Weekend links 236

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The Three Witches (2014) by Lorena Carvalho.

Immersion, a new album by Grey Frequency, “…is a recording of the broken signals, wraiths in the ether from lost futures and utopias which were once promised…”. Box Of Secrets (1999) is an album of electronica by Ian Boddy that’s a free download until the end of December.

• “Hothouse flowers, Egyptian statuary, jewels, Nubian servants, crystal balls, cocaine, opium and champagne were just some of the things she spent her money on…” Lucy Davies explores the riotous world of Marchesa Luisa Casati.

• “London is a network of complete nexuses, coincidences, overlaps, references…” Stephanie Boland talks to Iain Sinclair about his new book 70×70: Unlicensed Preaching: A Life Unpacked in 70 Films.

My Women’s Studies professors would say: “You don’t know how hard we fought for you.” And yet, when they told me my sexuality was not correct, I felt embarrassed. I knew I had longings that didn’t line up with the politics, but I refused to repress them, particularly in my writing. I fought to unravel a political correctness that was censoring desire.

Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson on sex, cinema and secrets

Cthulhu, Fiction and Real Magic, a lecture by Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent at Treadwell’s, London, on December 3rd. For those who can’t attend, Erik Davis has just posted his essay about Lovecraft and contemporary occultism.

• “John Gielgud was obsessed with trousers, loved corduroy and leather. And so he wrote a film set in a menswear shop.” Gielgud’s unfilmed screenplay for gay porn director Peter de Rome may now be filmed.

• “The stories are even more fantastic and full of marvels than those in the Arabian Nights.” Robert Irwin on the newly-translated Tales of the Marvellous.

• Mixes of the week: The Advisory Circle present Winter From Out Here; Fall by The Ephemeral Man; Secret Thirteen Mix 136 by Cosmin TRG.

Danny Cooke‘s drone views of Pripyat, Chernobyl. Related: Into the Zone: Gasworks Park (Seattle, WA) by Christina Scholz.

• Watch Dragnet’s 1967 LSD episode. More psychedelics: “Magic mushrooms change brain connections“.

• Earth Magic: Peter Bebergal on photography of witches at play and at ritual.

• Düsseldorf 1970: The crucible of Krautrock by those who were there.

• It’s Alright Ma, It’s Only Witchcraft (1968) by Fairport Convention | Witch’s Will (1973) by Wilburn Burchette | Witches’ Multiplication Table (1982) by Holger Czukay

Weekend links 214

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San Francisco Sound (1967). Art by Wallace Studio, Seattle.

• RIP gay porn pioneer Peter de Rome. BUTT posted de Rome’s surprisingly daring Underground (1972), a film in which two men have an unfaked sexual encounter on a New York subway train. That film and others are available on the BFI’s DVD collection. Related: Brian Robinson remembers a director of films whose supporters included Andy Warhol, William Burroughs and John Gielgud.

• “My stuff is implicitly critical of television as it is now,” explains Jonathan [Meades], “Television used not to be as openly moronic as it has become…” A lengthy and typically pugnacious Meades interview with Remy Dean.

Thurston Moore remembers the Burroughs-themed Nova Convention staged in New York in 1978. William Burroughs 100—Nova Convention is a retrospective exhibition running at Red Gallery, London, next month.

How are we expected to take seriously…any work which appears to have engaged less than the whole passionate attention of its author? To be fobbed off, at the last, with something which we feel to be less true than the author knew it to be, challenges the importance of the whole art of writing, and instead of enlarging the bounds of our experience, it leaves them where they are.

Katherine Mansfield was also a book reviewer.

• JG Ballard’s Crash is reissued in August by Fourth Estate with an introduction by Zadie Smith. There’s a tantalising extract from the intro at the NYRB or you can read the whole thing if you’re a subscriber.

• “Between 1959 & 1980 Shirley Collins changed the course of folk music in England & America. Thirty years after disappearing, she’s back.”

Photos by Anne Billson of one of the more attractive Parisian arcades. Related (in a flâneur sense): Christina Scholz‘s Vancouver dérive.

• “Why did Borges hate soccer?” asks Shaj Matthew. Related: George Orwell on the same subject.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 447 by Forest Swords, and Programme 13 from Radio Belbury.

• At Dangerous Minds: Roland Topor’s cheerfully violent illustrations from Les Masochistes.

• Rainy Day Psychedelia: Ben Marks on Seattle’s neglected 1960s poster scene.

• Strange Flowers looks at Oskar Schlemmer‘s Triadic Ballet designs.

• A Journey to Avebury: Stewart Lee interviews Julian Cope.

It’s All Over Now (1963) by The Valentinos featuring Bobby Womack | It’s All Over Now (1964) by The Rolling Stones | It’s All Over Now (1974) by Ry Cooder

Alice in Wonderland by Jonathan Miller

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I said, “Girl, you drank a lot of Drink Me,
But you ain’t in a Wonderland
You know I might-a be there to greet you, child,
When your trippin’ ship touches sand.”

