Edouard De Laurot shot a great deal of 35mm film footage from the 1950s-80s, only a part of which made its way into his two completed films, Black Liberation and Listen, America!. The film was stored at the Greenwich St. loft where he and Zoë lived during the 1980s. He vacated the loft after she moved out in 1985, taking only a small part of it with him when he moved in with an old friend. When he told me and Zoë that he had abandoned much of the material at loft, we retrieved it and stored it in our apartment.
Edouard was aware of the fragile nature of film, and accepted my offer to transfer the footage to videotape for long-term preservation. Over the next couple of years, we transferred about two hours of it to video, and I promised to preserve the remainder in time for posterity and possible production. During the last years of the 1980s, the "friend" with whom Edouard was living exerted great control over him. He lived with us for a while, but she threatened to destroy all of the film he had brought to her place if he did not return. When he returned to her home, she became increasingly oppressive, injuring him seriously during one of their fights, eventually cutting off virtually all contact with the outside world. Our concern for Zoë's "ex" is expressed in a typically mysterious letter she drafted in 1990 to persons unknown seeking help for him. When Edouard died in the early 1990s, the portion of the film he brought with him was kept by the "friend" with whom he lived, who has subsequently contested ownership of the material.
Zoë and I kept about 20 boxes of 35mm positive and negative, and considerable matching 35mm mag audio, at our 10th Street apartment. After we finally brought the 100-or-so pet rats which had been roaming free to a farm in Virginia, I found that they had been loitering atop the film boxes, and spent over a week hand-cleaning every roll in the 20 boxes of rat piss! When we lost our last apartment in 1996, the material was moved to Anthology Film Archives (AFA). At that time, Zoë decided to edit a film (described below) from these rolls (cutting up Edouard's original material, against my vehement objections), to be shown [only] at a De Laurot tribute at Cinémathèque de Paris in Feb. 1997 (she didn't make it to the first two events mentioned below due to financial considerations). Zoë subsequently remained in Paris with the boyfriend with whom she traveled to France, and kept the film at their place there.
During frequent visits to NYC during 1997-98, Zoë repeatedly asked me for a divorce, and my primary stipulation was that we should have "joint custody" of Edouard's footage. She agreed, providing I would give her the option of working on any projects involving the material, to which I agreed. After her death, I was told by AFA that she had given them the footage in exchange for use of their editing facilities in making the film she brought to Paris, and the footage she didn't use has remained there since. Also after her death, the Paris boyfriend refused to turn over any of Zoë's belongings, and I have not been able to recover the edited film from him (I don't even know if he still has it).
I considered this material to be owned jointly by myself and Zoë, and she never disputed that fact to me. Now, as her next of kin, I would appear to be the rightful owner of the film, wherever bits of it have wound up. The contents of the portion kept by Edouard's "friend" in NYC are unknown, except for original prints of his two completed films. But, if there's any truth to what Zoë says below about the erotic footage he shot of her with other women, it would be among that material. I plan to resume negotiations with this "friend," as well as discussing the possibility of transferring the footage at AFA to video, when time permits. I recently found the two hours of footage I transferred to video with Edouard in the 1980s, but this represents only a small part of the total archive.
The footage shot by Edouard is of considerable historical significance, and must not be lost or abandoned. I am not concerend with the film itself, or ownership of it, but with transferring it to video for long-term preservation and possible eventual presentation. The marketing blurb written by Zoë below in 1997 describes the footage, as well as her future plans for developing its marketability. It is presented from her own point of view, which always had a very tenuous connection with the truth — such as referring to De Laurot as her "first husband". And, Zoë claims that she "owns all the rights to this material", yet I was told that she gave it to AFA. The truth is yet to be discovered.
The following should be read with these considerations in mind.
A UNIQUE EROTIC FILM-DIARY
Zoë Lund, 1997
This 35mm film footage, shot and directed by the late Edouard De Laurot, is owned by acclaimed author and actress Zoë Lund and ZINC Films, her production company. Lund's many screenplays include the celebrated "Bad Lieutenant" in which she co-starred opposite Harvey Keitel. She has starred in half a dozen other features, including the cult classic, "MS.45". Lund also distributes two award-winning films by Edouard De Laurot, which are available for viewing. "Black Liberation" was made in collaboration with Malcolm X. It was edited in a highly metaphoric, very rapid style — twenty years before media such as MTV would aspire to this type of montage. Packing a dynamite, visceral punch, the film is an amazing trip which literally moves one to action. It has won about a dozen prestigious international awards — at the Venice Film Festival, the Festival dei Populi, and many other important venues. At a Third World Congress, convened in Paris, the film was given a special honor: "The First Authentic Underground Film to Come from the USA". The second film, "Listen America!" was made under the open-minded auspices of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, who granted the filmmakers total autonomy. Prime-time screenings on Canadian television caused serious controversy. The next day, issues covered in the movie — and free expression itself — were argued on the pages of Variety, and in the U.S. Congress. The CBC chose the very best way to make its position clear: The film was given an immediate encore broadcast. Listen America! is an existentialist critique of 1960's radicalism — from within the Movement itself. In its time (1969), the film was truly unique, predicting the change in the weather that would ultimately lead to the "Big Chill". Devastatingly funny, unabashedly militant, this film values the 60's while at once revealing the reasons for that era's demise. Alternate courses of action are proposed. We know these to be roads not taken. But now, we mustn't waste time arguing over a faded scoreboard of political reform. And we mustn't look back either with nostalgia or with scorn. Because, for a fleeting moment, in bed or in battle, things felt different. The human potential for becoming revolutionary was sensed, if not seized. Listen America! records that moment, and revels in what was possible. At once, it presents a scathing vision of that which would finally make it impossible. This time. De Laurot's archival footage was shot and directed in this spirit. Now, it's up to us to bring it to the screen, and into the twenty-first century.
