By James Blaszko
While aboard the Rhinedam in 1957 en route to her Fullbright fellowship at Oxford, Sontag watched many films in the ship’s cinema. In her journals it is clear that she generally disliked many of its offerings. Among the various “stinkers,” however, she wrote that Courte-tête, a recently released French film, was “rather clever.” The comedy follows a phlegmatic crook as he preys on racing enthusiasts to make a fortune.
This classic film proved an escape for Sontag when she was in Paris, France. While struggling with her lover at the time, referred to as “H” in the diaries, Sontag “fled, weeping” to the cinema to “plunge” herself into the passionate love story of the many characters that meet in the Berlin hotel. Reviewed by Variety as a drama “with a speed that never loses its grip… a captivating pattern of unexpected comedy that runs through it all, always fresh and always pat,” it seems as if Sontag did find the distraction she was looking for.
Sontag praises this film as “one of the most extreme films I’ve ever seen. Dietrich is completely object–almost lacquered, embalmed.” She refers to Marlene Dietrich, who plays the star role in a film about a man’s obsession for her amidst the surreal Carnaval in Spain. The film also interests Sontag in that it explores “relation of parody and self-parody in camp,” a topic that would envelop Sontag when writing Notes on Camp.
Sontag: Reborn will play at the Emerson/Paramount Center Mainstage from May 06-18. Find tickets and more information here!