Julia Gfrörer’s “Phosphorous” opens with a crying young man arriving at a pond.  His first words, which appear before him are “fuck you, fuck you dad”.  And thus begins a short but dense unpacking and subversion of the traditional representations of masculinity in patriarchal society.  It is in this deconstruction where beautiful horror streams in, and Gfrörer is able to construct a piece of sublime weight.

Male tears are something of a rare bird in the dominant fiction of our culture, and so upon their materialization you do kind of have to lap them up with a particular fervent earnestness.  In Julia Gfrörer’s “Phosphorous”: our starting point is a man in the woods.  This stone chucking man, with his pack of things, cuts something of an archetype of the self-sufficient capable man under whose foot nature bends in hierarchical accordance.  But that image is mixed in with tears and volatile emotions.  His principle struggle between himself and his father, which he expresses through sexualized obscenities, is presented here as a kind of hysteria.  This is the son who cock in hand,  wishes to assert his virility over his father, and in so doing ascend into adult alpha-malehood.  It is a primordial struggle between father and son—and by mixing that with tears,  we are presented the image of masculinity as rooted in an emotional struggle and perhaps not entirely within control of its own faculties.  It is not without importance that he has left his father, to come to this pond to and meet his obscene repressed dark mother; and it is not without mirrored appropriateness that the interactions between the two will also be sexual in its nature.

What is interesting with the man’s relationship to the woman in the pond is that rather than following the mold of the dominant patriarchal cultural representations, wherein it is the woman who is regressed by sex—here we see the man turned into the cooing monosyllabic child face of ecstasy.  While the former is not a truth, but a cliche, Gfrörer has inverted it al the same—and even though the woman in the pond is constantly shown beneath the man, she is in complete control of him from that position.  She has him by the balls.  This is still a depiction of masculinity—but there is a recontextualization from father-daughter imagery to mother-son imagery.  We see this repeatedly in the comic as the woman cradles and comforts the man throughout the entire sexual experience, even going as far as to recreate the Pieta on the shores of the pond.  Which now is a beautiful blasphemy of the dead white Christ and the black Virgin Mother now post incestual coitus. The transformation of the woman in the swamp from monstrous other to woman to virgin death mother encompasses a cycle that recalls very easily the xenomorphs of the Alien films.

It wouldn’t be inappropriate to introduce Alien(1979) here into the conversation because a lot of the dramatic forces which made that one of the great works of horror of the 20th century, are also at play here.  In Alien it is the notion that men can be overpowered, violated, and impregnated by the monstrous feminine that baselines a lot of the squeamishness of both Giger’s designs and Scott’s atmosphere of overriding dread.  As well, we also deal with the irrationality of men in Alien; Over and over again, the men of the movie make emotionally charged and altogether disastrous decisions(the most prominent of which is to bring Kane into the ship against strict quarantine guidelines, and Ripley’s stern direction not to).  In this way there are two mothers at play in Alien, Ripley, and the xenomorph—and both are disregarded by men to the peril of all of those around them.  So there’s a resonance in terms of the forces at play between  Alien and “Phosphorous”, and while these themes are in more places than Alien—I think that’s probably the clearest, best example of what we’re talking about here—and I bring it up, because the monster at the bottom of the pond in “Phosphorous” is operationally very similar to Giger and Scott’s xenomorph.

There is a mirror here between the young man approaching the strange glow in the pond, and Kane in Alien approaching the egg which contains the facehugger.  In both instances, male bravado and curiosity has led it into the clutches of a female trap.  The other main comparison here is obviously that the xenomorph represents both sex and death.  The woman in the pond operates along a similar axis, and though she doesn’t kill the young man, she is as interested in his life’s breath as she is his semen.

Shifting focus onto the woman in the pond: we see that even though, as mentioned previously, she is shown below the man at almost all times (there are in fact, only three panels where she is compositionally drawn above the man), the way that she touches and talks to the man is never subservient.  I think one of the most interesting sequences in “Phosphorous” is when she grabs the man’s penis and begins manipulating it curiously.  Even though fundamentally we can recognize this as a hand job—the way that it has been contextualized is with the penis as a foreign object—the penis is objectified here; both by being the disembodied focus of the hands in the panel, but also in the way that it supersedes the man in terms of the importance it takes in their interaction.  She orders him to show her how it works, and he immediately complies to her authority, and begins, tears in eyes, to masturbate.


