The Priests They Called Them



These two handsome seminarists in Jean Renoir’s Une partie de campagne are Henri Cartier-Bresson and Georges Bataille in the flesh. Being an extra wasn’t Bataille’s only foray into movies. He wrote a screenplay under the title of La Maison brûlée about a peasant (modeled very clearly after Bataille himself) who marries a woman five days after he has met her for the first time. His fellow villagers are against the marriage as they suspect him to be the murderer of his father as well as that of his first wife and of his female cousin who all died under dubious circumstances. Although rather tame and conventional in comparison with Bataille’s other writings the scenario has some nice touches. It’s conceived as a thriller and contains some elements reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Rebecca (which also features a burnt down house prominently, for instance). Another Laurence Olivier vehicle, William Wyler’s Wuthering Heights, definitely made a lasting impression on Bataille. He would identify himself with its protagonist Heathcliff:

I come from Helder, where I have seen Wuthering Heights: Heathcliff, living with Cathys spectre just as I wanted to live with Laure’s ( Colette Peignot.) spectre … On Saturday, in La Vaissenet, I thought of Wuthering Heights. I had even thought about it in Ferluc. I suppose that this travelling around in mountain cabins made me forget my disgust for “comedies”.


Bataille tried to interest French comedian Fernandel in another screenplay, which is sadly lost. Henry-François Rey – cowriter of this screenplay describes its content as follows:

There was a bourgeois soap manufacturer (Marseille soap of course), respected and honoured in his city, belonging to the best society of notables, president of a charitable society, whose favourite pastime, when his children went on holiday, was to pretend to be the Marquis de Sade. I mean that he assumed his clothes and appearance and engaged in the practices described in 12o Days of Sodom and Philosophy in the Bedroom with local prostitutes. It all ends badly. The (Marseille) soap manufacturer really does murder one of the prostitutes. Of course, the incident is hushed up, but the fake Sade – a veritable bastard – kills himself so that morality can triumph.
From Michel Surya’s – Georges Bataille: An Intellectual Biography


It was in Bernd Mattheus’ very comprehensive (three tomes) chronicle Georges Bataille – Eine Thanatographie where I learned about Bataille’s film work for the first time. A while ago Documents tracked down the very interesting connection between Bataille and Jean Rollin.
The Fernandel photo is from Philippe Halsman’s book The Frenchman.


10 Responses to “The Priests They Called Them”

  1. Man- what I wouldn’t give to read the Bataille/120 days scenario! It’s too bad it’s lost; makes me wonder what else the world will never be privy to!

  2. 2 jahsonic


    You can’t imagine how much pleasure it gives me to see you deep-linking to my wiki pages.

    Thanks also for tipping me of on the Dali tableau vivant. It reminds me of an early 20th century black and white trompe l’oeil with the vanitas/memento mori trope (but I can’t find the picture right now) of a woman sitting in front of a make up desk.


  3. I didn’t know any of that, great photo

  4. 4 jahsonic

    Hi Andrej,

    I am looking for a weblink for the questionnaires on sexuality André Breton used to send out in one of his publications. Do you know where he published these? I’d like to publish a little article on it.

    Thanks for your time.


  5. Jan,

    sorry for asking you a little late, but I was away for a couple of days. I know the discussions. They were translated into German as “Recherchen im Reich der Sinne”.
    Of course, the remarks of Breton on homosexuality are very problematic and I’m in no way inclined to defend or excuse them. The surrealist movement – was it homophobic?
    Two Interesting articles on the subject:
    Surréalisme et homosexualité
    A letter by Bertrand Schmitt


  6. 7 Valter


    Is everything allright? I miss your wonderful blog? Did you kill it? Valter

  7. Thanks for your kind comment, Valter. Everything is fine. It’s just a matter of time. I hope I’ll come around writing posts regularly, soon. There’s definitely much on the slate. The posts on Artaud and Bataille for example are part of a trilogy.


  8. 9 jahsonic

    Still hanging in there?

  9. I hope you guys save me a place, because I expect to come back, soon.
    Thanks for asking, Jan.


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