See the bottom of the page for a list of all films cited in this article.
In trying to articulate the cultural unity of Latin American fiction, Uruguayan critic and biographer Emir Rodriguez Monegal wrote, “The generation that emerged in the forties and fifties is one for whom film constitutes a veritable lingua franca, the true koine of this linguistic Babel in which we live.” (qt. in Colchie, x) That may be, but the influence certainly goes the other way. In an earlier essay (“Last Year at Marienbad: an Intertextual Meditation”), I revealed the relationship between the Alain Resnais film and La Invención de Morel (The Invention of Morel) (1940) by Adolfo Bioy-Casares. Here I would like to highlight the (hitherto unrecognized) presence of Julio Cortázar in film.
Upon tracing the labyrinth of influence, correspondence and sometimes perhaps mere synchronicity, Cortázar emerges as a “mano negra”, a black hand, a hidden hand. I use such a tongue-in-cheek metaphor because of Cortázar’s leftist, even anarchistic, leanings. He donated the royalties of some of his last books to the Sandinistas, and his work is the subversive act of a literary terrorist. His free-floating narrator tells us in Libro de Manuel (A Manual for Manuel) (1973) that “the absurdity of heading in the direction of the absurd is exactly what brings down the walls of Jericho” (12). Absurdity is one of his many tools for undermining the walls of conformity and complacency; like-minded film auteurs seem to have turned to him for these tools and their methods of use.
There are a number of movies which are acknowledged versions of Cortázar tales. They are fairly faithful reproductions and give due credit to their inspiration, probably because they are films by Latin American directors. They include:
Furia (Alexandre Aja, 2000) – “Graffiti”
Diario para un Cuento (Jana Pakova, 1998) – “Diario para un cuento”
Avtobus (Vytautas Palsis, short, 1994) – book
La Fin du Jeu (Renaud Walter, short, 1971)
El Perseguidor (Osias Wilenski, 1965)
Intimidad de los Parques (Manuel Antin, 1965) – stories
Circe (Manuel Antin, 1964)
La Ciffra Impar (Odd Number, Manuel Antin, 1962) – “Cartas de mamá”
In this essay, I will not be discussing these works but rather films that deviate from and/or hide their sources. Exploring such divergence and occlusion is provocative and rewarding. In thinking about the different artistic and ideological approaches to the same narrative material, we reach a deeper understanding of what is going on in the fiction of Julio Cortázar and in the films that have robbed him or paid him tribute.
Julio Cortázar’s “Las Babas del Diablo” is the acknowledged precursor of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup (1966), yet the two resemble each other less than the films which do not acknowledge their debt. In a confusing, but telling correspondence, Tristán Bauer’s documentary on Julio Cortázar is sometimes known as Celestial Clockwork (1994). A year later, Fina Torres released a feature of the same name about South American bohemians living in Paris. Then, Cortázar is the unacknowledged precursor of Bertrand Tavernier’s Autour de Minuit (‘Round Midnight) (1986) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End (1967), and, a year before Bernardo Bertolucci made Ultimo Tango a Parigi (Last Tango in Paris) (1972), Cortázar wrote the same sex scene as the climax of his novel, A Manual for Manuel. These are the correspondences, the dialogic imaginings, I would like to examine.
Originally published as End of the Game and Other Stories (1967), Paul Blackburn’s translation entitled Blow-Up and Other Stories is the perfect place for an uninitiated reader to start with Cortázar, so there I will also begin. The title story was renamed to connect with the Michelangelo Antonioni film, but its original title is “Las Babas del Diablo” (that is, “The Devil’s Drool”). In the Antonioni film, a photographer, Thomas (David Hemmings), blows up a photograph and discovers a hidden gunman in the bushes. Thomas initially believes his photograph saved an old man from being murdered but discovers later that the murder happened anyway. In the Cortázar short story, a photographer thinks he has captured the bittersweet seduction of an adolescent by an older woman only to discover to his horror that she is “pimping” him for a dirty old man waiting in a nearby automobile. Moving into the surreal, the photograph becomes a movie or rather a photomontage of moving figures as in Chris Marker’s landmark film, La Jetée (1962), the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys (1995) (1). In a further transformation, the photographer is drawn into the slow motion of the photo montage – now this is complicated – becomes his camera, becomes the seduced boy and yet remains himself. It is while he is in this tripartite state that he is murdered by the old man and lies dead in the photograph staring at the sky as camera, boy and photographer are all rolled into one.
