The Seashell and the Clergyman  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Seashell and the Clergyman (La Coquille et le clergyman) is an experimental French film directed by Germaine Dulac, from an original scenario by Antonin Artaud. It premiered in Paris on 9 February 1928.

Contents

Synopsis

The film follows the erotic hallucinations[1] of a priest lusting after the wife of a general.

Production background

Although accounts differ, it seems that Artaud disapproved of Dulac's treatment of his scenario. The film was overshadowed by Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1929), written and directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. Un chien andalou is considered the first surrealist film, but its foundations in The Seashell and the Clergyman have been all but overlooked. However, the iconic techniques associated with surrealist cinema are all borrowed from this early film. In Lee Jamieson's own analysis of the film, the surrealist treatment of the image is clear. He writes:
"The Seashell and the Clergyman penetrates the skin of material reality and plunges the viewer into an unstable landscape where the image cannot be trusted. Remarkably, Artaud not only subverts the physical, surface image, but also its interconnection with other images. The result is a complex, multi-layered film, so semiotically unstable that images dissolve into one another both visually and 'semantically', truly investing in film's ability to act upon the subconscious."

The British Board of Film Censors famously reported that the film was "Apparently meaningless" but "If there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable"

Alan Williams has suggested is better thought of as a work of or influenced by German expressionism.

Musical scores

The silent film is popular with musicians and has been scored by many groups. It was one of the first films scored by Silent Orchestra and performed by them at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC in 2000. This was the first film to be scored by live accompaniment band Minima. Their debut performance was at the UK's Shunt Vaults at London Bridge in 2006. It has also been rescored by Steven Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Black Cat Orchestra.

Sons of Noel and Adrian performed a live score at The Roundhouse in June 2009. In March 2011, Imogen Heap performed an a cappella score of her own composition with the Holst Singers as part of the Birds Eye View festival.

In January 2012, a new score to a director's cut of The Seashell and the Clergyman was released by the artist Roto Visage on Kikapu, a netlabel that distributes its music for free through digital audio formats. This score was released in conjunction with Transflux Films and with a Creative Commons license.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Seashell and the Clergyman" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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