The Midnight Parasites by Yoji Kuri

kuri.jpg

The Midnight Parasites (1972) is a good example of the kind of animation I’m often searching for: strange and grotesque yet with its own internal logic. Yoji Kuri populates a Surrealist landscape with infernal creatures borrowed from Hieronymus Bosch, a succession of humanoids and predatory monsters whose struggles for survival are overlaid with an uncredited electronic score. I can imagine Roland Topor enjoying this one, it belongs in the same solar system as Fantastic Planet. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bosch details

Fuzz Against Junk & The Hero Maker

rubington1.jpg

This is another of those posts in which I brag about finding an old book in a charity shop for a lot less than you’d have to pay for it online. But it does give me the opportunity to say something about American writer/artist Norman Rubington and his alter ego Akbar Del Piombo, something I was sure I’d done already. One of the weekend posts linked to an article about Rubington’s work but my discussion of his collages is in the essay I wrote about Wilfried Sätty for the Strange Attractor Journal, a piece which isn’t available here.

rubington8.jpg

The engraving collages of Norman Rubington (1921–1991) were probably the first to use the form developed by Max Ernst for explicitly humorous purposes. They’re certainly among the earliest to take the lead from Ernst while aiming themselves at an audience outside the art world. There is humour in some of Ernst’s collages, of course, but it tends to be the black variety favoured by the Surrealists (and actually defined by them; André Breton’s 1940 Anthology of Black Humour was a pioneering study). Rubington’s small books exploit the comic potential of antique illustrations by repurposing them as the primary content in a series of absurd narratives; these aren’t “graphic novels”, they’re more like heavily-illustrated comedy routines. There were four books in the original series—Fuzz Against Junk (1959), The Hero Maker (1959), Is That You Simon? (1961) and The Boiler Maker (1961)—with a fifth title, Moonglow, appearing in 1969. Olympia Press published the books in France, with US editions appearing around the same time under the Far-Out imprint used by Citadel Press. My charity purchase is the 1966 New English Library reprint of an Olympia Press collection of the first two volumes. The olive-green Olympia covers always provoke a Pavlovian grab response when I see one on a shelf although I’ve yet to find a copy that wasn’t an NEL reprint.

rubington2.jpg

rubington3.jpg

rubington4.jpg

Continue reading “Fuzz Against Junk & The Hero Maker”

Art on film: Je t’aime, Je t’aime

resnais1.jpg

Design by René Ferracci.

Continuing an occasional series about artworks in feature films with a return to Alain Resnais. This one is less substantial than the Providence post, but 2022 happens to be the director’s centenary year, and this particular film, like Providence, is worthy of greater attention.

Last Year at Marienbad is occasionally proposed as science fiction of a very rarified sort (JG Ballard thought it was) but there’s no question about the SF credentials of Je t’aime, Je t’aime (1968), a drama that uses time travel to explore a troubled romantic relationship. Claude Ridder (Claude Rich), an unattached, suicidal man, is persuaded by scientists to assist with a potentially hazardous experiment. He agrees to a one-minute excursion into his past but the experiment doesn’t work as intended, causing him to be caught between the present—in which he can’t escape from a womb-like time machine—and his recent past, in which he relives brief moments without any awareness during the return period of their being a part of the experiment. The flashbacks that comprise most of the film’s running time show us a random sequence of the events leading to Claude’s suicide attempt, the end result of his relationship with his terminally ill partner, Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot).

resnais2.jpg

The time machine.

Despite the presence of a time machine and a script by Jacques Sternberg, a Belgian science-fiction writer, Resnais was adamant that Je t’aime, Je t’aime wasn’t a science-fiction film. This is the kind of comment guaranteed to annoy the more zealous SF reader but it’s true in the sense that the film isn’t about time travel or time machines per se; the temporal experiment is a device to allow the non-linear exploration of a human drama that’s the real concern of director and writer. Previous Resnais films had dealt with remembrance of one sort or another, often using flash cuts to juxtapose different moments or scenes remembered or imagined. Je t’aime, Je t’aime pushes these techniques to an extreme, showing us every facet of the Claude/Catrine relationship, from initial meeting to tragic end. The narrative fragmentation isn’t so surprising today but it was a radical step in 1968, one that proved commercially unsuccessful.

In addition to having a Belgian writer, Je t’aime, Je t’aime is mostly set in Brussels, so the art this time is a famous Belgian painting, one of the many versions of The Empire of Light by René Magritte, which appears in the scenes in Claude’s apartment.

resnais3.jpg

In other hands this might be an incidental decoration but, as Providence demonstrates, Resnais was a director who enjoyed significant details, even if the signification isn’t always obvious. The Magritte painting serves two functions: its slow migration from one side of Claude’s apartment to the other (and the appearance of other pictures around it) shows the passage of time from one flashback to the next.

Continue reading “Art on film: Je t’aime, Je t’aime”

Magritte: The False Mirror

magritte2.jpg

Another short film about René Magritte’s paintings, The False Mirror was made three years after the artist’s death in 1970, a time when his work had started to receive widespread international attention. Prior to the 1960s Magritte wasn’t exactly unknown but it wasn’t until the arrival of Pop Art that his paintings began to be reappraised. The production credits for The False Mirror are surprising for such a short piece, the film being directed by art critic David Sylvester (whose book of interviews with Francis Bacon is essential), and photographed by Bruce Beresford, later to become a well-regarded film director. Among the voices reading from the artist’s statements is ELT Mesens, another Belgian artist and friend of Magritte’s whose presence in the later incarnation of the British Surrealist Group gave that small society some authentic gravitas. (George Melly talks about Mesens and the British Surrealists in this film.) The commentary runs over familiar ground: descriptions of the artist’s childhood encounter with a painter in a cemetery (also referred to in Magritte, ou la lecon de chose), and the details of his mother’s suicide (dramatised in David Wheatley’s film). I’d been wondering recently what Magritte might have made of the increasingly excessive prices being paid for his artworks. One of the comments here provides a possible answer when he says he’d be happy if people destroyed his paintings.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Magritte, ou la lecon de chose
René Magritte album covers
Monsieur René Magritte, a film by Adrian Maben
George Melly’s Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Surrealist
The Secret Life of Edward James
René Magritte by David Wheatley

Magritte, ou la lecon de chose

magritte.jpg

Good to find this one at last with English subtitles. Magritte, ou la lecon de chose is a short study of René Magritte’s paintings made in 1960 by Luc De Hersch. The title translates as “Magritte, or The Object Lesson”, and the film is of note for a few brief scenes in which the artist becomes a performer in order to communicate something of his aesthetic philosophy. We’re also shown a scene of Magritte and friends choosing a title for one of his paintings, while a voiceover provides further explication of the Magrittian view of reality. Given the access the director had to the artist, the film is frustratingly short but it serves as a reminder that there was a time when Magritte’s paintings seemed much more mysterious than they do today.

Previously on { feuilleton }
René Magritte album covers
Monsieur René Magritte, a film by Adrian Maben
George Melly’s Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Surrealist
The Secret Life of Edward James
René Magritte by David Wheatley