As she pulls him under water the imagery turns from that of purely sex, to also that of death as we see both semen and life breath being extracted from the boy.  This idea of the female extracting sex and then bringing death is all through nature (and for what it’s worth it is also how the xenomorph functions).  It is an intensely erotic idea because it plays with our ideas of sex as something of a life force that is done to reproduce ourselves continuously through time in opposition to the finality of death; so to present sex also as the cessation of one’s life, and rather instead, present it as a reminder of death creates taboo.  And through the transgression of the taboo, we get the energy of the obscenity from which we feel the push and pull of our gaze throughout this work.

There is something else happening here and that is sex as connection.  The young man in his disconnect from his father, is here, whether explicit to his knowledge or not, to connect with both his mother and his repressed childhood.  He is having this experience to break down the walls between his present identity, and these separated refractions of self spread throughout his subconsciousness.  By introducing death play into the sex, those barriers are even further eroded, as identity weakens alongside life’s waning assertion.  This gap allows for the identity of the other, in this case the dark mother, to flood in and fill—In doing so, the man becomes the boy becomes the fetus becomes the mother. This regression becomes complete once he has died.  Two circles rotating in opposite directions, meeting at a singular incestual point joined through the mirror.

It is the culmination of these densely layered motions and counter motions which give “Phosphorous” the mesmerizing strength that it has.  It is only a six page comic nestled at the back of Gfrörer’s Black Light collection, but it follows you away from the page in a way that few comics being made currently by anyone else can claim to.  I actually showed this comic to someone at my day job, and they were completely transfixed.  It happens quickly, but it happens powerfully, and the work as a whole is quintessentially what I mean when I talk about my own interests in the horrible beautiful.  For me Gfrörer’s work is absolutely at the forefront of comics being made today, and however poorly they translate into my ability to write about them, these are the kinds of comics and creators which should be struggled with, not the regressive toy shit that dominates the weekly controversies.  You can put Julia’s work up against other top works in other mediums happening right now, and it can absolutely trump them.  It’s extremely exciting for comics.

Taiyo Matsumoto is tough for me to write about in any kind of formal fashion.  Not sure why.  I think maybe some of it may be that he’s such an old influence for me—like I came into his work before Nihei or Daisuke Igarashi—maybe even before Inio Asano-though Asano hasn’t really influenced me artistically—but I think how I got there was I was reading Stray Toasters because when I was first sort of starting to figure out how to draw, I practiced by redrawing Frazetta and BWS, but I was looking at like Sienkiewicz and Ashley Wood—anyways so I was reading Stray Toasters, and my wife of the time saw one of the panels in it, and was like “oh wow, that’s Klimt”—so I went and looked up Klimt and was like “whoa” which led me to Schiele which was a life changing moment.  As soon as I saw Schiele I knew there was something in there that I just FELT, and I wanted to explore that feeling through my own work and find my own expression through it.

So in trying to figure out how to take Schiele into comics I ran into Taiyo Matsumoto’s work.  I think Tekkinkinkreet was the first work of his I read, then No. 5, then Gogo Monster, then Ping Pong, then Takemitsu Zamurai, and now Sunny.  Ping Pong and Takemitsu Zamurai are prolly my fave works by him, with Gogo Monster a close third.  But these works were huge to me, and I mean eventually I found Daisuke Igarashi—and I think Daisuke is even closer to my like platonic ideal of comics than even Taiyo is—but Taiyo was key.  Maybe THE key.  At least after Schiele.  So there’s a lot of emotional investment with Taiyo.

So I was really ready for Sunny when I first saw the scanulated pages and once I learned it was coming out officially in the US, I stopped reading those pages and just waited.  What excited me with Sunny was that in Takemitsu Zamurai Taiyo really found this incredible dynamic and expressive way to really sort of put his line in the forefront.  And he ditched a lot of the heavier rendering techniques that were kind of holding that line down, and just trusted his brush for textures and tones— and it was amazing.

So when I first saw Sunny, I was like—well this is the logical end point of this like 30 year progression of his style.  So I was crazy for this book.

But when I finally got it, that first volume was really brutal for me.  The dynamism that I expected, and the expressionism was really paired back, and I thought the first book really started to highlight for me Taiyo’s inadequacies as a writer compared to someone like Igarashi, or Inio Asano.

I thought that the over abundance of these water color inks with just a lot of heavy black—and less sort of body bending compared to previous works that it looked like a children’s book almost.  It had this “literary” stuffiness to it that really lacked the psychosis of Taiyo’s older work.  Which was a shame, because Sunny was meant to be such a painful personal story of Taiyo’s own upbringing—but it seemed even the story had a restraint—like the dark corners of what was really going on were very hemmed in and restrained—almost sanitized.  The whole thing had me really down on his work as a whole, and I was really considering how I thought about Taiyo’s work as a whole, and what role it would play for me going forward.

