Salomé is perhaps Bene’s most accessible work; on at least one occasion, he called it his best film. Derived from Oscar Wilde’s play, it tells the Biblical story of Herod, Salomé and John the Baptist with occasional slight detours, including a rather blasphemous “Last Supper.” The film is an eye-popping visual feast; Bene himself referred to Salomé’s art direction as “total kitsch.” The sets and costumes are covered with Day-Glo paint and festooned with feathers and elaborate jewelry, sequins and baubles, all edited into a frenzied montage, with few shots lasting more than a second or two. The cast features a gallery of grotesques to rival Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.
BisDirected by by Paolo Brunatto.
Italy, 1967, 35mm, black & white, 20 min.
Italian with English subtitles.
In 1966, Bene presented The Pink and the Black, his successful theatrical adaptation of Matthew Gregory Lewis’ lurid Gothic novel from 1796. Experimental filmmaker Paolo Brunatto filmed some of the play’s rehearsals in a Rome apartment (also frequented also by the Living Theatre). Bene’s artistry is encapsulated in one sentence: “One cannot continue to prostitute the idea of theatre, which stands only for a magical, brutal link with reality.“