Weekend links 461

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Le Stryge (The Vampire) (1853) by Charles Méryon.

Notre-Dame-de-Paris in art and photography. Related: Chris Knapp on the Notre-Dame fire, and John Boardley on the print shops that used to cluster around the cathedral. Tangentially related: Mapping Gothic France.

The Bodies Beneath: The Flipside of British Film & Television by William Fowler and Vic Pratt will be published next month by Strange Attractor. With a foreword by Nicolas Winding Refn.

• “In his new biweekly column, Pinakothek, Luc Sante excavates and examines miscellaneous visual strata of the past.”

I also gathered underland stories, from Aeneas’s descent into Hades, through the sunken necropolises of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and the Wind Cave cosmogony of the Dakota Sioux, to accounts of the many cavers, cave-divers and free-divers who have died seeking what Cormac McCarthy calls “the awful darkness inside the world”—often unable to communicate to themselves, let alone others, what metaphysical gravity drew them down to death. Why go low? Obsession, incomprehension, compulsion and revelation were among the recurrent echoes of these stories—and they became part of my underland experiences, too.

Robert Macfarlane on underworlds real and imagined, past, present and future

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 703 by Mary Lattimore, and The Colour Of Spring by cafekaput.

• A witty appraisal by Anna Aslanyan of a lipogrammatic classic and its smart translation.

• “Unseen Kafka works may soon be revealed after Kafkaesque trial.”

• “Why do cats love bookstores?” asks Jason Diamond.

Sunn O))) pick their Bandcamp favourites.

Le Grand Nuage de Magellan

Cathedral In Flames (1984) by Coil | The Cathedral of Tears (1995) by Robert Fripp | Cathedral Et Chartres (2005) by Jack Rose

Weekend links 446

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The Ghost Box label releases a new album by the excellent Pye Corner Audio in February (previews are here). The spectral design, as ever, is by Julian House.

• “In October 1966, Phyllis Willner arrived on motorcycle in San Francisco as a teenage Jewish runaway from Jamaica, Queens. She quickly fell in with the Hell’s Angels, the San Francisco Mime Troupe and, most crucially, the Diggers, who were just getting their street radical thing together in the Haight-Ashbury. The next two years would be eventful: many extraordinary highs, some really terrible lows.” Jay Babcock talks to Phyllis Willner about her involvement with “the executive branch of the hippie movement”, the Diggers.

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis talks with religious scholar Diana Pasulka about UFOs, scientific believers, book encounters, elite cabals, studying weirdness, and her new book American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology.

• Kenneth Anger is now 91 but he still appears hale, and looks even more magus-like than ever. This short film by Floria Sigismondi finds him reminiscing in the antiquated confines of the Chateau Marmont hotel on Sunset Boulevard.

David Wojnarowicz did not write dark fantasy. He wrote real life. In The Waterfront Journals he brilliantly captures electric tales from the mouths of strangers, those he described as “junkies, prostitutes, male hustlers, truck drivers, hobos, young outlaws, runaway kids, criminal types”, whose lives echo his own ostracized existence. He was thirteen when he was first paid for sex and sixteen when he started “turning tricks” regularly. His mother kicked him out of the house. By the time Wojnarowicz came out to friends in New York, he was in his early twenties. He was on the cusp of finding his voice as a writer and his confidence as an artist. It was the mid-1970s. AIDS was about to tear through the gay community.

Lara Pawson reviews three books by artist and writer David Wojnarowicz

John Banville reviews Kafka’s Last Trial by Benjamin Balint: “A scrupulous study of the squabble between Germany and Israel over Kafka’s papers, and the two women caught in the middle.”

• A sitting with the diva of the diode: electronic musician Suzanne Ciani in conversation with Christine Kakaire.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 076 by KK Null, and XLR8R Podcast 574 by SHXCXCHCXSH.

Cassie Packard on the colorful and clairvoyant history of aura photography.

Edward Gorey’s Children’s Books Illustrations, Revisited.

Alison Flood on the fascination of miniature books.

