Kant – Dylan – Botul!

February 26, 2010

In an earlier post, I chortled about the gaffe of BHL citing the non-existent philosopher, Jean Baptiste Botul, founder of the philsophical school, Les botulistes, and his book The Sex Life of Immanuel Kant. Thanks to the silly Monsieur BHL for leading me to Frédéric Pagès, the brilliant satirist responsible for it all.  His book on Kant is, as one reviewer called the author of another book of parody that I adore, a work of “gob-smacking genius!”

Consider this:

Quatrième Causerie


Le Dégoût de Vivre:

Ne soyons pas dupes de sa vie apparemment tranquille.  La régularité de son emploi du temps et la montonie de cette vie studieuse cachent des aventures épouvantables, des excursions aux confins de la folie.  Les monstres rôdent.  Les lubies kantiennes sont une camisole de force qu’il s’applique héroiquement pour ne pas bascule dans l’immonde.


My best effort at translation:

Fourth Presentation


Disgust with Life:

We must not be duped by his [Kant’s] apparrently tranquil life.  The regulated way he spent his time and the monotony of his life of study hides frightening adventures, voyages to the edge of madness.  Monsters prowl there.  Kantian ideas are a straight-jacket that he made for himself in a heroic effort to keep from falling into the filth.

Am I making this up?

All this about a man, the apex of Englightenment, nay, Western philosophy, who had habits so regular and dull, that you could set your watch by his schedule of walking around the castle grounds of his university town.  Monsters prowl there, indeed!

The brilliant humor of this parody is that it appears to take on the corpus of Kant’s philsophy, but with only one question in mind:  Did he or did he not have a sex life?  As one who has dipped into biographical material on Wittgenstein and Nietzsche to make some critiques of their work, I was mightily amused!

And the connection to Dylan…you may ask as J. P. Botul rhetorically asked in the passage above, “Am I making this up?”  The phrase, a head full of crickets has, by my reading, the same sense as Bob Dylan’s well known lyric from Maggie’s Farm:

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.
No, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.
Well, I wake in the morning,
Fold my hands and pray for rain.
I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin’ me insane

It’s a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor.
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.

Kant as tormented, alienated artist?  Oppressed and unappreciated Everyman?  Venture no further – monsters prowl there!

Butterfield 8

January 27, 2010

Liz Taylor is fabulous, Lawrence Harvey is…well kind of weird, as always, and the movie doesn’t quite make it.  Speaking of his lover, killed in a Thruway crash as she sped away from him, and addressing his WASP-queen wife, a good woman after all, he says, “On the surface, she was all sex, and devil may care, but underneath, she was always struggling towards respectability…”

Respectability? Ye gads! Something went wrong in the writing room somewhere.


January 6, 2010


Life in the 17th century royal courts was a highly regimented affair.  The ruling class had a lot of rules to play by!  No, not a free and easy existence.

Here’s a snippet from the memoirs of Saint-Simon about the marriage night of Phillip V of Spain, Louis XIV’s grandson.  He left France to take the Spanish throne, precipitating the lengthy Wars of the Spanish Succession – Blenheim being a glorious victory for Louis’ opponents, led by Winston Churchill’s ancestor – and searched about for a bride.  He was about 18 – he found a suitable Savoyard duchess.  She was 13.  I have added some italics.

After a long and disagreeable supper, the King and Queen withdrew. Then feelings which had been kept in during supper overflowed. The Queen wept for her Piedmontese women. Like a child, as she was, she thought herself lost in the hands of ladies so insolent; and when it was time to go to bed, she said flatly that she would not go, and that she wished to return home. Everything was done to console her; but the astonishment and embarrassment were great indeed when it was found that all was of no avail. The King had undressed, and was awaiting her. Madame des Ursins was at length obliged to go and tell him the resolution the Queen had taken. He was piqued and annoyed. He had until that time lived with the completest regularity; which had contributed to make him find the Princess more to his taste than he might otherwise have done. He was therefore affected by her ‘fantaisie’, and by the same reason easily persuaded that she would not keep to it beyond the first night. They did not see each other therefore until the morrow, and after they were dressed. It was lucky that by the Spanish custom no one was permitted to be present when the newly-married pair went to bed; or this affair, which went no further than the young couple, Madame des Ursins, and one or two domestics, might have made a very unpleasant noise.  [Unlike the French custom, which was to have witnesses present in the room as the newlyweds ‘enjoyed’ their first sexual intimacy, and the consummation of their marriage.  After all, the father of the heir must not be in doubt!]

Madame des Ursins consulted with two of the courtiers, as to the best measures to be adopted with a child who showed so much force and resolution. The night was passed in exhortations and in promises upon what had occurred at the supper; and the Queen consented at last to remain Queen. The Duke of Medina-Sidonia and Count San Estevan were consulted on the morrow. They were of opinion that in his turn the King, in order to mortify her and reduce her to terms, should not visit the Queen on the following night. This opinion was acted upon. The King and Queen did not see each other in private that day. In the evening the Queen was very sorry. Her pride and her little vanity were wounded; perhaps also she had found the King to her taste.

The ladies and the grand seigneurs who had attended at the supper were lectured for what had occurred there. Excuses, promises, demands for pardon, followed; all was put right; the third day was tranquil, and the third night still more agreeable to the young people. On the fourth day they went to Barcelona, where only fetes and pleasures awaited them. Soon after they set out for Madrid.

Three more…Boccaccio ’70

November 30, 2008

Here are the other three stories from Boccaccio ’70 that accompany the subject of my last post. With the exception of the Fellini-Temptation story, they all deal with the oppressed, prostituted status of women in one way or another. And, of course, one could argue, as do many, that being a sex symbol in advertising is yet another form of selling oneself along with a product, like milk…

Another theme is money, from the low to the high rent realms.  Money and the struggle for a good life, money as an obstacle to true love, money, money, money…

vlcsnap-796606 The first story, Renzo and Luciana, is, I think, the least interesting, being a mix of social realism and comedy, rather weak comedy.  A pretty girl (Marisa Solinas)in the office of a factory wants to marry an office boy there, but there is a rule against married women working there, so they hide it.  She receives the unwelcome attentions of a foolish and slightly effeminate manager who thinks of himself as a higher type, but loves to lord it over his “harem” of secretaries.  In the end, she liberates herself by quitting with her clandestine husband, earning severance bonuses for them both.

vlcsnap-794574The second story is Fellini’s, followed by Visconti’s The Job, with Romy Schneider.  Beginning as farcial treatment of an aristocratic playboy trying to tamp down a scandal about his lastest publicized romps with high-priced callgirls, it turns devastatingly sad.  His gorgeous wife (a marriage of convenience..? arranged “so their property could marry?”) announces she is going to get a job like normal middle class people.  When in teasing her husband she finds that he (who normally won’t bother looking at her) is excited about having sex with her if she makes him pay her for it, she realizes what sort of job it is to which she has condemned herself.

vlcsnap-795455Yeah, that’s Sophia Loren in the final story, The Raffle, and of course, she’s the prize.  Her carnival associates use her as a money maker with a side-game on the national lottery, and the local yokels are going crazy.  She manages to keep her dignity, even before it all turns out harmlessly because the winner is the most sexually timid man in town.

Watching these beautiful women in these stories I was struck by their acting, yes, their acting!  Do such actresses still exist, or is that movie makers have so much lower expectations and demands these days?  Or is it just that watching old films takes one to a different cultural context, so everything seems fresh and novel, like traveling?