Giuseppe Arcimboldo (The First "True" Surrealist?)

The Great Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Self-portrait

McLuhen once noted: "the need for a ratio and interplay among the senses as the very constitution of rationality." A few years ago I was rummaging through a large collection of books in the far-corner of an Antique shop in a small town, digging through 70+ year old rarities and gems (the years were spread throughout the time-line) that had me soaring into some invisible obstacle (strange to most people) of some supramundane seraphim (and this wasn't "Angels and Antecedents," either! - amorinis and the deity-like feeling of floating amongst such a miraculous spectacle of magnificent book-love; completely swooned over) that my "en route" was about as common as the Titus Andronicus, for the most part. Upon arriving, eyes growing operatic, like a body-song, and I always felt as though I was out picking private plums for my Grandmother (we used to pick raspberries and blueberries together; much love, much love), books in my presence, like something burning within!. . .(Napolean once said that he would cover his Josephine "with a million kisses burning as though beneath the equator."). . .promptly entrained (drained) all of my energy into searching for hours on end (all-the-while wishing [and muttering to myself] how I wish I were "rich enough to purchase these books").

Vertumnus (portrait of Rudolph II), 1591

Some of the books I gathered (a must-need) were the rarities entitled, Horizon: A Magazine of The Arts (but in hard-back book-form!), which, from my knowledge, were at least published throughout the 50s and into the 60s (though I am uncertain of their stopping-point). One of these books [November 1960 * Volume III, Number 2] had an interesting painting that I still haven't "gotten over" that was the very first image one sees when they open the book (before the contents-page); ie: the Frontispiece.

Of course, after aspiring to find out who the painting was by, I came across the small write-up on the following page of the painting, which says the following:

The Trojan Horse, that eternal symbol of deceit, was an innocent-looking
wooden effigy filled with armed and waiting Greeks. When the Milanese painter
Giuseppe Arcimboldo addressed himself to this idea, he carried it a step
further: omitting wood, he composed his horse entirely of the writhing bodies of
soldiers. Its eyes are two dark heads, its mane a row of flaming torches.
Arcimboldo's grotesqueries were much admired by the Hapsburgs, who made him
court painter at Prague from 1562 to 1587. Today he is admired by the
surrealists, who look at him as a precursor.

Summer, 1563

At that time, which seems like so long ago, I had already been studying the surrealists, so my eyes gleamed with joy when I read the final line of the frontispiece-contents, "Today he is admired by the surrealists, who look at him as a precursor." The keyword for me in that sentence is precursor. "Amazing!," I thought to myself, which I said a few times in my mind. For me, it was like the singing-scene when the Queen enters from the play, The Play of Daniel, in which she sings, ". . .with sonorous tones of strings and voices let music now be made." And, oh, my heart was certainly singing!

After researching this amazing Italian painter, I was completely struck by the surrealism of his portrait-work, and then concluding that this fellow was far ahead of his time (which, I imagine I am not the only one whom has concluded such ideas!).
Perhaps the first Surrealist of all-time? Salvador Dali, mind you, was a fan of his work, which should tell you a little something. From Wiki: "Arcimboldo's conventional work, on traditional religious subjects, has fallen into oblivion, but his portraits of human heads made up of vegetables, fruit and tree roots, were greatly admired by his contemporaries and remain a source of fascination today. Art critics are now debating whether these paintings were whimsical or the product of a deranged mind."
Since these events, Arcimboldo has gone on to become one of my favorite painters. I periodically find that I want to paint in similar elegances. Apparently I am not the only one. Check out Jan Švankmajer (a Czech surrealist) who has, himself, influenced such famous names as Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and The Brothers Quay to name a few.
Other good reads about Arcimboldo here, here and here. (I want those models!)

Flora, 1591


Chris Marker's "La Jetée" (1962)

Poster for La Jetée

Chris Marker, a French film-maker (and writer and photographer, among the thrips and ranges he possesses) created La Jetée in 1962; a short, 28-minute masterpiece (black and white) that was created using mostly still-images while a narrator fills the viewer in on the going-ons (the "voice-over") of the story. The only non-still image that is in the film is when a woman flutters her eyes to the camera as she wakens from a dream (!!!). La Jetée tells the bizarre story of a "post-nuclear war experiment in time travel"; not to mention, of course, a film about war and memory. Or, perhaps the lack of memory, depending on the science of observation (undifferentiated slaughter of the eyes!).

The story takes place in (or "during") War World III, in Paris, under the crumbling chaos of the city. Van Gogh once said, "I am painting infinity," and somehow this particular film allows me to reflect back on that comment. But in reverse. However, the film, to me, is like disassembling permanence. In all of this, where is the body politic[?], I thought. Anyhow, a man (the man in the image above) is sent back to the past and back to the future to supposedly save all of mankind.

From Wiki: "In the movie, the survivors of a destroyed Paris in the aftermath of World War III live underground in the Palais de Chaillot galleries. They research time travel, hoping to send someone back to before the devastating war to recover food, medicine, or energy for the present, "to summon the past and future to the aid of the present". The traveler is a male prisoner; his vague but obsessive childhood memory of witnessing a woman (Hélène Chatelain) during a violent incident on the boarding platform ("The Jetty") at Orly Airport is used as the key to his journey back in time. He is thrown back to the past again and again. He repeatedly meets and speaks to the woman who was present at the terminal. After his successful passages to the past, the experimenters attempt to send him into the deep future. In a brief meeting with the technologically advanced people of the future, he is given a power unit sufficient to regenerate his own destroyed society. On his return, he is cast aside by his imprisoners to die. Before he can be executed, he is contacted by the people of the future, who offer to help him escape to their time, but he asks to be returned to his childhood. He is returned and finds the violent incident he partially witnessed as a child was his own death as an adult."

The arrangement of the film is stunning, and when I first saw this film (during TCM's Short Film Festival) a couple of years ago (though I had read rviews about it long before realizing TCM was going to be showing it), I found myself questioning my own creativity (!!!) and Imagination (!!!). McLuhan: Imagination is that ratio among the perceptions and faculties which exists when they are not embedded or outered in material technologies. The mayhem in this film is "haunting"; not only with its consolidation thrusted in original-style, but also the film's sheer brilliance in allowing the viewer to be somehow intertwined puzzingly (without being able to actually see the "motion" of each "scene"), like some Apocalyptic-undercutting that could flip shade and shadow into pancakes of light! The mightily measuring-tape was out from my mind as if I had been measured (and, as I imagine, the viewer, as well; all viewers; everyone who has had the opportunity to view this film) by the mere surge at which somehow decontructs our stricture of imagination. Or, perhaps this is my own 'awareness' or Jack-knife!

Interesting to note some of the influences as well (via Wiki): "The scene in which the hero and the woman look at a cut-away trunk of a tree is a reference to Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo, which Marker also references in Sans Soleil." "A famous tiny bar in Tokyo is named La Jetée and is decorated with posters of the movie (I must visit someday!). "The music video for Son of Sam (song) by Elliott Smith (directed by Autumn de Wilde) was inspired by "La Jetée"." Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys was also inspired by La Jetée. {to name a few}

In closing, this film must certainly be experienced, if anything for the totality of the diversified field at which is portrayed (running around with Fred Flintstone feet!). On of my all-time favorite films. Top 50, at least.