Le Golem, 1967

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There are always more Golems…

Le Golem is a 110-minute film based on Gustav Meyrink’s novel which hasn’t received as much attention as you’d expect considering the dearth of Meyrink adaptations. The production was for French TV so its obscurity may be a result of unavailability as much as anything else, television being a medium notorious for burying its own history. The DVD I was watching is an official release from INA with no subtitles (merci!), but English subs may be found online.

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Meyrink’s novel isn’t an obvious choice for film or television adaptation despite the popularity of the Golem theme. His story is an uneven blend of mysticism and melodrama related via many digressions and rambling conversations. The title and the Prague setting suggest Paul Wegener’s Der Golem (1920), with the ghetto monster dominating the proceedings, but Meyrink’s Golem remains in the shadows (if it exists at all), being more of a symbol for the mystical and psychological challenges that beset Athanasius Pernath, the novel’s protagonist. Given all this I’m curious to know who decided to adapt the story when there’s so much about the film that would confuse an audience who hadn’t read the novel. The opening scenes move rapidly from a stylised city of the 1960s to the Prague ghetto of the past while omitting the attempts of Meyrink’s narrator to make sense of his situation. A note on the DVD states that the film was broadcast at 8:30pm on the national channel, ORTF, which makes its peculiarities even more surprising.

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The director, Jean Kerchbron, spent much of his career filming adaptations of classic plays and stories for French television, ranging from adventure serials to Molière and Shakespeare. Writer Louis Pauwels was co-editor with Jacques Bergier of the popular Planète magazine, a journal of fantasy, science fiction and scientific speculation, but had little experience in the film world; Le Golem was his first feature for which he supplied the dialogue and adapted the story with Kerchbron. Pauwels and Bergier are names familiar to Anglophone readers of Fortean literature for The Morning of the Magicians (1960), their discursive treatise on “Fantastic Realism” whose success launched Planète and later gave David Bowie some ideas for lyrics. The pair refer to Meyrink in their book as a “neglected genius” prior to running an extract from one of the author’s later novels, The Green Face. Pauwels and Kerchbron manage to condense the work of the neglected genius without doing too much harm to his story, compressing some sections (a request for an explanation in a later scene is wisely rejected as “too complicated”) while omitting the overly mystical episodes that might have posed problems for a limited budget. Pauwels moves what’s left of the mysticism to Pernath’s philosophical voiceovers. Kerchbron’s direction is lively and much more elliptical than is usual for the plodding television medium. Novel and film only depart near the end when various plot threads are hastily tied together.

Continue reading “Le Golem, 1967”

Weekend links 516

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Bats in space: an illustration by Henrique Alvim Corrêa from a 1906 edition of The War of the Worlds.

• Auf wiedersehen to Florian Schneider. Until he left Kraftwerk in 2009 (or 2006 or whenever it was), Schneider had been the group’s longest-serving member, keeping things running for the few months in 1971 when Ralf Hütter was absent. The brief period when Kraftwerk was Schneider plus soon-to-be-Neu! (Michael Rother, guitar, and Klaus Dinger, drums) fascinates aficionados over-familiar with the later albums. The music they produced was a wild and aggressive take on the rock idiom but Scheider maintained the link with Kraftwerk before and after, not only instrumentally but with his ubiquitous traffic cones, as noted in this post. There’s no need for me to praise Kraftwerk any more than usual, this blog has featured at least one dedicated post about them for every year of its existence, and besides, the group itself is still active. Elsewhere: Simon Reynolds on how Florian Schneider and Kraftwerk created pop’s future; A Kraftwerk Baker’s Dozen Special; Dave Simpson attempts to rank 30 Kraftwerk songs (good luck getting anyone to agree with this); Jude Rogers with ten things you (possibly) don’t know about Kraftwerk; Dancing to Numbers by Owen Hatherley; Pocket Calculator in five languages; Florian Schneider talks about Stop Plastic Pollution.

Intermission is a new digital compilation from Ghost Box records featuring “preview tracks from forthcoming releases and material especially recorded for the compilation during the global lockdown”. In a choice of two editions, one of which helps fund Médecins Sans Frontières.

• How groundbreaking design weirdness transformed record label United Artists, against all odds. By Jeremy Allan.

