David Thompson made this 40-minute Ennio Morricone documentary for the BBC in 1995. I taped it at the time but haven’t watched it since so it was good to find again. The highlight is the lengthy interview with the man himself but there are also contributions from Christopher Frayling, Brian de Palma, Bernardo Bertolucci, Gillo Pontecorvo and others.
Red Parrot on the Branch of a Tree (c.1771) by Ito Jakuchu.
• Reporter John Stapleton (later a fixture of BBC TV) visits the Portobello Road offices of British underground newspaper Frendz for newsreel service British Pathé. The date says 1969 but it’s probably 1971 since earlier that year the magazine had changed its name from Friends. Among the unidentified interviewees is Rosie Boycott, later the founder of Britain’s first feminist magazine, Spare Rib, and now Baroness Boycott. She may have predicted the former in 1971 but I doubt she would have expected a seat in the House of Lords.
• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis talks with martial artist and psilocybin explorer Kilindi Iyi about African martial arts, high dose psilocybin work, African-American psychedelia, Dr. Strange, and the metaphysics of darkness.
• Bloom, the generative music app by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers, is given a tenth-anniversary relaunch this month. The new app will also (finally) be available for Android as well as Apple machines.
Early on, I realized my interest in [William] Burroughs’ work was less to do with the cut-up novels and more with the documented research and investigation of the human condition, technology, control, travel, dreams, drug culture, shamanism, and Hassan-I Sabbah. Books like The Job, The Electronic Revolution and especially, The Third Mind with Brion Gysin were particularly important to me. […] As for integrating Burroughs’ work into the music, it’s not about the history of a literary collaboration, but rather the complete fusion in a praxis of two subjectivities that metamorphosize into a third. From this collusion, a new author emerges—an absent third person, invisible and beyond reach, recording the silence.
From 2017: Bill Laswell in a satisfyingly lengthy interview with Anil Prasad
• Secret Satan, 2018: being the annual Strange Flowers “round-up of giftable cultural history with which you can unmistakably signal your degenerate cosmopolitan values”.
• Laurie Spiegel’s second album of electronic music, Unseen Worlds, was never given a proper release in 1990. This situation will be rectified in January.
• More Gorey: biographer Mark Dery and design historian Steven Heller discuss Edward Gorey’s life and work.
• More Nicolas Roeg: David Thompson on one of Britain’s greatest film directors.
• John Waters picks his films of the year.
• RIP Bernardo Bertolucci
The Spider’s Stratagem (1970) is Bernardo Bertolucci’s adaptation of the Jorge Luis Borges story The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero; Death and the Compass (1992) is Alex Cox’s adaptation of the story Death and the Compass by the same author; Spiderweb (1977) is an earlier adaptation of Death and the Compass which is both shorter than Cox’s film, and also a more successful Borgesian drama.
Borges’ story plays Kabbalistic games with the familiar shapes of detective fiction, creating its frisson by the tension between an elaborate murder mystery and the intellectual puzzle which leads to its solution. In Cox’s extended version this is presented in an overbearing style reminiscent of Terry Gilliam at his most exasperating; despite a decent cast it’s also rather poorly directed in places. By contrast, Paul Miller’s adaptation runs for 30 minutes and conveys the story very smartly and efficiently. The setting is “Borghesia” rather than Argentina but the general style is that of a Hollywood detective story, American accents and all. The always reliable Nigel Hawthorne plays the cerebral detective Erik Lönnrot. Considering this was a graduation film it’s an excellent piece of work which the director himself has made available on YouTube. Watch it here.
Gare d’Orsay, coupe transversale (1898). Plan de Victor Laloux.
The Google Art Project is currently featuring a slideshow history of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, showing the museum’s evolution from the world’s first all-electric rail terminal to its current status as a major repository of 19th-century art. The Gare d’Orsay was built to bring visitors to the Exposition Universelle of 1900, an event regular readers should be familiar with by now, a connection which only compounds the interest I have in the place. (See this recent post and the links below it for more on the subject.)
Projet A.C.T. Architecture (Renaud Bardon, Pierre Colboc, Jean-Paul Philippon). Coupe perspective générale, Octobre 1979.
In addition to the building being one of the few structures remaining from the exposition, its dishevelled splendour provided Orson Welles with a fantastically evocative (and cheap!) set for his 1962 film of The Trial. It’s surprising to read that people objected to this, believing the spaces to be too large. The disjunction of space in Welles’ film is one of its great strengths, as is the confusion of architectural styles and detail. Much of this was improvisation imposed by necessity—money not being available for the sets that were planned—but it makes the film all the more labyrinthine and disorienting.
Illustration by Ermanno Iaia. Hard to believe that Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) is only now appearing on DVD in the UK. Arrow Films release a dual-format edition at the end of this month.
• The week in perfume: Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez is reviewed by Emily Gould (“this is a golden age of perfume criticism”) and prompts a meditation on the art and process of scent from Rishidev Chaudhuri.
• Electrical Banana by Norman Hathaway & Dan Nadel is “the first definitive examination of the international language of psychedelia, focusing on the most important practitioners in their respective fields”.
• Coilhouse discovered a rough copy of Bells of Atlantis (1952), an experimental film which features Anaïs Nin, input from Len Lye and an electronic score by Louis & Bebe Barron.
• “The idea that we should have but two options when it comes to our gender presentation, male or female, has always felt ludicrous to me,” says LaJohn Joseph.
Bely paints “a universe of strange manifestations” which drifts across Apollonovich’s consciousness every night before he falls asleep. We are even shown congeries of images that are shards of events which took place that day for the senator: “all the earlier inarticulacies, rustlings, crystallographic figures, the golden, chrysanthemum-like stars racing through the darkness on rays that resembled myriapods”
Malcom Forbes on Andrei Bely’s masterwork, Petersburg (1916).
• The Brothers Quay will be at work in Leeds city centre this May. Lucky Leeds.
• Warm Leatherette, a short film by Analogue Solutions.