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


 

Wildeana 13

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Oscar Wilde, no. 26 (1882). One of a series of photo portraits taken by Napoleon Sarony when Wilde was in New York.

Every day is an anniversary for something. Among other things, October 16th 2014 is the 160th anniversary of the day that Oscar Wilde was brought to Earth in a spaceship—see Velvet Goldmine for details—so in honour of that moment here’s a few more Wildean links.

• One item of news I missed last month was Al Pacino’s announcement that he’ll be bringing his production of Wilde’s Salomé to the London stage in 2016. Good to hear that his enthusiasm was sparked by the excellent Steven Berkoff production, and this detail is especially noteworthy: “There will be make-up, sets, costumes… and decadence. It will be a whole different thing to what we did in America.”

• Turkish censors still have problems with Anglophone novels that publishers attempt to present in Turkish translations—the work of William Burroughs caused a fuss a couple of years ago—but last month an uncensored edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray was published there for the first time.

Oscar Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland: “We’ve got as close as we can to hearing him speak” Holland has co-written The Trials of Oscar Wilde, a dramatisation of Wilde’s court appearances which opens at Trafalgar Studios, London, this week.

The extraordinary story of Oscar Wilde’s holiday in Worthing in 1894. James Connaughton interviews Antony Edmonds about his new book, Oscar Wilde’s Scandalous Summer: The 1894 Worthing Holiday and the Aftermath.

The beau of Reading jail: was prisoner 1122 Oscar Wilde’s lover? (The answer to any newspaper headline ending with a question mark is invariably “No”.)

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive

 


Ivan Bilibin’s Russian Wonder Tales

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Halloween approaches so a picture of Wassilissa the Beautiful carrying a skull on a stick suits the season, as do the psilocybin-like mushrooms in the border. This edition of Russian Wonder Tales (1917) was a retelling of Russian folk tales by Post Wheeler for a British readership. Ivan Bilibin’s illustrations date from some twenty years earlier, however, and their colours are compromised by age and printing, but you at least get to see them with their stories in English. Among the pictures below there’s a nice portrait of the ever-bizarre Baba Yaga scooting through the forest.

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Here and There, a film by Andrzej Pawlowski

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I only realised earlier today that the post about The Saragossa Manuscript provides continuity with last week’s examples of Polish cinema; unintentional but it shows where my head is at just now.

Here’s another example, and another abstract filmmaker I hadn’t come across before. Andrzej Pawlowski (1925–1986) was also a painter, and his films take a painterly approach to their manipulation of light and colour. Here and There is a short from 1957 that would have been labelled psychedelic if it had been made ten years later. The gorgeous visuals seem at odds with the score by Adam Walacinski, a typical piece of mid-century dissonance that now seems less avant-garde than merely unsuitable. One challenge of abstract cinema is to find music (if music is required) that doesn’t seem to have been chosen at random. Here and There would work just as well with many other six-minute pieces as its score.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Power Spot by Michael Scroggins
OffOn by Scott Bartlett
The Flow III
Chris Parks
Len Lye
Matrix III by John Whitney
Symphonie Diagonale by Viking Eggeling
Mary Ellen Bute: Films 1934–1957
Norman McLaren
John Whitney’s Catalog
Arabesque by John Whitney
Moonlight in Glory
Jordan Belson on DVD
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney

 


Saragossa Manuscript posters

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Polish poster (1965) by Jerzy Skarzynski who was also the film’s production designer.

I love The Saragossa Manuscript, both the novel by Potocki and the movie by Has. I saw the film three times which, in my case, is absolutely exceptional.

Luis Buñuel in My Last Sigh (1983)

No surprise that a lifelong Surrealist was enamoured with Jan Potocki’s rambling collection of stories-within-stories. The 1965 Polish film by Wojciech Has had another famous enthusiast in Jerry Garcia whose efforts to restore and reissue The Saragossa Manuscript helped bring the film to a new generation of viewers in 1999. I was a beneficiary of this, having been intrigued for years by descriptions whilst hoping in vain that it might turn up on television. I prefer the film to the novel although to be fair to Potocki it’s a long time since I read his book.

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Another Polish design showing Zbigniew Cybulski as Alphonse.

