Weekend links 261

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Salome (2013) by Lucie Hardie.

Aickmanesque, “A list of films that possess the same strange ambiguities, disturbing illogicalities, grim mundanities, psychological unpleasantness, narrative open-endedness, Freudian oddness and genuine disturbing moments of horror as the short stories of Robert Aickman.” One of those films, Symptoms (1974), has been out of circulation for a long time but may be watched at YouTube.

• “If this was psychedelia, then it had more in common with the variety peddled by US bands like The Rain Parade, The Three O’Clock…and The Bangles…all of whom had been grouped into a movement known as The Paisley Underground.” Joseph Stannard looks back at Around The World In A Day by Prince And The Revolution.

• “…what I do is not magical realism. I do realistic magic.” Alejandro Jodorowsky talking to Ilan Stavans about writing and filmmaking. A substantial interview in which Jodorowsky isn’t forced to express himself solely in English.

[Angela] Carter thoroughly upset the bien pensants with her essay The Sadeian Woman (1978) where she argued that Sade “was unusual in his period for claiming rights of free sexuality for women and in installing women as beings of power in his imaginary worlds … I would like to think that he put pornography in the service of women, or, perhaps, allowed it to be invaded by an ideology not inimical to women.” She also makes the connection between Sade’s misanthropy, as she calls it, and his splitting of women’s bodies from “the mothering function”. McQueen seems to me to fascinate for similar reasons. Some of the pull he exerts on huge numbers of people arises from this side of his sensibility: there’s no hint of motherhood; he disliked the way that traditional décolletage revealed the breasts, and instead encased the whole female torso in coiled silver, mussel shells or razor clams—even glass.

Marina Warner on Alexander McQueen whose Savage Beauty exhibition is currently running at the V&A

• London’s American poster king: Graham Twemlow on E. McKnight Kauffer’s posters for the London Underground.

• At Celluloid Wicker Man: Electronic music and mental illness in cinema.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 154 by Moniek Darge.

#1 (1994), the first album by Skylab, has been reissued.

Vir·tu·al Ge·om·e·try

Tamborine (1985) by Prince And The Revolution | Indigo (1994) by Skylab | Metronomic Underground (1996) by Stereolab

Lady Bug, a film by Ben Proudfoot

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Lady Bug is a short study of Canadian artist Elizabeth Goluch, the creator of beautiful sculptures of insects and other creatures crafted from precious metals. Ben Proudfoot’s film is one of a series, Life’s Work: Six Conversations with Makers, looking at artists and craftspeople in the Nova Scotia area. I’d not browsed Elizabeth Goluch’s website for a while so it’s good to see new additions like this jellyfish that conceals a Medusa pendant. I’m very partial to Ms Goluch’s work, of course, but the other films are worth a look as well.

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Elizabeth Goluch’s precious metal insects

La Bibliothèque de Babel

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It was perhaps inevitable that this small collection of works of fantastic fiction was named after its director’s most famous creation, the Library of Babel. Jorge Luis Borges chose the titles, and also wrote introductions for each of the books. The series was published in France by Retz–Ricci, with 4000 numbered copies of each title appearing from 1977 to 1981.

Many of the selections will be familiar to Borges aficionados, others seem obscure as a result of the vagaries of translation: Jack London’s Les Morts Concentriques is The Minions of Midas, a story that Borges had earlier translated into Spanish as Las Muertas Concéntricas (The Concentric Deaths). The story of linked deaths apparently influenced the writing of Death and the Compass. I’ve never seen Borges discuss Arthur Machen at length so the inclusion of Machen in the selection is a welcome sight. In addition to The Shining Pyramid, the Machen volume also contained The Novel of the Black Seal and The Novel of the White Powder, two of the oft-anthologised sections of The Three Imposters.

The only detail that’s defeated me  is the identity of the illustrator of the series. If anyone knows who was responsible then please leave a comment.

Update: the covers are credited to publisher/designer Franco Maria Ricci and Marcella Boneschi. Thanks to herr doktor bimler and Al Diniz.

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Continue reading “La Bibliothèque de Babel”

The pinscreen works of Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker

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The incredible animated films of Alexeieff & Parker have been featured here before, the last occasion being a post about their 1963 adaptation of Gogol’s The Nose. The Gogol film is included in this 38-minute YouTube compilation whose contents are as follows: A Night on Bald Mountain (1933), En passant (1943), The Nose (1963), Pictures at an Exhibition (1972), Three Moods (1980). The Nose is still the best of their films that I’ve seen to date but mention should be made of the gem that is En passant, a very brief illustration of a Canadian song. The precision of this piece never fails to astonish me: the pinscreen technique must be difficult enough without also being able to suddenly shift viewpoint—the moment when the squirrel jumps on the windmill blades!—and accurately convey the movements of a squirrel and a rooster. Watch that one if nothing else.

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The Nose, a film by Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker
Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker

The Big Fix!

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One of the stories that was new to me in recent book purchase, Strange Ecstasies (1973), was The Big Fix by Richard Wilson, a science-fiction piece about a junkie in New York City looking for something newer and better than the heroin habit he’s trying to quit. The story first appeared in Infinity Science Fiction for August 1956 but the first half of the narrative seemed so unlike the usual SF fare of the time that I kept flicking back to the copyright page to check the date. The Big Fix of the title (or The Big Fix! as it was in the magazine) is a substance named uru given to the narrator by Jones, an alien in disguise; smoking the drug induces a telepathic conversation with Jones followed by a journey through space to his home planet. In the second half of the story we discover why Jones (or Joro as he’s known at home) is transporting low-lifes from New York and offering them a chance to live on his world. The explanation is as pedestrian in SF terms as an episode of Star Trek, a factor which makes the first half of the story seem all the more striking, replete as it is with junk-life details, contemporary slang and discussion of the (for the time) very obscure South American drug known as yage, aka ayahuasca. Was this written from Wilson’s personal experience or had the details been lifted from a contemporary authority?

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A few minutes of searching turned up the solution in an illustrated spread from the magazine: the original printing opened with a paragraph from Junkie (1953) by William Burroughs (credited as William Lee) which not only explains the accuracy of the drug and slang details but also why Wilson was mentioning yage. Burroughs’ connections with (and influence upon) the SF world are well-documented but this is a surprising example—maybe the first—of his influencing a story before he was known as William Burroughs. I wonder now if he ever knew about this instance himself, or if the excising of the Junkie paragraph from subsequent reprints marooned the detail in the magazine. At the end of the story there’s more contemporary relevance when the narrator has managed to return to Earth and is helping some researchers with their mescaline experiments, a process whose higher status he attributes to “the Huxley effect”.

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