Divine Comédie, Simon Côté-Lapointe (2014)

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Divine Comédie is an experimental film released in 2014, featuring music and video imagery by Simon Côté-Lapointe. The artist himself describes the film as follows: “This adaptation of Dante Divine Comédie is a oniric musical trip without words, a thrilling experimental mix of animation, video art and imagination combining 2D and 3D animation, video art and puppetry as well as electronic, electroacoustic and acoustic music.”

The trailer and two versions of the film (both the full-length film and a shorter version) are available to watch on YouTube.

For more information on the film and its creators, see the website here.

Contributed by Simon Côté-Lapointe, Université de Montréal

Lee Breuer, La Divina Caricatura (2013)

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“She has floppy ears, eyes of exquisite sadness and an operatic tendency toward ecstasy, anguish and other big emotions. Leave her alone in a thunderstorm, and she may fall into despair. She is a dog named Rose, and her Dear John letter to the man she loved is the battered heart of Lee Breuer’s dark, joyous and utterly splendid musical fantasia La Divina Caricatura, Part 1, The Shaggy Dog, at La MaMa, in a co-presentation with St. Ann’s Warehouse. An East Village tale told in a subway, it’s a doomed cross-species romance inspired by The Divine Comedy, but Mr. Breuer uses Dante more as catalyst than template. The strongest classical link is to Japanese theater’s Bunraku.”     –Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times, December 19, 2013

Niki Ulehla, The Inferno (2011, 2013)

Niki-Ulehla-Puppet-CharonDuring a 2011 residency at Recology SF, San Francisco puppeteer Niki Ulehla began a multiple-phase project to dramatize Dante’s Inferno with her handmade puppets. The first performance, featuring puppets crafted out of discarded materials from the Recology Public Disposal Area, staged the first seven cantos of the poem.

This performance was followed by a second, at the Sanchez Art Center (Pacifica) in February-March 2013, in which a new set of puppets embark on the second part of the journey, Cantos 8-17. Sanchez Art Center describes the second performance as follows: “[Ulehla] combines traditional carved wooden marionettes with found object based ‘toys’ to create the characters inhabiting the hell described by Dante. [. . .] The performance will begin with the two travelers, Dante and Virgil, crossing the river Styx. They will pass through the fifth circle of Anger, the sixth of the Heretics and the seventh of Violence. This portion of their journey will end riding away on Geryon, the beast of Fraud.”    —Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica, CA

Video of both performances can be seen here.

Meghan Healey, “Subterraneo: A Cruel Puppet’s Guide to Underground Living” (2010)

meghan-healey-subterraneo-a-cruel-puppets-guide-to-underground-living-2010“…The piece is a puppet mash-up of Dante’s Inferno and real-life subway stories gathered by Ms. Healey and a half-dozen student volunteers at Queens College, where she is an assistant professor of costume and scenic design.
Plans call for Homeless Bob to guide the Commutrix — an earnest rider not unlike Ms. Healey — through the subway the way Virgil led Dante through the nine circles of hell, from Limbo to Betrayal. Along the route, they will be serenaded in Spanish by the Undead Mariachi Trio and watch beggars like Legless Joe bewail their afflictions to tug on the heartstrings and purse strings of weary commuters.
Depending on the scenes, to be written by Ms. Healey and several collaborating playwrights, Homeless Bob will be funny, friendly or furious. ‘I think of him as a modern-day New York Virgil, if Virgil was homeless in New York,’ Ms. Healey, 34, said. ‘He’s not as benevolent. He’s angry.'” [. . .]    –David Gonzalez, The New York Times, September 17, 2010

“Enchanted Stories: Chinese Shadow Theater in Shaanxi” at the China Institute in NYC

fire-dragon-wing-dynasty“. . .One popular genre consists of scenarios of hell. An entire wall of the exhibition is devoted to a play called ‘The Twice-Visited Netherworld,’ a sort of Dante’s Inferno in which a scholar receives a special tour of the torturous ‘Yellow Springs’ described in Chinese folk religion. One startlingly vivid set piece shows a skeletal figure being boiled in oil (the punishment for blackmail and slander); in another, pierced and bloody bodies languish on Knife Mountain (home to those who have killed people or animals). As the legend of Emperor Wu of Han suggests, shadow theater has always had a powerful connection to the afterlife.” [. . .]    –Karen Rosenberg, The New York Times, February 8, 2008

“The Divine Reality Comedy” by the Bread & Puppet Theater

the-divine-reality-comedy-by-the-bread-puppet-theater“A theatergoer’s heart could be forgiven for sinking upon learning that the production she was scheduled to see at Theater for the New City was a riff on Dante called ‘The Divine Reality Comedy’ and featured a ‘Born to Buy’ critique set in ‘Paradise.’ But that heart lifted upon hearing that Peter Schumann’s ragtag collective, the Bread and Puppet Theater, was the company undertaking said riff.” [. . .]    –Claudia La Rocco, The New York Times, December 1, 2007

“Dante’s Inferno” (Sean Meredith, Paul Zaloom, Sandow Birk, 2007)

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 3.51.51 PM“DANTE’S INFERNO has been kicking around the cultural playground for over 700 years. But it has never before been interpreted with exquisitely hand-drawn paper puppets, brought to life using purely hand-made special effects. Until now. Rediscover this literary classic, retold in a kind of apocalyptic graphic novel meets Victoria-era toy theater. Dante’s Hell is brought to lurid 3-dimensional, high-definition life in a darkly comedic travelogue of the underworld–set against an all-too-familiar urban backdrop of used car lots, gated communities, strip malls, and the U.S. Capitol, and populated with a contemporary cast of reprobates, including famous (and infamous) politicians, presidents, popes, pimps, and the Prince of Darkness himself.”    —Dante Film

“THE last time that the artist Sandow Birk found himself concerned about responses from Muslims was in 2006. He was developing a film using puppets, inspired by his illustrations for a three-volume English-language version of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy,’ when riots broke out over the Danish newspaper cartoons representing Muhammad.
The outcry prompted Mr. Birk’s film team to reconsider its own representation of the prophet. ‘We had Muhammad in our film because he was in Dante’s poem,’ he said. ‘Dante put him in ‘Inferno’ as someone who supposedly created schisms.’ He argued at the time for respecting Dante’s treatment of Muhammad, as artists like Gustave Doré had done before him.
But the film’s producers were spooked, and Muhammad disappeared from the film. ‘I thought it was wrong to act out of fear,’ Mr. Birk said from his studio here.
‘But I was upset for another reason too,’ he admitted. His film collaborators didn’t know at the time, but quietly — privately — he had already embarked on another potentially controversial project: an effort to make by hand what he called a ‘personal Koran.’ [. . .]    –Jori Finkel, The New York Times, August 28, 2009

See Also: the “Dante’s Inferno” Trailer
See Also: Sandow Birk’s Illustrations of the “Divine Comedy” (2006)

Contributed by Zac Milner (Bowdoin, ’07)