Music for Films: Les Vampires


These are some notes for making the show…

Musidora, the invisible flâneuse, leaps like Spring Heeled Jack out of a dreams, prefiguring dada and surrealism.

1915, the birth of Jazz (‘Jas’, if the myth is to be believed, being New Orleans slang for sex). Electric street lighting became more common, cinema and public transport open up the city for female pedestrians, for exploration.

However, just as psychogeography tends to be a male affair, female pedestrianism has tended to be discussed in terms of commodification – how people made money out of women going outdoors – rather than , a century later, discussing the many ways in which this was also not a commodity.

Lois Weber’s shoes makes an interest contrast with ‘Les Vampires’: the freedom of the city experienced by a shop girl compared with Irma’s physical freedom as a super heroine, to break into oligarch’s houses dressed as a succubus, both seducing and terrifying them.

One is fantasy one is reality, but both are forms of freedom.

Images familiar from silent films – Lang’s ‘Metrpolis’, ‘Aelita Queen of Mars’, ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ – are of faceless masses toiling in the industrial dungeons of the super rich or super powerful. The dreams of the faceless masses cannot, literally, be bought and sold but they can be fashioned into a road to freedom, when violent revolution isn’t an option, through art and culture, imagination and manifest desire.

The 1817 Paris Communards built cabarets and salons as well as bread kitchens and physical defences of the city.

J R R Tolkien in his 1939 essay ‘On Fairy Stories’:

‘I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it.

Based on Tolkien’s lecture at St Andrews University in 1938.
J R R Tolkien, 1965 ‘On Fairy-Stories’ Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA, p3.
Republished in: J R R Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. 1983 ‘The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays’ George Allen and Unwin, London.

The quote about ‘Shoes’ in the show is from Asli Ozgen Tuncer’s 2017 academic paper, ‘Lois Weber’s ‘Activist Cinema’ Tracing the Female Worker in Shoes through Changing Streetscapes’.