The Mystery of Picasso

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I mentioned late last year that I’d written the booklet notes for a forthcoming DVD/blu-ray of The Mystery of Picasso (1956) by Henri-Georges Clouzot, a film receiving its blu-ray premiere this month courtesy of Arrow Academy. The discs are now on sale (UK only, I’m afraid) either online or anywhere that stocks Arrow titles. (Fopp is my preferred outlet.) For those outside the UK, the restored film is also available on iTunes. Clouzot’s film was regarded as an oddity in the 1950s, the director being best known for outstanding thrillers like The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques. Today The Mystery of Picasso is regarded as one of the great films about art for the way it successfully captures Picasso in a decade when he was still fervently productive, despite being in his 70s.

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Almost all films of this type favour the documentary approach, usually with a camera and interviewer dogging the subject’s footsteps while showing little of the creative process. Picasso wouldn’t have participated in anything like this—he was appalled by a documentary he saw about Matisse—but Clouzot persuaded him that a film could be made showing him drawing and painting in a studio environment. This approach had precedence in Paul Haessarts’ short film from 1949 (included among the disc extras) which showed Picasso in his studio at Vallauris; the film ends with a series of paintings on glass of various animals and human figures. Clouzot expanded on Haessarts’ idea with the full range of film technology: time-lapse, black-and-white stock, colour stock and Cinemascope. The works Picasso creates for the camera aren’t his best—how could they be when they were being produced at speed in sweltering, time-constrained conditions? But the film is a miraculous portrait of an artist whose name is still universally recognised almost fifty years after his death. By chance or design, it’s also a partial portrait of Clouzot himself who appears in several of the shots to discuss new camera setups.

There’s no need for me to say more about the film when I discuss it at length in the booklet. For a review of the disc contents, there’s a substantial appraisal here. For more about Henri-Georges Clouzot I recommend the study by Christopher Lloyd which was invaluable for its details about the film’s production.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Picasso-esque
My pastiches
Cubist Cthulhu

Weekend links 385

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• It won’t be out until late January—and then in the UK only—but the blu-ray premiere of The Mystery of Picasso (1956) by Henri-Georges Clouzot was announced this week. The initial run of the discs (there’s also a DVD) will include a booklet containing my essay about the film, something I was very pleased and honoured to be asked to write. Clouzot’s remarkable study of Picasso drawing and painting for the camera was made immediately after his masterwork, The Wages of Fear (also newly available on UK blu-ray), and this new edition will include two short extras, one of which, A Visit to Picasso (1949) by Paul Haesaerts, is an excellent precursor/companion to the main feature. More on this subject later.

• At the Internet Archive: an almost complete run of The Twilight Zone Magazine (1981–1989). While masquerading as a TV-series spin-off, TZ under the editorship of TED Klein was an excellent periodical devoted to horror and dark fantasy. In addition to running original fiction by major authors (Stephen King was a regular), the magazine contained features about older writers such as Lovecraft and Machen along with book reviews by Thomas Disch, film reviews by Gahan Wilson, interviews and more.

• “Bram Stoker was gay,” says Tom Cardamone in a review of Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula by David J. Skal. I’ve not read Skal’s book so can’t comment on its claims but his earlier Hollywood Gothic (about Dracula on page and screen) includes some discussion of “sexual ambiguity” in Stoker’s work.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 625 by Elena Colombi, Secret Thirteen Mix 235 by Rhys Fulber, and XLR8R Podcast 514 by Tommaso Cappellato.

Help, Help, The Globolinks! is a previously unreleased electronic soundtrack by Suzanne Ciani, out next week.

La Région Centrale (1971), Michael Snow’s epic of landscape gyrations in two parts, here and here.

Alexander Calder and the Optimism of Modernism: Jed Perl in Conversation with Morgan Meis.

• Illustrations by Lynd Ward for The Haunted Omnibus (1935) edited by Alexander Laing.

Daniel Dylan Wray on the gay-porn music of disco pioneer Patrick Cowley.

• It’s that man again (and his drawings): Ernst Haeckel: the art of evolution.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Steve Erickson presents A Black Psychedelia Primer.

Bootsy Collins‘ favourite albums.

Picasso (1948) by Coleman Hawkins | Pablo Picasso (1976) by The Modern Lovers | Picasso Suite pt. 1 (1993) by David Murray Octet

Weekend links 383

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Arcadia-24 (1988) by Minoru Nomata.