Sex in an American suburb is not quite the same phenomenon as sex in, say, an eastern European apartment block, and sex scenes can do a great deal to illuminate the social and historical forces that make the difference. All of which is to say that sex is a kind of crucible of humanness, and so the question isn’t so much why one would write about sex, as why one would write about anything else.

And yet, of course, we are asked why we write about sex. The biggest surprise of publishing my first novel, What Belongs to You was how much people wanted to talk about the sex in a book that, by any reasonable standard, has very little sex in it. That two or three short scenes of sex between men was the occasion of so much comment said more about mainstream publishing in 2016, I think, than it did about my book. In fact, in terms of exploring the potential for sex in fiction, I felt that I hadn’t gone nearly far enough. I’ve tried to go much further in my second novel, Cleanness. In two of its chapters, I wanted to push explicitness as far as I could; I wanted to see if I could write something that could be 100% pornographic and 100% high art.

Garth Greenwell on sex in literature

James Balmont‘s guide to Shinya Tsukamoto, “Japan’s Greatest Cult Filmmaker”.

• A Dandy’s Guide to Decadent Self-Isolation by Samuel Rutter.

Maya-Roisin Slater on where to begin with Laurie Anderson.

• The Count of 13: Ramsey Campbell‘s Weird Selection.

Adam Scovell on where to begin with Nigel Kneale.

When John Waters met Little Richard (RIP).

RB Russell on collecting Robert Aickman.

Weird writers recommend weird films.

Campo Grafico 1933/1939.

Ruckzuck (1970) by Kraftwerk | V-2 Schneider (1977) by David Bowie | V-2 Schneider (1997) by Philip Glass

Weekend links 427

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Inside an O’Neill Cylinder, an orbital megastructure. Painting by Don Davis, 1975.

• RIP Lindsay Kemp: dancer, actor, choreographer and (if we have to drop names) mentor to David Bowie and Kate Bush. Kemp’s work has been featured here on a number of occasions, particularly his landmark productions of an all-male Salomé, and Flowers, A Pantomime for Jean Genet. There was also considerable overlap with Kemp’s troupe and the films of Derek Jarman via appearances by Kemp himself, David Haughton and the irrepressible Jack Birkett. The Genet production was filmed in 1982, and is now available on DVD. (There’s also a rougher copy with unmatched audio and video.) From 1970: Pierrot in Turquoise, or The Looking Glass Murders, a Commedia dell’arte performance for Scottish TV featuring David Bowie. And reversing roles, Mick Rock’s video for Bowie’s John, I’m Only Dancing featuring Kemp and company.

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis in conversation with activist and writer David Nickles about “the DMT Nexus, psychedelic militancy, extraction tek, the Statement on Open Science for Psychedelic Medicines, MAPS, and the trouble with for-profit psilocybin companies”.

• From the end of August to January 2019: Spellbound at the Ashmolean; “Spellbinding stories, fascinating objects…from crystal balls and magic mirrors to witch bottles and curse poppets”.

On Earth, as on the International Space Station, the collective misperception of a flat plane helps build community and culture. We are all equal in our geometric relationship to one another. The reality, of course, is that we do not stand parallel. Each of our bodies corresponds with a distinct radial vector on the surface of a sphere, pointing away from a common center that we can never perceive or occupy. Our vectors diverge by imperceptible angles.

In “inside-out” worlds like the Bernal Sphere and the concave Earth, the situation is reversed. Our feet all point outward, into an inaccessible, but technologically habitable void, while our heads point inward, some of us apparently “upside-down.” Standing, we rise toward a visible center, which can be reached simply by climbing a hill, strapping on wings, and jumping into the air, as low-tech as Icarus.

The Shape of Space by Fred Scharmen

Michael Moorcock again, interviewed this time by Bernard Braden in 1968. I think this one was for a Braden TV series which was never broadcast.

• “Stupid things are best”: Neil Fox on Conny Plank: The Potential of Noise, a documentary about the great music producer.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 556 by Helios, and An Ode to Eris with An Other Ode to Eris by The Ephemeral Man.

• A monstrous primer on the works of HP Lovecraft by Emma Stefansky. With illustrations by Michael Bukowski.

