Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Picking Pockets for Performance Profit

The subtle art of stealing

Theatrical pickpocketing is one of the most fascinating forms of drama in magic.
As in hypnosis, mentalism, impossible escape, miraculous mutilations, or daring card cheating, this branch of conjuring abilities keep a subtle, thrilling link between the obvious entertaimnent purpose and the catharsis of danger in our daily lives. Every attempt to the normal order of things approaches us to death. And the pre-theatrical ancestors of pickpocketing were usually hanged.
In the golden night-club era, the cabaret pickpoketing reached a level of class, thrill, fun and entertainment as few other forms in theatre.
We wish to inaugurate today a first tribute to the pickpockets with a very special subject: the young Kassagi (one of the pioneers of the art) in the legendary "Pickpocket" movie of Robert Bresson, in his immaculate black and white glory. We love this movie for giving us the perfect balance between the admiration of talent and the suspence of danger. All what good magic should always be.
And we have more amazing surprises about the subject for the future.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pathological Circuses

A celebration of sleeping wax wonders

Great was the time when pure entertainment was interlaced with pretended education, explicit horror and uncertain marvel.
Between XIX and XX centuries, at the peak of the confusion between new and old medias, between mechanical wonders and human stage talents, the fairgrounds pullulated with the anatomical cabinets. Following a long Renaissance tradition, some exhibitors developed an unparalled talent in the fabrication of wax simulacra. Not just of historical celebrities, nor of famous battles or life of Saints. But the reproductions of the mysteries inside our bodies, and of the most abherrated plagues. In the same afternoon, you could have attended with your children at a magician show sawing a woman in half without see a gut of blood; then admire the booth of a talking severed head without any anathomical trace under his neck. Later, if you dared to visit kings of the fairs as the “Musée Anathomique, Ethnologique et Pathologique du Docteur Spitzner”, you had the vision of the real thing. The morbid, sculpted, painted wax carefully reproducing all the colorful cornucopia of our sacred bodies interiors. Softly sleeping venuses in glass cases, as dismembered Madonnas in some profane temples; elegantly dressed babies with their stomaches gently opened as the windows of a fairy tale house; masterfully arranged diorama to illustrate the effects of syphilis in all the epics of the classic masters of painting. Today this is not anymore part of the show business.
And we devote a gallery to this world.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Koringa: new discoveries

The only film in the world about "the only woman fakir in the world"

Among the bizarre novelties we have been speculating about in the last two years, we got a remakable feedback on Koringa, "the only woman fakir in the world" (see posts November 27 2006 and December 16 2006).
While we are not finish at all with Blacaman (more to come in future), we accumulated other memorabilias about his former lady assistant, then turned in a rival cloning his act. And we are pleased to reveal some of it in today's gallery.
Koringa worked in Blacaman's act as a "nurse", learning all the work behind the mysteries to finally develop her own unit. In one of the pictures below, you can also admire her in the famous Blacaman's sword suspension trick that we mentioned in recent past.
But, what is most peculiar, at the bottom of the gallery you will find an exceptional finding: being likely the only existing filmed document about Koringa's skills. Nobody knew, I think, about its existence. It was forgotten and buried in a British newsreel of the 30s, between a novelty item to fix the fold on pants and a golf skill demonstration. We was lucky to dig it out of the past and to deliver it to the amazed eyes of the world.
Have a pleasant week.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charlton Heston

The death of an actor, in times of extinction of the great spectacular.

Charlton Heston, the movie actor, disappeared tonight. The last screen impression we have of him is unpleasant, being his interview in Michael Moore's "Bowling a Columbine", where he arrogantly and proudly defended the use and cult of guns. We don't like weapons: so, we prefer remember the king of epic in his most enjoyable and bizarre performances, as the postmodern sideshow "Planet of Apes", the bigger than life "Ben Hur" with his horse spectaculars, and the delirant triumph of old-time cheap stage effect and rethorics of "Ten Commandments".

And, of course, "The Greatest Show on Earth". Not because we are especially in love with this circus melodrama, having an incredible poor value as a movie (but misteriously Academy Award winner of 1952). But because this movie perfectly depicts a now extinct circus world. Braden, the Heston character (inspired by Art Concello), is the last prototype of the classic circus director. A man able to juggle with storms, midgets, giraffes, mud, criminality, women, labor, artist's egos, authorities and audiences. Probably, the great intuition of director Cecil B.De Mille was in the fact that the 20th century circus director was the last prototype of the hero icon. And, in fact, all this quickly disappeared. Just three years after the movie, the very same big top universe depicted by De Mille folded forever, canceling from the earth the mithology of the travelling city.
Today, the notion of great circus is not anymore an alchemy of blood and sawdust, going towards a cold Broadway surrogate in its best cases. Death and danger, unpleasant smells and precariety, bestiality and eroticism are slowly disappearing. If sideshows and monstruosities abandoned the big top in the late 50s, now the big top itself is disappearing from the landscape, with all his cornucopia of animals and acrobats' dinasties. Political correctness is a menace for the circus. Maybe because the circus, so crude and brutal, so different and devastating, used to emphasize on mistery instead that on reality, to confuse instead to reassure.
But reassuring never was the aim of great art and entertainment. For that reason, the fictionary Braden and the once real "Greatest Show on Earth", witness from the screen of an era when stage or circus novelties and wonders were all about the fight with death and the hope of survival. What the great theatre always was and has to be. What our poor lives are about, after all.

Locations of visitors to this page