Undead visions

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“…dreams come through stone walls, light up dark rooms, or darken light ones, and their persons make their exits and their entrances as they please, and laugh at locksmiths.”

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

In the (delayed) mail this week: a film in which one of the characters dreams he’s being buried alive in a sequence where we experience the burial from his point of view; and a film in which the main character is shot dead in the first 15 minutes, after which we journey with him into the afterlife, passengers inside his posthumous awareness, travelling through walls and laughing at locksmiths.

(Those aren’t the only coincidental connections between the two films. Playwright and screenwriter David Rudkin wrote about Vampyr for the BFI Film Classics series, while Rudkin’s most well-known TV play, Penda’s Fen, was directed by Alan Clarke, who Gaspar Noé credits as an influence. In Enter the Void the Clarke-like mobile camera doesn’t just follow people around but takes to the air…or the ether.)

I already had a German blu-ray of Noé’s chef d’oeuvre but, you know…cult film plus quality Arrow package with lots of new extras in an iridescent case. Support the artists and outlets you value. As for Vampyr, I’m looking forward to seeing this in a much better print than the poor transfer I watched years ago. Carl Dreyer photographed his adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla through a layer of muslin to enhance its dream-like atmosphere, the kind of treatment that warrants high-definition. Another viewing may also compel me to finally broach the collection of Dreyer films that I bought in a sale a while ago and have yet to watch. I’ve no problem sitting through all manner of dour European dramas but every time I look at that brick of Danish gloom I think “maybe later”, and end up choosing something else. Maybe later is now.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Enter the Void
David Rudkin on Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr

Weekend links 621

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Holmes’s fog-horn apparatus, 1875.

• “Have scientists designed the perfect chocolate?” According to Betteridge, the answer would have to be “no”, even more so when the scientists only seem to have reinvented the Flake which Cadbury have been making since 1920. But the story does tell you something about “edible metamaterials” and even “edible holograms”.

• “In The Foghorn’s Lament, I talk about someone called The Fogmaster, who apparently used to do guerrilla foghorn performances…his ringtones are still available.” Jennifer Lucy Allan on foghorns past and present.

• “The story of Les Rallizes Dénudés is almost that of fan fiction. Fans know some basic details and the rest is conjecture and imagination.” Patrick St. Michel explores the occluded history of the Japanese rock band.

The Wharton completist may recognize some of the raw material for these stories in her earlier works. For instance, she used the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone in a 1912 verse play before finding its subtle final expression in “Pomegranate Seed,” in which the ghostly letters keep the New York lawyer figuratively tethered to the underworld. And a 1926 volume of poems contained an experimental riff on a dead woman returning home on All Souls’ Day, published over a decade before Wharton revisited the holiday in her final short story. The ghost story form transforms both these familiar materials and her evergreen themes: Once some donnée becomes a ghost story, what may have been just an amusing character study acquires a participatory element, since readers must meet her halfway in becoming scared. To do so involves truly contemplating what exactly it is in these texts—and it is never the literal ghosts—that elicits a chill.

Krithika Varagur on Edith Wharton’s ghosts

Gaspar Noé’s favourite films. Elsewhere, Noé and Dario Argento talk about Noé’s latest feature, Vortex, while later this month Arrow are giving Enter the Void an overdue UK blu-ray release.

• Gay utopia: recent photographic portraits by Matthew Leifheit of Fire Island.

• Yogaville, 1993: more historic film of Alice Coltrane performing.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: The Maysles Brothers Day.

Sugar Chocolate Machine (1967) by The Beatstalkers | Chocolate Machine (1993) by Sandoz | Chocolate Jesus (1999) by Tom Waits

Weekend links 552

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White Peacock and Garden God (c. 1922) by Henry Keen.

• “Though both writers confront some of the most unsavory and unjust dimensions of human life, Genet revels in moral ambiguity and coarse language, while Erpenbeck satisfies her audience’s desire for tidy ethical responses by using careful, equally tidy sentences. Genet’s world is dirty; Erpenbeck’s is clean.” Christy Wampole compares two newly-translated collections of non-fiction writing by Jean Genet and Jenny Erpenbeck.

• Gaspar Noé’s notorious, controversial (etc, etc) Irreversible receives the prestige blu-ray treatment from Indicator in April. Still no UK blu-ray of Enter the Void is there? I had to order a German release.

Stereolab release Electrically Possessed: Switched On Vol. 4 next month, the latest in their series of albums which collect singles, compilation tracks and other rarities.

• At Nautilus: Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold on how dreaming is like taking LSD.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Bollo presents…Éliane Radigue (& The Lappetites).

• Playwriting & Pornography: Adam Baran remembers Jerry Douglas.

• At Spine: Vyki Hendy on the joy of monochrome book covers.