But out of trust I kept up with it, and…oof it was rough for awhile.  It took me four months to read the second volume just because it was so demoralizing to me how much  I didn’t like it—and I was just going to be done with the series there—but the last story of the second volume it finally hit me.  This is the story about Haruo visiting his mother in Tokyo.  And finally, FINALLY I had what I needed to hold on with the story.  Haruo is absolutely the star of this book, and it’s because he is in some ways the most unrestrained character in the book—even as he is the most kind of fucked up and emotional too.  He is a type of character that Taiyo has done really well in a lot of different books—he is kind of a combo of both black and white—because he has the coolness of black, even as he has the manic-ness of white.  And initially Junsuke is kind of set up as the white character of this book—but I don’t think it really works quite the same, and anyways—so this Haruo chapter largely works in the loud unsaid howl of Haruo’s whole way of being. And really after this chapter it feels like Taiyo has finally found his footing with these large cast of characters—because after that there’s the great Megumu chapter, the Makio chapter—he’s figured out that this book is kind of about this kind of emotional frailty of these children, even as they are intensely strong in their abilities to adapt—but that that adaptation has it’s cost, and for as much as the adults around the star kids do their best—the damage of being discarded by your parents is real.

I also think by the third volume the stylistic choices by Matsumoto are much more in balance.  After all of these styles he can approach a panel in any number of ways—and where the first volume I thought was quite rigid, and maybe it was just about nailing down the baseline style of for the book—there seems to be more of the sense by volume 3 of a master using his whole toolkit and knowing when to kick this kind of style in one panel vs. another.

I think fundamentally the strength of Taiyo’s work for his whole career is that he doesn’t just tell you here is a boy doing this thing—he gives you something more about the boy at that particular time just in the way his line jitters, or the way the shadow will cloud a face—and maybe the shadow will be these impressionistic brush strokes—or maybe it will be more traditional cross hatching techniques?  But the choice always was about communicating something beyond simply what is physically there in the scene.

The Makio chapter in vol. 3 is an excellent showcase for this versatility of skill, and the pointedness of Matsumoto’s choices.  We see this impressionistic jittering of styles that shift and change depending on the role that Makio is performing—so when he is more of an adult with his girlfriend at the restaurant—everything is very stable and adult, makio has his really heavily hatched sports coat which really restrains his form and constricts him.  But later when he is playing baseball with the star kids, the coat is gone, and his form is stretched and bending and has less weight.  That beautiful panel of Makio as a mountain climber.  His face rendered heavily, inside of just these really beautiful loose lines and brush strokes.  We don’t know exactly what he’s thinking in that moment—but it still is the climax of the chapter.  It is the most truthful expression of Makio as the man he has become.  It is his most honest portrayal so far in the book(though the earlier Makio chapter in Sunny is also pretty good).

It was interesting I started to watch the anime adaption of Ping Pong that Masaaki Yuasa is directing and while it is it’s own weird thing separate from the manga—it’s interesting to see other artists try to duplicate what Matsumoto does, and copy his lines—-and while I’m enjoying it all, and it is gorgeous—it isn’t Taiyo.  When you have a style so hinged on an almost signitory movement of the line—it is uncopyable in that way.  A line like that is so personal and so expressing and so singular.  And it’s different to see the comic where Taiyo is just expressing himself, vs. an anime where others are trying to express Taiyo to others—and the effect is really interesting and bizarre.  But it speaks to my own convictions about the line and how the line is everything.  To really get up close with an artist’s line, it’s like…a fingerprint.  And I love that with Taiyo that element is so up front.  These are stories and they come from a place inside of me and all of my experiences to this point.  That’s on the page.  You don’t need to bring anything outside to glean that.  You look at it and it tells you everything.  It’s the same thing I think that causes some people to not be able to look at Schiele’s work.  Because that line is so disturbing.  There’s a deep psychosis there that can make people really uncomfortable.  But it’s so beautiful to me.  So simple but so beautiful.  So yeah, I’ve come back around on Sunny.

Palm Ash is a comic by Julia Gfrörer set during the Diocletianic Persecutions, which were the most severe persecutions of the Christians by the Romans.  It is 20 pages long and can be had via her Etsy page for $5(though there are few copies left)

Julia Gfrörer is someone whose work I’ve wanted to write about for some time.  Her book, Black is the Color, put out last year through Fantagraphics was one of my favorite books from last year, and I think one of the strongest books by a contemporary artist that Fantagraphics has put out in a while. Gfrörer’s work is kind of intimidating critically though, because the space it creates for itself is so intelligent and considered, that there’s a real question of whether you really have anything to say to the book that doesn’t immediately demean your own words by comparison.