Both film and story are meditations on æsthetics and morality. Marvin D’Lugo of Clark University claims that the Spanish title (“Las Babas del Diablo”) “is a colloquial phrase meaning to be in a dangerous situation” (23, footnote). Perhaps, but having read quite a bit of Cortázar, I know that he enjoys wordplay, and I think he is suggesting with the title that the camera is a drooling devil – a lustful voyeur that is capable only of lifeless illusion and is ultimately impotent. In the story, Cortázar’s narrator writes:
I think that I know how to look, if it’s something I know, and also that every looking oozes with mendacity, because it’s that which expels us furthest outside ourselves.
– Blow-Up, 119
Later the photographer/narrator expresses his rage:
It was horrible, their mocking me, deciding it before my impotent eye, mocking me, and I couldn’t yell for him to run […]
– Blow-Up, 130 [emphasis mine]
I think Cortázar and Antonioni are saying that our media is inherently alienating and dehumanizing. The camera has turned us into passive voyeurs, programmable for predictable responses, ultimately helpless and even inhumanly dead. These are dark thoughts indeed, but the work of Cortázar and Antonioni is not exactly known for its optimism.
As The Yardbirds perform in the nightclub, the eerily mute crowd is so still that some of the people may not be people at all, but department store mannequins or wax figures (2). If this is true, it fits well with the mannequins in the window just outside the club and with the plastic family enjoying their desert home in Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970). Either way, with the odd stillness of the crowd, Antonioni is trying to get at the heart of the Cortázar story in his own inimitable way. Rather than liberating us, our technologically driven art forms (cinema, photography, and rock and roll) are finally numbing and paralysing us because they seem to require passivity of their audiences. At the very least, passivity is encouraged. In an Antonioni film, Jeff Beck destroying his amp and guitar is not merely a realistic cultural detail, it is symbolic of the artist’s rage against his tools, which are isolating, denaturing and incapable of conveying a clear vision, of changing or influencing the quotidian. Caught up with the media-controlled crowd, Thomas joins the scrambles for the guitar-neck totem but discards it as meaningless once he is alone. This is a lovely metonymy for his general attitude. Thomas works frantically to blow up photos and discover hidden truths, but once discovered he lets them drift away.
Thomas goes to a party to raise interest in his murder case but fails in an ending that is even darker than Cortázar’s story. In the story, the narrator may be dead, but at least his art was able to discover the truth, and the photographer was able to empathize and identify with the victim to the point of dying in his place, surely a positive outcome for a work of art. In Antonioni’s film, nothing is done, nothing is learned and nobody finally cares. “A murder? So what!” his characters seem to say. In a dialogue of total emptiness, Thomas talks to his stoned editor, Ron (Peter Bowles):
THOMAS: I want you to see the corpse. We’ve got to get a shot of it.
RON: I’m not a photographer.
THOMAS: I am.
RON (muttering to himself as if Thomas has left the room, although he hasn’t): What’s the matter with him? What did you see in that park?
THOMAS (sighing): Nothing.
