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 title of that film was originally different [Illusions]… I woke up one day and thought of Bad Timing which sounds exactly like the right title—for my career. Now there was a film I really thought was one to which there would be a different response. Whilst filming I felt sure that this was one for the streets, one that people would really want to see. — Nicolas Roeg
So long to the great Nicolas Roeg, always one of my favourite film-makers. Roeg’s works were naturally attractive when I was a teenager because he’d made a horror film and a science-fiction film; when these eventually turned up on TV it was evident that this was a director working on a level that had more in common with Continental Europe than Hollywood. Beyond the generic content it was his approach to directing that made his films essential: a fragmented editing style derived from Alain Resnais via Richard Lester (see below), a cosmic perspective almost entirely absent from the parochial concerns of British cinema, and a seemingly effortless ability to find visual rhymes in anything. Despite the “bad timing” comment above Roeg was fortunate to be working throughout the 1970s when having an approach that ran counter to the prevailing trends wasn’t an obstacle to maintaining a career; as with Ken Russell, you watch some of the films today and are amazed and grateful that they were made at all. When reading the forthcoming plaudits it would be worth remembering that even the films regarded now as Roeg’s best struggled for acceptance: Pauline Kael dismissed Don’t Look Now as “trash”, US screenings of The Man Who Fell To Earth provided explanatory notes for the hard-of-thinking, Bad Timing was described by its own distributors as “a sick film made by sick people for sick people”, while the distributors of Eureka hated the film so much that for a time it could only be screened in the UK if the director was also present.
• Related: Where to begin with Nicolas Roeg, and Nicolas Roeg: It’s About Time (2015), a 59-minute documentary for the BBC directed by David Thompson. Previous Roeg-related postings on this site include: The Nicolas Roeg Guardian Lecture, 1983 (Roeg discusses Eureka and other films with Philip Strick); Beyond the Fragile Geometry of Space (charting the recurrence of a book title from Don’t Look Now); Canal view (using Google Street View to find the church in Don’t Look Now); and Petulia film posters (designs for a Richard Lester film from 1968 that was photographed by Roeg, and whose fragmentary editing style prefigures the familiar Roeg technique).
• Edward Woodward’s greatest screen role wasn’t a prudish policeman or a mysterious vigilante but was David Callan, a conflicted assassin working for a division of the British Secret Service. Joseph Oldham explains.
• More Gorey: in 1978 Jeremy Brett was playing Dracula in the touring version of the Edward Gorey-designed play.
• Liberated from the LRB paywall for a brief time: George Melly writing in 1992 about René Magritte.
• Welcome to the witch capital of Norway: Chelsea G. Summers investigates.
• At I Love Typography: Magic printed.
The Gathering (2015) by Kristen Liu-Wong.
• Tom of Finland’s house in Echo Park, Los Angeles, “is a trove of homoerotic masterpieces“. The house and its former owner are celebrated in Tom House, a book by Michael Reynolds with photos by Martyn Thompson. Related: Tom House exposed by Rizzoli.
• “Underlying the heightened nature of the films was a deep, questioning soulfulness related to literary antecedents coupled with a vision of cinema open to shifting levels of perception and fantasy.” David Thompson on Andrzej Zulawski.
• Memories of the Space Age: Photos by Roland Miller of the ruins of NASA’s old launch pads, bunkhouses and research facilities. A British equivalent (and a much more modest affair) is the Highdown Rocket Site on the Isle of Wight.
• Statues allegedly made for the John Huston film of The Maltese Falcon are among the most expensive props in cinema history even though there’s still dispute about their authenticity. Bryan Burrough investigates.
• “What Does It Take To Be A ‘Bestselling Author’? $3 and 5 Minutes.” Brent Underwood on why Amazon ratings can’t be trusted.
• Edward Gorey/Derek Lamb title sequences from the PBS/WGBH show Mystery! (1981).
• A Painter Possessed: Kate Kellaway on the occult abstractions of Hilma af Klint.
• Invertebrate Harmonics: a new composition by Chris Watson.
• Frozen in time: Inside Bangkok’s first ever department store.
• Space-Age Couple (1970) by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band | Space Age Batchelor Pad Music (Mellow) (1993) by Stereolab | Space Age Ballad (2001) by Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.