Henry Miller: “Asleep and Awake” (1975 Documentary Film)

Via Ioannakis: “Tom Schiller’s 1975 short documentary (35mins) follows Miller from the microcosmos of his very own shit-hole to a mock-up 1890s New York of his childhood — or “that old shit-hole, New York'” (in fact the set for Hello Dolly, with Barbra Streisand & Walter Matthau, 1969). Schiller describes his documentary this way: ‘A guided tour of the pictures and artefacts of his bathroom’ … though it feels to be very much more than that.”

Jeanette Winterson: writes in the NYT Book Review:

What happens when the unreliable narrator turns out to be the cultural critic?

What we write about fiction is never an objective response to a text; it is always part of a bigger mythmaking — the story we are telling ourselves about ourselves. That story changes. George Orwell, writing in 1940 about Henry Miller, has very different preoccupations from Kate Millett writing about Miller in 1970. Orwell doesn’t notice that Miller-women are semi­human sex objects. In fact, his long essay “Inside the Whale” barely mentions women at all. Millett does notice that half the world has been billeted to the whorehouse, and wonders what this tells us about both Henry Miller and the psyche and sexuality of the American male.

Norman Mailer needed Miller to be like Shakespeare (this is plain wrong, but the need is interesting); Erica Jong wanted to be Athena to Miller’s Zeus — born straight out of his head and saving him from the Feminist Furies in her book “The Devil at Large” (1993).

And now?

It is some 50 years since “Tropic of Cancer” was published in the United States by Grove Press. First published in Paris in 1934 by Obelisk, a soft-porn imprint, it had been banned as obscene in America until a landmark legal victory overturned the ban, allowing Grove to print it legally in 1961. The book became an instant best seller, and Henry Miller stood as the priapic prophet of sexual freedom.

Frederick Turner’s aim in “Renegade” is to explain how “Tropic of Cancer” came to be written, came to be banned and came to be an American Classic.

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2 Responses to Henry Miller: “Asleep and Awake” (1975 Documentary Film)

  1. Eddie Woods says:

    A really great film. Thank you so much posting it here. But ah, since you have seen fit to quote from Jeanette Winterson’s NYT review of a recent book about Henry Miller, I reckon it would good if visitors to this site could also read Parisiana editor Einar Moos’ critique of her review entitled “The Gratuitous Trashing of a Literary Giant”:


    Sincerely, Eddie Woods

  2. Einar Moos says:

    Very happy to see this film posted here, thanks for the opportunity. In 1989 I made a film called une amitie parisienne for France3. You can watch it, when in Paris, at the Paris videotheque of Les Halles.

    Congratulations for your site!


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