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Monday, July 18, 2011

Cabaret Bastille's Memorable Moments: High Costumery, Joyce Read Loud -- and Dog Porn

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge cabaret_dancer.jpg
Cabaret Bastille at Cellspace was almost a smashing good time.

I admit I am disproportionately delighted by parties with costume themes, and there were some glorious vintage and vintage-inspired get-ups at this Litquake event on Thursday. Yvonne Michelle Cordoba (and friend?) performed lovely quasiburlesque and belly dance at intervals.

Gorgeous vintage getups at the Cabaret Bastille
  • Gorgeous vintage getups at the Cabaret Bastille
A problem was that the entertainment emphasis of the night was on the readings (popular contemporary authors reading the works of the lost-generation greats). Cellspace is cavernous, and its sound system inadequate for the readings to have been audible to anyone farther than four rows back. Except for Alan Black's bellowing from James Joyce, most of the readings simply didn't register (through no fault of the readers themselves).

Because poor acoustics and absinthe brain-soakage made hearing or comprehending the readings impossible, my friends and I went upstairs to watch "blue films," modern pornography's quaint ancestor. Certain elements haven't changed much in the past 90 years -- same risible plots, same dead-eyed self-loathing. Of course there's more hair, more fat, more sag, more lace bonnets, and more layers of clothing (that the men must pause their boners for longer than is possible without chemical aid) to remove.

The slower shutter-speed of the early movie cameras creates the effect of speeding up the movement so that every act seems more frantic and desperate, all blurry-fingered masturbation and terrifying jack-hammer penetration. There were a couple of vignettes on such themes as the pastoral romp and miracle virility potion.

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One particularly classy reference piece imagined Madama Butterfly, seduced by Suzuki to pass the time while Pinkerton's away, unpersuasively swooning on a pile of tatterdemalion kimonos. When Pinkerton returns, the indefatigable Suzuki seduces him too, and it all ends much more happily than the opera.

The next perennial favorite was the nun story. It seemed like your basic forbidden lesbian fantasy, until one of the nuns led a dog into the frame. The audience, previously chatty and flaunting of our ironic detachment with witty commentary and improvised dialogue, suddenly fell hushed as we watched the dog dig its paws into the ground while the nun dragged it toward her by the leash. For several awful seconds we stared in bulge-eyed horror.

(silence)

"... no ..."

"... is she ...?"

"oh no ... she couldn't be ... no ..."

"no don't lift your sk -- oh my God this isn't happening!!"

"... that poor dog ..."

And we sat, immobile from shock, or perhaps so as not to disturb our souls while they died. The dog was once again dragged in for the next scene, which involved two nuns, a schoolgirl, and a priest who didn't seem to perceive any great danger in forcing the beast's mouth upon his dangling saucisson. I think I went into some mild form of shock then; my memory of the next few moments is sketchy. I seem to remember some sort of collective dry heave going through the audience and us simultaneously making a break for the door.

Something had turned. One moment you're a new bohemian intellectual who appreciates avant-garde art and votes Democrat and attends readings by dead expat authors. The next you're one of those people who sit in dark theaters watching French dog porn.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF (follow Larissa Archer on Twitter at larissaarcher) and like us on Facebook.
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Larissa Archer

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