Seeing justice done is never a goal. It becomes clear that his goals have always been completely æsthetic. When Thomas returns to the park for the shot he wants to finish out his book, he discovers the body gone. He smiles wryly. He saw nothing after all. Art for him is an illusion, like the mime tennis match that ends the film, nothing more than a game of make-believe where we can dream away our lives in childish play. The real world is even less than that; it’s not even amusing. At the end of Cortázar’s story, we discover that the narrator is dead, immobilized, “metamorphosed into the very lens of the camera as it views the world as a photograph” (D’Lugo, 28). I believe that Antonioni reaches the same conclusion with his justly famous ending. When Thomas stoops to retrieve and toss an imaginary tennis ball back into the mime game, he enters the frame of art, leaves reality and ceases to be himself in order to become pure æsthetics. The camera pulls back to show Thomas walking utterly alone across a vast green field. Using a dissolve, Antonioni causes him to suddenly disappear like the ghost he has become.
The two American versions of the story are a copy of a copy which, of course, all but obliterates the original Cortázar story (3). They switch from photography to sound, but the inability of technology to intelligently capture nature and the ontological merging of artist and medium are still the prevailing themes. In Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), his name evoking the unborn, the monastic hood “cowl” and the photographer’s hood, becomes convinced that his surveillance tape will result in the deaths of the young couple he has recorded as they walk through San Francisco’s crowded Union Square. The festival atmosphere, complete with a mime who mocks Harry, is clearly a subtle nod to Antonioni, but the disturbing ending suggests the influence of Cortázar. Harry discovers that he has been completely wrong and has inadvertently helped the couple commit murder. Finally, they turn his technology on him, he is drawn into his own “aural photograph”, and is left as paralysed and impotent as Michael in the Cortázar tale.
In Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (1981), Jack (John Travolta) captures a sound that equals the murder of a presidential hopeful. Unlike Antonioni’s amoral protagonist, Jack is driven by a desire to do what is right, much like Harry in The Conversation and Michael in “Las Babas del Diablo”. However, also like them, he solves nothing and saves no one; he only discovers his own impotence. Plus, his defeat results in his own moral corruption, a conclusion suggested more by Cortázar than Antonioni. Jack works as a soundman for cheap horror movies and Blow Out opens with him criticising a “bad scream” used in a shower knifing sequence. When sleaze cameraman Manny (Dennis Franz) murders Jack’s love interest, Sally (Nancy Allen), Jack is close enough to record her scream but not save her life. In the closing scene of the film, we see the ruined hero listening to her scream which has been used as the needed scream in the horror flick – a snippet of aural snuff. Creepier than Harry hacking up his room, than Thomas tossing an invisible ball and disappearing, than Michael being strangled by photo-image of the paedophile, Jack has merged with his technology and has blurred reality and fiction so that the real no longer matters and the fiction is not even good art. All four tales make the same point – art is impotent to do anything but corrupt the artist.
Celestial Clockwork (1994) reveals the French-South American connection. Fina Torres certainly titled her film to underscore its whimsical astrological underpinnings (4), but, oddly, it shares its name with a documentary about Cortázar by Tristán Bauer (see IMDb.com). Torres’ cotton-candy movie about South American bohemians in Paris is informed and inspired in part by Cortázar’s masterpiece, Rayuela (Hopscotch) (1963). As in the novel, the characters in the Torres film casually float from flat to flat discussing art, pursuing music and, in general, living lives of intellectual and emotional serendipity, revelling in the absurd and surreal. By giving her film the same title as the Bauer documentary released a year earlier, she is clearly acknowledging her debt to Cortázar.
The copy I finally located of the documentary is merely called Cortázar; there are fewer than ten copies available in the US, and it has never been subtitled. Because it is so rare, a brief description is in order. Around four archived interviews with Cortázar (which Bauer did not film or conduct), Bauer weaves news footage of World War I, the Perón takeover, the Cuban revolution, and Nicaragua, along with slow-tracked cityscapes of Brussels, Paris and Buenos Aires. These images are accompanied by narration from Cortázar’s work, sometimes read by the author and sometimes by an actor named Alfredo Alcón – it is impossible to tell which. It is essentially an artful, winking collage like Cortázar’s La vuelta al día en ochenta mundos (Around the Day in Eighty Worlds) (1967), a seamless blending of fact and fiction.