Palm Ash is more of the same in this respect.  There are beats in a Gfrörer comic that are so assured and naturalistic in their wit and brilliance that you have to double take that you are in fact reading a comic still.  The 9 panel grid that Black is the Color was cordoned off into is repeated here with much the same effect in that the restriction and repetition of form allow for the details of figure and gesture to become louder on the page, and the smaller character moments of the book become more noticeable.  Gfrörer’s comics often live in the space of subtle hand gestures and wry looks between characters.  As I mentioned when I wrote about Katie Skelly’s book Operation Margarine, the control and modulation between the wide shot and the close-up in Palm Ash, perhaps even moreso than Black is the Color, really go a long ways toward dictating mood and emotional tenor for the characters involved.  We zoom out at key moments to a character with their back turned to a conversation before coming into a tight sweaty closeup within the same scene and segment of panels.

The speed with which Gfrörer can set up the emotional playing field between her characters is nothing short of remarkable.  Most of these scenes that make up this book’s taut 20-pages are only two or three pages long, but you get a lot of character development just because of the assured sense of character at play here.

Let’s examine one of my favorite pages from the book to sort of see what I’m talking about with these elements:

So to contextualize this scene, this is a scene between Dia who is the lover of a Roman soldier named Drusus, who her friend is occupying while she meets with Simeon, who is a christian Martyr whose secret Martyr trick is that lions fall asleep next to him instead of eating him.  Dia has a son named Maioricus who she wants to bring to Simeon so he can baptize him.

One of the interesting things with early Christianity, and one of the reasons why the Romans were initially so aggressive against it was that it largely started with women and slaves in roman society, because the faith largely sold a liberation from the yoke of the traditional role of a woman in roman society.  And so a lot of the roman power structure was being undermined by this new religion which struck at a lot of the exploited labor on which the society was nestled, and what’s more, it glorified martyrdom, so it wasn’t like you could really threaten these people with death and that would be that.

So what’s interesting here is that even though Dia knows the tremendous costs associated with getting her son baptized, she still wants to because she believes in the power of Simeon’s God.

So that first panel, is after Simeon has told Dia that they will meet again in the next life, and we get this wonderful reaction where Gfrörer has whited out her eyes and there’s these heavy lines around the nose—we can see the cloudiness of her soul in that moment, her uncertainty, and there’s a certain thought process conveyed there in that simple look that is underscored by the panel after it where she looks gloomily at a smiling optimistic Simeon, and this is where she makes the decision to risk her son’s life so that he may have a better afterlife.  And again we get little gestures, notice how Simeon’s hand is on top of Dia’s, he’s the certain one, Dia’s hand is pulling back, her soul is clouded in that moment.  She is considering the totality of the risk, and it’s all just in this silent medium shot panel nestled between two almost repetitive close-up panels of Dia’s face.  Again you can see the mental state has changed for Dia between the first and third panel, and it’s all in the subtleties of how the eyes are shaded.  Again, this is accomplished because of the rigidity and repetition of the page layout, and the repetition of forms so you can register their differences.

When you get to the second row look at how much Dia’s disposition has changed from the 2nd panel in the first row and the 1st panel on the second row.  It is night and day, even though it is the same shot with the same characters.

Simeon’s performance on this page is similarly brilliant.  His expression in the middle panel of the page, his sad astonishment at what Dia is willing to risk.  The first panel on the bottom row is probably my favorite singular panel of the entire book, and in some ways it is the pivotal panel of the book because it is where Simeon takes on the weight not only of his own arc, but also that of Dia and her son—he is willing to shoulder the responsibility for the horror that is going to happen(and most certainly, in graphic detail, does happen).  His resoluteness in the final panel of the page is fully earned from the first panel to the last.

And it’s not all hyper emotional moments, there are a lot of really funny moments in Palm Ash of just black sarcastic gallows humor.  Gfrörer’s comic timing is largely built on a lot of the same precepts which allow her dramatic angles to work, in terms of repetition and gesture.  That she is able to easily shift between both is remarkable, and there are few writers who are as gifted in western comics at shouldering both elements so ably.

