Sunday, 3 January 2016

Chapter 122: The Art of Mime and Subversive Fashion

Photo: Nancy Lu (click here)
"Marcel Marceau’s extraordinary talent for pantomime entertained audiences around the world for over sixty years. It also saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust."

So begins a Facebook tribute by the "Accidental Talmudist" to Marcel Marceau as a Silent Holocaust hero (click here to read the fascinating account in full), both as entertainer and brave, quick-thinking member of the French resistance, whose actions saved countless lives. Mime, for Marceau, became an expression and acknowledgment of the unspeakable, on losing his father in the Auschwitz he later says:
"The people who came back from the camps were never able to talk about it. My name is Mangel. I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.” 


The article made me think of a film that had been recommended to me recently, "Les Enfants du Paradis", Children of Paradise. Set in 1820s Paris, that tells the tale of the beautiful Garance and the four men in her life, although she really loves only one, the mime artist Baptiste, played by Jean-Louis Barrault, a contemporary of Marcel Marceau. Baptiste, springing from the margins of pantomime and society, directs his performance to the poor, the "children" in the theatre gods, "le paradis", and that revolutionary act makes my heart go out to him as much as the tragic beauty of the romance itself.   

Made during the Second World War, in Nazi occupied France, the filming had also been a site of resistance, giving daytime cover to résistants, and sheltering banned Jewish set designer Alexandre Trauner, and composer Joseph Kosma, who could only be credited after the war. I finally watched the film on New Year's Eve, with my son, equally spellbound, delighted that I had the foresight to give a copy to my pierrot-loving sister for Christmas. The following day, I compared notes with my mother, who had seen the film at the Dominion cinema in Edinburgh, shortly after the war. Her class was taken by their French teacher, who had herself spent the war in France fighting with the Resistance, and the film had made a deep and lasting impression. (click here)
To go from the sublime to the mondaine, I was struck by an article (click here) recently on the growing trend in New York, for clowncore parties. Kickstarted by party gurus Olivia Galov (fashion designer @lilburger on Instagram) and Abby Fiscus, it's popularity stems from the way it resists the exclusivity of the New York party scene. As Fiscus says: 
"People can't judge me if I'm a clown. There are a lot of clowns in New York nightlife, whether they admit it or not."

I wonder, then, when the trend will kick off over here? According to a light-hearted post on clowns by Tom Hocknell ( - click here) Bestival had to cancel a clown-themed festival  a couple of years ago, replacing it with superheroes, when alerted to a high number of coulrophobia sufferers buying tickets. Still, time moves on quickly, John Galliano has been readmitted into the fashion establishment, sending neon-caked clown models down Parisian runways last year, surely it's only a matter of time before they pop up in their own Circus Space in Hoxton... 

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