By Mónica Delgado
At this moment of the century, we could say that Pandora’s Box (1929), G.W. Pabst classic silent film, shows women as guilty of tragedy. Everything in the film is associated with the myth of the famous box that encloses all the evils in the world, opened by Epimetheus’ wife, Pandora, which in Pabst’s film takes a sweet materiality in the figure of Louise Brooks. In this 1929 feature film, poverty, fatal destiny and human misery only can end with the assassination of coquette and vital Lulu (Brooks), at the hands of Jack the Ripper (an idea took from a play from 1902). In this way, the woman who is the origin of the disgrace of all men surrounding her disappears, a woman who has debased the world with her influx and curiosity.
The value of Lulu Faustine, recent work of Canadian artist and filmmaker Stephen Broomer, which was premiered in the last edition of MUTA – International Audio-visual Appropriation Festival, resides in that it upsets this misogynistic and fatalistic imaginary of Pabst’s film. It’s like, under Broomer’s eyes, Brooks had another chance, a vindication that takes her out of the typical stereotype of the tender prostitute, of the beautiful young woman who hurts and degrades men. In this new feature by Broomer, Pabst’s Lulu and Brooks from the history of cinema, are reborn in this new impressionist montage, that focuses on a figure in movement, who dances, who gives life in a new illusion.
The reminiscences of Lulu Faustine are not only inside Pabst’s film which is deconstructed and transformed. Broomer divides the original duration of the silent film in six parts, in which there are almost no specific scenes or sequences, but that, according to his techniques of frame morphing and mordançage, produces the sensation of intentional errors made digitally to alter the analogue. There’s an intervention that harks back to a new reading from the passing of time, and the idea of emulsion affected by some software or computer application, which undoes the images, reprograms them and activates them in a different way.
But also, like Broomer spoke in the film’s presentation, the film is about an homage to the Latin American literary science fiction classic, Adolfo Bioy Casares’ Morel’s Invention, which deals with a fugitive in an island who becomes enamoured with an entelechy or an invention, like a future Eve from a scientist outside his epoch. This woman recorded by a machine, called Faustine, is a strange one, who becomes an obscure object of desire. This feminine character, in her concept and abstraction, becomes the conducting thread of all the idea which transverses Broomer’s film. Like Morel (and the fugitive), the filmmaker designs this feminine figure through digital codes, giving her a new texture and tessiture. It’s a Lulu Faustin who scapes the expressive humanity of Pabst, to be molded to the eyes of a different creator, many years after, given new life with the help of technology.
Lulu Faustine also remits to a different classic of appropriation cinema, Joseph Cornell’s Rose Hobart, filmmaker who in 1936 took her out of oblivion, joining fragments of an Universal film, East of Borneo (1931) with documentary scenes of an eclipse and songs from Nestor Amaral’s Holiday in Brazil Album, a record hi found in a flea market. Like in Rose Hobart, Broomer also realizes an homage film to an actress, to her figure on camera, her cinematic side, that rules the frame. And inside the musical atmosphere proposed by Stuart Broomer (the filmmaker’s father, and a usual collaborator of his works), two songs extracted from the imaginary of Morel’s invention are mixed, songs which adhere perfectly as a hint to Cornell’s short, using this Latin American and tropical rhythms of Amaral, to emphasize the exotic key in which Holly wood built for decades common senses about the inhabitants of the region in their fictions. But these cadencious rhythms have a different mission in Lulu Faustine, different to Cornell’s influx: they accompany the body transformations, and work as a soundtrack of layers that rarefy this “laboratory” where Broomer/Morel meticulously dedicates himself to the creation of a new being.