Magic Hollow (1967) by The Beau Brummels | Hollow Stone (1972) by Khan | Through Hollow Lands (For Harold Budd) (1977) by Brian Eno

Punch and Judy, Michel de Ghelderode, and the Brothers Quay

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The Quay Brothers’ first animated film, Nocturna Artificialia, was released in 1979. Prior to this there had been some short experiments but since these are always described as “lost” it’s doubtful that we’ll ever see them. The artistic success of Nocturna Artificialia prompted the Quays and producer-colleague Keith Griffiths to consider fresh outlets for their talents, and resulted in funding from Britain’s Arts Council for two arts documentaries combining live-action film with animated interludes. Nocturna Artificialia has long been available for home viewing on the various Quays DVDs but the two early arts films, Punch and Judy: Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy (1980) and The Eternal Day of Michel de Ghelderode, 1898–1962 (1981), are omitted from the reissue canon for reasons that have never been very clear. Both films have been impossible to see unless you’re an academic or film programmer, at least until now. Once again, YouTube has provided an outlet for exceptional rarities.

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Punch and Judy: Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy

Now that finally I’ve watched these films it’s understandable why they don’t fit so easily with the Quays’ more personal output. Punch and Judy has obvious superficial parallels with Jan Svankmajer’s Punch and Judy (1966) but Svankmajer’s film is his own idiosyncratic interpretation of the murderous puppet. The Quays film is much more straightforward, devoting most of its running time to a history of Mr Punch and the other puppet characters. The story of Punch himself (narrated by Joe Melia) is intercut with a contemporary performance of the play by a genuine Punch and Judy man, Percy Press. Animated sequences are limited to small inserts between the documentary material before a lengthier section at the end that illustrates Harrison Birtwhistle’s Punch and Judy opera. This last section shows how much the Quays had developed their animation techniques since their first film, and is reminiscent of the opera sequences in their later film about Leos Janacek. Animation aside, there’s little else that’s recognisably Quay until the credits which are lettered by the brothers. (For this film and the following one they credit themselves as the “Brothers Quaij”.) Punch and Judy: Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy was of sufficient quality to be screened by the BBC in 1981 as part of the Omnibus arts strand.

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The Eternal Day of Michel de Ghelderode, 1898–1962

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Michel de Ghelderode was a Belgian playwright whose grotesque and macabre works, many of which feature masks and puppets, are favourites of the Quays. This is a shorter film than the previous one (30 minutes rather than 45) but the territory is closer to the Quays’ own concerns. The animated sequences are fewer but they’re marvellous pieces, especially the longer central sequence which animates Ghelderode’s Fastes d’enfer (Chronicles of Hell). The figures in the latter piece may depict Ghelderode’s characters but the decor is 100% Quay, with a nocturnal cityscape and shadows from one of the trams that drift through their early films. A bonus for me was the music by Dome (Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis), a duo for whom the Quays later designed a record sleeve.

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The rest of the film consists of archive footage of Ghelderode wandering Belgian streets, and live performance of other scenes from his plays. All of this is strange and fascinating, only spoiled a little by the picture being very dark in places. (The screen shots here have been brightened.) Keith Griffiths says that this was a result of the film not being properly exposed, a consequence of the company still learning film-making as they went along. This may also explain why the film is missing from the official canon. If so, it’s a shame since it’s closer to the Quays’ own interests than some of their later commissions.

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Now that these films have surfaced there’s one more short from the early years that’s still unavailable. Ein Brudermord (1981) is based on a Franz Kafka short story, and runs for a mere 6 minutes. Meanwhile, I’m also hoping that someone may eventually post better copies of the Stravinsky and Janacek films, both of which have been prevented from DVD reissue by the copyrights on the music.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The mystery of trams
Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013
Holzmüller and the Quays
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD

Weekend links 290

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The Royal Mint celebrates 400 years of William Shakespeare with new £2 coins. The “Tragedies” design gives Britain the Gothiest coin of all time.

• “I hate successful films that travel on an easy wave of ‘good taste’: for me, that is simply anti-culture.” Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli talks to Alexandra Heller-Nicholas about photographing Dario Argento’s masterwork, Suspiria.

• Mixes of the week: Für die Liebe II, an hour of ambient drift by Matthew Dekay, and Carwyn Ellis Mixtape No. 354 by The Voice Of Cassandre.

