Weekend links 443

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• Yet more Gorey: Mark Dery’s biography of the artist prompted The New Yorker to unearth a piece of cover art that Edward Gorey submitted 25 years ago. In the same magazine Joan Acocella reviews Dery’s book and examines Gorey’s life and art. At Expanding Mind, Erik Davis talks with Mark Dery about Surrealism, the gay voice, Penny Dreadfuls, and the occult and Taoist influences in Gorey’s work.

Moving Through Old Daylight: Mark Fisher, Jim Jupp & Julian House of Ghost Box Recordings, and Iain Sinclair in conversation at the Roundhouse, Camden, London, 5 June 2010. Topics under discussion included Nigel Kneale, TC Lethbridge, John Foxx, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, alchemies of sound, the homogenisation of culture, imagining space and the impersistence of memory.

• “A radical retelling of our relationship with the cosmos, reinventing the history of astronomy as a new form of astrological calendar.” The Space Oracle by Ken Hollings.

There was a deliberate, almost prickly quality to Fisher’s writing and thinking that is rare nowadays, when criticism is more likely to involve open-minded rationalizing than steadfast refusal. He was not one to frolic in ambiguity or irony. “Just because something is current doesn’t mean it is new,” he writes in K-Punk, as he wonders if a time traveller from the nineties would find any contemporary music as radical as post-punk or jungle had once seemed to him. When everything is cheerfully “retro,” Fisher argued, we lose our grasp on history—and, without a sense of why the past happened the way it did, our anything-goes embrace of “happy hybridities” is an empty gesture. “What pop lacks now is the capacity for nihilation, for producing new potentials through the negation of what already exists,” he writes.

Hua Hsu on Mark Fisher’s K-Punk

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on The Wind Protect You (1946), a novel by Pat Murphy which Mark describes as a forgotten precursor of Watership Down.

• “At once tiny and huge: what is this feeling we call ‘sublime’?” Sandra Shapshay explores the Romantic aesthetic.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2018. Thanks again for the link here!

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 572 by Nastia, and FACT Mix 683 by Casino Versus Japan.

A Child’s Voice (1978) by David Thomson, an overlooked ghost story starring TP McKenna.

• Jean Cocteau’s Orphée returns from the underworld via BFI blu-ray next month.

Rated SAVX: The Savage Pencil Scratchbook

Orpheus (1967) by The Walker Brothers | Orpheus (1987) by David Sylvian | Overture To Orpheus (2003) by Colin Booth

Weekend links 418

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Poster by Roman Cieslewicz for the 1963 Polish release of Vertigo. Via The Hitchcock Zone.

• Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is sixty years old this year. It’s a film I’ve always found to be preposterous and very over-rated, despite the considerable strengths of its cast, production, etc; consequently, any claims to its being an unalloyed masterpiece (such as being voted the best film of all time in the 2012 Sight & Sound poll) have been difficult to accept. For the latest anniversary, David Thomson examined the film in the light of changing social attitudes.

• Currently seeking funding at Unbound: Stars, Fools and Lovers: An illustrated guide to the art and history of the Tarot by Joanna Ebenstein, Laetitia Barbier and Mark Pilkington. Another Tarot-related book, Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story by Stuart R. Kaplan with Mary K. Greer, Elizabeth Foley O’Connor and Melinda Boyd Parsons, will be published next month.

• Everybody wants to talk to Jon Hassell at the moment, which is no bad thing: recent interviews have appeared at The Vinyl Factory, Red Bull Radio and Vice.

• Coming soon from Lazarus Corporation: England’s Dark Dreaming by Paul Watson.

• Sean Kitching on The Strange World of Charles Hayward (This Heat et al).

• At Dennis Copper’s: The title sequences of 56 mostly horror movies.

• Stone circles: Adam Scovell chooses 10 notable cinematic examples.

• “You gotta be selfish. It’s a terrible thing,” says David Lynch.

Wolf’s Kompaktkiste shows off a serious record collection.

