Weekend links 534

hasui.jpg

Beautiful night – moon and stars, Miyajima Shrine (1928) by Kawase Hasui.

• One announcement I’d been hoping for since last summer was the news of a second box of Tangerine Dream albums to follow the excellent In Search Of Hades collection. The latter concentrated on the first phase of the group’s Virgin recordings, up to and including Force Majeure. This October will see the release of a new set, Pilots Of The Purple Twilight, which explores the rest of the Virgin period when Johannes Schmoelling had joined Froese and Franke. Among the exclusive material will be a proper release of the soundtrack for Michael Mann’s The Keep (previously a scarce limited edition), together with the complete concert from the Dominion Theatre, London. Also out in October, Dark Entries will be releasing a further collection of recordings from the recently discovered tape archive of Patrick Cowley. The new album, Some Funkettes, will comprise unreleased cover versions, one of which, I Feel Love by Donna Summer, is a cult item of mine that Cowley later refashioned into a celebrated megamix.

• “Did you know that Video Killed The Radio Star was inspired by a JG Ballard story?” asks Molly Odintz. No, I didn’t.

Casey Rae on the strange (musical) world of William S. Burroughs. Previously: Seven Souls Resouled.

• “And now we are no longer slaves”: Scott McCulloch on Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden at fifty.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Frank Jaffe presents…Dario Argento and his world of bright coloured blood.

• At Wormwoodiana: The Serpent Calls. Mark Valentine on a mysterious musical instrument.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Long-Exposure Photographs of Torii Shrine Gates by Ronny Behnert.

• Mix of the week: mr.K’s Soundstripe vol 4 by radioShirley & mr.K.

• Rising sons: the radical photography of postwar Japan.

• The illicit 1980s nudes of Christopher Makos.

• RIP Diana Rigg.

Garden Of Eden (1971) by New Riders Of The Purple Sage | Ice Floes In Eden (1986) by Harold Budd | Eden (1988) by Talk Talk

Taking Tiger Mountain

ttm1.jpg

Another week, another obscure black-and-white science fiction film. I hadn’t heard of this one at all until it was announced in 2012 that co-director Tom Huckabee would be attending a rare screening in New York. The film is an oddity with a complicated history that I’m too lazy to try and condense so here’s the borrowed detail:

IMDB: In a dystopian future, Europe is unified under a totalitarian patriarchy, where each town is assigned a single economic purpose. In Brendovery, Wales the occupation is prostitution. Arriving by train from London is Billy Hampton, a young American expatriate and draft evader (Bill Paxton in his first lead role), ostensibly there to enjoy a sex-filled holiday. Unknown to him he is a time bomb assassin, programmed by a feminist terrorist cell to assassinate the local minister of prostitution.

Wikipedia: Taking Tiger Mountain is a 1983 American science fiction film directed by Tom Huckabee and Kent Smith, and starring Bill Paxton in one of his earliest on-screen acting roles. Originally conceived as an experimental art film inspired by a novel by Albert Camus’s 1942 novel The Stranger and a poem by Smith, the film was initially directed by Smith and shot in Wales. Aside from Paxton, the film’s cast is made up of townspeople from the areas in which shooting took place. It was filmed without sound, with the intention of adding dialogue in post-production. During post-production, Huckabee took over as the film’s director, abandoning Smith’s original concept and instead loosely basing the film on the 1979 novella Blade Runner (a movie) by William S. Burroughs. The film premiered on March 24, 1983. Over three decades later, Huckabee re-edited the film and released it as an alternate cut titled Taking Tiger Mountain Revisited.