It’s interesting to think about Palm Ash in comparison with Black is the Color, because even though Black is the Color is the longer work, Palm Ash is the denser work.  There are more interweaving narratives at play here.  There’s several small bits like Geta’s ring—that weave through the background of the book, and create this interconnected narrative space that is extremely rich.  Even though the joy of Gfrörer’s work is still largely in the details, the totality of Palm Ash is quite substantive.  There is a fairly clever and brave story at work here about motherhood and the role of women within these sort of Roman Coliseum stories that have largely been taken over as male narratives.  While also powerfully illustrating the both the role women played in early Christendom, and the threat they posed to the empire through that behavior.

It is horrific when Drusus charges in and yells at Dia “everything about you belongs to me”, but she has already subverted this statement, and even as everything in her life is taken from her, that defiance and her agency in the choices that precipitate the final actions of her life have already given her back a measure of humanity that previously had been closed off from her.

I have certainly said it in places before, but Palm Ash is nothing if not more evidence to it’s testament, Julia Gfrörer is absolutely one of the most gifted storytellers in comics, and anytime you get to read one of these books, it’s really quite wonderful.

 

This week’s horror movies that I watched were;

#77: Baba Yaga (Dir Corrado Farina)

#78: Amer (Dir. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani)

#79: The Living and the Dead (Dir. Simon Rumley)

#80: The Hunger (Dir. Tony Scott)
#81: Witchfinder General (Dir. Michael Reeves)

#82: Vinyan (Dir. Fabrice Du Welz)

#83: They Live (Dir. John Carpenter)
#84: Cat People (1982) (Dir. Paul Schrader)

I only wrote about The Living and the Dead(follow the link), but I could have written on Cat People, The Hunger, Baba Yaga, and Witchfinder General really easily(humble brag).  But I did other things with my time.

Here’s what I’ve got to date;

#1: Humanoids from the Deep (Dir. Barbara Peeters)

#2: Shock (Dir. Mario Bava)

#3: Don’t Torture a Duckling (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#4: Female Vampire (Dir. Jess Franco)

#5 The Iron Rose (Dir. Jean Rollin)

#6: Alucarda (Dir. Juan López Moctezuma)

#7: Wake In Fright (Dir. Tedd Kotcheff)

#8: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska)

#9: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska) and Gore

#10: Lisa and the Devil (Dir. Mario Bava)

#11: Critters (Dir. Stephen Herek)

#12: Szamanka (Dir. Andrzej Zulawski)

#13: The Whip and the Body (Dir. Mario Bava)

#14: City of the Living Dead (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#15: White Zombie (Dir. Victor Halperin)

#16: Hardware (Dir. Richard Stanley)

#17: The New York Ripper (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

# 18: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Dir. Dario Argento)

#19: Black Christmas (Dir. Bob Clark)

#20: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci)

#21: Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma)

#22: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Dir. Jack Sholder)

#23: Candyman (Dir. Bernard Rose)

#24: Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski)

#25: The Innocents (Dir. Jack Clayton)

#26: Phantasm (Dir Don Coscarelli)

#27: Nadja (Dir. Michael Almereyda)

#28: Baby Blood (Dir. Alain Robak)

#29: Trouble Every Day (Dir. Claire Denis)

#30: Bay of Blood (Dir. Mario Bava)

#31: In My Skin (Dir Marina de Van)

#32: Halloween III (Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)

#33: Halloween 2(Zombie) (Dir. Rob Zombie)

#34: Dark Touch (Dir. Marina De Van)

#35: Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#36: The Vanishing (Dir. George Sluizer)
#37: Living Dead Girl (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#38: Zombie (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#39: Maniac (Dir. Franck Khalfoun)
#40: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (Dir. Roy Ward Baker)
#41: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (Dir. John D. Hancock)

#42: Kill List (Dir. Ben Wheatley)

#43: Don’t Look Back (Dir. Marina De Van)

#44: Alligator (Dir. Lewis Teague)

#45: Ganja and Hess (Dir. Bill Gunn)

#46: The Burning (Dir. Tony Maylam)

#47: The ABCs of Death (Dir. Various)

#48: Byzantium (Dir. Neil Jordan)

#49: Cat People (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#50: The Curse of the Cat People (Dir. Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise)

#51: Little Deaths (Dir. Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley)

#52: Marebito (Dir. Takashi Shimizu)

#53: A Horrible Way to Die (Dir. Adam Wingard)

#54: 5 Dolls for An August Moon (Dir. Mario Bava)

#55: I walked with a Zombie (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#56: The Legend of Hell House (Dir. John Hough)

#57: Psychomania (Dir. Don Sharp)
#58: Inside (Dir. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

#59: Under the Skin (Dir. Jonathan Glazer)

