Jean Alessandrini book covers

alessandrini05.jpg

It’s that Golem again, depicted in 1979 by Jean Alessandrini. The publisher was Bibliothèque Marabout, a French fantasy/horror imprint active from the 1960s to the 1990s that was the genre division of Éditions Marabout, itself a division of publishing behemoth Hachette. Bibliothèque Marabout published a wide range of titles, with many familiar names in addition to writers such as Jean Ray, Thomas Owen and Paul Féval whose work receives little attention in the Anglophone sphere. By 1970, many of these covers had a uniform appearance, predominantly painted illustrations on black backgrounds with the titles set in Roberta, one of the Art Nouveau-styled typefaces of the occult revival. All the Alessandrini covers date from the late 70s and early 80s, and show an evolution of the imprint’s style, with the same black livery but a different typeface that I can’t identify (Coliseum is the closest digital equivalent), together with artwork that’s more of a design rather than an illustration of the book’s contents.

alessandrini02.jpg

Jean Alessandrini is a French artist, designer, typographer and author, also the creator of Typomanie, a book of type designs that I’d like to see. He provided cover drawings in the late 1960s for French SF magazine, Fiction, and later worked for the popular comics magazine Pilote, but his Marabout covers look like collage works, with the grainy appearance of photocopied photos that Neville Brody also favoured for his album cover designs. The combination of a simple symbolic graphic in bright colours on a black background is very reminiscent of David Pelham’s designs for Penguin, some of which also used collage elements. French genre titles seldom seem to follow design trends exterior to France so if there was a Penguin influence at work it’s an unusual case.

Jean Alessandrini has a small but well-designed website here.

alessandrini01.jpg

alessandrini03.jpg

Continue reading “Jean Alessandrini book covers”

Zemania

zeman01.jpg

Invention for Destruction (1958).

In addition to Jean Kerchbron’s Golem my weekend viewing involved a fresh immersion in the semi-animated fantasies of Karel Zeman, one of which, Invention for Destruction, I’d not seen for many years. It hadn’t occurred to me before how closely Zeman’s technique on these films matches some of my own recent illustration when it applies original drawn elements to settings constructed from old engravings. For Zeman, combining actors with animated models and pictorial backgrounds was an economical way of bringing to life the worlds of Jules Verne, Rudolf Erich Raspe and others while retaining the feel of the original book illustrations. These films are also closer to the Max Ernst school of engraved collage than they may at first seem. The mansion at the beginning of Invention for Destruction could easily have been an illustration of a single building but Zeman offers a hybrid construction with unrealistically conflicting perspectives; later on we see a desert cavalry of camels on roller skates. It’s no surprise that Jan Svankmajer admires Zeman’s films. And having recently watched all the Svankmajers it’s good to know there are several Zeman features still to see.

zeman02.jpg

zeman03.jpg

zeman04.jpg

zeman05.jpg

zeman06.jpg

Continue reading “Zemania”

Weekend links 524

heisler.jpg

Letter M from Abeceda (1942) by Jindrich Heisler.

• At the BFI: Matthew Thrift chooses 10 essential Ray Harryhausen films. “This is, I can assure the reader, the one and only time that I have eaten the actors. Hitchcock would have approved,” says Harryhausen about eating the crabs whose shells were used for Mysterious Island. Meanwhile, Alfred Hitchcock himself explains the attraction and challenges of directing thrillers.

“Although largely confined to the page, Haeusser’s violent fantasies were even less restrained, his writings littered with deranged, bloodthirsty, scatological scenarios.” Strange Flowers on Ludwig Christian Haeusser and the “Inflation Saints” of Weimar Germany.

• Death, Pestilence, Emptiness: Putting covers on Albert Camus’s The Plague; Dylan Mulvaney on the different design approaches to a classic novel.

• A trailer (more of a teaser) for Last and First Men, a film adaptation of Olaf Stapledon’s novel by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…James Purdy: The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy.

Al Jaffee at 99: Gary Groth and Jaffee talk comics and humour.

Steven Heller on Command Records’ design distinction.

Czech Surrealism at Flickr.

Sisters with Transistors.

Solitude by Hakobune.

Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares (1974) by Tangerine Dream | Mysterious Traveller (Dust Devils Mix) (1994) by System 7 | The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra (2018) by Anna von Hausswolff

Death and the maiden

kausch.jpg

Allan Kausch sent me his collage contribution to Maintenant 14: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art last week (thanks, Allan!). I don’t know if this was meant to be a comment on current events but it’s difficult to avoid such an interpretation, especially regarding the USA where people continue to behave like children while the corpses pile up around them.

By coincidence, Strange Flowers notes today that the First International Dada Fair was staged in Berlin 100 years ago this week. The efflorescence of Dada was a brief one thanks to contradictory impulses, conflicting personalities and a hostile social reaction, so the participants might be surprised that their ethos lives on in magazine form a century later. They might also be satisfied that the site of the First International Dada Fair is now an empty plot in a rebuilt street. What better memorial for the Death of Art than a hole in the ground?

Previously on { feuilleton }
The original Cabaret Voltaire

Hamfat Asar, a film by Lawrence Jordan

jordan1.jpg

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.

jordan2.jpg

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