THE EXQUISITE CORPUS

by Peter TSCHERKASSKY
2015 / 35mm / b&w / sound / 1S / 19' 05

In 1925 Surrealists in Paris started to use a writing and drawing technique they called “Cadavre exquis”, which translates as “The Exquisite Corpse”. That technique engages several participants to blindly collaborate in the creation of a single unified image or sentence: One person would write a word or draw part of a body on a piece of paper, fold it over and pass it on to a next participant who would add another piece without seeing what had come before, hand it over to the next person, and so on. The result was a highly synthetic sentence or picture, a composition in the original sense of the word: joined elements, sourced from different origins.

The name of this technique was taken from one of the first sentences it produced: "Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau", – "The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine."

While I derived most of my films near exclusively from a single found footage source, The Exquisite Corpus is based on several different films, referencing the surrealist “exquisite corpse” technique. You´ll find several rushes from commercials, an American erotic thriller from the 1980s, a British comedy from the 1960s, a Danish as well as a French porn film (both most likely from the 1970s), an Italian soft-core sex movie from 1979, and a (British?) amateur movie – it could be considered a “nudist film” since there are no explicit sex scenes but all the actors run around naked, for no immediately obvious reason.

I mainly focused on these erotic films; they are related in that each tells a completely insane story that is entirely irrelevant but achieves the main goal of showing naked human bodies. I play on this attitude by raising the body of film itself to the forefront, which thereby becomes the central theme of The Exquisite Corpus.

The Exquisite Corpus begins with a search of a seashore. We glimpse a few actors from the prow of a small boat. Gradually what we are seeking is found, a sleeping beauty lies on the beach, right before our eyes. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, we are drawn into her dream. It´s a highly ambiguous dream – sensuous, humorous, gruesome, and ecstatic – a broadly defined seduction lusting after a tangible, perceptible, exquisite physicality – including the body of the film.

In addition to the aforementioned found footage, many indexical signs and images are imprinted upon the film: photograms of natural origin, like leaves and flower buds, as well as cultural products like meshes and crochet samples. This network of indexical signs (also known as “rayographs”, from Man Ray's darkroom experiments) not only reveal a very specific way of shaping and sculpting analog film, they also create an organic flair on screen, into which the photographic, iconic signs (which also constantly switch between a constructed cultural interior and nature scenes) are embedded.
Written words and letters pop up in the midst of these pictures, referencing printed as well as hand writing – and echoing “iconic” (printed) and “indexical” (imprinted) systems.

These diverse sources serve as a basis for The Exquisite Corpus, giving rise to heterogeneities I willingly accepted in the spirit of the surrealist technique of the “cadavre exquis”. At the same time the title of the film refers to the “exquisite corpse” which analog cinema nowadays represents: an exquisite corpus but stamped with an expiration date. The exact date remains unknown, but it is foreseeable.
Peter Tscherkassky

2 PRINTS IN DISTRIBUTION


distribution format DCP on CRU disk (INTEROP 2K)
screen 1,37 - Standard (single screen)
speed 24 fps
sound sound
rental fee 76,00 €

distribution format 35mm
screen 1,37 - Standard (single screen)
speed 24 fps
sound optical sound
rental fee 76,00 €