Art on film: Je t’aime, Je t’aime

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Design by René Ferracci.

Continuing an occasional series about artworks in feature films with a return to Alain Resnais. This one is less substantial than the Providence post, but 2022 happens to be the director’s centenary year, and this particular film, like Providence, is worthy of greater attention.

Last Year at Marienbad is occasionally proposed as science fiction of a very rarified sort (JG Ballard thought it was) but there’s no question about the SF credentials of Je t’aime, Je t’aime (1968), a drama that uses time travel to explore a troubled romantic relationship. Claude Ridder (Claude Rich), an unattached, suicidal man, is persuaded by scientists to assist with a potentially hazardous experiment. He agrees to a one-minute excursion into his past but the experiment doesn’t work as intended, causing him to be caught between the present—in which he can’t escape from a womb-like time machine—and his recent past, in which he relives brief moments without any awareness during the return period of their being a part of the experiment. The flashbacks that comprise most of the film’s running time show us a random sequence of the events leading to Claude’s suicide attempt, the end result of his relationship with his terminally ill partner, Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot).

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The time machine.

Despite the presence of a time machine and a script by Jacques Sternberg, a Belgian science-fiction writer, Resnais was adamant that Je t’aime, Je t’aime wasn’t a science-fiction film. This is the kind of comment guaranteed to annoy the more zealous SF reader but it’s true in the sense that the film isn’t about time travel or time machines per se; the temporal experiment is a device to allow the non-linear exploration of a human drama that’s the real concern of director and writer. Previous Resnais films had dealt with remembrance of one sort or another, often using flash cuts to juxtapose different moments or scenes remembered or imagined. Je t’aime, Je t’aime pushes these techniques to an extreme, showing us every facet of the Claude/Catrine relationship, from initial meeting to tragic end. The narrative fragmentation isn’t so surprising today but it was a radical step in 1968, one that proved commercially unsuccessful.

In addition to having a Belgian writer, Je t’aime, Je t’aime is mostly set in Brussels, so the art this time is a famous Belgian painting, one of the many versions of The Empire of Light by René Magritte, which appears in the scenes in Claude’s apartment.

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In other hands this might be an incidental decoration but, as Providence demonstrates, Resnais was a director who enjoyed significant details, even if the signification isn’t always obvious. The Magritte painting serves two functions: its slow migration from one side of Claude’s apartment to the other (and the appearance of other pictures around it) shows the passage of time from one flashback to the next.

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Moebius Redux

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It’s Arzak (or Arzach, or Harzak, or Harzakc, etc) again, arriving in today’s post. Hasko Baumann’s Moebius Redux is one of my favourite arts documentaries of recent years but I only discovered recently that the version broadcast by the BBC in 2007 was shorter by 20 minutes than the original 70-minute running time, hence this purchase. It’s a German DVD but has subtitles in French and English plus an extra disc containing 125 minutes of extras, including extended interviews with Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal and many others. That’s my weekend viewing sorted.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Jean Giraud record covers
Arzak Rhapsody
The Captive, a film by René Laloux
The horror
Chute Libre science fiction
Heavy Metal, October 1979: The Lovecraft Special

Jean Giraud record covers

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Disc design for Eight Day Journal (1998) by Sam Rivers / Tony Hymas.

Continuing an occasional series about artists or designers whose work has appeared on record sleeves. I’ve used the artist’s full name (or his Earth name, if you prefer) in the title of this one to distinguish Moebius the comic artist and illustrator from Dieter Moebius of Cluster, Harmonia, et al. As with Harry Clarke, it’s taken a long time for Discogs to compile a substantial collection of these covers, and the catalogue there is still incomplete thanks to a lack of credits on some of the sleeves. Unlike other artists whose cover work tends to be a repurposing of existing art many of the Giraud/Moebius covers were created for the albums on which they appear.

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7 Colts Pour Schmoll (1968) by Eddy Mitchell.

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An album by a prolific French rock’n’roller. Giraud (as he was credited here) was no doubt hired on the strength of his Blueberry strips.

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Blueberry (1973) by Dadi.

And speaking of Blueberry… Jean Giraud drew the adventures of Jean-Michel Charlier’s Western anti-hero for 15 years under the name “Gir”. The character was very popular in France, hence this spin-off single by Marcel Dadi.

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Dadi’s Folks (1973) by Marcel Dadi.

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Jazz Septet (1973) by Ogoun Ferraille.

