Unrestrained Indulgence

total running time without talk c.76min

Introduced by Dominic Johnson, Lecturer in Drama at Queen Mary College, University of London.

Floating in archival time and space, this programme incorporates an anonymous 1920s film fragment full of erotic mystique and sensuousness, the decadent peacockery of 1960s underground films that it brilliantly matches, plus a more recent film that reassesses the figure of Salomé.

Erotic fragment

1920s. Anonymous. (From the archive of EYE Film Institute Netherlands)

This short erotic fragment shows a topless female dancer in a combination of close-ups, as she performs – somewhat awkwardly – a type of Oriental veil dance. The transitions between shots sometimes reveal striking superimpositions, especially as the camera homes in on a multi-string pearl necklace that cascades down from her spectacular showgirl’s headpiece.


Germany 2009. Dir Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz. With Yvonne Rainer, Wu Ingrid Tsang.

Salomania reconstructs the ‘dance of the seven veils’ from Alla Nazimova’s 1923 silent film Salomé and features sections from ‘Valda’s Solo’ which the choreographer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer created after having seen Nazimova’s film. Salomania takes up Salomé as a transgender figure and the motif of a queer appropriation of the exotic. At the beginning of the 20th century, ‘Salomania’ gripped stage and screen performers alike as they took, in their droves, to dancing the dance of the seven veils. The figure of Salomé stood for sexual freedom and became an icon of ‘sodomite’ subjectivity. The film features Rainer performing alongside artist Wu Ingrid Tsang

Flaming Creatures

USA 1963. Dir Jack Smith. With Francis Francine, Sheila Bick, Mario Montez, Joel Markman. Costumes Jack Smith and actors.

Once deemed obscene by the state of New York, Smith’s revolutionary Flaming Creatures is an elusive masterpiece which continues to fascinate. Shot in black and white on outdated film stock, it reproduces some of the sensuous pleasures and high glamour from Hollywood’s golden days, especially referencing such stars as Marlene Dietrich and Smith’s beloved Maria Montez. He gives his cross-dressed actors the polymorphous freedom to preen, dance, and playfully inhabit the rapturous and exotic fantasies of Hollywood cinema. Through a combination of fantastic tableau-vivant compositions and cinéma vérité camerawork, he brilliantly transforms his basic set and thrift store ‘couture’ into a dazzling, Sternberg-like mise-en-scène.

The Liberation of Mannique Mechanique

USA 1967. Dir Steven Arnold. Costumes Steven Arnold. The artist, photographer and filmmaker

Steven Arnold was a muse and model of Salvador Dalí, who always referred to Arnold as his 'prince'. Andy Warhol star Holly Woodlawn claimed that if Warhol’s Factory was ‘typical New York,’ then the circle around Arnold in Los Angeles ‘was Versailles’. Arnold’s work provides a fascinating bridge between the early cross-gender experiments of Claude Cahun and Pierre Molinier and what the media theorist Gene Youngblood termed the ‘polymorphous subterranean world of unisexual transvestism’ that he saw as a hallmark of the emerging ‘synaesthetic cinema’ of the 1960s. Loosely based on William A Seiter’s 1948 film One Touch of Venus, Arnold’s first film is a macabre, decadent and ambiguous work presenting mannequins and models who travel through strange universes towards possible self-discovery.

Tate Modern Saturday 04 Dec 2010, 19:00