Near the beginning of Gaspar Noé’s dance-horror movie Climax, we are introduced to the dancers via their audition interviews, which are played on a TV surrounded by VHS titles (it is set in 1996), which include such gonzo avant-garde/horror films as Suspiria, Possession, Salo, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and Un Chien Andalou, further signalling (just in case you missed the bloodied body crawling through the snow at the start, and that it is a Noé movie) that what is to follow is going to be a full frontal assault on the senses. Whether you love it or hate it, Climax certainly succeeds as an overwhelming experience.
But before we go down to Hell, we get a glimpse of Heaven in the extraordinary dance scene. Shot in one very long take, the young and diverse dancers, in their final rehearsal before leaving France to tour America, produce a thing of beauty as they krump, vogue, freestyle and strut their awe-inspiring stuff. The exuberance, energy and sense of collective euphoria on display is truly joyous to watch. Naturally the beautiful people want to party after such a success. Simmering with polymorphous sexual tension, a note of discord is introduced in the bitchy and potentially amorous conversations. Following another stunning series of set pieces by individual dancers, filmed from above, and around the time Thomas Bangalter’s Sangria kicks in, the dance crew begin to realise that the sangria which they have been drinking (most of them anyway) has in fact been spiked with LSD, the mood accordingly darkens and the party degenerates rapidly.
What follows is the mother of all bummer trips, an epic Grand Guignol freak out that is almost unbearably intense as the dancers descend into a netherworld of paranoia, violence, debauched sexual excess and over-saturated primary colours, perfectly captured in the nausea inducing camera angles.
Full credit to the cast, who with the exception Sofia Boutella are dancers not actors, and the spectacular choreography of Nina McNelly. The pulsating soundtrack charts the journey from sublime ecstasy to raging madness wonderfully, below are two tracks that feature when the vibes start to get heavy.
My post on Bob Carlos Clarke’s photographs of debutantes balls (see Very Heaven, Indeed) got me thinking about the ghosts of nightlife past, which naturally enough, led me to remember Mark Leckey’s 1999 video installation Fiorucci made me Hardcore.
This short 15 minute film of found footage choreographed to the snippets of songs, cheers and sounds that languidly drift in before disappearing, chronicles approximately 20 years of the English club scene, from the amphetamine driven Northern Soul dancers of the mid 70’s via the football casuals to the ecstasy fuelled warehouse raves of the late 80’s-early 90’s. Laced with an elegiac nostalgia, we witness the invariably young dancers caught up completely in the bliss of the moment: the holy now. Fiorucci made me Hardcore derives it oddly haunting quality to the fact that we are aware that no matter how much we are living in the instance that the lights will eventually come on, day will dispel the charm of the night and that any lingering intoxication will dissipate to be replaced only by a grinding comedown. The scene and youth itself will fade away. For the now is soon yesterday and this moment has, like all moments must, passed.
One of the greatest of 20th century photographers, Brassai’s reputation rests largely on the iconic images of Parisian street and night life he captured in his 1933 book Paris de nuit (Paris by night), which with its noir, atmospheric depiction of fog bound streets, bustling cafes and brothel scenes populated by lovers, prostitutes, pimps and other coldly calculating seekers of pleasure, forever sealed in the popular imagination the myth of Paris as the quintessential bohemian city. Considering the milieu he portrayed it is maybe no surprise that Brassai was also a master of the nude study. Many of his more abstract and experimental nudes of the 1930’s were featured in the Surrealist magazine Minotaure.
Born Gyula Halasz in Brasov, Transylvania, at the time part of Hungary, later Romania, in 1899, Brassai studied in Budapest and Berlin before moving to Paris in 1924, where he would live for the rest of his life. Here he adopted his pseudonym Brassai, taken from the name of his home town. He took up photography initially only to supplement his income, however he soon realised that it was the perfect medium to capture the nocturnal essence of Paris. He was a friend to many of the artists and writers of the period, including Henry Miller, Salvador Dali, Picasso, Henri Matisse and Alberto Giacometti.
I have including below a mixture of his experimental and documentary studies of the female form.