The opening of Cortázar is playfully disconcerting. We see a little boy playing hopscotch in an abandoned courtyard (5) and we hear a voice-over narrator, whether it is Cortázar’s or Alcón’s we can’t be sure, reading a spliced together passage from the first two pages of “Las Babas del Diablo”:
One of all of us needs to write this, if all of it is going to be told. Better me, who am dead, because I am less compromised than the rest, I who see nothing more than clouds and can think without distraction. […] I already know that the hardest part will be finding a way to tell this. […] It will be difficult because no one knows for sure who is really telling this, whether myself, or that which has happened, or what I am seeing (clouds and sometimes a dove), or simply that I am telling a truth that is only my truth. (6)
This opening narration ends with a visual of a reel-to-reel tape recorder playing on a window sill to an empty room. It is fitting and delightful to see Cortázar’s fiction influencing this film about him, but it is not the sort of game that most American viewers of documentaries will appreciate, perhaps explaining why Bauer’s masterful film remains largely unavailable to the English-speaking world.
‘Round Midnight presents itself as based on incidents in the lives of Bud Powell and Lester Young, certainly a valid claim. I am unable to prove that French director Bertrand Tavernier read Julio Cortázar’s “The Pursuer” before he made his film; however, because of the relative smallness of the art house cinema world and the Blue Note Jazz world, it seems highly improbable to me that he didn’t. In both stories, a white Frenchman attaches himself to an African-American saxophone genius in Paris who is struggling with several addictions and a precarious hold on his own reality. In both stories, the sycophantic Frenchmen escape their own sterility by riding on their jazzmen’s instinctive transcendence while desperately attempting to delay their idol’s self-destruction, sensing that somehow their own survival is dependent on the survival of the musicians.
Cortázar’s novella, “The Pursuer”, is clearly about Charlie Parker and is valuable reading before a viewing of ‘Round Midnight or of Clint Eastwood’s Bird (1988). The New York Times book critic Stanley Kauffmann called it “a juvenile and crude story” (22), but I disagree. It is an unqualified masterpiece. The hallucinogenic, spiralling prose perfectly captures the tone and style of bebop as well as its underlying intellectual desperation. The pursuer of the title is Johnny, a tenor sax legend who has seen better days, and the narrator of the tale is a fictional jazz critic named Bruno, who, as the result of Johnny’s sublime solos, has an epiphany:
I realized that Johnny was no victim, not persecuted as everyone thought, as I’d even insisted upon in my biography of him. I know now that’s not the way it is, that Johnny pursues and is not pursued, that all the things happening in his life are the hunter’s disasters, not the accidents of the harassed animal. No one can know what Johnny’s after, but that’s how it is […]
– Blow-Up, 221
The dialectic of the artist as pursued and pursuer is an essential insight. However, Cortázar gives the titular metaphor a dark twist. Bruno, the narrator, is subtly unreliable and, like the narrators in Robert Browning monologues, he unwittingly reveals that his admiration of Johnny is intertwined with an elitist disgust of him and a desperate longing for his demise:
To be honest, what does his life matter to me? The only thing that bothers me is that if he continues to let himself go on living as he has been […] he’ll end up by making lies out of the conclusions I’ve reached in my book. He might let it drop somewhere that my statements are wrong, that his music’s something else.
– Blow-Up, 237
Bruno, the narrator, is the pursuer after all! And he is a pursuer with the jealous rage of Othello’s Iago (7).
None of this dialectical complexity makes it into ‘Round Midnight. Francis Borler (François Cluzet) may see the jazz of Dale Turner (Dexter Gordon) as a personal muse (his music inspires his work as a movie poster artist. Wow!), but mostly he acts as an adoring fan and nursemaid. Tavernier takes the same approach to his subject. Everything is handled with p.c. kid gloves and bathed in fawning light and artificial sets. In stark contrast, Cortázar digs deeply into the psyches of musician, critic and fan alike, and finds all of the egoism and spite mixed in with the beauty. He lays out the nature of addiction and its larger “enabling” infrastructure. Cortázar exposes the imperialist appropriation of ethnic art (the subtext of this essay). Tavernier avoids all of this and gives us a Disneyland (or should I say EuroDisney) jazz film.
