Thursday, November 29, 2007

Celluloid Circuses

Web's bizarre b
est kept secret

A fresh new blog have been launched, appealing if you love the unique mixture between the unconfortable smell of the sawdust in a full lighted arena and the uncertain noise of a projection machine in a dark art house.
Faithful to those contrasting evocations, the blog is titled Circomelies, and deals with famous and infamous relations between movies and the circus: Chaplin to Jodorowsky, soviet circus to Lon Chaney, silent catalan pioneers to Fellini.
Excerpts to wiew, sometimes full movies, delicious lobby cards or stills to contemplate. Well, there's a lot to read too, of course, but the site is in Spanish: anyway, we're sure this is a minor problem, compared to the promising ever-growing cornucopia of curiosities.

Delight yourself:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Remembering Radio City

The "hall of a thousand illusions"

Thanksgiving is on Broadway the gate for the Christmas entertainments. In this year of struggling workers and theatre strikes, of uncertain family novelties as boutique Cirque christmas tales, we wish to celebrate the 75 years of the most ingenuous and anachronistic of all american entertainments: Radio City Christmas Spectacular, still alive in the world’s largest stage, the performing sanctuary of the art-deco glory: the Radio City Music Hall.

In 1933, Rockefeller, RCA and impresario Roxy realized a fantastic dream - a theatre unlike any in the world. A place of beauty offering high-quality entertainment at prices ordinary people could afford. It was intended to entertain and amuse, but also to “elevate and inspire”. Architect Deskey chose elegance over excess, grandeur above glitz; he created a stunning tribute to "human achievement in art, science and industry”. He made art an integral part of the design, engaging fine artists to create murals, wall coverings and sculpture; textile designers to develop draperies and carpets; craftsmen to make ceramics, wood panels and chandeliers. The shimmering gold stage curtain is the largest in the world. Popular Mechanics described it as a “hall of a thousand illusions.”. Fountains, torrents of rain, clouds, revolving platforms, appearing animals, movable skating rink or bandwagon, the colossal wurlitzer organ…We’re not sure about the resistance of this cathedral in the virtual era. But in this week’s gallery we still want to think about it as the 8th wonder of the world.

Radio City 1

Radio City 3

Radio City 4

Radio City 5

Friday, November 23, 2007

Konrad Thurano: strange in paradise

Every respectable artist has to be billed with a unique peculiarity, to confirm his strangeness from the normal humanity. Konrad Thurano of Germany, was able to call himself the oldest living circus performer on earth.
And it was incredibly true.
He left this world few hours ago at age of 97. He walked on his wire from South Africa to Las Vegas, from Singapore to Madrid. He shared the stage with Grock and Rastelli, Sammy Davis and Bing Crosby.

Following is a little video excerpt in the act he performed at Dusseldorf with his son.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Stomach Surrealism

In our past gallery dedicated to Circus Busch of Berlin, we hosted this poster of MacNorton, the professional regurgitator. Today, we dedicate him a gallery, to celebrate a time when the now quite boring theatrical and circus artists still felt as necessities the extreme, the crude, the irrational, the genuine. This was during the first decades of last century, when the avantgardes and surrealists emerged. It was the time when Artaud celebrated the “theatre of cruelty”, Stanislavski was insipred by the circus and the italian futurists wrote the “manifesto of variety theatre”…With such acts as McNorton’s, was not difficult to think about those renovations of stage languages: as well as with his contemporary colleagues as Houdini with his upside down water escape, Selbit introducing the sawing of a live woman, Rastelli juggling in the air a plethora of objects, the clown Grock revolutioning the use of musical instruments…

Mac Norton 1

Mac Norton, “l’homme acquarium” was the stage name of frenchman Claude Louis Delair (1876-1953), who started his career in the prehistory of parisian music-hall and finished in the emergence years of television. In his act, he basically drank dozens of liters of water, then hosted in his stomach an army of living goldfishes and frogs, to regurgitate them without arm for any of those creatures. His feats are described in some of the music-hall and freak literature. Houdini himself narrates about this colleague in “Miracle Mongers”.

