Stereosc2pe + | Fantômas / Louis Feuillade | René Magritte / The Menaced Assassin


Still from Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas, 1913                    René Magritte,  The Menaced Assassin, 1927

René Magritte,  The Menaced Assassin, 1927, it presents a macabre yet curiously tranquil murder scene. The body, described by the chief theoretician of the Brussels Surrealists Paul Nougé as ‘a corpse of rare perversity’, is centre-stage with a scarf draped over its neck, its head diabolically severed from the body. We see the murderer pausing to listen to the gramophone, his expression remote and malevolent. Unbeknownst to the murderer are the assailants, two bowler hated men, waiting in the wings. An obsession with violent and sadistic crime – in reality and fiction, was a key Surrealist concern. For example, in Nadja André Breton likens beauty to a series of violent and expulsive shocks, akin to a train erupting from a station.


Musidora as Irma Vep in Les vampires, 1915


The cover illustration for the first volume of Fantômas, anonymous artist, 1911.
A « classic image of the Parisian oneirology », according to the French poet Robert Desnos.

The Surrealists – and Magritte in particular – were fascinated by Fantômas, an elusive arch-villain anti-hero and sociopath who murdered with sadistic ruthlessness. The character became popular in early 1900s through the serialised pulp novels of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. These stories were adapted for film and The Menaced Assassin actually appropriates a still from a 1913 Fantômas film.

Darren Pih / Tate)

2 thoughts on “Stereosc2pe + | Fantômas / Louis Feuillade | René Magritte / The Menaced Assassin

  1. What can I be thinking of? Just imagine my not having presented myself to you even yet! But as a matter of fact I do not want to tell you my name out loud; it is a romantic one, utterly inappropriate to the typically modern environment in which we now stand. Ah,
    if we were only on the steep side of some mountain with the moon like a great lamp above us, or by the shore of some wild ocean, there would be some glamour in proclaiming my identity in the silence of the night, or in the midst of lightning and thunder as a hurricane swept the seas! But here in a third-floor suite of the Royal Palace Hotel, surrounded by telephones and electric lights, and standing by a window overlooking the Champs Elysees-

    > it would be positively anachronistic!" He took a card out of his pocket and drew near the little writing desk. "Allow me, Princess, to slip my card into this drawer, left open on purpose, it would seem," and while the princess uttered a little cry she could not repress, he did just that. "And now, Princess," he went on, compelling her to retreat before him as he moved to the door of the anteroom opening on to the corridor, "you are too well bred, I am sure, not to wish to conduct your visitor to the door of your suite." His tone altered abruptly, and in a deep imperious voice that made the princess quake he ordered her: "And now, not a word, not a cry, not a movement until I am outside, or I will kill you!”

    Marcel Allain / Fantômas / 1885-1969


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