The most famous traffic jam in cinema is the opening of Fellini’s 8½ (1963); however, though it is a dream, it is not as absurd as the snarls of Godard and Cortázar. Godard’s Week End is an anti-everything movie, even anti itself. Near the beginning we are given a long tracking shot of a perpetual traffic jam. This scene, which is brought back often as a kind of symbolic touchstone throughout the film, was inspired by Cortázar’s story “La Autopista del Sur” (“The Southern Thruway”). For more than seven minutes Godard torments his audience with perpetual car horns as he follows the slow course of the auto of Corinne (Mireille Darc) and Roland (Jean Yanne) through a traffic jam of escalating chaos. What struck me about his traffic jam is that people are settled into pointless, trivial activities that contribute to the snarl rather than alleviate it. While most of the people are idly playing or chatting, there are images of vehicles impossibly facing each other as the drivers argue furiously. Others work on their cars or sit callously at a picnic beside the corpses of father, wife and children. For Godard the traffic jam is a metonymy of social anarchy. He believed that capitalism ultimately drove people at each other’s throats like animals, and Week End is a long sermon, preaching and illustrating this point repeatedly. As the film progresses we see many isolated wrecks with dramatically burning vehicles. Beside one such burning pile, a woman screams, “My Hermès handbag!”
Cortázar shared many of Godard’s political views. In his traffic jam of a consumer society gone awry, people are dehumanized and reduced to the make and model of their automobiles. Everything is ephemeral and no permanent meanings can be established as his traffic jam goes on for half a year or more. Like Godard’s, his traffic jam is absurd. Both artists often used Dadaist absurdity to unsettle bourgeois complacency. However, Cortázar’s view of society is softened by a kind heart and a merciful eye. In his traffic jam, societies of mutual support are formed. People are rescued, life’s necessities are bought and sold in a fairly civilized manner, and couples fall in and out of love. His point seems to be that, no matter what difficulties humanity faces, they will create communities of a sort, however tenuous.
In “The Southern Thruway”, as in Hopscotch, it is clear that Cortázar loves people and believes in their capacity for goodness. Although he doesn’t seem to share Godard’s misanthropic views, he does portray modern society as inherently alienating, making it difficult for people to connect with any degree of significance or permanence. At the end of the story, his narrator, finally free of the traffic jam, muses:
[…] you moved at fifty-five miles an hour toward the lights that kept growing, not knowing why all this hurry, why this mad race in the night among unknown cars, where no one knew anything about the others, where everyone looked straight ahead, only ahead.
– All Fires the Fire and Other Stories, 28–29
Last Tango in Paris
In an interview with Evelyn Picon Garfield, Julio Cortázar says:
[…] the last scene from […] Last Tango in Paris by Bertolucci, the one that’s been talked about all over the world, the last erotic scene is exactly the same as the last erotic scene in Libro de Manuel. So much so that when people began to read it in Buenos Aires, since they don’t pay attention to dates, they thought that I’d seen the movie and I’d used it. But of course the movie came out here one year after I had finished writing Libro de Manuel. I don’t even know Bertolucci nor does he know me. But in any case, it’s a curious symmetry that in a movie and a book where erotic language of a visual and a written nature is carried to its ultimate consequences, at the end there should be such an extraordinary coincidence. (8)
Bertolucci certainly did not read A Manual for Manuel before filming Last Tango in Paris. The novel was originally published by Editorial Sudamericana, Buenos Aires, in 1973, and the film was released in 1972. Allowing for composition time, it is also certain that Cortázar had not seen the film prior to writing his novel.