Tom Huckabee: The story went through four distinct periods of creation:
1. Kent Smith’s original script, entitled Taking Tiger Mountain, written in 1974, based loosely on the John Paul Getty III’s kidnapping of 1973 and Albert Camus’ The Stranger. It was set in the casbah of Tangier, Morocco.
2. After Bill and Kent got ejected from Morocco before shooting even a foot of film, they drove to Wales, adapting the script significantly to the new location and the people and opportunities that presented themselves; but they ran out of film and money after shooting about half of their script.
3. After I acquired the footage in 1979, I knew I couldn’t go back to Wales, so after editing their footage to about 55 minutes, I wrote a new story with a lot of help from collaborators, like Paul Cullum, Lorrie O’Shatz, and Ray Layton. I incorporated the Burroughs material and dropped the 55 minutes from Kent and Bill’s script into it. We wrote the ten-minute introductory section with the women and shot it on a sound stage in Austin, incorporating footage from another unfinished film by Kent and Bill called D’Artangan. I also built ten minutes of scenes from outtakes. In 1980, Paxton came to Austin for a few days to “loop” all of his dialogue, as no sound had been recorded in Wales. He improvised a lot of his voice-over narration, while under hypnosis. This film, called Taking Tiger Mountain, was released on 35mm in 1983 and toured the Landmark Theater chain of art cinemas.
4.  In 2016 I got a small advance from Etiquette Pictures for digital distribution and decided to do a major upgrade. I cut out ten minutes and added five, including the new ending, which comes after the end credits, significantly changing the message of the film. I reworked the narrative, making it easier to follow.

In addition to the complications of the production it’s necessary to note that the title has nothing to do with either Brian Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), or the Chinese opera the Eno album is named after, although we do get to hear about a tiger mountain. This reflects the equally tangled history of the “Blade Runner” title, which Taking Tiger Mountain does have some connection with via William Burroughs’ Blade Runner: A Movie. This was Burroughs’ cinematic reworking of a science fiction novel by Alan E. Nourse, The Bladerunner (1974), a piece of futurism about the very American dystopia of a nightmare healthcare system. Blade Runner: A Movie followed Burroughs’ earlier screenplay/novella, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, although the Nourse adaptation was a much more ambitious scenario with little chance of ever being filmed. No studio in the 1970s (or today, for that matter…) would have put up the money for something that’s like a wilder version of Escape from New York with added gay sex and time travel, however attractive this may sound. As is well known by now, the treatment’s title was later purloined by another film that has little else in common with anything discussed here.

ttm2.jpg

All of which means that Taking Tiger Mountain is exactly the kind of thing guaranteed to stoke my curiosity: a Burroughs-derived science-fiction film made on the cheap by Americans in south Wales, of all places. Why Wales? Because Bill Paxton had been there as a foreign exchange student. I’m not sure I would have been as interested without the disjunctive frisson of gloomy, rain-swept Wales in the mid-1970s colliding with William Burroughs. That said, the blu-ray release from Vinegar Syndrome has two things immediately in its favour: for a micro-budget production the film has excellent photography (the black-and-white stock was provided by leftovers from Bob Fosse’s Lenny); and there’s a surprising amount of unsimulated sex, something that isn’t such a big deal today but certainly was in 1974. The youthful Bill Paxton is gorgeous and exceptionally photogenic, so the film is a pleasure to watch even when little of substance is happening.

ttm3.jpg

Continue reading “Taking Tiger Mountain”

Weekend links 489

wyrding.jpg

Typhonic Neural Tantra by The Wyrding Module.

• November 2019, as many people have been noting, is the month in which Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner takes place. At Dangerous Minds Paul Gallagher writes about the unrelated William Burroughs script whose title was borrowed for Scott’s film.

• More Ridley Scott (sort of): disco was still a big thing when Alien was in the cinemas 40 years ago, so Kenny Denton reworked Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien score into a disco single which he released under the name Nostromo.

• “The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most exciting novels ever written and on the other hand is one of the most badly written novels of all time and in any literature.” Umberto Eco on the cult of the imperfect.

• Jonathan Glazer has made a short film, The Fall, for the BBC but the corporation’s restrictions mean that (for the moment) it’s difficult to see if you live outside the UK.

• New albums at Bandcamp: Typhonic Neural Tantra by The Wyrding Module, and Emotional Freedom Techniques by Jon Brooks (aka The Advisory Circle).

• Hawkwind dancer Miss Stacia and the Barney Bubbles estate have made a line of T-shirts based on Barney Bubbles’ Space Ritual design.

Walter Murch and Midge Costin on the art of cinematic sound design.

Ivana Sekularac on the former Yugoslavia’s brutalist beauty.

• Congratulations to Strange Flowers on its 10th anniversary.