Dark Entries and Honey Soundsystem Records release a video of edited moments from gay porn film Afternooners to promote the release of the film’s electronic soundtrack by Patrick Cowley. The album, which is the third and final collection of Cowley’s porn soundtracks, is out now.

Emily Temple looks at some of the art inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I explored the same subject a couple of years ago in a week of Calvino art posts. From 2014: Peter Mendelsund on designing covers for Calvino.

Jim Downes on the late Charley Shively, a gay liberation activist who wasn’t interested in equality. Not an uncommon attitude in some gay circles but it’s one you seldom see aired in the mainstream press.

Geeta Dayal on A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound by Roland Kayn, a 14-hour composition of “cybernetic music” which has been released in a lavish 16-CD box set by Frozen Reeds.

• An introduction to Henri-Georges Clouzot in seven films by Adam Scovell. Clouzot’s masterwork, The Wages of Fear (1953), is released on blu-ray by the BFI next week.

• Ubu Yorker: Menachem Feuer interviews Kenneth Goldsmith, writer and the man behind Ubuweb.

• Why Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro thinks the film vs. digital debate is bullshit.

David Barnett on supernatural fiction’s “best kept secret”, Robert Aickman.

Michèle Mendelssohn on how Oscar Wilde’s life imitates his art.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 233 by Mick Harris.

Invisible Limits (1976) by Tangerine Dream | Invisible Cities (1990) by Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart | Invisible Architecture (1995) by John Foxx

Weekend links 377

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Holger Czukay by Ursula Kloss, from the cover of Czukay’s Moving Pictures (1993). (The painting is a pastiche of Holbein’s portrait of Georg Gisze.)

• RIP Holger Czukay. The obituaries have emphasised his role as the bass player for Can, of course, but he was just as important to the band as a sound engineer and producer: it was Czukay’s editing skills that shaped many of their extended jams into viable compositions. Post-Can he recorded 20 or so albums by himself or with collaborators, several of which can be counted among the best of all the Can solo works. Geeta Dayal and Jason Gross remembered their encounters with Czukay, while FACT reposted their 2009 interview. Czukay’s final interview was probably last year when he talked to Ian Harrison for Mojo magazine.

For my part, I was astonished when Czukay phoned me out of the blue one day in 1997 to thank me for sending him a video I’d made in the 1980s. This was a scratch production created with two VCRs that set 300 clips from feature films to Hollywood Symphony, the final piece on Czukay’s Movies album. Years later, MTV showed a couple of similar video collages that Czukay had made for Can so I sent a copy of my effort to Spoon Records thinking he might be amused. His public persona was often one of a wacky mad professor but the jokiness was allied to an impressive technical skill and curiosity. Most of our brief conversation was taken up with my answering his questions about my primitive video recording.

• “Every pebble can blow us sky-high”: A reconsideration by J. Hoberman of The Wages of Fear, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot.

• Dario Argento’s masterpiece of horror cinema, Suspiria, is 40 years old. Martyn Conterio looks at five of its influences.

Mark Korven’s Apprehension Engine: an instrument designed to play the music of nightmares.

• The mystery of the Voynich Manuscript solved at last? Nicholas Gibbs thinks so.

• At Dangerous Minds: The macabre and disturbing sculptures of Emil Melmoth.

Jonathan Meades reviews A Place for All People by Richard Rogers.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 229 by Erin Arthur.

• The ten creepiest objects in the Wellcome Collection.

Rob Chapman’s essential psychedelia reading list.

It’s Just A Fear (1966) by The Answers | Fear (1992) by Miranda Sex Garden | Constant Fear (2002) Bohren & Der Club Of Gore

The poster art of Raymond Gid

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Dresch (1928).

This weekend I was rewatching Henri-Georges Clouzot’s superb thriller, Les Diaboliques (1954) after which I went searching for the equally superb posters by Raymond Gid (1905–2000). I hadn’t really looked at the rest of Gid’s work before so this post remedies the situation with a selection from some of the many examples available online. Gid was something of a French equivalent to Saul Bass, working as a poster artist for feature films while also producing designs for advertising; like Bass he took charge of the typography as well as the illustration, always a useful thing for a poster artist. Typographies (1998), his book on the subject, is still in print.

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Vampyr (1932).

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Dr. NG Payot (1938).

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Quelque part en Europe (1948).

Continue reading “The poster art of Raymond Gid”