Boy with Cat (1966), a short film by Donald Richie.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 256 by Nina.

Tank (2018), a short film by Stu Maschwitz.

Phantom Islands—A Sonic Atlas

Letraset, design and music

• Vertigo (1988) by Flash Cero | Psyko (Themes from Psycho and Vertigo) (1993) by Laika & The Cosmonauts | Vértigo Magnético (2014) by Liquidarlo Celuloide

Weekend links 74

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Johnny YesNo video cover, 1983. Design by Neville Brody.

Being a Cabaret Voltaire enthusiast of long standing it was good to hear last week about the imminent reappearance of Johnny YesNo, an hour-long film by Peter Care for which the Cabs provided the soundtrack. Mute Records will be releasing Care’s debut on DVD in a set which includes two versions of the film together with two music CDs. I never got to see the original release on CV’s VHS label, Doublevision; for most of the 1980s I didn’t even have a colour TV never mind a video recorder so I missed all CV’s videocassettes aside from Gasoline In Your Eye. The new edition will be available in November. Brainwashed has a list of the contents while The Quietus posted a clip from the new “redux” version. (And before anyone tells me it’s on YouTube…yeah, everything is on YT in shitty quality and barnacled with the misanthropy-inducing drivel which passes there for comment. If I’m going to watch something for the first time I’d prefer it to be on a shiny disc, thanks.)

• The world has noticed Terrence Malick again following the release of The Tree of Life. Malick’s second feature is returning briefly to UK cinema screens, an event which prompted David Thomson to ask Is Days of Heaven the most beautiful film ever made?

• This week in imaginative art: S. Elizabeth on The Fantastical Fairy Tale Art of Sveta Dorosheva, AS Byatt on the strange paintings of Richard Dadd (there’s another Dadd article here), and Rick Poynor on Chris Foss and the Technological Sublime.

Ethan Hein demonstrates how Alan Lomax came to have copyright control over many songs he had nothing to do with simply by recording traditional music.

Visual Vitriol:  The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation, a book by David Ensminger.

• More Club Silencio: Inside David Lynch’s Paris nightclub and a gallery of photos.

Histoire un-Naturelle, selected works by Ruth Marten.

Come hither: The deceptive beauty of orchids.

Facsimile Dust Jackets.

• More Peter Care: Just Fascination (1983) by Cabaret Voltaire | Sensoria (1984) by Cabaret Voltaire | Rise (1986) by Public Image Ltd.

Arthur Penn, 1922–2010

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Design by Bill Gold.

With respect to Bonnie and Clyde and my other films, I would have to say that I think violence is a part of the American character. It began with the Western, the frontier. America is a country of people who act out their views in violent ways—there is not a strong tradition of persuasion, of ideation, and of law.

Let’s face it: Kennedy was shot. We’re in Vietnam, shooting people and getting shot. We have not been out of a war for any period of time in my lifetime. Gangsters were flourishing during my youth, I was in the war at age 18, then came Korea, now comes Vietnam. We have a violent society. It’s not Greece, it’s not Athens, it’s not the Renaissance—it is the American society, and I would have to personify it by saying it is a violent one. So why not make films about it.

From The Bonnie and Clyde Book (1972)