Still, the parallels are there. An unwilling woman is buggered by a man trying to escape his own despair; the only difference is that, instead of butter, cold cream is used in the novel. There is also a verbal parallel. Both novel and film have characters talking about sodomy as a metaphor: “right up into the ass of death” (Marlon Brando as Paul), “it is a good way of getting up Death’s ass” (Lonstein, who works in a morgue in A Manual for Manuel). What’s more, the act is committed for similar reasons. A Manual for Manuel is about a group of leftists, Latino terrorists who call themselves “The Screwery” (with all implied connotations), and Andrés, a tangential member of the group, who sees sex as a political/philosophical means of escaping bourgeois values. Andrés explains to Francine why he’s got to do it:
I can’t search with my reason any more, I have to go down these cognac steps with you and see if there’s an answer in the basement, if you’ll help me come out of the black stain, if you’ll kick old [Fritz] Lang in the belly so he’ll give up the combination of the safe. Come on, it’s time now, come see before going down.
– A Manual, 293
In Tango, Paul also sees sex as a metonymy for larger ideological concerns. As he buggers Jeanne (Maria Schneider), he preaches to her:
I’m going to tell you about the family, that holy institution, meant to breed virtue into savages. Holy family, the church of good citizens – the children are tortured until they tell their first lie – where the will is broken by repression – where freedom is assassinated by egoism – family – you fucking – fucking family.
In both novel and film, the women do not appreciate being used as a factor in a philosophical equation, though they do resign themselves to the abuse. In the novel, Andrés reports:
I heard her saying that I was hurting her, I was raping her, I was destroying her, that I couldn’t, I should get out.
– A Manual, 314
In the film, Jeanne protests in a similar manner and ultimately settles on the story of being raped as a justification for killing Paul on the balcony.
So, is it a mere synchronism? I think there is more going on here intertextually than parallel imaginations. Bertolucci made La Strategia del Ragno (The Spider’s Stratagem) in 1970 right before Last Tango in Paris. The Spider’s Stratagem is based on the Jorge Luis Borges story, “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”, so we know that Bertolucci was familiar with Latin American writers; indeed, the very title overlays Paris with Buenos Aires (“tango”) and bring us back to Argentinean-French Julio Cortázar. In Hopscotch, there is a similar erotic/philosophical relationship between Horacio Oliveira and La Maga as they explore one another sadomasochistically in anonymous Parisian hotel rooms:
Oliveira felt that La Maga wanted death from him […] a dark form demanding annihilation. […] He turned her into Pasiphaë (9), he bent her over and used her as if she were a young boy, he knew her and he demanded the slavishness of the most abject whore.
– Hopscotch, 28–9
These images and philosophical themes are recurrent in Cortázar’s short stories.
In Last Tango, when Jeanne enters the hotel room just before the infamous “butter scene”, she calls out to Paul with the nickname “monster”. Within the thematic context of “la petit mort” and the climax at the tango salon, the name evokes Cortázar’s story “The Gates of Heaven” in which the narrator often goes to watch tango dancers:
It seems right for me to say here that I come to this dance hall to see the monsters, I know of no other place where you get so many of them at one time.
– Blow-Up, 106
With all of these textual images gathered in one place, it seems clear that Bertolucci had read Cortázar and found a kindred spirit there.
Julio Cortázar deserves a much wider readership and better academic coverage than he has received thus far. His work is multi-layered and enormously influential on world cinema and world literature. Again and again, I have been excited and challenged by ideas and images in film and literature only to discover that Cortázar had long been mining the same territory. Because of his expatriate status, because of the substantial formal difficulties he provides and perhaps because of his politics, he continues to be neglected, but he is neglected to our own detriment. As Pablo Neruda once said:
Anyone who doesn’t read Cortázar is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches. He would quietly become sadder, noticeably paler and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair. I don’t want those things to happen to me, and so I greedily devour all the fabrications, myths, contradictions, and mortal games of the great Julio Cortázar.
