2019-05-18

Salome Unveiled

Salome Movie Poster
Salome Movie Poster.

(This text is a follow-up article from Psychedelic Celluloid from 2017.)

Movie-oh-la-la

Years ago the Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit wanted to write the definitive article on Pink Floyd at the movies and stumbled – literally – on hundreds of films and television series that have used Pink Floyd tunes in one way or another.

Even for the 60-70’s era there were dozens of movies to be checked out and several of those were a bit too much in the flesh.

Perhaps one day we will publish that ultimate review of Alex De Renzy’s social realistic hippie masterpiece Little Sisters (1972) that has been sitting in our archives for years. It is known for its excellent use of three different Pink Floyd tracks (and a handful of others by Philip Glass, Carole King, Elvis Presley, Santana,…) and has a psychedelic grimble grumblish gnome popping out of nowhere, because you know… magic mushrooms. And that’s only the SFW part.

Psychedelic Celluloid

The Reverend wasn’t the only one with this idea. In 2017 Simon Matthews wrote a pretty decent film encyclopedia called ‘Psychedelic Celluloid’ that lists 120 ‘sixties’ British movies with a pop or rock connection. Needless to say that Pink Floyd shows up several times. Currently Simon Matthews is working on a follow up of that book. (Read our review here: Psychedelic Celluloid.)

Psychedelic Celluloid only investigated ‘regular’ British movies and not those underground flicks often made by the Cambridge Mafia that surrounded the Pink Floyd. There are home or avant-garde movies by Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon, Mick Rock, Anthony Stern and Storm Thorgerson and it seems only avid hardcore Floyd-fans have been collecting and discussing these. (Look for a DVD anthology called Wondering & Dreaming if you want to get started. We even have an interview on here with the man who created this collection: Wondering and Dreaming (a self-interview with Ewgeni Reingold).)

Salome opening screen
Salomé opening screen. Illustration: Aubrey Beardsley.

Salomé

During his research Simon Matthews stumbled upon a Spanish underground movie, allegedly using a Pink Floyd soundtrack, that he was unable to locate: Salomé (see: Salomé at Psychedelic Celluloid). The Holy Church also tried to unearth this movie and even contacted its maker several times but unfortunately our pathetic pleas were ignored with Spanish (or is that Valencian?) arrogance. Or perhaps the maker was just timid. Or doesn’t speak English.

Let’s first find out something about him.

In 1970, so tells us IMDB, Rafael Gasent, the 'father' of independent Valencian cinema, made a 51 minutes adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play (1891) and Richard Strauss opera (1905) Salomé. According to the movie database the soundtrack is composed by Richard Strauss, arranged by Pink Floyd and re-arranged by Jorge Pi.

Rafael Gasent

Rafa Gasent, also known as Rafael Gassent and all permutations in between, is an experimental Spanish movie maker whose 23 and some movies are even more difficult to track down than those of Anthony Stern. Salomé was allegedly shot in the Sagunto castle, inspired by the Andy Warhol school of filming and is apparently a blend of the hippie era and Spanish avant-garde 'grunge' from the early seventies, whatever that may be.

Rafael Gasent, 2019.
Rafael Gasent, 2019.

Flavius Josephus

According to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, Salomé was a historical figure, daughter of Herodias, the second wife of Herod Antipas, who was the Roman tetrarch (ruler) of Galilee (Palestine) from 4 BC to 39 AD. She gets a cameo appearance in the Bible for asking the head of John the Baptist on a platter, as a reward for a dance she did on her stepfather’s birthday. Before his many guests, high officials and military commanders, so it has been written in the Gospel of Mark (6:14-29), king Herod couldn’t refuse her demand and he had John the Baptist promptly executed.

Dance of the Seven Veils

In Christian tradition Salomé became the prototype of the lascivious woman, seducing those poor defenceless men with her erotic Dance of the Seven Veils, although that name was only invented by Oscar Wilde about 18 centuries after the facts.

Oscar Wilde does not describe the dance itself, but others – before and after him – did and as such Salomé became a role model for striptease dancers around the world.