• Americans in Europe: Frances Mayes on the enduring mystique of the Venetian lagoon, and David Farley on the trail of Kafka in Prague.

“We’d read that Brion Gysin and William Burroughs had played around with some scientific equipment from Columbia University,” [Jim] Jarmusch recalls. It was “some kind of strobe light that they claimed, by placing eidetic pulses on the outside of your eyelids, could cause states of hallucination and trance. We found out how to check out this machine and experimented with … not fantastic results! In a way though, Luc [Sante] channels ghosts: he’s able to imagine and mentally reconstruct events and places from the past and weave them into stories. He can cross influences like Blaise Cendrars and JG Ballard with James M Cain and Raymond Roussel.”

[…]

If New York celebrates amnesia, perpetual transformation, accelerated obsolescence – and offers newcomers a blank slate, a chance to be born again – then Sante offers a mordantly heretical vision of the city. For him it’s full of layers and depths, of echoes and eerie reverberations, of occult whispers. “The tech crowd thinks that we can’t afford the past to be sitting on our shoulders. It’s a burden, a dead weight. We’ve got to innovate constantly. We have to … disrupt. But the 20th century is littered with valuable stuff – writers, ideas, daily certainties – that gets discarded and that needs to be picked up and looked at again.”

Sukhdev Sandhu profiles writer Luc Sante

The Edge Question for 2016: What do you consider the most interesting recent (scientific) news? What makes it important?

Bradley L. Garrett’s foreword for Secret Tunnels of England: Folklore and Fact (2015), a book by Antony Clayton.

Caitlin R. Green on the monstrous landscape of medieval Lincolnshire.

Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan by Brian Eno.

Arche (live, 2013) by Master Musicians of Bukkake.

A Year In The Country returns for another year.

Kafka (1982) by Masami Tsuchiya | Manhattan (1984) by Seigen Ono | Tunnel (1997) by Biosphere

Weekend links 268

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A City on Pluto (1940) by Frank R. Paul. Related: Paul’s predictions about life on other planets.

23 Skidoo’s Peel Session from September 16th, 1981. Only 18 minutes of music but I’m thrilled for its being unique material that’s never been given an official release. There are many more Peel Sessions at the uploader’s channel, not all of which were reissued on the Strange Fruit label. Download favourites in their as-broadcast form (some with John Peel’s introductions) before they vanish or get blocked like the 1981 Cabaret Voltaire session. Related: Wikipedia’s list of Peel Sessions.

• Mixes of the week comprise two collections by Jon Dale of strange and beguiling Italian music: The Prevarications Of The Sky Against The Earth and La Verifica Incerta; the Summer Window Mix (“telly detritus, new-not-new synth nonsense & off-colour pop oddities”) by Moon Wiring Club; and Secret Thirteen Mix 158 by Haunter Records.

• “Hello, this is David Bowie. It’s a bit grey out today but I’ve got some Perrier water, and I’ve got a bunch of records…” Two hours of the Thin White Duke playing favourite music on BBC Radio One, 20th May, 1979.

Some of Vidal’s guests were writers, not exactly his favorite group. “Writers are the only people who are reviewed by people of their own kind,” Vidal said in an interview. “And their own kind can often be reasonably generous—if you stay in your category. I don’t. I do many different things rather better than most people do one thing. And envy is the central fact of American life.”

Frank Pizzoli reviews Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal by Michael Mewshaw

• Yair Elazar Glotman’s new album, Études, conjures “bone-rattling resonance, thick, alien-like atmospheres, and percussive fragments”. Stream it in full here.

• London’s Lost Department Store of the Swinging Sixties: Inge Oosterhoff on the splendours of Biba.

• It’s that Ungeziefer again: Richard T. Kelly on 100 years of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

• The History of Creepy Dolls: Linda Rodriguez McRobbie explores the uncanny valley.

• At Dangerous Minds: Matt Groening tells the story of The Residents in 1979.

• The NYT collects NASA’s photos from the New Horizons Pluto flyby.

The Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments

Written on the Body: tattoos in cinema

The Doll’s House (1981) by Landscape | Voodoo Dolly (1981) by Siouxsie and the Banshees | Devils Doll Baby (1986) by Sonny Sharrock