My creative collaborator and late first husband, Yves Edouard De Laurot, kept an erotic diary all his life — on film. A couple of times a week, he'd pick up girls (or ask me to do the honors), take them to the studio, and there seduce them. At least to the point of stripping them naked, body-painting them, filming them, and getting them to confess their most intimate secrets. Often they'd act out little dramas before the camera, or dance, or tell stories, or do whatever they felt like doing at 4:00 AM in the company of the most peculiar people they'd ever met. The vast majority of these women were deeply moved by what transpired. In some cases, one can honestly state that the encounter changed their lives. Each time, the "seduction" was utterly unique. As were its creative results. Sometimes, these women would end up working on our film productions. Usually, however, we'd never see them again. They would call, often begging to see us, but we simply couldn't accommodate so many people. Running into them years later, we found them still aglow when remembering that special night when they learned so much — about political realities, about erotic potential, and about themselves.
This particular footage covers the Sixties and early Seventies. Nearly all the material involves spectacular body-painting. Always sensual, it sometimes also includes political references. The action is often entirely informal and spontaneous. But it also features short, well-planned scenes. These range from naked, body-painted women making bombs, to a row of dancing girls clad only in Nixon masks. A woman with an impressively large clitoris shows it off. Others simply sit and confess their erotic histories. All transpires in an atmosphere of freedom and sexual play.
I own all the rights to this material, and it comprises about three of sixteen hours of 35mm black and white footage. It is presently safely stored at Anthology Film Archives. Jonas Mekas was a close friend of De Laurot's. Nothing is owed on the film, and it includes a tremendous amount of production value: Impressive locations, star participation (not in the erotica), and amazing historical material.
Most of the footage has been catalogued. We aim to edit it into several diverse films. Apart from the erotic diary, we are already working on a feature film, and also intend to make a movie about De Laurot. A certain amount will be sold to news archives. There is also "surprise" material, as yet undiscovered. The archive is a treasure chest.
Most of the footage is 35 positive, some is still in negative. Presently, Julius Ziz and I are cutting "Chronicle", a feature-length film. At this point, we are using only positive footage. When the film is complete, hours of positive will remain unused, and will be ready for inclusion in other film projects. The entire archive of negative is in the process of being catalogued. "Chronicle" is a montage "diary". The images will express the internal and external life of an imaginary character. It will be wild, picaresque, moving, and a lot of fun. The archive includes a lot of original Magna sound. This will be used, and a voice-over will be added as well. As a film-in-progress, "Chronicle" will be screened in the third week of January, 1997, in Aix-en-Provence, at the ...... , where Mrs. Lund will also lecture on the life and work of De Laurot. Then, the film will be shown at the Rotterdam Film Festival. On February 6, it will be screened at the Paris Cinémathèque, where Mrs. Lund will be presenting a special program on De Laurot. Mrs. Lund expects to raise the funds to complete the film using images still unavailable for editing as they remain in negative. Investors may also be interested in the creation of the several other films that will be made from the De Laurot archive.
As one can readily judge from the above, there is a serious resurgence of interest in De Laurot. One can only expect it to increase, as the material is even more exciting than its word-of-mouth reputation. This is a perfect moment for investors to participate either in the erotic film project, "Chronicle", or the biographical movie.
"Chronicle" will include much of the erotic footage, but Mrs. Lund aspires to make a film which consists entirely of that material. This will involve the duplication of certain images, although the erotic film will also feature footage that does not appear in the other film.
From the three or four hours (possibly more) of erotic footage, we will choose the very best, which will comprise a feature film of normal length. We will explore the idea of including a voice-over. At this point, I believe a good background score may be sufficient. (Including inexpensive 60's songs or 60's-style music written today for the project.) If funds and time permit, we may add a present-day continuity, as well.
The erotic film could be distributed in both art and sex theatres, and I have nothing at all against either venue. The film would sell like crazy in international markets, eager for Americana, sex films, and — quality. I have excellent connections at various prestigious film festivals. We could give the movie a very exciting opening. I could also stir up a lot of press publicity. Of course, we'd also do brisk business in the video and cable markets. The appeal is intergenerational, but for baby-boomers, it's irresistible. Imagine the results of a couple of ads in the back of important progressive and/or sex and/or counter-cultural journals. But we'll do much more. The thing could hit it very big. And the investment is minimal.
Several editors have to be salaried. The negative has to be developed. But that's about it! I'd like to release our film by Fall. "Chronicle" will also be released soon.
What we'd have, in the end, would be a lively compendium of intensely nostalgic erotica, unlike anything else in the world. The counterpoint of sex and politics makes the imagery all the more piquant. It would appeal to students of history as much as it would turn on the erotic film viewer. Both would get what they desired — and a bonus. The latter would end up being educated, and the first would have a stimulating evening. The project is meaningful, lucrative, and a Hell of a good time. Let's get it done!
Some idea of the material
contained in the footage can be obtained by reading
Zoë further describes Edouard's work and the archival footage in a 1996 Interview.