybe, just maybe, the mixes on the recordings from 13 months ago are about to be finished too — though I hate to jinx that, having thought so countless times now.

    Excited for the Owen Land post that’s forthcoming!

  12. Morris has written one other book, SEEING IS BELIEVING, an exploration of photography.

    Here’s my interview with Bertrand Bonello for the Brooklyn Rail: https://brooklynrail.org/2019/12/film/BERTRAND-BONELLO-with-Steve-Erickson. ZOMBI CHILD opens in New York tomorrow.

    I saw a great, relatively unheralded German vampire film from 1970 last night, JONATHAN. It does not have much connection with New German Cinema; instead, it has the dreamlike feel of VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS or Jean Rollin (without the softcore porn aspects of his films), with pastel cinematography and deliberately artificial-looking makeup. It’s streaming on YouTube; if you click on the link there which says it’s only 16 seconds long, it actually contains the entire film with English subtitles.

  13. Some of Topor’s collections of short stories and his fake memoirs were recently republished (or published for the first time in one case) in France, and would be great to have in English. His illustrations also grace the cover of his friend Jacques Sternberg’s absurdist stories too (Gallimard).

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