Desert In Shape is a conceptual film recorded and directed by John’s friend and former girlfriend, Toni Oswald.
The film lasts 17 minutes and it was shot in the summer of 1992 “at the Hollywood Boulevard house, Greg’s backyard and Malibu”. An experimental piece influenced by Marchel Duchamp and Salvador Dalí, Desert In Shape is based on Oswald’s dreams and it features her playing the role of a young woman trapped in her childhood, who eventually undergoes a transformation. Clara Balzary is playing the protagonist as a little girl. John is only to be seen in the last minute of the film, playing Duchamps’s alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, and the front and back covers of Niandra LaDes And Usually Just A T-Shirt are both stills from that particular scene. Matt Polish, who later directed the music video for Life’s A Bath, plays a minor role.
Two of John’s songs that later appeared on Smile From The Streets You Hold – Enter A Uh and For Air – make up the background music for the film, together with Maria Callas’ rendition of O Nume Tutalar; from the famed 1954 production of Gaspare Spontini’s opera La vestale.
As of April 2009, Toni Oswald is interested in releasing this film someday, if there’s a chance; until then, it will be sporadically screened when possible. A handful of people own the film.
John Frusciante (Enter A Uh and For Air)
Maria Callas (O Nume Tutalar)
Toni Oswald (additional photography)
Um, she [Toni] definitely finished the film just recently, so, uh, and it had remained unedited for a really long time but it was made around that period of time, around 1992, I guess, um, or ’93, and um, it was ’92, and um, it’s a film inspired by the ideas of Marcel Duchamp that she um, she was with me when we were touring for BSSM in Europe and I guess I was always sitting there doing a lot of thinking and she was always writing in her notebook and she was coming up with this idea for this movie and so I was, um, playing Marcel Duchamp’s alter ego, Rrose Selavy, as well as, as well as somebody who pushes her out of a door, with another friend of mine. Um, the film was just shown recently at the Viper Room, um, they had a film night and they showed that, and um, I don’t know if there will ever be any sort of a release of it or anything.
John, about the film, in in a 2004 fan Q and A
The film was created because I was having recurring dreams while travelling through Europe with John while he was on tour [with RHCP, 1992] and so I began to write some things down from the dreams; and also at the time I was reading a lot of Marcel Duchamp interviews and art books and so the dream and Duchamp began to form a relationship…the film is about a girl who is trapped in her own imagination and also in a part of her childhood, and she transfers that into the actual world and then how she manages through the work and philosophy of Marcel Duchamp, she changes herself into a readymade with the help of Niandra LaDes (John) and transforms.
Toni Oswald, when asked by i-m.net, 2009
Many thanks to “amourfou” who contributed a lot of information and enormous thanks to Toni Oswald for allowing the stills to be posted and, of course, for the little insight into her creative mind.