Conclusion: uncanny bodies

Phil Powrie and Éric Rebillard

in Pierre Batcheff and Stardom in 1920s French Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780748621972
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651191 | DOI:
Conclusion: uncanny bodies

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There is a sense in which the last films made by Pierre Batcheff were an unwelcome return to the star persona that he had worked hard to shift with Les Deux Timides and Un Chien andalou. In that respect, his persona came back to haunt him. This notion of haunting is fundamental to one of the more provocative studies of surrealism of the 1990s, Hal Foster's Compulsive Beauty, which argues strongly for a reading of surrealism as an engagement with the uncanny. This chapter examines the argument that surrealist objects can be viewed as the ‘failed refinding of a lost object’. It posits that Batcheff functions for the spectator as a ‘lost object’. It then considers Foster's productive contrast between two key surrealist figures, that of the automaton and the mannequin, and their link with Hans Bellmer's dolls, arguing that they are the structuring devices for the performative simulacrum (what we call ‘vacancy’), and its transformation into ‘evacuation’, a partly imposed, partly self-imposed disarticulation of the star body.

Keywords: Pierre Batcheff; films; surrealism; lost object; automaton; mannequin; dolls; Hans Bellmer; uncanny; Hal Foster

Chapter.  3921 words. 

Subjects: Film

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