The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928)

aka La coquille et le clergyman
Article 4891 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-5-2015
Directed by Germaine Dulac
Featuring Alex Allin, Genica Athanasiou, Lucien Bataille
Country: France
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.”


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