Watching The Saragossa Manuscript again this weekend sent me looking for posters, some of which can be seen below. There are odd omissions: plenty of examples from the Eastern Bloc countries but few at all from Western Europe. The film suffered by having its 3-hour running time hacked about by distributors which didn’t help its reception outside Poland. The manuscript of the title is a book discovered during a skirmish in the Napoleonic wars, an account of the strange adventures of Alphonse Van Worden in the Sierra Morena region of Spain; one of the soldiers reading the manuscript is Van Worden’s grandson, the first of many coincidental connections. Van Worden’s adventures seem macabre at first—there are more bones in the opening scenes than in many horror films—but they soon turn farcical. As a burgeoning cast of characters appears, many of whom have their own tales to tell, the mood veers into outright sex comedy, albeit with mild philosophical overtones. Some scenes aren’t very far removed from Monty Python, especially those that feature an inept band of Spanish Inquisitors.

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Background drawings from the title sequence. Yes, the score is by Penderecki, his first.

All of which means this is another film that presents a challenge for a poster designer. Most of the early examples take their cues from the opening titles whose backgrounds feature drawings with a vaguely Surrealist and occult flavour that I’m guessing are also the work of Jerzy Skarzynski.

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Weekend links 229

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Untitled (2007) by Remko van Drongelen.

• Another week, another Kickstarter project: Frank Woodward’s 2008 documentary, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, was an excellent study of HP Lovecraft’s life and work featuring interviews with John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Peter Straub, Guillermo Del Toro and leading Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi; the film also included a few examples of my Cthulhoid artwork. Disc copies of the film have been out-of-print for a while so Frank’s fund is hoping to raise money for a new Blu-ray edition featuring extended interviews and other extras.

• David Cronenberg’s debut novel, Consumed, “reads somewhat like a mashup of William Gibson, the king of near-future SF cool, and 1970s horror maestro James Herbert,” says Steven Poole. I’d have thought a more obvious analogy would be with JG Ballard; descriptions of Cronenberg’s narrative make it sound like Ballard’s concerns repurposed for our current era of electronically-mediated everything. Related: Crash by Sanyú, “adaptación de un fragmento de la novela de J. Ballard”.

• “To commune with the music of Cyclobe is to enter not just a strange world, but strange constellations – interdimensional, atemporal zones of carefully cultivated auras bordering wild, unstable forces.” Russell Cuzner talks to Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower about Derek Jarman, hurdy-gurdies and the deceptive nature of time.

…there are no rules in fiction even if creative writing programs everywhere have tried to make people believe there are. When I read fiction that has passed through the filter of too many workshops, I often get the feeling that I’m reading the same novel over and over again: the same way of being humorous, the same way of being candid, the same way of creating empathy.

Valeria Luiselli talking to Jennifer Kabat about fiction, cities and maps.

• The rationale behind Silent Partners: Artist & Mannequin from Function to Fetish is “to explore the way that the artificial human figure has routinely provided artists with the most direct and reliable route to visual realism. And then to work out why that makes us so upset.” Kathryn Hughes on a new exhibition.

• “It immediately throws up some interesting thoughts: Bowie as the young dandy and the obvious comparisons with Oscar Wilde and The Picture Of Dorian Gray, with the portrait that ages.” Designer Jonathan Barnbrook on the cover photos for David Bowie’s forthcoming album Nothing Has Changed.

• October brings all the music mixes. This week there’s a choice of FACT mix 463 by Dntel, Autumn’s Whirr by Café Kaput (aka Jon Brooks), and Suspected Rural Telephone Box Poltergeist by The Geography Trip.

• “…when you first go into the room it’s like entering a furnace… a furnace of sound.” Scott Walker talks to John Doran about recording with Sunn O))). The new album, Soused, is out on 20th October.

We are the Martians: the Legacy of Nigel Kneale, a new collection of Kneale-related essays and appreciations, edited by Neil Snowdon.

• Kim Newman is one of the contributors to the Kneale collection. Here he is on the main types of ghost story, and how to recognize them.

Issue 7 of Glitterwolf magazine is out on the 15th, and it’s a Halloween special.

Etai Rahmil makes mask-pipes from glass for weed smokers.

Accidental Cool Art

Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) by Donovan | Hurdy Gurdy Man (1970) by Eartha Kitt | Hurdy Gurdy Man (2009) by Patrick Cowley & Jorge Socarras

 


 




 

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Below the fold

 

The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire