On Esoteric Interests & The Pain That Follows*


I’ve spent a good portion of my life listening to people tell me that my tastes are pretentious, or that I only like the “stuff” that I like because nobody else likes it, or the I intentionally look for the most obscure shit possible to obsess over, etc. etc. etc. This is bullshit, of course. And I mean, whatever, I don’t have anything to prove and that’s not exactly the point of this post.

There are a number of problems with liking ridiculously obscure films & books. Allow me to offer them up in list form:

  1. Everything that’s available from a specific author or filmmaker in English is out of print.
  2. A minuscule percentage of said artist’s body-of-work is available with English options to begin with
  3. There is often little to no critical writing on said artist, so if you want to know anything more about said artist, you are shit out of luck
  4. You have nobody to talk to about this awesome shit
  5. The aforementioned insistence of pretension, mentioned above, can take the 5th slot here.

This topic is on my mind today because Ubuweb tweeted about their Frans Zwartjes “collection.” This collection is in no way “new,” & all of the films Ubuweb has are films included on the Dutch DVD collection of Zwartjes work that came out a couple years ago (that I managed to pre-order and receive despite the fact that the entire company’s website is in Dutch), but it is still awesome that they are there for anybody with an internet connection to view. But here’s the thing: Frans Zwartjes’s films are really amazing. Subjectively, my body responds to them in a way completely unlike any other films. I’ve watched Living (which Chris Higgs wrote about here on HTMLGiant) probably 100 times–it was the first film of Zwartjes’s I ever saw, thanks to a partial bootleg found via an online torrent site, and it’s still my favorite of his short works.

Since I was thinking this, & I’m at work, I thought: okay, let’s see if there is anything new on Zwartjes ANYWHERE ON THE INTERNET since the last time I was obsessively checking 3 or 4 years ago. I decide to take an alternative route than normal: first, I check JSTOR. Keyword search brings up nothing. No surprise there really. Next: google, of course. First result: my own review of Living from 2007. Pretty cool, but completely unhelpful. In fact, out of the 15 or so pages of results, about 1/2 are either links to my review, archives of my review, or various places I posted my “rare movie wishlist” around the internet. By this point I’m getting annoyed.  Okay, actually, like, severely annoyed. I head over to Worldcat, and get the same results as 4 years ago. Once again I try to request the two Dutch language books (pamphlets, really, as they each appear to be under 32 pages) that seem to be about Zwartjes. I’ve tried this probably 4 times in the last 7 years, without ever having any luck. Will this time be different? Who knows.

What I’m getting at here, is that I love Frans Zwartjes & I wanted to spend my morning reading about him. This would have been a pleasant way to pass the morning. I would have sipped my iced espresso and smiled when I found out something new. But, you know, boo-hoo, it didn’t happen because it turns out THERE IS STILL NO INFORMATION ON ZWARTJES ANYWHERE ON THE INTERNET.

I am relaunching my Esotika project as a semi-annual (or whatever the word is for “about twice a year”) film journal. I immediately decide that the second issue will be dedicated to Zwartjes to hopefully fill this void (first issue is going to Zulawski).

I am selfish in the projects I take on. I am a firm believer in the idea that if you want something to exist, and it doesn’t exist, then stop complaining and just make it. That’s fine. It’s how I’ve gotten by so far, I guess. But sometimes I want the innate pleasure of something that I am not responsible for creating. It would be really amazing to me if someone else decided, “hey, there’s no critical writing on Frans Zwartjes, I should write something about him.” This might happen some day, but who knows.

I don’t really have a point here, other than a desire to lament the fact that life is dumb but we keep on troopin’ through it, y’all.

PS – If any of the many people who read HTMLGiant have or know where I can get copies of Zwartjes’s later films Medea or In extremo (or, in fact, anything that’s not on the Dutch DVD release), please let me know. I will heap unending praise upon you and possibly give you money.

* As a note, I recognize the “eye-rolling” potentiality of this title. Deal with it.