{ feuilleton }


• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


More Quays: Slow Time—Tempus Fugit


This short video—officially released to YouTube by the makers of Leffe, a Belgian beer—is two films in one: Slow Time is a brief portrait of the Brothers Quay by Gary Tarn, more fleeting even than Christopher Nolan’s film; Tempus Fugit is an ad by the Quays for Leffe beer that’s more typical than many of their earlier commissions from the commercial world. The portrait is one of six promotional pieces that Leffe have made about artists. Belgian beer seems a fitting product for the Quays when you know that the production company they formed with Keith Griffith in 1979, Atelier Koninck, took its name from a Belgian beer mat.



Tempus Fugit.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013
Holzmüller and the Quays
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD


Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013


In previous posts about the Quay Brothers’ films I’ve expressed a hope that we might see a new collection from the BFI that gathers together more of their recent works. That’s what we have now in a 2-disc Blu-ray set that will be released in the UK on 10th October.


Quay (2015) directed by Christopher Nolan.

The new collection repeats the contents of the earlier BFI DVD set, The Short Films 1979–2003, while adding some of their recent commissions including Maska (2010), Through the Weeping Glass (2011), and Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H. (2013). Among the extras there’s a short portrait of the brothers, Quay (2015), directed by Christopher Nolan. This shows the Quays at work in their Southwark studio where they discuss the technical details of animation and puppet-making a little more than I’ve seen in other interviews. Nolan’s film is both beguiling and frustrating, the latter for being so inexplicably short. When I first saw Quay announced I thought it might be a feature-length documentary rather than a fleeting glimpse; the Quays have been interviewed regularly over the past few years so they’re not exactly unforthcoming. I’m hoping now that Nolan’s public enthusiasm for the brothers might at least help them to make another feature, a decade having elapsed since The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005).


Street of Crocodiles (1986).

As to the films, seeing them in high-definition is certainly a plus although the earliest ones were all made in 16mm so they don’t gain a great deal. Street of Crocodiles, however, looks superb, and I found myself noticing details that I’d earlier missed despite numerous viewings. I’m disappointed that two early shorts, Igor: The Paris Years (1982) and Leos Janácek: Intimate Excursions (1983), remain unreleased due to apparent problems with music copyrights. (See this post for YouTube links.) Also uncollected are their other music videos apart from the two produced for His Name Is Alive, together with a handful of other short pieces. (See this post for further links.)


Street of Crocodiles (1986).

Of the longer films on the second disc, Maska has become a favourite, with its combination of a baroque science-fiction scenario (from Stanislaw Lem) and a score by Penderecki. Through the Weeping Glass, a 30-minute documentary about the medical oddities housed in the Mütter Museum in the Quays’ home city of Philadelphia, is a kind of companion piece to The Phantom Museum (2003), a similar study of the Wellcome Collection in London. This is the first film the Europhile Quays have made in the US, and comes with a short documentary showing them at work on the film, and an interview about the production. I’m still getting used to their shift to digital video—I miss the grain and texture of their films—but since I’ve been working digitally myself for many years now I can’t complain if others choose to do the same.


The preview discs of the new collection came without the booklet which will be present in the package. This will include an updated Quays Dictionary by Michael Brooke (as featured in the previous BFI collection), and the 2012 “interview” by the deceased calligrapher Heinrich Holzmüller, On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets. The latter appeared in the catalogue for the Quays’ MoMA exhibition where it was printed at an eye-straining point size. I’m hoping the BFI version will be an improvement.

The Films
Nocturna Artificialia (1979)
The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer (1984)
This Unnameable Little Broom (1985)
Street of Crocodiles (1986)
Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1988)
Stille Nacht I: Dramolet (1988)
Ex-Voto (1989)
The Comb (1990)
Anamorphosis (1991)
The Calligrapher (Parts I, II, III) (1991)
Stille Nacht II: Are We Still Married? (1992)
Stille Nacht III: Tales from Vienna Woods (1993)
Stille Nacht IV: Can’t Go Wrong Without You (1994)
In Absentia (2000)
The Phantom Museum (2003)
Songs for Dead Children (2003)
Eurydice, She So Beloved (2007)
Alice in Not so Wonderland (2007)
Kinoteka Ident (2008)
Inventorium of Traces (2009)
Wonderwood for Comme des Garçons (2010)
Maska (2010)
Through the Weeping Glass (2011)
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H. (2013)

Special features
Introduction by the Quay Brothers (2006, 20 mins)
Quay (2015, 8 mins): a film by Christopher Nolan
Quay Brothers audio commentaries for This Unnameable Little Broom, Street of Crocodiles, Stille Nacht I-III and In Absentia
The Falls [excerpt] (1980, 5 mins)
BFI Distribution ident (1991, 30 secs)
The Summit (1995, 12 mins)
No Bones About It: Quay Brothers (2010, 12 mins)
Behind the Scenes with the Quay Brothers (2013, 31 mins)
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H. trailer (2 mins)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Holzmüller and the Quays
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD


Weekend links 329


Josef Vyletal borrows figures from Aubrey Beardsley’s Salomé for a Czech poster promoting The Immortal Story (1969) by Orson Welles. Vyletal’s own paintings were often strange and surreal.

