Luminous Procuress

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How to describe this one? Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, pt 2? Bargain-basement Satyricon? The latter is probably more apt, Kenneth Anger’s longer films are more formal than Luminous Procuress. Steven Arnold’s only feature film resembles something made by the extras from a Fellini extravaganza after they’ve stayed overnight at Cinecittà; a series of artfully-arranged tableaux (artful arrangement being Arnold’s forte), together with a hardcore sex-scene (hetero) that seems out of place beside the relatively chaste antics elsewhere:

Luminous Procuress is an altogether extraordinary, individualistic phantasmagoria. It was filmed entirely in San Francisco over a two-year period, and describes the adventures of two wandering youths in San Francisco who visit the home of a mysterious woman, the Procuress. She is an elegant emblem of sorcery, her vivid features glowing under bizarre, striking maquillage, and one is not certain who she is or where she intends to lead the protagonists. Although the language she speaks is vaguely Russian, it appears that the Procuress has psychic powers. She discerns a sympathetic response to her on the part of the youths, and by magical means, conducts them through fantastic rooms, on a psychic journey. Through strange passageways, one voyages with the Procuress and her charges, glimpsing hidden nightmares and panoplied chambers of revelry, where celebrants, ornately festooned, dance and make love before unseen gods… (more)

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Arnold’s film follows the low-budget form by being shot without synchronised sound, so the dialogue, such as it is, has been dubbed on later. Rather than try and match words to the improvised scenes Arnold instead gives his characters foreign voices, most of which are mumbling and may not even be saying anything intelligible in their own language. This spares us any Warhol-like amateur theatricals while augmenting the dream-like atmosphere. The music by Warner Jepson is the icing on a very unusual cake. Jepson was a serious electronic composer whose rather abrasive debut album, Totentanz, was included in the Creel Pone catalogue of electronic obscurities in 2005. For the film Jepson provides swathes of synthesizer doodling interspersed with arrangements for keyboards and voices. All this and the Cockettes too. Salvador Dalí loved it.

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Weekend links 576

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Cover art by Bob Haberfield, 1976.

• I’ve been reliably informed that Australian artist Bob Haberfield died recently but I can’t point to an online confirmation of this so you’ll have to take my word for it. “Science” and “sorcery” might describe the two poles of Haberfield’s career while he was working as a cover artist. His paintings made a big impression on British readers of fantasy and science fiction in the 1970s, especially if you were interested in Michael Moorcock’s books when they appeared en masse as Mayflower paperbacks covered in Haberfield’s art. Haberfield also appeared alongside Bruce Pennington providing covers for Panther paperbacks by HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and others, although his work there isn’t always credited. Dangerous Minds collected some of his covers for a feature in 2017. (The US cover for The Iron Dream isn’t a Haberfield, however.)

• “Like Alice, who can only reach the house in Through the Looking-Glass by turning her back to it, Gorey reversed the usual advice to ‘write what you know’ and wrote the apparent opposite of his own situation.” Rosemary Hill reviewing Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery.

• “Orvil…wanders the countryside, visits churches, rummages in antique shops, and encounters strange men to whom he is no doubt equally strange.” John Self reviewing a new edition of In Youth Is Pleasure by Denton Welch.

• At the Wyrd Daze blog: Q&A sessions with Stephen Buckley (aka Polypores), Gareth Hanrahan, and Kemper Norton.

• “Fellini liked to say that ‘I fall asleep, and the fête begins’.” Matt Hanson on Federico Fellini’s phenomenal films.

• A Beautiful Space: Ned Raggett talks to Mick Harris about the thirty-year history of Scorn.

• Deep in the dial: Lawrence English on the enduring appeal of shortwave radio.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins on making a picture for Annie Darwin (1841–1851).

DJ Food looks at pages from Grunt Free Press circa 1970.

• Mix of the week: Fact Mix 814 by Loraine James.

• New music: Clash (feat. Logan) by The Bug.

• At BLDGBLOG: Terrestrial Astronomy.

LoneLady‘s favourite albums.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Porn 2.

Tilings Encyclopedia

Betrayal (Sorcerer Theme) (1977) by Tangerine Dream | Science Fiction (1981) by Andy Burnham | Sorceress (2018) by Beautify Junkyards

Juliet of the Spirits

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Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo; production design by Giantito Burchiellaro, Luciano Ricceri and Emanuele Taglietti; art direction and costume design by Piero Gherardi.

If you’re very selective with the screen-grabs you can make it seem like Fellini’s psychodrama is a lost horror film by Dario Argento: Juliet of the Suspiriorum. The next step would be to stitch together a handful of clips then add a Goblin soundtrack…

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Weekend links 557

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Poster by Milan Grygar for the 1969 Czech release of Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits.