Thus film director Arthur Penn, whose death was announced earlier this week, speaking at a press conference in Montreal in 1967 following the first screenings of Bonnie and Clyde. Penn’s film shocked critics and audiences at the time ostensibly for its graphic violence although the disturbance went deeper than that. What I found shocking the first time I saw it—home alone one evening, watching TV with no idea what to expect—was the abrupt shifts of tone from near comedy (the speeding cars and bluegrass soundtrack, Gene Wilder’s role) to awful realism as the consequences of a life of bank-robbing became apparent. This was disturbing for audiences used to being spoon-fed their morality tales with easily identifiable heroes and villains; the sudden, savage conclusion was especially jolting. A “nightmare comedy” quality was a hallmark of Penn’s best work, and he followed Bonnie and Clyde with another nightmare comedy that’s also a further exploration of America’s troubled history, Little Big Man (1970). Here Dustin Hoffman’s character finds himself caught between the Native Americans who raised him and the warring Cavalry intent on massacring the native tribes. Like Robert Aldrich in Ulzana’s Raid (1972), Penn was using Western history to make a statement about America’s involvement in Vietnam; the soldiers in Little Big Man are murderous racists and General Custer is presented not as a doomed hero but as an unhinged psychopath. For me the film has always been distinguished by the character of Little Horse, the first (only?) gay Native American character in cinema. There’s plenty of documentary evidence for gay individuals in Native American tribes but these have seldom been seen in films. It’s Thomas Berger we have to thank for this detail, since it was Berger’s novel which Penn adapted, but the film’s writer and director are also to be congratulated for keeping a minor character who might easily have been excised.

It’s surprising when you see Bonnie and Clyde cited as one of the films that enabled directors to have more artistic freedom during the 1970s that Penn didn’t manage to do more during that golden decade. After Little Big Man there were two films which seem minor in comparison but would be major works from many lesser directors. Night Moves (1975) is one of the handful of attempts at updating film noir which appeared in the 1970s (for others see The Long Goodbye, Robert Aldrich’s Hustle and Taxi Driver), with a screenplay by Alan Sharp, the writer of Ulzana’s Raid. It’s a curio even by the standards of the decade, part detective story set in the Florida Keys, part symbolic drama with chess games and boats named “Point of View”; it’s also Penn’s last great film. The Missouri Breaks (1976), another Western, is fascinating for its pairing of Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson but Brando’s eccentric performance is the start of his decline as an actor. It’s hard to believe that Penn only made five more films after this but he was one of a number of individual talents who flourished in the 1960s and 1970s then found themselves shut out in the 1980s as intellect was ousted by commerce. There’s even less room for him today than there was then. We’ve travelled from a time of intelligent and challenging films made by adults for adults to an era of shitty action movies and worthless adaptations of equally worthless costumed vigilantes. But I never counsel despair; celebrate what we have rather than bemoaning what we might have lost. Fuck Star Wars in 3D, watch Little Big Man instead.

Guardian obituary | NYT obituary
David Thomson on Penn

Weekend links 27

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Annie Duels The Sun (2010) by Angie Wang.

I’m interviewed again, this time by James at Cardboard Cutout Sundown. Covering familiar subjects for {feuilleton} readers: art history, design, Lovecraft, the genre/mainstream seesaw, etc. Related: Jeff VanderMeer previewed my design for the forthcoming Steampunk Reloaded.

Battle over legacy of father of Art Nouveau. Prague authorities are demanding the paintings which comprise Alphonse Mucha’s Slav Epic be moved to the capital.

The films that time forgot. David Thomson on ten neglected works including a cult favourite of mine, Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End (1970).

The Viatorium Press: “Fine letterpress printing, digital typography, and hand painted illumination.” Among their recent productions is a poem by Clark Ashton Smith.

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À la conquête du pôle (1912); Georges Méliès vs. Jules Verne.

Taxandria, a feature-length collaboration between Raoul Servais, François Schuiten and, er, Alain-Robbe Grillet, is on YouTube. My earlier post about the film is here.

Salvagepunk, or (maybe) Post-post-modernism: “How a music micro-trend heralds an emerging, internet-enabled, aesthetic movement.” See also the latest issue of The Wire.

Drainspotting with Remo Camerota: documenting Japan’s creative manhole covers.

• Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of squid: a book devoted to Kraken Black Spiced Rum.

After Stanley Kubrick. Christiane Kubrick on life without Stanley K.

• Pills and penises and kissing boys: Tara Sinn’s Kaleidoscopes.

Found Objects: a hauntological dumping ground.

• Sandow Birk’s American Qur’an.

• RIP Frank Kermode.

Feuerland (1968) by Theo Schumann Combo; Feuerland (1977) by Michael Rother; Feuerland (2007) by Justus Köhnke.