– Quote on back cover of Cortázar, Around
Our times are global, syncretistic, complex and confusing. All of the old certainties have faded away, and our little islands of comfortable oblivion are quickly eroding. We find ourselves suddenly alone in a large world we can hardly comprehend due to information overload and too many choices. Cortázar has been there before us. He understands this place, this non-place.
Michelangelo Antonioni, Blowup, Bridge Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1966.
Tristán Bauer, Cortázar, aka Celestial Clockwork (La Zona, 1994).
Bernardo Bertolucci, Ultimo Tango a Parigi, Les productions Artistes Associés [Fr], Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA) [It], Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1972.
Thomas Colchie, Introduction, A Hammock Beneath the Mangoes: Stories from Latin America (New York: Dutton, 1991), pp. ix–xiv.
Julio Cortázar, All Fires the Fire and Other Stories, translated from the Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine (New York: Pantheon Books, 1973).
—, A Manual for Manuel, translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa (New York: Pantheon, 1978). First published in Spanish, 1973.
—, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, translated by Thomas Christensen (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986).
—, Blow-Up and Other Stories, originally titled End of the Game and Other Stories, translated from the Spanish by Paul Blackburn (New York: Pantheon Books, 1963).
—, Hopscotch, translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa (New York: Pantheon Books, 1966).
Marvin D’Lugo, “Signs and Meaning in Blow-Up [sic]: From Cortázar to Antonioni”.
Evelyn Picon Garfield, online text of interview contained in Cortázar por Cortázar (Mexico: Universidad Veracruzana, 1978).
Jean-Luc Godard, Week End, Comacico, Films Copernic, Lira Films, Grove Press, 1967.
Stanley Kauffmann, “Real and Otherwise”, The New Republic.
- Both La Jetée and the Cortázar tale involve photographs taken on a jetty, and, yes, Cortázar was, once again, there first: “Las Babas del Diablo” in 1959 and La Jetée in 1962.
- I’ve watched the sequence repeatedly. Sometimes I’m certain that there are mannequins mixed in with the crowd, but other times I’m not so sure. The crowd is that unnaturally still.
- This is the inevitably destructive nature of simulacra. Long before Jean Baudrillard famously pointed this out in Simulacra and Simulation (1981), it was pointed out by Roberto Rossellini in his light comedy, La Macchina Ammazzacattivi (The Machine That Kills Bad People, 1948). The devil, disguised as Saint Andrew, teaches the village photographer how to kill the wicked: pin a photograph of the person in question to the wall and take a picture of it. Not only will the real person suddenly die, he will die frozen in the position he held in the photograph!
- Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (Amélie, 2001) owes Fina Torres at least a nod as a thematic, emotional and stylistic precursor, by the way.
- Later we see the abandoned game (covered with broken glass) from the perspective of a broken window above, the window from which Horacio Oliveira, protagonist of Hopscotch, does or does not jump at the end of the novel.
- Translation mine.
- This double pursuit of Cortázar’s tale is surely inspired by, and is a tribute to, an older story called “The Pursuer” by Horacio Quiroga. Quiroga’s tale involves a man with a neurotic complex about being pursued. The “sane” narrator takes an interest in his case but soon feels himself to be the pursued one. By the end of the tale we are by no means certain that our narrator is at all reliable or even sane. Quiroga’s fiction is most inspired by Edgar Allen Poe, but more often than not adopts a jungle rather than urban setting.
- In Greek mythology, Minos, King of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa, was the husband of Pasiphaë, the daughter of the sun-god Helios and the Oceanid Perse. Because Minos failed to sacrifice a beautiful white bull to Poseidon, the god caused Pasiphaë to conceive a lustful passion for the animal. Dædalus, Minos’ inventor, aided Pasiphaë in fulfilling her desire to mate with the bull by constructing a hollow, wooden cow, with sewn cow hide. Placing the wooden cow in the meadow, Pasiphaë climbed into construction. The Cretan Bull came up to the bogus cow and mounted Pasiphaë. From the unnatural coupling she gave birth to the Minotaur, a monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man.