By Dhia Dhibi
A red-heeled leg penetrating through a blood-colored rotating circle ushering a green serpent that slithers spiraling around it with a twisted manner, this is the first sequence that welcomes us to embark and immerse in the erotic and surreal experience of the 18 minutes animated masterpiece by Suzanne Pitt, Asparagus (1979).
From its prologue scene, this opus never leaves a chance to evoke and represent femininity from multifaceted interpretations through following its faceless heroine; starting from implicit details such as the snake referencing Niki de Saint Phalle’s signature serpent which evidently conveys the essence of femininity (on a more theological analysis it could be also associated with the story of Eve), to more explicit sexual symbols, in particular, the portrayal of the asparagus which Suzanne uses as an androgynous phenomenon by both its masculine aroused shape and the feminine floral exuberance decorating its surface.
“Camera movement echoes the essential motility of our own consciousness as it is embodied in the world and is able to accomplish and express the tasks and projects of living.” Says Vivian Sobchack, and this short film is a reflection of its author’s intimate world and thoughts in hallucinogenic series of sequences that notably exploit wipe transitions constantly throughout the entirety of this journey. These transitions navigate frames within frames with a dazed movement of space that collapses into itself and illustrates a multilayered Matryoshka doll of images mirroring the quotation that Suzanne often emphasized in her work;” Images are pregnant”.
A sequence that is a remarkable depiction of the storming transitions between the director’s thoughts is when the protagonist leaves her house and walks in front of a succession of themed shops carrying her bag of wonders and conducted with an atmospheric whispering cacophony. In a lateral movement, the camera flattens the image and follows the passage of this faceless masked woman as she pedestrianizes leading the spectator through these shops; sex, guns, dolls, and a slight teaser to cigarettes before the transition; these are the showcased vitrines which we pass through as audience to unfold the contrasting conflicting ideas of the author’s utopia.
The director often contested the idea of arrested movements of the painting and repeatedly manifests this opposition in the stylistic experimentation of her animations, The Jittering lines (especially on the main protagonist’s dress) compel a sense of organic movement that integrates itself into the significance of the movie. Meanwhile, there is a drastic change of animation style inside the theater, the audience and the stage are all animated in stop-motion which further accentuates that the author does not experience the world or view it from the same perspective as everyone else, this play on exteriority and interiority smoothly conveys how personal and intimate this portrayal is for the artist.
The eerie accompanying sound composed by Richard Teitelbaum is equally haunting and astonishing, it oscillates between non-harmonic juxtapositions of chaotic sounds by different instruments contrasting what is presented in the screen (notably in the begging of the theater scene) and a very punctuated and synchronized melodramatic soothing melodies which amplify the botanical exuberance of flora present throughout the film.
It is important to mention that we as spectators never get to see that the woman has no features on her face until she leaves the theater therefore we do not know her expression or feelings but the director conveys all her inner emotions in the surroundings and in the ever-shifting colors of the space around the main character.
The film ends with a circle in which the faceless woman is objectified by only adding lips that erotically felicitate a piece of asparagus as it transitions and trans passes different phases of shifting forms that conclude the journey of this heroin. This circle which appears in the prologue and the epilogue of the animation alters its structure to a loop that Suzanne confirms by noting “You could enter at any point and the meaning would be the same”. The absence of linear narration and the extremely scattered sounds and animated sequences all contribute to the organic complexity of femininity, making this opus a vivid interpretation and depiction of a woman’s sensuality.