Mac Norton 2

Mac Norton 3

Mac Norton 4

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Gallery

We are honoured by your punctual visit, but as you see, today's gallery is not displayed. In fact, we are currently enjoying a brief tour of the world in search of strange curiosities and phenomena, and this unconvenience separates us from our archives.
We can anyway offer two possibilities for a pleasant sunday. One is the contemplation of past galleries and posts; the second being the opportunity to explore our very rich and stimulating section of links about ephemera and unusual personalities of past and present. You have just to click on the "link section" on the higher left part under the title.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Shawdography Souvenirs

Shadows, with their simplicity of requirements and strong power of evocation, are the most ancient form of theatre we can imagine at the roots of this humanity.
Countless are the sophisticated variations at the base of different oriental theatrical forms.
In our western society, shadow was the primal companion for dreams and nightmares in our childhood’s rooms, or served the purposes of spirit evocation; then was rationalized as one of the futile pastimes of the industrial society, as the silhouette cuttings or other optical and scientific diversions.

Before being absorbed by their most logical derivation, the cinema, shadows reached the dignity of theatre with the spread of varieties and vaudevilles, with a remarkable array of specialists, then punctually in the repertory of the most famed magicians of the golden age.

The poster here is one of the most bizarre stage derivations of shawdograpy, portraying a rare as unknown “foot silhouettist”. The poster comes from the 2nd Fechner auction, and is preserved now in the collection of some anonymous lucky buyer (even if we can speculate some suspect about his identity).

Today, as for many variety specialities, theatrical shawdography is living his extinction.
One of the last exponents, and maybe the most remarkable, is Arturo Brachetti, the greatest living quick-change actor on our planet. He learned the art from the indian master Prasanna Rao (that honoured me with his frienship), then he developed it in various way, and he still presents it in his enormous world touring one-man shows.
The video we offer you below is the version Arturo used in 1989.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tentacular Temptations

Sunday Gallery: monster circus posters

Sightings of monstruous sea creatures have been recorded by the origins of mankind. Our imagination elaborated them in the most unpredictable ways: from Erodotus to Loch Ness, from Barnum to Hollywood. Then, geographic societies and the advent of documentary, reduced in size the realm of unknown, slowly shifting those leviathans from the Bible to the pulp literature.

But if you think that the current ecologic trend of our Discovery channeled society were able to epurate our mind from the imagery of oceanic monstruosities, and from any doubt of faith, some hope remains. In fact, current italian circuses don't dare today to advertise oversized anacondas, fast-grown piranhas and other monsters: without caring if the education of television assured us that such snakes don't lives in the seas, or those monsters don't pertain to any rationalist sanctuarium. With the perfect balance of ingenuity and humbug so special of the circus people, they gloriously push the conquests of science and universal information into the realm of cryptozoology.
They are promising for real what you believed a fake in the b-movie tradition, included the uncertain erotic promises of beauties in danger.
And, even if once under the tent the anaconda is grown at his normal size and the octopus is mechanically animated, after all you really saw a beautiful girl swimming with little innocent sharks, or among large flat fishes taken for piranhas.
And on your way back home you feel conforted that, at least in some obscure corner of our mankind, someone is working to reassure us that the realm of unknown is something you can touch, even if from the glass of a carnival tank.

Tentacular Gallery 1

Tentacular Gallery 2

Tentacular Gallery 3

Tentacular Gallery 4

Tentacular Gallery 5

Tentacular Gallery 6/6

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Stanislavskian Striptease Speculations

I often happen during the years to give acting classes around Europe. And I am bored by the intellectual attitude of the students. If I was the director of a theatre academy, I would put strip-tease as a fundamental teaching.
I find that his unique ability to reveal while hiding, or to hide while revealing, opening the door to emotional life and deepest imagination; and the full involvement of the acting persona, the implicit self-hyrony required with the subsequent necessary and enjoyable lignteness, his immediacy…

All this can be the best key to act everything, from Shakespeare to stand-up comedy, in a celebration of the anti-psycology.

Unfortunately, time is gone when stripping was a pure form of theatre, maybe more clandestine than legitimate, and audience was stimulated to pay his modest ticket to the fairground girl-show booths, finding their places between monkey races, wax displays or carnival rides.

My educational theatrical chimera will perhaps never see the light, and the more cerebral masturbatory “method” acting will maybe stay still the standard, and theatre will keep being mostly boring.

But the girl above, in the picture hiding her dramatic treasure with a thespyan icon, does something to enforce my idea. She calls herself Ursula Martinez, and performs a beautiful act, combining the apparitions of strip-tease with the disappearings of magic (or vice-versa, if you like).

See her at work:

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