Academic journal article Framework

Notes on Daddy, 1973

Academic journal article Framework

Notes on Daddy, 1973

Article excerpt

These notes were written in June 1973. They are published here for the first time.

The film Daddy received its world premiere at the New York Film Festival in April 1973. I had made the film in total collaboration with the French sculptress Niki de St. Phalle, and the general subject of the film appeared to most people to be about Niki, her work and much more importantly her sexual fantasies: most of which seem to be about a total overthrow of patriarchy as we know it. The ninety minutes of the film were divided into three parts. In the first part, Niki is played as a little girl by the eight year old daughter of one of Niki's former lovers, Clarice Rivers.1 In part two, Niki appeared as herself, "Daddy, I'm a big girl now," enacting a series of sexual rites and fantasies in front of the "dead" father, tied to a wheelchair, to whom Niki reveals the ecstasies she enjoys while seducing her girlfriends, the somewhat dubious experiences she puts up with while being seduced by her long suffering male lovers and numerous fantasies of revenge against men. In part three she indirectly reveals, and admits, that she is still trapped by her need to be in love with Daddy, or the memory of him and she accepts he will be [with her] forever, despite herself.

The film had started as a light- hearted exploration of Niki's sculpture and paintings. But gradually, by filming she came to understand the meaning of many of the symbols in her work ... huge, voluptuous sexy dancing "Nanas" as she called them, winsome little girls and birds, crosses and altars and other paraphernalia of Catholicism ... And the film dragged us both into a harrowing ritual of mutual psychoanalysis, as further and further we plunged together in a journey through her unconscious (murky in the extreme) and my unconscious (even murkier) until the film became much more a confession about our catastrophic sado- masochistic love affair, our mutual fantasies about power and castration, and our living out her primal scene of seduction, or imagined seduction by her father. As I was the camera and the rational, the director and the editor of the film, I was already cast as the "all seeing eye" of Daddy anyway, morbidly peering into the most secret parts of her soul and sexuality.

I had met Niki a week before she married the sculptor Jean Tinguely, with whom she had lived for the previous ten years.2 A month after the marriage she "left" Jean and came to live with me, outwardly for us to make a film together, inwardly ... for us to see (perhaps) just how far we would take each other into that ecstatic madness we sensed we had to explore together. After a week or so, Jean- who was fascinated by all my falcons, which ended up perched on blocks in the back garden of Niki's house- and I became the best of friends and he was probably quite relieved I would be taking Niki off his hands for a couple of years, as she had made his life as difficult, at times, as she would make mine.

Eigh teen months later, the child of our psychic, alchemical marriage, Daddy, was revealed to the world at the New York Film Festival, the premiere being held in the cinema attached to the Museum of Modern Art. Considering the nakedness of the film, the amateurish acting by all the non- professionals who played the various parts in the film, the raw anguish and bitterness that Niki revealed in the film towards men at large, (or otherwise), and the complexity of the symbols and images derived from her work, the film was well received and reviewed. The audience that night were mostly there to see an "art film" anyway, in [the] Art Museum, and the avant- garde ambience in the style and form of the film was a language recognised and accepted. We probably never received such a sympathetic audience again; even though the film was shown widely in Germany, Scandinavia, Switzerland and France.

In November of the same year, the film was shown at the London Film Festival with disastrous results- several critics refused to review any further festival entries after seeing it. …

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