Pale Fire is Nabokov’s “great gay comic novel,” says Edmund White. A surprising but not inappropriate reappraisal. White has noted in the past that Nabokov “hated homosexuality” despite having a gay brother and uncle. The portrayal of Charles Kinbote in Pale Fire isn’t unsympathetic if you overlook his being delusional, and possibly insane…

• At Folk Horror Revival: details of the charity donations raised by sales of the Folk Horror Revival books, the first of which featured my David Rudkin essay. A one-day Folk Horror Revival event takes place later this month at the British Museum, London.

• Mixes of the week: The Bug presents Killing Sound Chapter 2: Inner Space, a 2-hour blend of “sci-fi scores, expansive atmospheres and synthesized psychedelia”; Decoded Sundays presents Scanner; Secret Thirteen Mix 197 is by LXV.

Stars Of The Lid unveil a James Plotkin remix of their Music For Twin Peaks Episode #30 Pt. 1. Related: the hype for the new Twin Peaks series gets into gear with a teaser.

• Robert Aickman’s only novel, The Late Breakfasters (1964), is being given its first US publication by Valancourt Books.

• “Don’t dream it, bet it.” Evan J. Peterson on 40 years of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

• Anna von Hausswolff’s sister, Maria, directs a video for Come Wander With Me / Deliverance.

• RIP Michael O’Pray, film writer and curator of many festivals of experimental cinema.

• Oli Warwick talks to electronic musicians about the influence of the late Don Buchla.

Breakfast In Bed (1969) by Dusty Springfield | Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast (1970) by Pink Floyd | Another Breakfast With You (2001) by Ladytron


Old Weird and New Weird


Savoy Books, 1984.

A couple more recent arrivals that feature my work. These are of minority interest but worth noting since academic articles don’t always travel beyond a small audience of subscribers.

A recent issue of Foundation (The International Review of Science Fiction), Volume 45.1, number 123, contains an article by Mark P. Williams, Underground Assemblages: Savoy Dreams and The Starry Wisdom. This examines the legacy of New Worlds magazine under the editorship of Michael Moorcock (from 1964 to 1974) via two writing collections, Savoy Dreams (Savoy Books, 1984) and The Starry Wisdom (Creation Books, 1994). The two collections are very different: Savoy Dreams, edited by David Britton and Michael Butterworth, was an eclectic overview of Savoy’s publishing endeavours up to that point. Among the original writing there’s fiction by Butterworth, M. John Harrison (the first publication of the Viriconium story, Lords of Misrule) and others, plus a reaction by Michael Moorcock to William Burroughs’ Cities of the Red Night, a book that Savoy had contracted to publish before police harassment forced the company’s bankruptcy. The rest of the book is taken up with press reviews of Savoy books.


Creation Books, 1994. Cover art by Peter Smith.

The Starry Wisdom should require less of an introduction since the book has been in print since 1994, and has a small, possibly notorious, reputation among HP Lovecraft enthusiasts. Editor DM Mitchell felt that the assembling of post-Lovecraftian fiction up to that point had been too cosy and insular: too many story collections were being edited and written by groups of friends in the genre fiction “community”, with the result that the stories were often stale and complacent. The startling newness of Lovecraft’s imagination in comparison to many of his contemporaries in Weird Tales seemed to have been bled away into pastiche, a process that began soon after Lovecraft’s death. Mitchell’s solution was to commission original pieces of Lovecraft-inspired work from writers outside the genre world, notably Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and newcomer David Conway; he also reprinted pieces that would never appear elsewhere as Lovecraftian fiction, including Wind Die. You Die. We Die. by William Burroughs, and Prisoner of the Coral Deep by JG Ballard. Burroughs and Ballard connect directly to New Worlds, of course (Ballard wrote about Burroughs for the magazine), while the pair cast a shadow over many of Savoy’s book productions. Both Savoy Dreams and The Starry Wisdom featured comic strips; Tales of the Cramps by Kris Guidio appeared in Savoy Dreams, while The Starry Wisdom contained strips by Mike Philbin & James Havoc, Rick Grimes, and the first publication of my own adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu.

I was surprised—and pleased—that my comic strip receives a fair amount of scrutiny in Williams’ piece. My Lovecraft strips have received almost no attention from the comics world, a consequence of having been printed by book publishers and distributed to book shops. (A rare exception was this recent piece by Matt Maxwell.) When you’ve been overlooked in this manner it’s a surprise to find your work receiving serious evaluation from an entirely different quarter. Mark P. Williams’ essay examines the contents of both collections, my strip included, as “assemblages”. This is a valid critique in the case of the Cthulhu strip since Lovecraft’s story is itself an assemblage of what seems at first to be unrelated data. The comic adaptation assembles a range of cultural references—some genuine, others invented—to parallel the narrator’s investigation, and even uses genuine documents in places, including columns from The New York Times. I don’t know if Williams has seen the blog post I made that points out many of the cultural references but he notes some of the more overt ones, such as Joseph Conrad appearing as the doomed Professor Angell, Arnold Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead, and so on. While I was drawing the strip I was trying to imagine the story as an RKO production, a hybrid of two island films—The Most Dangerous Game and King Kong—and Orson Welles’ unmade Heart of Darkness. These references, many of which aren’t very obvious, were largely for my own amusement. The series I created with David Britton that followed the Lovecraft strips, Reverbstorm, puts assemblage and cultural reference at the forefront.


