Paris, Bizarre

Bizarre, nos. 1-2; new series, nos. 1-46 (Paris, 1953-1968)

Siné's Cover for Bizarre, no. 11/12 (May 1959), a special issue devoted entirely to "Jocondoclastie," or the playful misappropriation (and willful defacement) of the Mona Lisa

Founded by Eric Losfeld–who went on to publish Jean-Claude’s notorious Barbarella comics in the early 1960s–Bizarre lasted for just two issues before falling off the map in 1953. The magazine was soon revived, however,  by

Special Tarzan Issue, Bizarre, no. 11/12 (1962)

Special Tarzan Issue, Bizarre, no. 11/12 (1962)

Jean-Jacques Pauvert and Michel Laclos, who kept its torrent of iconoclastic wit, cultural criticism, and artistic daredevilry running uproariously from 1955 right up to the eve of the Paris uprisings in the spring of 1968. No stranger to controversy, Pauvert made a name for himself in the immediate postwar years publishing (at times clandestine) editions of  Sade. His new bookshop on the Rue Bonaparte was quickly put under police surveillance when it opened  in 1956, just a year after he restarted Bizarre, and the besieged bookseller/ publisher   found himself at the center of the “Affaire

Special Issue on Lettrism, Bizarre no. 32/33 (1964)

Special Issue on Lettrism, Bizarre no. 32/33 (1964)

Sade,” as the French government stepped in to ban the publication and sale of such works. Clashes with authority and public controversy also hounded other contributors to the journal, including its ‘s star illustrator, Siné. An anarchist with sharply anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, and (as many would later find) anti-semitic views, Siné felt pressured to quit his position as political cartoonist for L’Express due to his virulent opposition to the Algerian War, which provoked public outcry from many readers, and for a time in the early sixties he worked on Révolution africaine, a journal financed by the Algerian resistance organization FLN. When the uprisings came in 1968, Siné again joined with Pauvert to found the magazine L’Enragé, an important document of the rebellious spirit of the late sixties and early seventies recently acquired by Beinecke as part of the Philippe Zoummeroff Collection of May 1968 Paris Counterculture.

Channeling undercurrents of political unrest and cultural discontent, as well as a simple delight in mockery, Bizarre became an important artistic expression of the culture of protest that peaked (at

(Cosmetic?) Surgery on the Mona Lisa, Bizarre, no. 11/12 (May 1959)

(Cosmetic?) Surgery on the Mona Lisa, Bizarre, no. 11/12 (May 1959)

least initially) in the revolts of May ’68. Bizarre excelled in the scavenging techniques of détournement and bouleversement wielded by avant-garde poets, artistists, and cultural critics in the Paris of Situationism and Lettrism (one issue of the magazine is entirely devoted to a critical engagement with the latter). Siné’s cut-out design for the cover of Bizarre no. 11/12 (shown at top) cloaks the Mona Lisa (La Joconde) in the garb of a heavily

"Miss Mona Lisa 1957," shown with labels for Mona Lisa brand cheese and cigars and a pin featuring the Eiffel Tower, Bizarre, no 11/12 (May 1959)

"Miss Mona Lisa 1957," shown with labels for Mona Lisa brand cheese and cigars and a pin featuring the Eiffel Tower, Bizarre, no 11/12 (May 1959)

decorated (and heavily wounded) military officer, but inside the covers one finds a medley of playful misappropriation, commercial exploitation, disfigurement, and material destruction. There are paint-by-number Mona Lisas, Mona Lisa gag postcards, crossword puzzles, postage stamps, posters,  Mona Lisa comic strips and

Mad about MAD: "Les limitaions de Mad a l'egard de la segregation sont celles du liberalisme american dans son ensemble ... Cette hypocrisie de bonne foi qui pousse les plus honnetes a considerer que la mystique anti-negre ne constitue meme pas matiere a scandale, a l'accepter passivement sans se sentir troubles par leur propre silence, est un des elements les plus inquietants de l'ideologie americaine." Bizarre no 6 (November 1956)