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Are You Experienced / Axis: Bold As Love (1975) by Jimi Hendrix.

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A gatefold sleeve for a series of four reissues of the Hendrix catalogue on the Barclay label. The other covers were by Philippe Druillet, Jean Solé and an artist unidentified on the link above but it looks to me like the work of Philippe Caza. I’ve got most of the music but I’d buy these for the covers alone.

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L’outrageant Lord Horror

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Cover art by Enki Bilal.

Arriving in the post this week was the catalogue for the Shoah et bande dessinée exhibition which is currently running in Paris at Mémorial de la Shoah. I’ve mentioned previously that the exhibition includes some of my pages from my first collaboration with David Britton/Savoy, the death-camp issue of the first Lord Horror series, Hard Core Horror, but until the catalogue arrived I wasn’t sure how that work would be presented. Consequently, I’m surprised to find the comic and Britton’s wider Lord Horror project given a section of its own in the catalogue, with a lengthy appraisal by British comics historian Paul Gravett. The text is French throughout so I can’t follow Gravett’s piece very well but it looks to be an expansion of earlier pieces he’s written about the Savoy comics and their troubled history.

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The book itself is a solid production that I’m pleased to find following the hardback “album” format used by Continental comics. Denoël Graphic, a publisher of bandes dessinées, is the publisher. Among the other artists represented are Will Eisner and Art Spiegelman (of course), plus many French artists whose work I hadn’t seen before. The exhibition runs throughout the year to 30th October, 2017.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Exhibitionism

Exhibitionism

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Art by Enki Bilal.

My work is featured in two very different exhibitions over the next few weeks, so different, in fact, that they’re almost at opposite poles to each other.

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Hard Core Horror 5 (1990).

The first, Shoah et bande dessinée, takes place at Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris, and opens on 19th January. This is an exhibition of comic-book art dealing with the Holocaust, and will include three of my pages from the death-camp scenes in the final issue of the Lord Horror series, Hard Core Horror (created with David Britton in 1990, and published by Savoy). This is one instance where the term “comic” is particularly inappropriate, unlike the more neutral French designation, bande dessinée. I haven’t yet seen a list of all the other artists being represented but I was very pleased to see a drawing by Enki Bilal being used to promote the event. Bilal was one of several French comic artists whose work I discovered in the pages of Heavy Metal/Metal Hurlant in the 1970s, and it was the example of the artists there that kept me interested enough in the comics medium to attempt something of my own a few years later. The exhibition will run until 30th October, 2017, and will feature a printed catalogue.

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The second event, Alice’s Adventures in the Underground, has already been mentioned here, and takes place at the Horse Hospital, London, at the beginning of February:

“Feed your head…” An evening discourse on all things Wonderland, with John Coulthart, Andy Roberts, Nikki Wyrd and Jake Fior (facilitator).

This event marks the opening of a three day exhibition hosted by the Horse Hospital, featuring John Coulthart’s psychedelia-themed ‘Alice’ artwork, printed for the first time as (drug-free) blotter art. John’s depictions of the twelve chapters of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ view the 1860s through the iridescent lens of the 1960s; Victoriana refracted through a psychedelic prism. Come along for a discussion of the links between psychedelic art and music, and the persistent fascination of Lewis Carroll’s books. There will be talk of many things, not only cabbages and kings, but far more than you can possibly imagine before breakfast. Signed blotter prints will be on sale.

Psychedelic artists – particularly in the 60s – and many other outsider creative types (before and since that influential decade), have drawn their inspiration from the well of imagery found within the ‘Alice’ books. As well as John’s artwork, there will be Alice themed creations by other artists on show. In addition, the Psychedelic Museum will be holding its second pop-up museum display, with particular focus on the 60s counterculture.

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This show came about after an offer from Paul at Blotter Art to produce a series of blotter prints from my psychedelic Alice series. The first set of sheets are shown here, and I’m very pleased with the print quality after having been a little worried that the paper might not reproduce the colour and detail to the best effect. As noted above, signed sheets will be on sale (either as singles or a series of 12) during the event and afterwards via the Blotter Art website. People often ask about signed prints but most of my print sales are through CafePress which doesn’t allow this; so here’s a rare opportunity to get something spoiled by my signature. In addition to my work there should be Alice-themed art by other artists filling out the space. This exhibition will run to 4th February. I’m looking forward to it.

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