Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Emshwiller, Fantomas, Gertrude, Heroically I Jump


Last night, Marianne and I helped celebrate Carol Emshwiller's 90th birthday.  Alas, she can no longer write because her eyesight has taken a sudden turn for the worse.  She thinks, however, there may be a technological fix for this.  My fingers were crossed.

And she's still one of the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet.

This afternoon, we went to a screening of the first episode of Fantomas.  Fantomas was the anti-hero of a series of French black and white silent movies -- a ruthless criminal, a master of disguise, and always a step ahead of the police.  In the first movie Fantomas in the Shadow of the Guillotine, the criminal is caught and almost killed, but manages to substitute an actor -- drugged and made up in his exact likeness -- to take his place.  These pulp nightmares were a big hit among the surrealists and other avant-garde artists of the day, and it's easy to see why.

And this is a brief posting because . . .

I'm off to see an opera based on Gertrude Stein's writings.  More tomorrow!



HANNAH'S DAD said...

If I had to list the three stories which did the most to mess up my development, I might say

The Second Inquisition (Russ)
The Words of Guru (Kornbluth)
Sex and/or Mr. Morrison (Emshwiller)

I hope all becomes well with her vision.

Shawn said...

Hey Mike, I thought I would post this link for your viewing pleasure. It is a band called Idlewild, from Scotland, doing a song called "Roseability". Gertrude Stein is mentioned quite a bit in the song. The song is a bit old (came out in '99 or 00) but I thought you might get a kick out of it and maybe shed some light on what the lyrics mean as I have never read anything from Gertrude.

JJM said...

Before he was a movie star, Fantômas was the main character in a series of books by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. They wrote 32 books together, from 1911 on, and Allain wrote 11 on his own after Souvestre's death in 1914. Definitely not someone whose attention you'd want to call upon yourself, that's for sure -- at least, in the books he's a sociopath, and a pretty nasty piece of work. Definitely a change from the old-style Gothic / romantic villains of the 19th century.

I haven't seen the films yet (although they're now in my Netflix queue, thanks for the heads-up), so don't know if they're true to the written version of the character. He makes for uncomfortable reading, that's for sure.


Michael Swanwick said...

Fantomas is definitely not a nice guy in the one movie I've seen -- though I suspect some of it was soft-peddled to spare the audience. (The actor doesn't actually get guillotined, though that would have been the better choice artistically.)

Midway through, Marianne nudged me and pointed at the gloves that Fantomas-in-disguise was wearing. They had black bars on them, like those worn by the Octopus, arch-enemy of Will Eisner's Spirit. That had to be deliberate on EIsner's part.