Mad about MAD: "Les limitaions de Mad à l'égard de la ségrégation sont celles du libéralisme american dans son ensemble ... Cette hypocrisie de bonne foi qui pousse les plus honnêtes à considerer que la mystique anti-nègre ne constitue même pas matière à scandale, à l'accepter passivement sans se sentir troublés par leur propre silence, est un des éléments les plus inquiétants de l'idéologie américaine." Bizarre no 6 (November 1956)

measurements of her physique, “typographical” portraits of the Mona Lisa, and countless other permutations, all gathered around Jean Margat’s tongue-in-cheek theoretical treatise, “Introduction à la Jocondoclastie” (Introduction to Mona-Lisa Iconoclasm). The last dozen or so pages are devoted to “exercises” in this new art–“découpages,” “clivages,” “déformations,” “trucages photographiques,” “chirugie,” and “destructions matérielles.”

Cinema and pop culture were also popular themes. Tarzan, Boris Karloff, Bela Lagosi, Brigitte Bardot share layouts with “monsters” from circus sideshows, film noire, comic strips, and lots of American beauties pointing guns at the viewer. A jarring flux and flow strongly reminiscent of the illustrations of Internationale Situationniste that were being published in the same years. The editors of Bizarre had a penchant for revealing the dark side of American popular culture, as in this stinging critique of MAD magazine, chastized for its lily-white heros and its complete silence on the topic of racism and the civil rights movement in the United States. The rising wave of détourned political comics, which spread quickly throughout Europe in the early sixties and became a staple visual component of protest literature in the wake of 1968, certainly ripples through the 48 issues of Bizarre from first to last.

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The Cinema Industry and the Third Reich

Der Film-Kurier: Theater, Kunst, Varieté, Funk, 11 volumes (1935-1940). Over 850 issues of one of the most important trade journals of the German cinema industry prioto 1945, all from the Nazi era.

Headlines from Der Film-Kurier 20, no. 267 (November 14, 1935): "Jews No Longer Allowed to Attend Any Cinema"

Headlines from Der Film-Kurier on November 14, 1935: "Jews No Longer Allowed to Attend Any Cinema"

Published in Berlin from 1919 to 1944, Der Film-Kurier documented many different facets in the development of the film industry, first in the Weimar Republic, then under the  growing shadow of the Third Reich. Stories of popular interest, photos of the latest stars, ads for new pictures jostle alongside specialized articles for professionals engaged in the production, distribution, and projection of cinema. Debates over taxes, licensing, building codes; statistics about film production and cinema attendance; the latest technical advances in sound and color; shifting alliances among the major players in the industry itself provide a singular resource for scholars of cinema in a time of immense historical importance.

But these volumes do much more than follow the paper trail of cinema. The side-by-side overage of industry news and commercial advertisements with headlines such as this –“Jews No Longer Allowed to Attend Any Cinema: Participation in Offerings of German Culture of Any Kind Prohibited” –powerfully document the transition from business-as-usual to kitsch propaganda machine as the power of Goebbel’s ministry gradually invaded every sphere of everyday life. Varying degrees of complicity, surviving enclaves of relative autonomy, blinkered concentration on narrow interests and technical developments are all to be found  here, revealing a nightmarish landscape in which many perished or fled while others sought to help or hinder themfilmkurier-2-edit or simply pursued their own interests. A splendid resource for anyone interested in exploring the world of modern cinema confronted by the brutality and terror of the Nazi regime.

Der Film-Kurier joins a growing number of other titles documenting the vicissitudes of the German film industry in the 1920s and 1930s, including yearbooks, “Cinema Calendars,” official promotion and publicity for film stars published by firms like UFA, Tobis, Gloria, and others, as well as government statistical surveys and reports on the industry commissioned in the Third Reich and after the Second World War. Much of this material is still uncataloged, so be sure to check out our “Uncataloged Acquisitions” search engine to find more.