Silent Agents by Julius-Christian Schreiner: photographs of hostile architecture from around the world.

• Back to the Futuro: Mark Hodgkinson on the spaceship house that landed in Yorkshire.

• The Great Chinese Art Heist by Alex W. Palmer.

Rhizome: a new recording by Drew McDowall.

The Starman Tarot

Mad Pierrot (1978) by Yellow Magic Orchestra | Spellbound (1981) by Siouxsie And The Banshees | Sphere (2011) by Emptyset

Weekend links 416

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Cover art and design by Arien Vallzadeh, Dan Kuehn, Mati Klarwein & Taska Cleveland.

• At Bandcamp: “Jon Hassell collages the past on his absorbing new record”. The new album, Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One), was released last week, and it joins the rest of Hassell’s catalogue in sounding unlike any of his other albums while still being recognisably the work of the same artist. Musical collage is a familiar technique today but was much less common thirty years ago; it’s almost a constant in Hassell’s work, however, going back to Possible Musics (1980), with its tape-looped rhythms and layered recordings, to the later Magic Realism (1983), an album which was in the vanguard of digital sampling, and which still sounds like nothing else.

• “We’re supposedly in the middle of a vinyl revival, streaming services are hoovering up all the coin, and everyone seems to have a cassette column. But, argues James Toth, it’s the humble compact disc that we should be celebrating.” No argument here, I’ve long favoured CDs over vinyl even before the current fad for overpriced antique (or not-so-antique) discs and equally overpriced new pressings.

• “Reading [Robert] Aickman’s strange stories is to glimpse a reality you would prefer to forget,” says John Gray. Among the other writers mentioned in Gray’s piece is the excellent (and under-recognised) Walter de la Mare; Wormwoodiana’s Mark Valentine reviews a previously unseen de la Mare story.

• At The Wire: Greetings Music Lover: The premiere of Steve Urquhart’s new audio documentary exploring the life and work of BBC Radio Lancashire broadcaster and Wire contributor Steve Barker.

• Out in November: k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004–2016).

• “European cinema embraces the vagina—what’s taken Hollywood so long?” asks Anne Billson.

Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded by Jason Heller.

• “Avoid all systems”: Ex-Can vocalist Damo Suzuki is interviewed at Dangerous Minds.

• “A new room in the Great Pyramid”: lost 1963 John Coltrane album discovered.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 656 by Mor Elian, and 6 by The Ephemeral Man.

• An introduction by Erik Davis to The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson.

Pyramid Of The Sun (1960) by Les Baxter | The Giant Pyramid Sitting At The Bottom Of The Sea Of Bermuda And The Ancient People (1979) by Isao Tomita | The Obsidian Pyramid (2005) by Eric Zann

Weekend links 407

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Cover art by Alonso for a 1929 Spanish edition of The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde.

• Major music news of the week is the announcement, after a hiatus of nine years, of a new Jon Hassell album. Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) will be released on Hassell’s new label, Ndeya, in June. Meanwhile, Paul Schütze has a new album (also his first in a long while), The Sky Torn Apart, released at the end of this month by Glacial Movements. For those impatient for new sounds, Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing) by Hawthonn is out now, and very good it is too.

Ghost Story (1974): a British film directed by Stephen Weeks, and starring (among others) Marianne Faithfull, Penelope Keith, Murray Melvin and (in a rare appearance) Vivian MacKerrell, the real-life model for Withnail from Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and I. Also from 1974, a TV adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost starring David Niven.

Nandini Ramnath on how an Indian film distributor in London (Mehelli Modi of Second Run DVD) is helping rescue forgotten classics from obscurity.

Simon Reynolds explains why he thinks Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children is the greatest psychedelic album of the ’90s.

• At I Heart Noise: an interview with Dylan Carlson about his forthcoming solo album, Conquistador.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: David Ehrenstein presents…Donald Cammell Day.

• Photos by David Graham of Mexico City’s “gay subway”.

Circuit Des Yeux‘s favourite albums.

The Gospel of Filth: a book list.

Fountain Of Filth (1974) by Devo | The Heart’s Filthy Lesson (1995) by David Bowie | Filthy/Gorgeous (2004) by Scissor Sisters