Weekend links 519

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Cover of Minotaure no. 8 (1936) by Salvador Dalí.

• At Dangerous Minds: Irmin Schmidt talks to Oliver Hall about his new album of prepared piano, Nocturne, and also reveals more about the planned release of live recordings by Can.

• “Even the most zealous fan of the genre can learn something new from this book,” says Geeta Dayal in a review of Bring That Beat Back: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop, by Nate Patrin.

• The subject of a previous post but the video was later removed: Italo Calvino in a rare documentary feature for an English audience, on the BBC’s Bookmark in 1985.

• On 9th May, carillonneur Malgosia Fiebig played The Model by Kraftwerk on the bells of the Dom Tower in Utrecht as a tribute to the late Florian Schneider.

• Film footage of Alice Coltrane in her prime is a rare thing so even 17 minutes of TV from 1970 is something special.

Dan Reynolds on the fantastic alphabets designed by Jean Midolle. See also Luc Devroye’s page.

• Mix of the week: Jon Hassell tribute, part 1: Jon and his collaborators, by Dave Maier.

Nicolas Winding Refn on some of the films he’s been watching during lockdown.

• At Haute Macabre: Surrealist décor and tiny secret drawers.

HP Lovecraft dreams of a Providence trolley car in 1927.

The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

Xerrox Voyage, a new recording by Alva Noto.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jean-Pierre Léaud Day.

The Model (1979) by Snakefinger | Model (1992) by The Balanescu Quartet | Das Modell (1997) by Rammstein

Abeceda

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This week I’ve started working my way through the filmography of Jan Svankmajer, having finally acquired a blu-ray set of his feature films. I’ve also been reading interviews and rewatching some of the documentaries about the man and his work, which in turn prompted me to look up some of his associates and precursors among the Czech Surrealists. Prague was unusual in being a centre for the early development of Surrealism at a time when the movement (for want of a better term) was centred on Paris. André Breton encouraged this, and cultural exchanges took place, with Breton and Paul Éluard visiting Prague, while Vlatislav Netzval and his colleagues journeyed to Paris. The outbreak of war severed the connection but this also had the inadvertent effect of perpetuating the Czech brand of Surrealism by cutting off Prague from the rest of the European avant garde. While Breton and co were forced to flee to the United States and Mexico, the Czech Surrealists went underground, hiding their illicit explorations first from the occupying Nazis, then from the disapproving Communist authorities. It’s always important to bear this in mind when considering Svankmajer’s films and artwork; his Surrealism is a serious motivation with a long history in Czech and Slovak art.

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Vlatislav Netzval is best known today for being the author of Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1935), the source novel for the cult film by Jaromil Jires. Abeceda (1926) is a much shorter work, a Modernist abecedary created by Netzval (who wrote a short verse describing each letter) with Milca Mayerová (who choreographed a series of letterform poses) and Karel Teige (who designed the book and took the photographs). I’ve not seen a complete translation of the verses but I love the page design which is like something the Bauhaus might have produced for the Modernist Children of the Future. The form being used here had a name—Poetism—a Czech variation on similar movements elsewhere such as Constructivism and Futurism but with an intention to create works accessible to all, hence the abecedary. I can imagine Milca Mayerová’s poses being animated by Svankmajer’s staccato edits although his design preferences have always been more florid and baroque. A Surrealist he may be but he also favours Jean Midolle’s Alphabet Lapidaire Monstre.

(As before, the Czech names here should include their proper accents but the coding on this blog throws up errors when it encounters certain letters. My apologies to Czech readers.)

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Continue reading “Abeceda”

Weekend links 518

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In Voluptate Mors (1951) by Philippe Halsman.

• “Equation to an Unknown (1980) is [Dietrich de Velsa’s] only film, and stands without a doubt as a masterpiece and the best French gay porn ever made.” Related (sort of): the US division of Amazon Prime had been showing a censored print of Francis Lee’s gay romance, God’s Own Country, until the director was informed and complained.

• “They lasted just one night as tour support for U2 before being thrown off. The outraged and hostile audience threw bottles of urine. The band responded by throwing iron bars back at them.” Daniel Dylan Wray on the wild times (and cookery) of Blixa Bargeld and Einstürzende Neubauten.

• “Japanese art evolved, in Saunders’s words, ‘from a distinctive alchemy of silk, soot, gold, fire, and fur,’ from a playful and curious fascination with the subject matter and tools provided by the natural world.” Tamar Avishai on art in isolation: the delicate paintings of Edo Japan.

