Weekend links 358

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Painted beetle (2016) by Akihiro Higuchi.

David Horbury: The Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition ignores the pioneering scholarship of Emmanuel Cooper, author of The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the last 100 years in the West (1986).

L’Androgyne Alchemique is an exhibition at the Azzedine Alaïa Gallery, Paris, by pascALEjandro, a collaboration between Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

• At Strange Flowers: an interview with DJ Sheppard, biographer of poet Theodore Wratislaw (1871–1933), one of the models for Max Beerbohm’s hapless Enoch Soames.

Eloise or, the Realities is a new 122-page comic book by Ibrahim R. Ineke “inspired in part by Children of the Stones and The Owl Service“.

• Cormac McCarthy hasn’t published a novel for over ten years now but this new piece of writing addresses the mysterious origin of language.

• “…she invented a kind of symbolic code that channelled the occult and the Renaissance masters”. Yo Zushi on Leonora Carrington.

John O’Reilly on the Samuel Beckett cover designs created by Russell Mills and Gary Day-Ellison for Picador.

Porter Ricks (Thomas Köner & Andy Mellwig) have announced their first album in 18 years.

• At The Daily Grail: Alan Moore on science, imagination, language and spirits of place.

• All 66 issues of Performance Magazine (1979–1992) are now available online.

• The Throbbing Gristle catalogue is being reissued (again).

Lost Soul In Disillusion (1967) by The Power Of Beckett | Liquid Insects (1993) by Amorphous Androgynous | Biokinetics 2 (1996) by Porter Ricks

Summerisle revisited

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I don’t buy many of my own things from CafePress but I had some credit in the account from recent sales so I had to get one of these. (I’m also not in the habit of carrying whisky around but it’s good to have the option.) When I have a spare moment I may add this design to more of the burgeoning range of products. For the moment, these are the available options. Happy Equinox and slàinte mhath!

Previously on { feuilleton }
Summerisle souvenirs
Wicker mania
Milbury souvenirs
Children of the Stones

Summerisle souvenirs

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Presenting the second in what is now a series of travel posters for the fictional regions of Old Weird Britain. In 2012 I created a poster for the village of Milbury from Children of the Stones, a design derived from the London Transport posters of the 1920s promoting destinations outside the city. At the time I had a vague idea of maybe doing more in this style but it’s taken this long to produce something new.

Summerisle is an obvious choice but not necessarily an easy one. The popularity of The Wicker Man means that a small cottage industry of Summerisle souvenirs already exists, most of the products being concerned with the events of May Day 1973. A travel poster would represent a location rather than a single date so that wasn’t a problem, but I also wanted to avoid any Wicker Man silhouettes. The appearance of the Wicker Man at the end of the film is a secret being revealed, it’s not something the islanders would broadcast to the world, hence the concentration here on the village, the manor house and the standing stones. The sole nod to the island’s customs is the group of people lurking behind a wall. Another temptation would be to use the Nuada sun as seen in the film but others have already made use of that so I took a sun face from an old Tarot card.

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As with the Milbury poster, this is now a design available on a range of CafePress products. These are mostly paper goods for the time being; setting up new shops at CafePress becomes increasingly time-consuming as the company adds more yet clothing, phone cases and household goods. Among the new products, however, there’s a stainless steel flask which I wouldn’t usually add but which is perfect for a design promoting a Scottish island. I think I’ll have to order one for myself.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Wicker mania
Milbury souvenirs
Children of the Stones

Wicker mania

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US reissue poster (1979).

The restored version of The Wicker Man (1973) has been showing in UK cinemas recently, and the Blu-ray edition of the film is released this week. My copy arrived from Moviemail, and while I’m not in a great hurry to watch it again—this is one film that’s so familiar I could lip-synch along with it—it’s been a pleasure to compare the restored scenes to the long-version DVD which appeared in 2002. The earlier version had its missing scenes taken from a 1-inch videotape which was considerably poorer quality than the rest of the film. The restored scenes still look grainy and slightly washed out but now they at least look like pieces of film, not interpolations from video. The screengrabs below show the difference between scenes from the 2002 DVD compared to their equivalents on the Blu-ray. The rest of the film looks pristine, of course.

