Weekend links 294

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Painting by Alex Tavoularis.

• There are silent films, and then there is Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927), a five-and-a-half hour historical drama following the emperor’s life from boyhood to the invasion of Italy. The word “epic” is overused but Gance’s film demands the description: in addition to the recreation of huge battles and scenes from the French Revolution, cinema screening required three projectors for sequences which are either multi-screen or three times the width of the Academy ratio. The film was revived in the early 1980s after an extensive restoration by Kevin Brownlow, but Napoleon is still more talked about than seen so news of a forthcoming digital release by the BFI is very welcome indeed. The poster above is from this collection which includes more information about the film and its troubled history. Related: a trailer for a 2012 screening at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

• “His films broke with traditional production methods, having virtually no shooting script and capturing the freshness of their genesis.” RIP Jacques Rivette. In 1998 Frédéric Bonnaud talked to Rivette about the director’s cinematic likes and dislikes. Elsewhere, Jonathan Romney speculates that Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974) “might be the only film in which the story is dreamed by a passing cat”.

Strange Flowers‘ selects 16 books for (what’s left of) 2016. Stand-out for me is Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné by Linda Gertner Zatlin which will be published in May. Two cased volumes, a total of 1104 pages, and a price tag of $300.

It’s a powerful trope, but it also risks trading one stigma for another: ‘‘Phobia’’ is now so embedded in our language that it’s easy to forget that it is a metaphor comparing bigots to the mentally ill. The comparison also has the effect of excusing those Americans—like certain presidential candidates in the 2016 race—who wield prejudices strategically. It’s not your fault if you get sick. But hating people is a choice.

Amanda Hess on how “-phobic” became a weapon in the identity wars

• Delving into the shadowy world of occult art: Priscilla Frank talks to Pam Grossman about her Language of the Birds exhibition. Related: “The occult never quite goes away,” says Kenneth Anger.

• “It was a magic day in our happy, young lives.” A proposal for a monument in Baltimore celebrating the final scene of John Waters’ Pink Flamingos.

• Mixes of the week: Wrap Up Warm Mix by Moon Wiring Club, Secret Thirteen Mix 175 by Inner8, and FACT mix 533 by Roly Porter.

• “He was less an architect than a Busby Berkeley with a penchant for Black Masses.” Jonathan Meades on Albert Speer.

• More film posters: Benjamin Lee on the compromises that have made contemporary posters “drab and uninspiring”.

• The vast and ghostly landscape of “Britain’s only desert”: photographs by Robert Walker.

Wyrd Daze, Lvl2 Issue 5, is free and brimming with the weird.

• The films of Michael Mann in 44 shots.

Laurie Anderson‘s favourite films.

Flamingo (1959) by Henry Mancini | Moon Occults The Sun (2006) by Espers | The Moon Occults Saturn at Dawn (2015) by Steve Moore

The Making of an Englishman: Emeric Pressburger

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After Powell & Pressburger together, then Powell solo, here’s a biographical portrait of Emeric Pressburger by his grandson, Kevin MacDonald. Pressburger wrote the scripts of the films made under The Archers name, and Powell was the director, of course, but the pair always insisted on a shared credit for writing, production and direction. The Archers films were true “Third Mind” creations which is why (Peeping Tom aside) Powell or Pressburger working alone often seemed diminished.

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The Making of an Englishman (1995) was Kevin MacDonald’s first documentary which he’s since followed with others including the excellent Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance (1998) and Touching the Void (2003), and feature films such as The Last King of Scotland (2006) and The Eagle (2011). His film about Emeric Pressburger was a welcome counterweight to the attention given to Michael Powell in The Archers partnership. Pressburger was Jewish, and emigrated to Britain from Hungary to escape the Nazis. This experience famously informs the script of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), and it was Pressburger’s Continental character and an outsider’s eye that helps set the films of The Archers apart from those being made in Britain during the 1940s.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The South Bank Show: Michael Powell
Powell & Pressburger: A Pretty British Affair
The Rite of Spring and The Red Shoes
Michael Powell’s Bluebeard revisited
The Tale of Giulietta

The South Bank Show: Michael Powell

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This is the other great TV documentary about The Archers, the focus being on Michael Powell alone this time. The first volume of Powell’s autobiography, A Life in Movies, was published in 1986 which prompted this episode of The South Bank Show. Powell got to direct this one so there are many playful visual moments while tracing a career from a chance meeting with a Hollywood film crew in the south of France to the heights of the British film industry (and, in Black Narcissus, the painted peaks of the Himalayas). If you like Powell’s films his autobiography is essential reading. For a guide to the films of The Archers I’d recommend Arrows of Desire: The Films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger by Ian Christie.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Powell & Pressburger: A Pretty British Affair
The Rite of Spring and The Red Shoes
Michael Powell’s Bluebeard revisited
The Tale of Giulietta

Powell & Pressburger: A Pretty British Affair

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“It’s the only thing that fulfils its promise…magic,” says Martin Scorsese, referring to a shot of an arrow thudding into its target at the beginning of a feature film. A pierced target accompanied by the words “A Production of The Archers” heralded the films made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger from 1943 to 1957, films that included The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), A Canterbury Tale (1944), I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948), Gone to Earth (1950) and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951). A Very British Affair (1981) is a 50-minute documentary made for the BBC’s Arena strand by Charles Cabot and Gavin Millar that charts the progress of Powell and Pressburger’s partnership. There’s also some discussion of Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), the film that sank his career in Britain but which is now regarded as a masterpiece of self-reflexive cinema.

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This is the best documentary about The Archers, not only for the interviews with the two men but also for the extraneous business with Michael Powell in Los Angeles and New York. In both cities the director is seen with two younger filmmakers who helped resurrect his reputation in the 1980s: Francis Coppola (seen wandering around the sets used in One from the Heart) and Martin Scorsese. The latter is interviewed during the filming of The King of Comedy, and we get to see a brief between-takes moment with Jerry Lewis and Robert De Niro. Powell was a kind of backroom advisor to Scorsese at this time, offering suggestions during the production of Raging Bull and After Hours. On the west coast he was working on projects that would have been films for Coppola’s American Zoetrope but—as we now know—nothing materialised.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Rite of Spring and The Red Shoes
Michael Powell’s Bluebeard revisited
The Tale of Giulietta

Cosmic eggs

1: The Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) by Salvador Dalí.

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2: Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man (1943) by Salvador Dalí.

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3: The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Challenging Constructs of Mind and Reality (1971) by Joseph Chilton Pearce.

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Continue reading “Cosmic eggs”