• “By encouraging composers to engage with sound as something more than just ‘notes on a keyboard’, the result [of the Buchla] was the kind of intricate sound design last heard in musique concrète. Works such as Morton Subotnick’s, Silver Apples of the Moon (1967) show a futurism completely absent on Wendy Carlos’ otherwise highly influential Switched-on Bach (1968), which used the keyboard-controlled Moog modular as if it were merely a glorified organ.” Oli Freke on the evolution of the synthesizer.

• “As humans began settling more consistently in one place to grow and thrive, the penis—or, more specifically, its erect form, the phallus—often came into use as a protector of fields that would prove fertile. In contrast to the comparative prudery of today, the phallus adorned everything from gods to shrines to personal homes and jewellery.” Emily Willingham on penial evolution in the animal kingdom.

• “The Trumpets of Jericho is, in part, so uniquely unsettling because it allows the woman in question to narrate her own horror. She is eager to give birth not to meet her child but so that she can go ahead and kill it.” Reed McConnell on the writings of Unica Zürn and (once again) Leonora Carrington.

At the center of it all, there was one director whom everyone knew, one artist whose name was synonymous with cinema and what it could do. It was a name that instantly evoked a certain style, a certain attitude toward the world. In fact, it became an adjective. Let’s say you wanted to describe the surreal atmosphere at a dinner party, or a wedding, or a funeral, or a political convention, or for that matter, the madness of the entire planet—all you had to do was say the word ‘Felliniesque’ and people knew exactly what you meant.

In the Sixties, Federico Fellini became more than a filmmaker. Like Chaplin and Picasso and the Beatles, he was much bigger than his own art. At a certain point, it was no longer a matter of this or that film but all the films combined as one grand gesture written across the galaxy. Going to see a Fellini film was like going to hear Callas sing or Olivier act or Nureyev dance. His films even started to incorporate his name—Fellini Satyricon, Fellini’s Casanova. The only comparable example in film was Hitchcock, but that was something else: a brand, a genre in and of itself. Fellini was the cinema’s virtuoso.

Martin Scorsese on “Il Maestro”, Federico Fellini

• At Dennis Cooper’s: For Your Crushed Right Eye: The instrumental films of Takahiro Iimura, Tetsuji Takechi, Toshi Matsumoto, Masao Adachi and Takashi Ito.

• “We wanted people to see that we exist.” Joan E. Biren, the photographer who recorded lesbian life in the 70s.

•New music: Alkisah by Senyawa, and Bishintai by Unknown Me.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 683 by Laila Sakini.

Phallus Dei (1969) by Amon Düül II | Sidereal Hands At The Temple Of Omphalos (1996) by Scenic | Starman (feat. Peter Brötzmann) (2017) by Phallus Dei

Weekend links 499

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Wild Things – Hachilympic, a poster by Tomoko Konoike for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

• Hidden Jewels in ‘The Garden of Orchids’: Steve Toase on Der Orchideengarten (1919–1921), the German magazine of fantastic art and literature. Since the article doesn’t mention it, I’ll note again that the first Anglophone appraisal of the magazine (and also the place where it was drawn to the attention of myself and 50 Watts) was in Franz Rottensteiner’s The Fantasy Book (Thames & Hudson/Collier, 1978).

• “In its furtive, sotto-voce way, Gorey’s work is in conversation with gay history, gay literary influences, and, now and then, the gay-straight tensions of his time.” Mark Dery on the attempts by Edward Gorey’s readers and critics to ignore the obvious signs of a personal sexuality in his work.

• The Apotheosis of the Grotesque: illustrator Sidney Sime interviewed by Arthur H. Lawrence in The Idler, January 1898.

Goff would experiment with form, material, structure and ornament to almost absurd degrees. Materials he used in his buildings included aviation parts, goose feathers, oil rig equipment, orange artificial turf (on the roof), lumps of coal, and any kind of glass he could get his hands on. His 1948 Ledbetter House, also in Oklahoma, features a recurring motif of vertical lines of diamond-shaped glass studs set into doors and columns. In fact they are dime-store glass ashtrays.

Steve Rose on the restoration of “outsider architect” Bruce Goff

• At the BFI: Adam Scovell on where to begin with Delphine Seyrig; Kat Ellinger on giving Fellini’s later films their due; and Matthew Thrift on 10 great Acid Westerns.

• RIP Ivan Passer and Neil Peart. A reminder that John Patterson described Passer’s Cutter’s Way as a cinematic masterpiece. So it is.

Geeta Dayal on musician/composer Arthur Russell and yet another posthumous release.

Haunted And Known, a new recording by Six Organs Of Admittance.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Hidden.

2112 (1976) by Rush | Xanadu (1977) by Rush | La Villa Strangiato (1978) by Rush