Salomé, as represented in Oscar Wilde’s play from 1891, ‘has been perceived as much as a proto-feminist as the exemplary personification of a devilish woman’ notes Tristan Grünberg in Salomé On Screen:

As such, the 1970s underground European cinema, characterized by its rebellion against sexual repression and academic cinema, welcomed her with open arms. From Germany (...) to Spain (Rafael Gassent and Pedro Almodovar), from France (…) to England (…), Oscar Wilde’s play and main character became an ethical and aesthetic emblem of avant-garde cinema.
Salome: behind the scenes.
Salome: behind the scenes.

Francisco Franco

In 1966, at 18 years old, Rafael Gasent was still a promising award-winning scenographer and poster designer but at the turn of the decade he wasn’t particularly liked any more by the general Franco regime and his Opus Dei cohorts.

After a brief run in some underground clubs his movie Salomé was seized by the Spanish Tribunal de Orden Público, a court created in Francoist Spain to deal with political crimes. The movie, in its original form, hasn’t been seen since.

Gasent wrote the script, based upon the interpretation of Oscar Wilde and the operatic adaption of Richard Strauss. The story begins when Herodias, the wife of Herod Antipas, is accused by John the Baptist of committing adultery. On the occasion of his birthday, Herod asks Herodias's daughter, Salomé, to dance for his guests. As a reward, Herod decides to grant Salomé a wish and she wishes for John the Baptist’s head. Those were the days!

Salome
Salomé.

Salomé 2015

Around 2015 Gasent revised, re-imagined and reconstructed a new version of the seventies movie, using material that could be traced back in several archives, filmed in Super 8 and 16 millimetres. The 18 minutes short (14 minutes without credits) was shown on the Mostra de València - Cinema del Mediterrani festival in October 2018 and has been published on YouTube as well.

Apparently the new version is more a meta-drama about a lost movie than the movie itself. It breaks the fourth wall quite often by showing the camera team and shots from behind the scenes. There is no real story, scenes are explained by an off-screen voice and are interrupted by the Aubrey Beardsley prints, that illustrated the first English edition of Oscar Wilde’s play.

If the IMDB information that the original movie took 51 minutes is correct then this revised version is about two thirds shorter than the original. As such this is a very truncated and tinkered version, necessary to expose the often silly – and at the same time, damaging – censorship of the Franco regime.

Censorship

Under Franco movies could be censored if they went against the Spanish traditional ‘cultural morality’ and Gasent’s production was at least provocative on two different levels: it had some scarce female nudity and it was having some mildly homo-erotic scenes.

Salomé 1970-2015 can be seen as a starting point for a discussion about Spain’s painful past that some would like to see return in one form or another.

John the Baptist.
John the Baptist.

Set The Controls

Now for the Pink Floyd content. At seven minutes into the movie Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun sets in for something that appears to be the Dance of the Seven Veils.

The same song is used a second time, shortly before the 14 minutes mark, to show John the Baptist’s head, lying in the sand. But once again, as the original movie is probably lost, we can’t be sure how that Pink Floyd track was used in 1971.

Conclusion

If we may have learned a lesson about it all it is perhaps that it is better to show movies than to hide them. If Pink Floyd Ltd and the Cambridge Underground movie makers prefer to hide them in closets they are not much better than the Franco censoring squads.

At least they still have the choice. Rafael Gasent didn't have that.

Salomé 1970 - 2015 by Rafael Gasent

   


Many thanks to: Rafael Gasent, Simon Matthews, Poliphemo.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥

Sources (other than the links above):
Grünberg, Tristan : Salome On Screen: Sensuality and Censorship, taken from: Performing Salome, Revealing Stories (edited by Clair Rowden), Routledge, New York, 2016, p.172.


Direct link: Salome Unveiled. Posted on 2019-05-18 at 13:59.
Tags: Review X-Tra Time


 

 

 


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© Felix Atagong, The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, 2019.

Picture: © Chris Lanaway, 2010.
Celebrating 10 years of The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. Picture: © Chris Lanaway, 2010.