The sounds of Roto Visage seep into the celluloid and flicker with the moving images of what has been argued as being the first surrealist film, Antonin Artaud and Germaine Dulac’s La coquille et le clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman, 1928). Implementing a phantasmagorical approach towards construction, a boundless number of sound sources and arrangement techniques were fused together to create this soundtrack. Roto Visage and Kikapu would like to thank Transflux Films for providing the film footage.
About the film
“The film is so cryptic as to be almost meaningless. If there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable.” – British Board of Film Censors
In the most simplistic terms, The Seashell and the Clergyman concerns a clergyman who is obsessed with a general’s woman; he has strange visions of death and lust, struggling against his own eroticism. To be sure, there are established characters and a general storyline, but these are quickly forgotten by the audience as the film casts its strangely hypnotic spell.
Although accounts differ, it seems that Artaud disapproved of Dulac’s treatment of his scenario. The version of the film presented here, for lack of a better choice of words, is the “director’s cut.” When the film was originally distributed in the States, the film canisters were mixed up and the resulting sequence was not what was intended by Dulac. Most commercial versions of this film, including those found on YouTube, are of improper sequence.
Transflux Films originally commissioned Roto Visage to create the soundtrack for a version of the film that was edited in accordance to Artuad’s screenplay, though that version never materialized. Roto Visage ultimately wrote material to two different versions of the film, one of which is presented here.
The Lost Prophet of Cinema: The Film Theory of Antonin Artaud – Senses of Cinema