Illustration, porn and the Pixies

‘I described it as the Gone With the Wind of French cinema’s blue movie history if it was written by the Pixies and directed by David Lynch and Terry Gilliam’, says The Good Inn co-writer Josh Frank, who penned the illustrated tome with Pixies frontman Black Francis.

The Good Inn cover
The Good Inn cover

‘I described it as the Gone With the Wind of French cinema’s blue movie history if it was written by the Pixies and directed by David Lynch and Terry Gilliam’, says The Good Inn co-writer Josh Frank, who penned the illustrated tome with Pixies frontman Black Francis.

The strange, beguiling and rather wonderful little book is the product of a strange series of events. Illustrated by Steven Appleby, who drew some of the cover art for Pixies’ 1991 album Trompe le Monde, the book is – as its authors say – ‘based on a yet-to-be-written soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t yet exist’.

Cinema and gunpowder
Cinema and gunpowder

Which isn’t quite as confusing as it sounds. Essentially, it’s a storyboard for a film concept imagined by Francis and Frank. This arose when Francis revealed a project to soundtrack a sort of ‘prequel’ to a lost early French porn film from around 1908 called La Bonne Auberge (The Good Inn), which has since been remade a few times, though the original is yet to be found, save a couple of stills.

The projectionist
The projectionist

The rather scant storyline is of a soldier who ‘goes to an inn and meets the daughter of the innkeeper and they have a lot of sex’, explains Frank. In its new, Black Francis-infused incarnation, we learn what happened to get the soldier there, what happens when he does meet the young seductress, and a number of surreal and bizarre twists in-between.

A bloody mess
A bloody mess

Anyone who’s listened to Black Francis’ music – whether with seminal American indie darlings Pixies or in his solo work – will testify that the book has his big, dark imaginative hand print on every page. His love of French cinema and Lynchian oddities suffuse the story, from the magic and mysticism to the dark sexuality to the shadowy settings and chiaroscuro-bathed scenes.

This telling of the story, of course, sees sex not just as sex, but as a portal to a supernatural narrative where the couple fall into a counter-universe to their own, which somehow manages to weave in real historical facts about early pornography.

Appleby’s cover design hints at this rather unexpected (though not, perhaps, on Francis’ previous musical output) turn: a black and white sketch of the couple in profile surrounds a cut-out revealing an illustration of the boy’s face, gaunt and confused.

On seeing the full image as we open the page, a strange diagram unfurls – a sort of woozy school textbook pin-hole camera explanation – but with a naked boy and his shadow.

Interior page spread
Interior page spread

As the book goes on, the illustrations vary from charming monochrome sketches to fill colour renderings of the Paris scenes that host much of the tale.

The final spread is an image evoking the sense of an infinite sky, all black and blotted with dull white-ish specks. One side spells out ‘real’, the other ‘unreal’. it’s an all-encompassing evocation of the books preoccupations – with cinema, with magic, with illusion – and we can’t wait to see the film. If there really is a film…

What's real? What's not?
What’s real? What’s not?

The Good Inn is published by SelfMadeHero priced £14.99

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