Roland Topor

Active - 1971 - 1996  |   Born - Jan 7, 1938   |   Died - Apr 16, 1997   |   Genres - Comedy, Science Fiction, Avant-garde / Experimental, Drama

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Much-loved in Europe but little-known in the United States, iconoclastic Roland Topor utilized different media in which to share his absurdist and often disturbing view of the world. An illustrator, graphic designer, author, playwright, filmmaker, song writer, actor, and creator of innovative television programming, he was at his best when upsetting life's apple cart. As an illustrator/graphic artist, Topor was responsible for the odd visual style of the Czech/French animated sci-fi feature La Planete Sauvage (Fantastic Planet) (1973), which won the Prix Special at Cannes that year and has since become a cult favorite. As an author, he was known for combining surrealism with black humor. Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1976) is based on Topor's Le Locataire Chimerique. As a screenwriter, Topor penned a number of stories, including the silent comedy La Fille du Garde Barriere (1975) and the surreal Marquis (1989), a recounting of the Marquis de Sade's involvement in the French Revolution in which the protagonists' true characters were represented by animal masks. Topor's movie posters, notably his European one for The Tin Drum, were frequently controversial. Topor's offbeat puppet show Telechat ran for two years on French station Antenne 2 with 234 episodes. The show's main characters were a cat, an ostrich, and a fork. Topor the playwright's productions were like his stories and incorporated plenty of dark absurdism. Occasionally, as with the play Ubu Roi, he would design the sets and costumes too. Topor had acted before and was at his best playing Renfield in Werner Herzog's remake of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1979). As a songwriter, Topor provided tunes for Jerome Savary's Grand Magic Circus. He was also respected as a popular and prolific painter who created hundreds of works. When not creating, Topor was thinking and he frequently came up with pithy bits such as, "Imagine an ancient typewriter in which all the keys have disappeared, save for three tiny letters: f, i, n." During the 1960s, he involved himself with Panique, a group involved with Dadaism. Other group members included Fernando Arrabal and fellow cult figure, expatriate Chilean filmmaker and kindred spirit to Topor, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Topor was an incurable bon vivant. And despite the cynicism inherent in his work, he seemed to live life to its fullest. Still, on April 16, 1997, the 59-year-old avant garde artist died in a coma. Doctors were unsure whether the coma resulted from an aneurysm or a cerebral hemorrhage.

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