Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Twists and Turns: Rimbaud + Leo

The other day I watched "Total Eclipse", a film by Polish director Agnieszka Holland. Pre-Titanic Leonardo diCaprio plays French poet and enfant terrible Arthur Rimbaud, whose explosive love affair with Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) is both creative collaboration and a shock to fin de siècle society.

And it shows Leo's first kiss on film - with the man who plays Professor Lupin in Harry Potter. Unspectacular?

"Total Eclipse" - Leo diCaprio and David Thewlis - Kiss

Rimbaud was unconventional in every sense. He cursed like a sailor, got into fights with other poets, and generally refused to settle into bourgeois life. After producing some of the most avantgarde poems ever written, he stopped poetry altogether at age 19. 

His deviousness inspired Polish-American artist David Wojnarowicz to embody the eternal rebel in New York of the late 1970s. A time when the city was buzzing with struggling artists, overdrugged parties and pre-AIDS promiscuity. 

Untitled, David Wojnarowicz, Rimbaud in New York 1977-19

David Wojnarowicz, Rimbaud in New York, 1977-1979

David Wojnarowicz, Rimbaud in New York, 1977-1979

Ironically, Rimbaud became the opposite of rock'n'roll. Rejected by Parisian society and ignored by literary critics, he left Europe for Africa to work in trade. His letters home reveal a man who complains about everything and is only interested in making money. So much for growing up. 

Autoportrait in Harar (now Ethiopia), 1880-1890 

                      "Total Eclipse" (1995) - Full Film

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