#60: Left Bank (Dir. Peiter Van Hees)
#61: Simon King of the Witches (Dir. Bruce Kessler)

#62: Blood and Black Lace (Dir. Mario Bava)

#63: Nightmare City (Dir. Umberto Lenzi)

#64: Rogue (Dir. Greg McLean)

#65: Snowtown (Dir. Justin Kurzel)

#66: Livid (Dir. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

#67: Horror of Dracula (Dir. Terence Fischer)
#68: Christine (Dir. John Carpenter)

#69: Demons (Dir. Lamberto Bava)
#70: God Told Me To (Dir. Larry Cohen)

#71: Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (Dir. Tony Randel)

#72: The Addiction (Dir. Abel Ferrara)

#73: Lips of Blood (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#74: A Blade in the Dark (Dir. Lamberto Bava)

#75: Demons 2 (Dir. Lamberto Bava)

#76: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

#77: Baba Yaga (Dir Corrado Farina)

#78: Amer (Dir. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani)

#79: The Living and the Dead (Dir. Simon Rumley)

#80: The Hunger (Dir. Tony Scott)
#81: Witchfinder General (Dir. Michael Reeves)

#82: Vinyan (Dir. Fabrice Du Welz)

#83: They Live (Dir. John Carpenter)
#84: Cat People (1982) (Dir. Paul Schrader)

Re-reading Blutch’s masterful So Long Silver Screen, which I have previously written about.  It’s actually one of the few times I’ve ever concluded a piece of comic writing telling people to buy something.  Which proves both that I am first everything I hate, before anyone else is.  And secondly, just how huge of an experience So Long, Silver Screen was for me.

I have been thinking about Blutch a lot lately because for my own art, I’m trying to get into these very visceral ugly dramatic spaces—I’m trying to carve geography out of the side of Bergman, Zulawski, and Ferrara and steal it away for my comics.  But the corralary of trying to work with those beats, is needing to figure out how to get them to pop off in comics properly—but unfortunately there are very few comics that have this kind of dangerous dramatic intensity.  I would say the end of Oyasumi Punpun comes to this space—and someday I will write about that—I think Blutch is an artist who also carries this off.  Of course So Long, Silver Screen is one long love letter to the best cinema has to offer.  But beyond it’s essayistic qualities, and deconstructive connections to film, the interior dramatic segments also have some of the most primal stuff I’ve seen.  

I’m thinking mostly of the ugly passionate arguments between Blutch’s stand-in and the women of the comic.  His sort of violent psycho-sexual interactions with them are really incredible.  The book actually opens with a woman in a darkened room looking for her lover, who suddenly attacks her with a pillow from behind, suffocating her, before preparing to have sex with her, while opining about cinema.  The woman suddenly wakes up to correct him about Paul Newman before another woman, a much older woman appears and begins to chastise the male character, before the two of them also get into a violent fight.

Now Blutch isn’t the first artist ever to depict these sorts of things, but he is one of the few who captures a certain kind of hatred that you really only see in films like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Scenes from A Marriege—it isn’t totally just hatred, because that would be boring.  But rather we’re talking about the hatred of people who have felt deep emotional history between one another, and lack the emotional tools to communicate their pain verbally and so have to resort to violence—it’s like in that scene in Possession in the kitchen where Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neil are fighting, but they have their backs to one another, and you can see their bodies almost ripping apart from one another—it’s something about body language and framing—which Blutch has.

I think Blutch’s style lends itself to the kind of malleability needed to pull off these kinds of emotions.  The deep shadows that can suddenly come from nowhere and obscure and cloud faces, which allow us to imagine their emotion—Blutch has a working symbology for the deeper psychological motivations of his characters as they interact with one another.  And then past that, he understands the push and pull of characters who have emotional ties to one another.  He knows that the body has it’s own sight, and can see with it’s back turned, certain feelings and individuals.  He shows us the sinewy hate filled contortions of this male character, who the woman can’t see because her back is turned, which puts us as a reader on edge.

And when Blutch’s characters physically fight, it’s not really punches, so much as grappling.  Limbs and fingers interlocked, characters lose their balance together and fall over—it gives his fights the sexual energy which underlies the hateful things his characters are doing and saying to one another.  And the figures move with desperation when they are pinned down.  They clutch, rip, and knee whatever they can.  

And what’s more, this violence and hate, quickly can turn into sex and love.  He blurs the lines between the two, and it allows for these orgasmic epiphanies like the one he ends the book on.

