Love among the ruins

Happy belated new year!

Argentine-born artist Leonor Fini died 24 years ago today. Now, I don’t mark every possible anniversary or event here (that’s what Twitter is for). But I bring this milestone to your attention to share some magic and wonder should you have need of same – footage of La Fini at various points in her career.

Our feature attraction is a documentary made in 1988 by Belgian director Chris Vermorcken. This is a video transfer but from the tell-tale yellow subtitles I knew instantly – this was broadcast on Australia’s brilliant SBS network (legacy of a more visionary government than the hateful shower of purchased ecocides with which the burning country is now burdened). The film includes dozens of her works, and extensive interviews with the woman herself, which among other things reveal that she had outstanding taste in cinema. My favourite scene has her answering a phone call and – in an entirely undisguised voice – claiming not to be at home. And there are cats. So many cats.

But if you were watching that and thought “needs more cats”, here is a short piece from French TV (no subtitles unfortunately) that is nothing but Fini and her felines, in which we learn that in fact Fini was the honorary president of the French Feline Association.

Arguably the most potent dose of Fini enchantment comes with Yvan Bulter’s 1966 short film Le Monde de Leonor Fini, here presented in two parts. It shows Fini and entourage in the crumbling remains of a Franciscan monastery on Corsica where the artist would summer in sympathetic company. “We will eat exotic food, drink uncommon wines, and everyone will wear extraordinary costumes,” she promised filmmaker Curtis Harrington; he never made it there, to his lasting regret.

I find this footage more thrilling than tongue can tell. Even if your tolerance for artsy play-acting is low-ish, any thoughts of mockery bounce right off the entirely enclosed self-possession of the participants as they stalk the candle-lit ruins in sumptuous fantasy ensembles.

Finally, the same setting and evidently a number of the same participants, but in colour. This was apparently made in the 1960s but I can’t tell you any more about it.



  1. Ian CARRICK

    Ive been watching these vids – an interesting woman..

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. John Kuhlman

    Julien Levy has a number of amusing anecdotes about Fini in his book, “Memoir of an Art Gallery”- ‘She was stopped when she tried to visit a museum carrying an umbrella. ‘They drip all over the museum.’ ‘But the sun is shining,’ she protested, ‘the umbrella is dry.’ The attendant insisted that the rule was ‘no umbrellas’. In a rage she was discovered squatting in the middle of one of the museum’s galleries. ‘I just want to show them’, she explained, ‘that it isn’t only a umbrella that can wet.'”

  3. John Kuhlman

    “An umbrella” – sorry!

  4. Pingback: 20 books for 2020 | Strange Flowers

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