To me, the Diggers were a phenomenon. I don’t know that there’s been anything like them in history—yes, history repeats itself, so there probably was somebody at some time, I’m just not aware of it—a situation where you have a group of people whose goal is to help other people, to bring them not just the basic necessities you need to survive but the things that you need for your imagination, your brain, your growth on other levels. It was like an opium dream or something.

Siena Carlton-Firestone (aka Natural Suzanne) talking to Jay Babcock for the fourth installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists

• A psychic has been ordered to pay the costs of exhuming Salvador Dalí’s corpse for a failed paternity test.

• Feel the crushing steel: David Bennun on Grace Jones and the Compass Point Trilogy.

Sleep Tones by Six Organs Of Admittance, name-your-price music for insomniacs.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 645 by Juan MacLean.

Playing the Piano for the Isolated by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

• David Lynch Theater presents: Fire (Pozar).

Fire (1967) by Koko Taylor | Fire (1984) by 23 Skidoo | Fire (2002) by Ladytron

Hamfat Asar, a film by Lawrence Jordan

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I was reminded of Lawrence/Larry Jordan recently when reading Deborah Solomon’s biography of Joseph Cornell, Utopia Parkway, in which Jordan receives passing mention for helping Cornell with some of his film work in the 1960s. One of Jordan’s short films was featured here in 2014 but I’d not been very diligent in looking for more, a considerable oversight when he was an early and accomplished practitioner of animation using collaged engravings and illustrations. He wasn’t the only animator producing work like this in the 1960s, Harry Smith, Jan Lenica and Walerian Borowczyk also used these methods, but Jordan seemed to favour the idiom more than others.

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Hamfat Asar dates from 1965, and is immediately notable for moving its collaged figures over a shoreline landscape which remains fixed for the entire running time. The narrative, such as it is, concerns a stilt-walking figure attempting to cross from one side of the screen to the other but whose progress is continually impeded by a succession of figures, creatures and bizarre assemblages. The film has been described as representing “a vision of life beyond death” although this isn’t very evident at all. Jordan’s films are much more Surreal in the true sense of the word than many other collage animations which tend towards satire or comedy, Terry Gilliam’s work for Monty Python being an obvious example of the latter. The combination of Surreal engravings with black-and-white film stock gives Hamfat Asar a distinct Max Ernst flavour, which is no bad thing. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Carabosse, a film by Lawrence Jordan
Labirynt by Jan Lenica
Science Friction by Stan VanDerBeek
Heaven and Earth Magic by Harry Smith
Short films by Walerian Borowczyk

Weekend links 517

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Edward James by René Magritte; La Reproduction Interdite (1937).

• “James was filmed in the late 1970s, striding round Las Pozas in a sweater and a tattered dressing-gown, surmounted by parrots (The Secret Life of Edward James can be seen on YouTube). When asked what motivated him, he replied: ‘Pure megalomania!’ He was having his second childhood, he said, though he wasn’t sure the first had ever ended.” Mike Jay on lifelong Surrealist, Edward James (1907–1984), and the concrete fantasia he built in the Mexican jungle.

• “I found the roots of electronic music in a cupboard!” Musician Paul Purgas (one half of Emptyset) on the discovery of early electronic music from India’s National Institute Of Design. Related: Purgas talks about his discovery with Patrick Clarke.

• RIP Phil May. Here’s The Pretty Things in their guise as psych band “Electric Banana” for an appearance in What’s Good for the Goose (1969). A decent moment in an otherwise terrible film.

• Music is a memory machine: David Toop explores how the transmission of music between disparate cultures can be a tool against populism and prejudice.

• Kraftwerk’s remarkable journey, and where it took us: Bob Boilen and Geeta Dayal discuss the tanzmusik of Düsseldorf.

• At Dangerous Minds: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy: Fifty years ago The Cockettes turned drag upside down.

Hua Hsu on the secret lives of fungi: “They shape the world—and offer lessons for how to live in it”.

• The great writer who never wrote: Emma Garman on the flamboyant Stephen Tennant.

• Cult 1998 PlayStation game LSD: Dream Emulator is finally playable in English.

Jim Jupp of Ghost Box records talks about the Intermission compilation album.

Jonathan Moodie on psychoactive cinema and sacred animation.

Alex Barrett on where to begin with Akira Kurosawa.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Skeletons.

Skeleton Makes Good (1982) by Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band | Red Skeletons (1996) by Coil | Kids Will Be Skeletons (2003) by Mogwai