So Long, Silver Screen is about fighting.  It’s men and women fighting and not understanding one another, but trying to understand one another.  It is about women’s place in film history, and agency in the world—the penultimate page is one last violent fight where Blutch’s protaganist is fighting another lover, interrogating her bullishly the whole time: “Who grabs your legs? Who spreads em wide? Huh?  Who sticks his nose in your cunt?  Who lives and breathes you?”

The woman  stops him and says to him: “me too, Paul”.  You don’t get the emotion of that moment without all of the horror in front of it.  Blutch earns that moment with every inch of the page.  Truly masterful.

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This week’s Horror Movie of the Day movies were:

#71: Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (Dir. Tony Randel)

#72: The Addiction (Dir. Abel Ferrara)

#73: Lips of Blood (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#74: A Blade in the Dark (Dir. Lamberto Bava)

#75: Demons 2 (Dir. Lamberto Bava)

#76: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

The links lead to articles I wrote about said movies.  Vampired it up a bit this week.

Here’s the updated list so far(as above, links lead to writing on particular movies):

#1: Humanoids from the Deep (Dir. Barbara Peeters)

#2: Shock (Dir. Mario Bava)

#3: Don’t Torture a Duckling (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#4: Female Vampire (Dir. Jess Franco)

#5 The Iron Rose (Dir. Jean Rollin)

#6: Alucarda (Dir. Juan López Moctezuma)

#7: Wake In Fright (Dir. Tedd Kotcheff)

#8: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska)

#9: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska) and Gore

#10: Lisa and the Devil (Dir. Mario Bava)

#11: Critters (Dir. Stephen Herek)

#12: Szamanka (Dir. Andrzej Zulawski)

#13: The Whip and the Body (Dir. Mario Bava)

#14: City of the Living Dead (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#15: White Zombie (Dir. Victor Halperin)

#16: Hardware (Dir. Richard Stanley)

#17: The New York Ripper (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

# 18: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Dir. Dario Argento)

#19: Black Christmas (Dir. Bob Clark)

#20: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci)

#21: Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma)

#22: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Dir. Jack Sholder)

#23: Candyman (Dir. Bernard Rose)

#24: Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski)

#25: The Innocents (Dir. Jack Clayton)

#26: Phantasm (Dir Don Coscarelli)

#27: Nadja (Dir. Michael Almereyda)

#28: Baby Blood (Dir. Alain Robak)

#29: Trouble Every Day (Dir. Claire Denis)

#30: Bay of Blood (Dir. Mario Bava)

#31: In My Skin (Dir Marina de Van)

#32: Halloween III (Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)

#33: Halloween 2(Zombie) (Dir. Rob Zombie)

#34: Dark Touch (Dir. Marina De Van)

#35: Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#36: The Vanishing (Dir. George Sluizer)
#37: Living Dead Girl (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#38: Zombie (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#39: Maniac (Dir. Franck Khalfoun)
#40: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (Dir. Roy Ward Baker)
#41: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (Dir. John D. Hancock)

#42: Kill List (Dir. Ben Wheatley)

#43: Don’t Look Back (Dir. Marina De Van)

#44: Alligator (Dir. Lewis Teague)

#45: Ganja and Hess (Dir. Bill Gunn)

#46: The Burning (Dir. Tony Maylam)

#47: The ABCs of Death (Dir. Various)

#48: Byzantium (Dir. Neil Jordan)

#49: Cat People (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#50: The Curse of the Cat People (Dir. Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise)

#51: Little Deaths (Dir. Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley)

#52: Marebito (Dir. Takashi Shimizu)

#53: A Horrible Way to Die (Dir. Adam Wingard)

#54: 5 Dolls for An August Moon (Dir. Mario Bava)

#55: I walked with a Zombie (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#56: The Legend of Hell House (Dir. John Hough)

#57: Psychomania (Dir. Don Sharp)
#58: Inside (Dir. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

#59: Under the Skin (Dir. Jonathan Glazer)

#60: Left Bank (Dir. Peiter Van Hees)
#61: Simon King of the Witches (Dir. Bruce Kessler)

#62: Blood and Black Lace (Dir. Mario Bava)

#63: Nightmare City (Dir. Umberto Lenzi)

#64: Rogue (Dir. Greg McLean)

#65: Snowtown (Dir. Justin Kurzel)

#66: Livid (Dir. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

#67: Horror of Dracula (Dir. Terence Fischer)
#68: Christine (Dir. John Carpenter)

#69: Demons (Dir. Lamberto Bava)
#70: God Told Me To (Dir. Larry Cohen)

#71: Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (Dir. Tony Randel)

#72: The Addiction (Dir. Abel Ferrara)

