I-2-I

Burglar and ex-Libertines singer Pete Doherty was caught in June carrying a flick knife. “If the law was to send me to prison it wouldn’t be able to look itself in the eye,” he commented after yesterday’s hearing, in what critics are taking as a clear rejection of the post-Surrealist aesthetic currently sweeping East London courts.

For it seems that Penny Sinclair and other magistrates are running an undercover campaign in Stepney and, to a lesser extent, in Limehouse, to revive the viewer-viewed, subject-object ambivalence which was crucial to Gala Dalí’s role and Salvador’s success in the post-war period and which probably derives ultimately from that great (and greatly under-analysed) double-liver, Kiki de Montparnasse.

Our neighbourhood clairvoyant (“If you’re in a pretty pass,/Get some warmth back in your heart”) tells me that, while popular opinion is still divided along Jubilee Street lines, fear is growing that Ms Sinclair sees herself as the heroine of the scenario Dalí wrote for the Marx Brothers in 1937, Giraffes on Horseback Salads, with Doherty playing the part of the young Spanish aristo-expat, Jimmy.

This is all very, very confusing because, as Simon Louvish notes in Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of The Marx Brothers, the 65-page, handwritten script, “illustrated with doodles of women with huge nipples, an erect penis growing flowers and [a] sofa, with sheep for arms”, actually has Jimmy wanting to leave his snotty girlfriend Linda for la femme surréaliste, accompanied by a Cole Porter score.

There is nevertheless a scene, according to Harper’s Magazine, which might give us and Mr Doherty some cause for alarm:

The “Surrealist woman” crosses several rooms – rain falling more and more heavily – but stops in front of a door and hesitates. She goes in, followed by Jimmy, who has never left her side. On the other side of the door, there is no more rain and everything changes. It is the childhood room of the “Surrealist woman,” where by her orders nothing has been touched since she was ten. Overcome by emotion, she sits down in front of a mirror at a child’s table.

That is indeed lonely, eye-to-eye stuff, but it is a sad comment on the price of beer in the King’s Arms on the high road that it seems that many commentators got mired down the difficult grand fête scene (featuring a “competition for the person who can ride a bicycle the slowest with a stone balanced on his head” while growing a beard) and did not read Dalí’s work through to its glorious conclusion:

In the tower [in the form of a boat’s prow being used as a judge’s box] Harpo is playing his harp ecstatically, like a modern Nero. By his side, his back to the spectacle, Groucho is lying, smoking lazily. Nearby, the “Surrealist woman” and Jimmy watch the spectacle, lying side by side. Behind them, Chico, dressed in a diving suit, accompanies Harpo on the piano. Scattered across the gangway leading to the tower, an orchestra plays the theme song with Wagnerian intensity as the sun sinks under the horizon.

In terms of Mr Doherty’s case, that sounds distinctly non-threatening. Three years should do the trick.

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