THE SEASHELL AND THE CLERGYMAN (1928)
aka La coquille et le clergyman
Article 4891 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Germaine Dulac
Featuring Alex Allin, Genica Athanasiou, Lucien Bataille
What it is: Avant-garde
A clergyman suffers from lust for a woman and hatred for a general.
Years ago I wrote a report on Antonin Artaud for a theatre history class; his sanity was questionable, and he was a proponent of what he called the “Theatre of Cruelty” in which the intent was to theatrically assault the audience. Once I saw his name on the credits of this one, I was fully prepared for something strange. Apparently, he himself hated what the film did to his screenplay; he insulted Germaine Dulac at the premiere, calling her “a cow”. Therefore, I assume that Dulac is primarily responsible for the non-linear strangeness of this one; though the lust of the clergyman appears to be the primary theme, there is no real narrative to the story and it plays out like a dream. Some of the sequences are quite striking, and there’s a dance scene that reminded me so much of a similar one in CARNIVAL OF SOULS that I wonder if Herk Harvey was familiar with this film. User comments on IMDB mention the film as a possible companion piece to UN CHIEN ANDALOU. On a side note, the movie was banned in the United Kingdom; the censors said “If it has a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable.”