Weekend links 424

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Black Sun (1953) by Alexander Calder.

• “But Berlin Alexanderplatz transcends its genre elements, largely because of Döblin’s deep lack of hope about what can be expected of human beings.” Adam Kirsch on Alfred Döblin’s Berlin.

• “I occasionally dream of finding books that do not seem to exist (yet), and sometimes remember their titles,” says Mark Valentine.

• “I don’t read fiction.” He does, however, own 11,000 books. Alan Garner on writing a memoir of his wartime childhood.

What is it that I really like? I mean that’s the question that I think every musician and artists and everybody actually, is asking themselves; what they really like. And that means the emphasis is on REALLY like, meaning how do you push aside what you’ve been told, what you’ve been taught, what your friends like, and how much you like something because your friends like it or because it’s socially popular at the moment, or your girlfriend likes it or any of those ideas.

Jon Hassell (again) in an interview at Ableton

• How Alexander Calder sparked a modern fascination with mobiles (sculptures, that is, not telephones).

• Deep in Italy, one man’s Surrealist mini-city sleeps: Francky Knapp on Tomaso Buzzi’s La Scarzuola.

• “Even before electricity, robots freaked people out”: Lisa Hix on the history of clockwork automata.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s website devoted to neglected/abandoned films was launched this week.

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 664 by Lucy, and XLR8R Podcast 552 by Thomas Fehlmann.

Jean-Paul Goude‘s best photograph: an androgynous Grace Jones.

Marquis de Sade: 112 pages, 100 erotic illustrations.

The world’s most beautiful libraries

Sade Masoch (1968) by Bobby Callender | I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (1981) by Grace Jones | Black Sun (2011) by Demdike Stare

Weekend links 385

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• It won’t be out until late January—and then in the UK only—but the blu-ray premiere of The Mystery of Picasso (1956) by Henri-Georges Clouzot was announced this week. The initial run of the discs (there’s also a DVD) will include a booklet containing my essay about the film, something I was very pleased and honoured to be asked to write. Clouzot’s remarkable study of Picasso drawing and painting for the camera was made immediately after his masterwork, The Wages of Fear (also newly available on UK blu-ray), and this new edition will include two short extras, one of which, A Visit to Picasso (1949) by Paul Haesaerts, is an excellent precursor/companion to the main feature. More on this subject later.

• At the Internet Archive: an almost complete run of The Twilight Zone Magazine (1981–1989). While masquerading as a TV-series spin-off, TZ under the editorship of TED Klein was an excellent periodical devoted to horror and dark fantasy. In addition to running original fiction by major authors (Stephen King was a regular), the magazine contained features about older writers such as Lovecraft and Machen along with book reviews by Thomas Disch, film reviews by Gahan Wilson, interviews and more.

• “Bram Stoker was gay,” says Tom Cardamone in a review of Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula by David J. Skal. I’ve not read Skal’s book so can’t comment on its claims but his earlier Hollywood Gothic (about Dracula on page and screen) includes some discussion of “sexual ambiguity” in Stoker’s work.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 625 by Elena Colombi, Secret Thirteen Mix 235 by Rhys Fulber, and XLR8R Podcast 514 by Tommaso Cappellato.

Help, Help, The Globolinks! is a previously unreleased electronic soundtrack by Suzanne Ciani, out next week.

La Région Centrale (1971), Michael Snow’s epic of landscape gyrations in two parts, here and here.

Alexander Calder and the Optimism of Modernism: Jed Perl in Conversation with Morgan Meis.

• Illustrations by Lynd Ward for The Haunted Omnibus (1935) edited by Alexander Laing.

Daniel Dylan Wray on the gay-porn music of disco pioneer Patrick Cowley.

• It’s that man again (and his drawings): Ernst Haeckel: the art of evolution.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Steve Erickson presents A Black Psychedelia Primer.

Bootsy Collins‘ favourite albums.

Picasso (1948) by Coleman Hawkins | Pablo Picasso (1976) by The Modern Lovers | Picasso Suite pt. 1 (1993) by David Murray Octet

8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements

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Continuing the Cocteau theme, this fascinating film remains (for the time being) unavailable in a better copy despite its artistic all-star cast. 8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements (1957) can be regarded as a follow-up to Hans Richter’s Surrealist anthology Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947), the directorial credit this time being shared between Richter, Jean Cocteau and Marcel Duchamp. The latter famously quit the art world to devote more time to chess-playing so his involvement with a chess-based fantasy (self-described as “a fairytale for grownups”) isn’t so surprising:

It explores the realm behind the magic mirror which served Lewis Carroll 100 years ago to stimulate our imagination.

The cast comprises famous friends including Cocteau himself, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Paul Bowles, Fernand Leger, Alexander Calder, Duchamp, and, in the Venetian episode, Peggy Guggenheim in her favourite sunglasses. In places it’s closer to Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) than Dreams That Money Can Buy, especially since Anger’s film was another assemblage of unique personalities. One detail I’ve not seen remarked upon elsewhere is the presence behind the camera of Louis & Bebe Barron who assisted with the sound. The Barrons are better known today for their still astonishing all-electronic score for Forbidden Planet (1956). Watch 8 x 8 at Ubuweb or YouTube.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Dreams That Money Can Buy

Dreams That Money Can Buy

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Max Ernst.

The posts this week have all followed a Surrealist theme so I feel compelled to draw attention to the DVD-quality copy of Hans Richter’s Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947) at the Internet Archive. As mentioned before, Richter’s film is one of the key works of Surrealist cinema, made at the time when the art movement had been overwhelmed by the war in Europe but was finding a brief resurgence of interest in the United States. Hitchcock had drafted Salvador Dalí to design the dream sequences in Spellbound two years earlier which may have helped Richter to raise the funds for a colour feature film. The budget was low but the production values are a lot higher than other experimental films of the time, and Richter was able to find in New York a roster of world-class collaborators including Max Ernst, Paul Bowles, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage and Alexander Calder.

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The seven artists provide (and in Ernst’s case, perform in) the dreams that lead character Joe is selling to cover his rent. Fernand Léger’s contribution is a song sequence, The Girl with the Prefabricated Heart, about love among the showroom dummies, while Marcel Duchamp’s spinning discs are given another outing accompanied by music from John Cage. Dreams That Money Can Buy is a fascinating film that’s essential viewing for anyone interested in the art of this period. It’s also a film to which Kenneth Anger owes a small debt: the sleeping woman in Ernst’s Desire sequence is seen at one point swallowing a golden ball that hovers above her mouth, a trick that Anger later borrowed for Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.

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Also at the Internet Archive are three further Richter films: two short works, Rhythmus 21 (1921) and Filmstudie (1925), and also Ghosts Before Breakfast (1927), an inventive experimental piece using cut-up imagery, simple animation and trick photography.

Previously on { feuilleton }
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier
Entr’acte by René Clair