Cover art is my illustration for Remnants from Lovecraft’s Monsters, edited by Ellen Datlow.

The Cthulhu strip and the Reverbstorm series—now collected as Lord Horror: Reverbstorm—are the subject of a very perceptive piece by Benjamin Noys in the latest edition of Genre, an academic journal published by Duke University Press. This number of the journal is a kind of Weird special edited by Benjamin Noys and Timothy S. Murphy. Noys’ Full Spectrum Offence: Savoy’s Reverbstorm and the Weirding of Modernity is the final article in a publication that examines aspects of the “Old Weird” (ie: the Lovecraft-era Weird Tales) and contrasts it with the more recent “New Weird”. The latter was a short-lived label coined by M. John Harrison in 2003 for a range of fiction that was ignoring genre boundaries, and consciously developing the Weird as a project. China Miéville was one of the most visible proponents of the New Weird, and Harrison’s term emerged in part as a response to Miéville’s fiction. Miéville is interviewed in this issue of Genre where, as usual, he has some very worthwhile things to say. He prefers the term “haute Weird” for the original manifestation, possibly because it avoids the negative connotations of the word “old”.


A spread from part 7 of Reverbstorm.

Benjamin Noys’ article is lengthy and resists easy summary, but it begins by investigating the way my work on the Lovecraft strips permeated the Lord Horror comics and dictated some of the imagery, in particular the architectural forms and eruptions of monstrosity. Later discussion concerns the way that Reverbstorm forces the Weird and Modernism together, a collision that I believe is still unique anywhere, never mind in the comics medium. Noys’ piece has given me a lot to think about, not least for its being the first substantial critical appraisal of Reverbstorm. The series is a difficult one, being deliberately excessive and avant-garde, and presenting the reader with a torrent of interrelating cultural references. Many of these are itemised in the appendix but the success (or not) of their working together, and the potential sparking of connections, depends very much on the prior knowledge of the individual reader. Noys is not only knowledgeable but adept at forging his own connections while situating the series in the larger context of the Weird, old (or haute) and new. Even without the inclusion of my work inside the journal and on the cover, I’d recommend this issue of Genre to anyone with an interest in the subject. One of the reasons I favour the Weird as a chosen work label is the way it evades (or ignores) generic boundaries. Years ago I realised that many of the things I liked the best in the arts were the chimeras, those works that transgress boundaries and created new hybrids. No surprise then that I enjoy a genre that refuses easy definition. There aren’t many masts I pin my colours to but the Weird is one of them.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Weird


Weekend links 328


Feathers and Weights (2016) by Susan Jamison.

• The latest release from A Year In The Country is No More Unto The Dance, “a reflection of nightlife memories and the search for the perfect transportative electronic beat”.

Depero Futurista (1927), the bolted book showcasing the artistic work of Fortunato Depero, returns in a facsimile edition.

• This week in the occult: Sam Kean on 21st-century alchemists, and a second volume of The Occult Activity Book.

How could so many jazz critics have overlooked Davis’s powerful trumpet playing on Bitches Brew, and its continuities with his previous work? The reason for their bewilderment was, in large part, the brew, the music’s muddy electric bottom, which bore no resemblance to the jazz they knew. Davis had never been a pure bopper, but his music had always made allusion, however oblique, to the grammar of Parker and Gillespie. On Bitches Brew, Davis decisively broke with his roots in bop. As [George] Grella argues, building on the pivotal work of Greg Tate and Paul Tingen, the more revealing points of comparison were no longer to be found in jazz but in the psychedelic guitar of Jimi Hendrix, the warbled vocals of Sly Stone, and the bass lines of James Brown.

Adam Shatz on Miles Davis

Daniel Wenger on Bob Mizer, “the obsessive photographer behind America’s first gay magazine”.

The Hauntings at Tankerton Park, a book of words and very detailed drawings by Reggie Oliver.

• A 40-minute performance by Pentangle for Norwegian television in 1968.

Maisie Skidmore on ten things you may not know about René Magritte.

• Shirley Collins is the secret queen of England, says Nick Abrahams.

Eighth Climate: ethnographic recordings from the imaginal world.

Pasquale Iannone on five ways to recognise a Pasolini film.

The greatest record sleeves, as chosen by the designers.

Cosmic Horror, new comics work by Ibrahim R. Ineke.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 569 by S U R V I V E.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: 47 unmade films.

Cosmic Dancer (1971) by T. Rex | Cosmic Slop (1973) by Funkadelic | Cosmic Tango (1973) by Ash Ra Tempel



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Penda's Fen by David Rudkin