Geoff Manaugh on the witch houses of the Hudson Valley.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: 19 experimental horror films.

Fall (1968) by Miles Davis | The Fall (2011) by The Haxan Cloak | Fall (2014) by The Bug (feat. Copeland)

Weekend links 476

kimura.jpg

Man’s body dish for Sashimi under the cherry blossom (2005) by Ryoko Kimura.

• Godley & Creme’s Consequences (1977) is reissued this month on CD and vinyl. Originally a three-disc concept album with a theme of climate disaster and the natural world’s revenge on humanity, Consequences was released at a time when punk and prog rock were fighting for the attention of music listeners. 1977 wasn’t the end of prog by any means (many of the vilified bands had some of their greatest successes at this time) but Godley & Creme’s transition from the smart pop songs of 10cc to extended instrumental suites was abrupt, and their concept, such as it was, lacked the drama and accessibility of Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds, even with the addition of Peter Cook providing a multi-voice comic narrative between the musical pieces. (Kevin Godley ruefully referred to the album in later years as Con Sequences.) The album flopped, and has been a cult item ever since.

• “A word of caution, though. Once you do read it, it’s hard to let it go.” Philip Hoare on Herman Melville and Moby-Dick. Related: William T. Vollmann on how a voyage to French Polynesia set Herman Melville on the course to write Moby-Dick.

Samm Deighan on The “Faraway Forest” in Peter Strickland’s Katalin Varga, The Duke of Burgundy, and The Cobbler’s Lot.

Brian Eno, Roger Eno, and Daniel Lanois discuss the recording of Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks.

John Boardley on the first fashion books, Renaissance pixel fonts and the invention of graph paper.

Melanie Xulu looks back at a time where major labels were releasing witchcraft rituals.

• “Tom Phillips’ A Humument is a completely novel project,” says Rachel Hawley.

John Foster on the evolution of Stereolab’s analogue-inspired record sleeves.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: a history of le Grand Guignol by Agnes Peirron.

Casey Rae on William S. Burroughs and the cult of rock’n’roll.

• An Austin Osman Spare image archive.

Consequences (1965) by John Coltrane | Moby Dick (1969) by Led Zeppelin | Consequence (1995) by Paul Schütze

Weekend links 459

akira.jpg

• “Their graves were covered with cement tiles to block the radiation emanating from their corpses.” Sophie Pinkham reviews three books about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

• At Dangerous Minds: Julius Eastman: The resurrection of the visionary minimalist composer continues; at The Quietus: The Strange World of Julius Eastman.

• Mixes of the week: a Dune-inspired Secret Thirteen Mix 286 by Coeden, and ’94–95 Mirrorverse by The Ephemeral Man.

Nabokov had meanwhile acquired a literary agent in New York. She made no headway placing translations of his Russian novels. His latest, she informed him, was “dazzlingly brilliant” and hence wholly without promise for the American market. She suggested something more topical, an idea that left her client hyperventilating. “Nothing,” he would roar later, “bores me more than political novels and the literature of social unrest.” He was, he enlightened his representative, neither Sinclair Lewis nor Upton Sinclair. (Ultimately he tossed the two over the cliff together, as “Upton Lewis.”) Weeks later, in the bathroom of a Paris studio apartment, he began — “a champion figure skater switching to roller skates,” as he complained, speaking for whole cadres of displaced professionals — to write in English.

Stacy Schiff on Vladimir Nabokov, literary refugee

Iain Sinclair on Ghosts of a Ghost: William Burroughs, time surgery and the death of the image.

ST Joshi remembers Lovecraftian writer Wilum Pugmire (RIP).

The Conspirators: A Borgean Tribute to Jorge Luis Borges.

Jasper Sharp on where to begin with Japanese cyberpunk.

Greg Anderson on the new Sunn O))) album, Life Metal.

Drew Daniel of Matmos picks his Bandcamp favourites.

• The Kraken surfaces for Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

• An interview with Brian Eno by Suite (212).

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut

The Book of Weirdo

Conspiracy Of Silence (1994) by Cypher 7 | The Vodun Conspiracy (1996) by The Sidewinder | Machine Conspiracy (2010) by Conforce