Salome and Salomania, 16 March 2013, 8.40pm
Lives of Performers, 18 March, 6.30pm
27th BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
BFI Southbank, NFT 3
Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XT London
A two-part event plotting the connections between three film works: Alla Nazimova's Salome (USA, 1923, 72 mins) with a specially commissioned live soundtrack from Electrelane's Verity Susman; Pauline Boudry/Renate Lorenz's Salomania (Germany, 2009, 17 mins); and Yvonne Rainer's Lives of Performers (USA, 1972, 90 mins).
Classic 1923 silent film Salome, based on Oscar Wilde's eponymous play, takes up the Biblical tale of Salome who, rejected by John the Baptist, dances in exchange for his head on a platter. The film, with its lavish sets based on Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations, is rumoured to have had an all-queer cast and was lead by iconic actress, screenwriter and producer Alla Nazimova. The screening will be accompanied by a specially commissioned live score from composer and musician Verity Susman.
The performance and film will be be shown alongside a screening of artist duo Pauline Boudry/Renate Lorenz's 2009 film Salomania. The work features performances by pioneering artist and choreographer Yvonne Rainer and artist Wu Tsang as they reconstruct the 'dance of the seven veils' from Salome, against a backdrop of the original film. Sections from 'Valda's Solo', created by Yvonne Rainer after seeing this dance, and featuring in her film Lives of Performers, are also rehearsed and discussed.
Across the grain of colonial history, the Art Deco style and its devices of 'foreignness' are established in Nazimova's film as images that make space for female or 'transvestic' fantasies and desires. Salome opens a space between the genders and a stage where Orient and Occident appeared to be simultaneously possible. At the beginning of the 20th century the figure of Salome stood for entrepreneurial independence and sexual freedom and became an icon of 'sodomite' subjectivity. Salomania unfolds as a plotting and collapsing of connections: the Biblical character of Salome; Oscar Wilde; the playwright; Nazimova; Yvonne Rainer; Wu Tsang; and ultimately the artists themselves. The work, which links the original film Salome, and Yvonne Rainer's Lives of Performers by extended lines of affinity was recently shown at the South London Gallery as part of the Electra-curated exhibition Toxic Play in Two Acts: Pauline Boudry/Renate Lorenz.
Lives of Performers (1972) is the first of Yvonne Rainer's seven feature length film works. Here sections of the film are strung together like her uninflected dance phrases; no single part is given more value, the score is not subservient to the visuals, there is no central character with whom we identify. In the film Rainer examines the dilemma of a man who cannot choose between two women and instead makes them both suffer.
Part of 27th BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and programmed by Nazmia Jamal in association with Electra.
Image: Still from 'Valda's Solo', Yvonne Rainer, Lives of Performers, 1972