• Mix of the week: Subterraneans 2 by The Ephemeral Man.

John Boardley’s favourite typefaces of 2020.

• New music: Spirit Box by Blanc Sceol.

Life In Reverse (1981) by Marine | Reverse World (1995) by David Toop | Reverse Bubble (2014) by Air

Weekend links 551

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Bystander #16 (2016) by Mari Katayama.

• “In her prickly, misanthropic stories, her obsession with obsession is on display, big feelings and bad habits redirected to gruesome ends.” Carmen Maria Machado on the brilliance, difficulty and eccentricities of Patricia Highsmith who was born on 19th January, 1921. This reminds me that I have an unread copy of Highsmith’s The Two Faces of January that I ought to move to the reading pile.

Saint Laurent—Summer of ’21: Gaspar Noé’s new promo for the fashion house features Charlotte Rampling and a group of models in a vaguely Argento-like scenario that’s all crimson light, sumptuous decor and a creditable cover of I Feel Love by SebastiAn.

• I’ve been listening to a lot of Magma recently so this is timely: all three of the live Retrospektïw albums from 1980 gathered together for the first time in a single package and with a bonus recording.

• At Spine: Vyki Hendy collects some recent book covers that use optical illusions (or negative space) to catch the attention. Tangentially related: William Hogarth’s Satire on False Perspective (1754).

• RIP David Larkin, art director at Granada and Pan who also edited one of my favourite series of art books.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Crop Encircled Boy presents…Alejandro Jodorowsky Day.

• Mix of the week: Subterraneans 1, a Bowie mix by The Ephemeral Man.

• At Wormwoodiana: A Secret Book of Ghost Stories.

• “Reality is plasticine,” says Eloghosa Osunde.

Cats On Synthesizers In Space

Subterraneans (1993) by Philip Glass | The Subterranean (1994) by Soma | Subterranean Lakes (2018) by Pye Corner Audio

Weekend links 467

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Artwork by Kuldar Leement (maybe…I’ve yet to see a credit for this).

In Search Of Hades: The Virgin Recordings 1973–1979, is a retrospective box set comprising 16 CDs and 2 blu-ray discs devoted to the first phase of Tangerine Dream’s output on the Virgin label. For enthusiasts of the group’s Virgin recordings (myself among them) this is very welcome, especially for the albums being given the Steven Wilson remix treatment, and the wealth of rare and unreleased material. In addition to several live concerts the box will include the complete Oedipus Tyrannus theatre soundtrack, the overture of which appeared on a compilation in 1975 but has since been unavailable outside bootlegs. Baroque 2 is a taster of the unheard soundtrack. The box itself will be released on 14th June. Related: Edgar Froese interviewed on a US radio station in 1974. Among the topics of discussion are German music of the time, Tangerine Dream’s dissatisfaction with Ohr Records, and their happiness at moving to Virgin.

• “As the witch-burning begins, the image gradually dissolves into a stroboscopic onslaught of neon colours accompanied by rapid, high-pitched ringing and a thundering drone.” Don’t come to Gaspar Noé for social realism. Lux Aeterna is his new thing.

• An ode to the ultimate camp film: Nathalie Atkinson on Boom!, Joseph Losey’s adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, and (unsurprisingly) one of John Waters’ favourites.

“Adhesive,” a term borrowed from phrenology, was Whitman’s synonym for homosexuality. According to gay studies pioneer William A. Percy, “the term became part of the special vocabulary of the emerging homosexual subculture of the nineteenth century,” which Whitman and his coterie would have understood. Despite Whitman’s private vows to resist temptation, and to be more aloof, he continued to court young men until he died. One of the final photos of Whitman, taken at the Camden docks in 1890, shows the poet with his handsome male nurse Warren Fritzinger. “I like to look at him—he is health to look at: young, strong, lithe,” Whitman told Traubel.

Jeremy Lybarger on Walt Whitman’s boys

Psychedelic Promos & Radio Spots: 8 volumes, over 500 tracks, all free downloads. Hear many of the most popular groups of the late 60s shilling for commercial radio stations.

Hildur Gudnadóttir used only sounds from a nuclear plant in her score for Chernobyl.

• US museums of the week: Poster House, NYC, and The Moogseum, Asheville, NC.

• “Yes, witches are real,” says Pam Grossman, “I know because I am one.”

• Photos by Chas Gerretsen from the set of Apocalypse Now.

• Geeta Dayal on the brainwave music of David Rosenboom.

• Mix of the week: Self-Titled NE285 Mix by Kevin Martin.

• RIP Roky Erickson

Boom Boom (1961) by John Lee Hooker | Boom Stix (1962) by Curley & The Jades | Boom! (1992) by The Grid