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The new version isn’t as long as the longest version, however, a preliminary sequence in and around the mainland police station having been excised. In a lengthy feature in the October edition of Sight & Sound director Robin Hardy explains that he disliked what he calls “the Z-Cars section” (referring to an old UK TV series), and it’s true that it doesn’t help the story at all. Whether they like it or not, viewers of the film have to accept constable Howie as their proxy within the story, and he’s an insufferable prig throughout. That’s bearable in the context of his presence on Summerisle but the mainland sequence throws his character into relief against his less priggish colleagues.

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Another slight omission is the title card which used to precede the film thanking Lord Summerisle and the islanders for allowing the filmmakers to observe their rituals. In its place we have a zoom into the face of Nuada the Sun God, a painted rendering of a carved figure seen in the film. I’ve always liked this face which has become an emblem of the film even though it’s not present in all versions. (For more detail about the tangled history of the various prints, see this site.)

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Cover photo by Oliver Hunter.

A rather bad drawing of the Nuada face appears at the beginning of each chapter of the novelisation which Hamlyn published in 1979 (and on the cover of the US edition from the year before). This was the year when the film’s reputation began to take off, and also the year it was reissued in the US. Although Hardy and screenwriter Anthony Shaffer are both credited for the novel I suspect the writing is mostly Shaffer’s work. It’s pretty good, and goes into considerable detail, fleshing out the story and Howie’s character, and also showing how much research the pair put into the pagan side of things. You also get the lyrics of some of the songs. Until the complete soundtrack appeared in 2002 the novel was the only place you could find the salacious missing verse from Willow’s Song which describes a maid milking a bull.

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And speaking of the soundtrack, the three-disc Blu-ray edition includes the complete soundtrack on one of its discs, a considerable bonus if you don’t have it already. I should note that my good friend Gav insists I mention that the film’s final brass fanfare—labelled as Sunset on the soundtrack album—is a Bulgarian folk tune entitled Rodopska Devoika Zamrakanala Mona Jana, something neither of us has ever seen credited.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Children of the Stones

Early British Trackways

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Continuing the earth mysteries/megaliths theme, Early British Trackways: Moats, Mounds, Camps, and Sites (1922) by Alfred Watkins (1855–1935) was the first book in which the ley lines theory was proposed. Watkins was an amateur archaeologist (more a kind of early psychogeographer), photographer and writer who theorised that ancient Britons had marked the land with pathways connected by a variety of natural and man-made features: hills, mounds, trees, ponds, hillside notches and (of course) standing stones. Watkins coined the term “ley” after noticing that many of the lines connecting these features ran through villages or areas of land whose names ended in “-ley”, “-lay” or similar. The thesis was developed more fully in The Old Straight Track (1925), a book which became the ur-text for subsequent ley hunters. I’ve never seen any of Watkins’ books so it was interesting finding this short volume at the Internet Archive, not least because several of the photos appear in Mysterious Britain (1972) by Janet & Colin Bord, a classic guide to Britain’s sacred sites and folk rituals.

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Watkins never regarded ley lines as having any mystic significance, he thought they were probably old trade routes. Archaeologists have never agreed with his suppositions, however, and Watkins himself might have disapproved of the conjectures added to his theories by John Michell in The View Over Atlantis (1969) which wedded ley line theory to feng shui to create the whole “lines of energy” idea. Whatever one thinks of Michell’s theories, that book and subsequent volumes put ley lines firmly into popular culture, and without them we wouldn’t have the references in Children of the Stones, Steve Hillage’s Green (1978) (pretty much a Michell-inspired concept album), Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass (1979) and so on. But this slim book is where it all begins.

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Illustration by Roger Dean (1972).

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