#73: Lips of Blood (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#74: A Blade in the Dark (Dir. Lamberto Bava)

#75: Demons 2 (Dir. Lamberto Bava)

#76: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

Up to 70 days in a row now.  This week was kind of uneven, in large part thanks to Netflix fucking with my hustle.  But still.  Finally saw Demons, which was pretty terrific.  Livide which was cool, and I wrote about.  Christine which was good, but not per se in my wheelhouse.  Snowtown was pretty.  Anyways.  Below is the list of what I watched this week.  The links lead to articles I’ve written on the movies;

#65: Snowtown (Dir. Justin Kurzel)

#66: Livid (Dir. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

#67: Horror of Dracula (Dir. Terence Fischer)
#68: Christine (Dir. John Carpenter)

#69: Demons (Dir. Lamberto Bava)
#70: God Told Me To (Dir. Larry Cohen)

Here’s the master list of the films I’ve watched to day:

#1: Humanoids from the Deep (Dir. Barbara Peeters)

#2: Shock (Dir. Mario Bava)

#3: Don’t Torture a Duckling (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#4: Female Vampire (Dir. Jess Franco)

#5 The Iron Rose (Dir. Jean Rollin)

#6: Alucarda (Dir. Juan López Moctezuma)

#7: Wake In Fright (Dir. Tedd Kotcheff)

#8: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska)

#9: American Mary (Dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska) and Gore

#10: Lisa and the Devil (Dir. Mario Bava)

#11: Critters (Dir. Stephen Herek)

#12: Szamanka (Dir. Andrzej Zulawski)

#13: The Whip and the Body (Dir. Mario Bava)

#14: City of the Living Dead (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#15: White Zombie (Dir. Victor Halperin)

#16: Hardware (Dir. Richard Stanley)

#17: The New York Ripper (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

# 18: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Dir. Dario Argento)

#19: Black Christmas (Dir. Bob Clark)

#20: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci)

#21: Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma)

#22: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Dir. Jack Sholder)

#23: Candyman (Dir. Bernard Rose)

#24: Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski)

#25: The Innocents (Dir. Jack Clayton)

#26: Phantasm (Dir Don Coscarelli)

#27: Nadja (Dir. Michael Almereyda)

#28: Baby Blood (Dir. Alain Robak)

#29: Trouble Every Day (Dir. Claire Denis)

#30: Bay of Blood (Dir. Mario Bava)

#31: In My Skin (Dir Marina de Van)

#32: Halloween III (Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)

#33: Halloween 2(Zombie) (Dir. Rob Zombie)

#34: Dark Touch (Dir. Marina De Van)

#35: Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#36: The Vanishing (Dir. George Sluizer)
#37: Living Dead Girl (Dir. Jean Rollin)
#38: Zombie (Dir. Lucio Fulci)

#39: Maniac (Dir. Franck Khalfoun)
#40: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (Dir. Roy Ward Baker)
#41: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (Dir. John D. Hancock)

#42: Kill List (Dir. Ben Wheatley)

#43: Don’t Look Back (Dir. Marina De Van)

#44: Alligator (Dir. Lewis Teague)

#45: Ganja and Hess (Dir. Bill Gunn)

#46: The Burning (Dir. Tony Maylam)

#47: The ABCs of Death (Dir. Various)

#48: Byzantium (Dir. Neil Jordan)

#49: Cat People (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#50: The Curse of the Cat People (Dir. Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise)

#51: Little Deaths (Dir. Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson, Simon Rumley)

#52: Marebito (Dir. Takashi Shimizu)

#53: A Horrible Way to Die (Dir. Adam Wingard)

#54: 5 Dolls for An August Moon (Dir. Mario Bava)

#55: I walked with a Zombie (Dir. Jacques Tourneur)

#56: The Legend of Hell House (Dir. John Hough)

#57: Psychomania (Dir. Don Sharp)
#58: Inside (Dir. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

#59: Under the Skin (Dir. Jonathan Glazer)

#60: Left Bank (Dir. Peiter Van Hees)
#61: Simon King of the Witches (Dir. Bruce Kessler)

#62: Blood and Black Lace (Dir. Mario Bava)

#63: Nightmare City (Dir. Umberto Lenzi)

#64: Rogue (Dir. Greg McLean)

#65: Snowtown (Dir. Justin Kurzel)

#66: Livid (Dir. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo)

#67: Horror of Dracula (Dir. Terence Fischer)
#68: Christine (Dir. John Carpenter)

#69: Demons (Dir. Lamberto Bava)
#70: God Told Me To (Dir. Larry Cohen)

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