24 September 2007

Those Who Knew Them: Marcel Marceau 1923-2007

It is our sad duty to present the following (tragically not silent) tribute to world-renowned mime, Marcel Marceau, by his close friend, Jacques Derigueur - author of The Disreality of 1968 (1967-69), Is This Really a Book? And if so Why? and Jerry Lewis - Clown, Meta-Clown or Semiotic Signifier?

The world has fallen into a silence from which it cannot escape. My friend, my intellectual sparring partner, Marcel Marceau, is dead - dying, as he lived his life, silently. Now he is trapped for all eternity in a box which only he can see. In this, as in all that he did, he provides a perfect metaphor for all our lives.

It was in 1946 - that time after and yet somehow before war - that I first encountered Marceau. It was then that he single-handedly (that single hand in a white glove, matching his other single hand in an equally white glove, united and separate at the same time, implicit, yet explicit) dared to save that very ancient (and paradoxically, en même temps, very modern) art of mime from the near-extinction to which the philistine attitudes of the bourgeoisie had condemned it.

And how was he to save this art? He became it! In donning the guise of "Bip" the clown, Marceau became mime and mime became Marceau. Of course there were some - there are always some - who mistook this act. Some said Bip was derived from the "masters" of silent cinema - Chaplin, Keaton, Seagal - but Marcel was ahead of his time, and of his time, and thus, in a hyperreal way, Bip was the progenitor of these pale parvenus who dared to call themselves clowns (and not merely this, with his white pancake make-up, painted eyebrows and rejection of written communication as an art form he also anticipated, perhaps created, perhaps even destroyed, the late doyenne of the British literary scene, Dame Barbara Cartland).

Like the silence before le Big Bang, Marceau's mime existed in its very own vacuum ... normally created inside an invisible glass box, a phantom prison that Bip filled with angst and a desperate need for escape, twin sensations his audience understood immediately.

Bip undertook a myriad of exciting adventures - trapped in a glass box, trapped in a glass trunk, trapped in a glass wardrobe. His oeuvre was endlessly reinvented and infinitely repeated - most successfully in his three-hour epic movie, Le Rêve du Bip dans La Vitrerie, which had audiences leaving the cinemas in floods of sympathetic tears as they closely identified with the ennui of late capitalism and found themselves filled with an immediate need for death, or at the very least a stiff drink.

Of course, comme toujours, there were pretenders to the crown: some - Benny Hill, Mr Bean - were great men, others - Jacques Tati - were mere speechless flaneurs. Where Tati posited his comic mishaps in the bourgeois world of postmen and holidays, Marcel's lack of verbiage transcended the quotidian. Bip's silence spoke volumes. Nothing more needs to be said - as I have already explained in my seminal text, Inside the Outside of the Glass Box (Vols. I-XII).

Now after 60 years of saying everything by saying nothing, Bip will say nothing - and everything - no more. Bip is dead. Marceau is dead. Vive le silence!

The As A Dodo editors add: Marcel Marceau will be buried beneath the Eiffel Tower just as soon as the stripy-jumpered pall-bearers have located the invisible handles of his invisible casket. The congregation will walk on the spot into a non-existent gale before mouthing the words of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" and dabbing at imagined tears.

1 Comment:

Mr Besilly said...

Marcel has also been trapped in an iPhone over at iPhone Savior. Very Funny stuff.