Donovan, The Trip (1966).

Most of the key texts of the psychedelic period tend to be either non-fiction—Huxley’s Doors of Perception, Leary’s Psychedelic Experience—or spiritual works such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead , the volume upon which Leary’s book is based and which subsequently provided John Lennon with lines for Tomorrow Never Knows. The key fictional work of the era has to be Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, a fact that would no doubt have surprised the book’s legions of enthusiastic Victorian readers, never mind its author. Grace Slick created the definitive Alice song with White Rabbit in 1965, written while she was with the Great Society but only recorded properly in 1967 after she’d joined Jefferson Airplane. But Alice’s adventures run a rich seam of Victorian whimsy through the music of 1966 to ’69, especially among the British bands whose lyrics tend to be far more childish and frivolous than their American counterparts. Donovan probably got there first among the Brits with The Trip on his Sunshine Superman album. Among the profusion of later references can be found one-off singles such as Alice in Wonderland (1967) by the Dave Heenan Set (who recorded songs for the Barbarella soundtrack as The Glitterhouse) and Jabberwock/Which Dreamed It? (1968) by Boeing Duveen & The Beautiful Soup, a band whose songwriter is better known today as Hank Wangford.

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A TV Dante by Tom Phillips and Peter Greenaway

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More cult stuff from Ubuweb, you lucky people. Being a big Tom Phillips enthusiast I’ve been watching A TV Dante (1989) for years, having taped the one and only broadcast of the series. I also bought the accompanying booklet (below).

This ambitious program, produced by the award-winning film director Peter Greenaway and internationally-known artist Tom Phillips, brings to life the first eight cantos of Dante’s Inferno. Featuring a cast that includes Sir John Gielgud as Virgil, the cantos are not conventionally dramatized. Instead, the feeling of Dante’s poem is conveyed through juxtaposed imagery that conjures up a contemporary vision of hell, and its meaning is deciphered by eminent scholars in visual sidebars who interpret Dante’s metaphors and symbolism. This program makes Dante accessible to the MTV generation. Caution to viewers: program contains nudity. (8 segments, 11 minutes each)

Given the nature of the collaboration, this can’t be compared to many other TV productions. Greenaway wasn’t staging a drama, he was using the TV screen as a flat space like a moving painting, or a series of diagrams and connected symbol systems. The division of the screen has a parallel in some of Phillips’s paintings (and his artist’s book of the Inferno) and makes use of Phillips’s familiar stencil lettering. There are actors: as mentioned above, Sir John Gielgud took the role of Virgil, with Bob Peck as Dante and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as Beatrice. And there are recurrent motifs: triangle, concentric circles, cardiograph displays, Muybridge animations and so on. “Footnotes” were provided by a company of experts who appear in small inset panels to comment on the text while it’s being read. Phillips himself is one of the principal commentators since it was his translation being used.

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Peter Greenaway’s feature films have never interested me very much, I prefer him when he’s doing things like this which probably explains why I like Prospero’s Books, his version of The Tempest; much of that film’s approach seems to have been developed from A TV Dante. It’s a shame that only eight of the Cantos were filmed in this way. There were plans to film all thirty four using other directors (with Greenaway to return at the end) but this endeavour took place at the end of the period when Channel 4 was still a haven for unusual arts projects. Regime change subsequently charted a course for the lowest common denominator. And with the two leading actors now dead it wouldn’t be possible to resume the project. In the end this doesn’t matter too much. What remains is an introduction to a perennially fascinating book and an example of how television could—if someone had the courage—ditch the clichés of drama documentary and try something genuinely new.

The official Tom Phillips website
The Tom Phillips blog

Previously on { feuilleton }
John Osborne’s Dorian Gray
20 Sites n Years revisited
The last circle of the Inferno
20 Sites n Years by Tom Phillips

John Osborne’s Dorian Gray

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I wrote recently about John Selwyn Gilbert’s television play, Aubrey, an hour-long drama concerning the artist Aubrey Beardsley. The play was only screened once in 1982 and, like most one-off studio works of the period, is unavailable on DVD. John Osborne’s 1976 adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray is a welcome exception to this neglect and can be acquired in a box set along with three BBC productions of Wilde’s plays and a more recent Wilde documentary.

The stage plays are decent enough although the cast in the 1952 film version of The Importance of Being Earnest takes some beating. Dorian Gray is for me the essential work in the collection, even if its 100-minute running time cuts the story to the bone. The principal attraction in an entirely studio-bound work with few actors is the leads, and for this we have two great performances from John Gielgud as Lord Henry and Jeremy Brett as artist Basil Hallward. The tragic Dorian is played by Peter Firth who has difficulty keeping up with these heavyweights, especially in the later scenes when the story concentrates more fully on his predicament. Matters aren’t helped by his Yorkshire accent which frequently rises to the surface in a manner that would surely raise eyebrows in Mayfair drawing rooms.

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Lord Henry & Basil Hallward admire the portrait.

Continue reading “John Osborne’s Dorian Gray”