EARLY DE PALMA SHORT INCLUDED ON 'SOMETHING WEIRD' DVD COMPILATION
Beginning with this post, and leading up to the U.S. release of Passion, I'll be moving through Brian De Palma's filmography movie-by-movie, chronologically, to post links, etc., to articles, essays, and other items that may have fallen through the cracks of this site within the past couple of years. We start the "Spring Special" with Brian De Palma's early short, Woton's Wake, which sometime last year was included on the DVD compilation The Weird World Of Weird, Volume 2, from Something Weird Video (the same company that a few years ago released the first-ever DVD or video edition of De Palma's Murder A La Mod). Thanks to Chris for bringing this release to my attention.
As noted back in 2011, Arrow Video included Woton's Wake as an extra feature on its Obsession Blu-Ray. The Digital Fix's Mike Sutton wrote of the short, "Woton's Wake, from 1962, concerns one Woton Wretchichevsky, a sculptor who kills people with a blow torch. He's played by William Finley, an actor who has appeared in eight of De Palma's films and also did the voice for Bobbi on the answerphone in Dressed To Kill. There's no dialogue in the film but there are songs which comment on the action. It all ends with an orgy and the outbreak of war. Needless to say, this is hopelessly pretentious but it's also - presumably intentionally - quite funny and the black and white compositions are striking."
About a year ago, Mikael Gaudin-Lech posted an essay about Woton's Wake at Stardust Memories. "A mythological digression," states Gaudin-Lech, "Woton's Wake is a wandering made of odds and ends, nightmares and dreams, cardboard and ghosts, figures of haunted expressionism (currently in the spotlight at the Cinematheque) which reflected 'the eternal concern of the German soul which seeks to meet in dreams and fantasy' [H. Eisner Lotte quote from 'Notes on the style of Fritz Lang', in La Revue du Cinema, February 1947]. Similarly, if 'burning from within is what best characterizes the Murnalien actor' (Hervé Joubert-Laurencin), Woton embodies this character's internal combustion, a monstrous creature who disappears behind distorting makeup, ablaze, making his entire grotesque face unrecognizable (fire, smoke, scabs, hair pieces, makeup)."
Later in the essay, Gaudin-Lech, while describing the first scenes of Woton's Wake, notes a direct reference to Alain Resnais' Hiroshima, mon amour, which is one of the published screenplays that appears on the bookshelf at the start of the film (see image above). "In the foreground, Woton, Nosferatu hybrid and elusive, haunting the rooftops, surprises an embracing couple with an ignited blowtorch, creating a vivid picture that obviously brings to mind the bodies of Hiroshima, mon amour. Using canted angles, fades, close-ups, a persistent contrast between the white of the sky and the black of the buildings, highlighting the salient edges of natural scenery and the thrust of its frames, DePalma transforms the film school where his film was shot into a universe dreamlike and strange, made of rubble and devastated warehouses in disarray. Of course, the German Expressionist cinema was summoned, but also abstract art, the underground cinema shot in Bolex 16mm, contemporary architecture..."