Weekend links 78

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Struggle (2009) by Lindsey Carr.

• “Twilight Science is an imprint for sound, music and DVD editions initiated by artist Paul Schütze. We will progressively publish all back catalogue, new projects and collaborations. These will include works by Phantom City, NAPE, Schütze-Hopkins and others.” Related (because Paul Schütze remixed Main): Main Feed The Collapse, Neil Kulkarni talks to Robert Hampson.

• “You can’t really narrate or display this situation, you can only, endlessly, contemplate it. When the writer or director gets tired of the iterations, he tells us who the mole is.” Michael Wood on the novel, (superb) television series and recent film of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

• “Havin’ a dick is pretty fuckin’ awesome” says Horst, a new gay magazine limited to 1000 copies. Related (well, there’s a guy in and out of his underwear): Naked Lunch, a fashion shoot very tenuously based on David Cronenberg’s film.

“At first, I tried fighting bullies one-on-one, but they don’t fight fair; they fight two and three on one,” Bennett said. So the youths got together and “started carrying mace, knives, brass knuckles and stun guns, and if somebody messed with one of us then all of us would gang up on them.”

 “Gay black youths go from attacked to attackers” says the headline. A group of genuine Wild Boys; William Burroughs would have approved.

• Tor.com reminded me of Sally Cruikshank‘s amazing animated film Face Like a Frog (1987) which features a score and Cab Calloway-style song by Danny Elfman.

• It’s 1969, OK? Pádraig Ó Méalóid talks with Kevin O’Neill about the Swinging League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

• In the Tumblr labyrinth this week: Fuck Yeah St Sebastian and Gender is Irrelevant.

• For when you need some motherfucking placeholder text: Samuel L Ipsum.

• “Study finds ‘magic mushrooms’ may improve personality long-term.”

Solar Megalomania: paintings by Leonora Carrington.

• It’s all fun and games until Charles Manson turns up.

Firmament II (1993) by Main | Firmament IV (1993) by Main | Reformation (1994) by Main.

Weekend links 68

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Every man and every woman is a star by Sveta Dorosheva.

• Matt Taylor (illustration) with Gregg Kulick and Paul Buckley (design) provide new Penguin covers for John Le Carré. I love the look which seems inspired by Daniel Kleinman’s title sequence for Casino Royale even if it doesn’t quite suit the shabby world of George Smiley and the Circus.

[Deborah Kass] told me that when she was going to art school in the ’70s, she tripped on LSD almost every week and she said she felt it was her “moral duty as an artist to take the trip.” […] I think psychedelic experience makes you think that there are multiple realities, that there isn’t just this one normal real world to which we’re supposed to conform, but that the reality changes depending on the state of consciousness that we’re in when we’re experiencing it. So, any different kind of art kind of posits a different reality. (more)

New York Times art critic Ken Johnson discussing his new book Are You Experienced?: How Psychedelic Consciousness Transformed Modern Art.

• “That got me thinking that evolution really isn’t survival of the fittest, when it comes to these things, it is more like survival of the interesting, survival of the beautiful, survival of the weird, cool stuff that managed to evolve.” Laurie Anderson and David Rothenberg discuss music and animals.

• Laura Cumming on the late Lucian Freud. And Stephen Heller on Alex Steinweiss, the originator in 1939 of the artistic record sleeve who also died last week.

• Alan Moore says “Think Locally: Fuck ‘Globally'”. He and Queen Calluz explain how Dodgem Logic magazine puts their ideas into practice.

Adam Curtis gets interviewed while Alan Bennett returns to Armley Public Library in Leeds.

Peacock’s Garden, a celebration of pavonine splendour.

• A visit to Seher Shah’s studio in Brooklyn, New York.

• Maximum androgyny at Epicenity, a Tumblr.

Does your god have a penis?

Chrysalide (1978) is an album of “cosmic” guitar instrumentals by Michel Moulinié which sounds at times like a French equivalent of Manuel Göttsching. It’s never been released on CD but a copy can be found here.

Steven Soderbergh’s Kafka

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Do you detect a theme this week? The recent Pragueness had me watching this favourite film again. I unfairly dismissed Soderbergh after his debut, Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989), which I found to be two hours of yuppie tedium despite its winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes. That prize did enable him to make Kafka (1991), however, so I shouldn’t complain although I didn’t get to see this until it turned up on TV years after its release. The film was a major flop and put Soderbergh in the wilderness until Out of Sight (1998), his first outing with George Clooney.

Kafka is one of a small group of works wherein well-known writers become embroiled in stories which exactly parallel their fiction. Joe Gores’ Hammett (filmed by Wim Wenders in 1982) did this with Dashiell Hammett while Mark Frost in his novel, The List of Seven, had a pre-Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle becoming involved in a Holmesian mystery. The screenplay for Kafka by Lem Dobbs has the author falling in with anarchist revolutionaries in order to solve the death of a co-worker and a bureaucratic conspiracy. This was obviously too clever for a general audience, being littered with references to Kafka’s life and work and also to German Expressionist cinema with names like “Orlac” and “Murnau” comprising key plot elements. Dobbs wrote a couple of other noteworthy screenplays after this, Dark City, a noirish fantasy that does what The Matrix did only with greater imagination, and The Limey (1999), another Soderbergh film with a great performance by Terence Stamp as a vengeful Cockney gangster on the loose in Los Angeles.

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Alan Bennett had already done something similar to Kafka in his TV film for the BBC, The Insurance Man, which concerns a dye worker becoming enmeshed in the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute where Kafka worked as a clerk. Daniel Day-Lewis made a marvellous Franz Kafka in Bennett’s play and was far more suited to the role than Jeremy Irons is in Soderbergh’s film. This is a shame since everything else about Kafka is excellent, from the moody black and white photography and fabulous cymbalom-inflected score by Cliff Martinez, to the cast, which includes the wonderful Theresa Russell, Joel Grey, Ian Holm and—in one of his last performances—Sir Alec Guinness.

Kafka is also the Prague film par excellence, making great use of the city’s Old Town and landmarks such as the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, a building which dominates the story as well as many of the outdoor scenes. In fact I find myself watching it as much for the settings than anything else. Soderbergh enjoys cinematic pastiche and Kafka owes a great deal to The Third Man (which did for post-war Vienna what Kafka does for Prague) and—inevitably—Orson Welles’ Kafka adaptation, The Trial. Theresa Russell brings Vienna with her via Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing, Joel Grey was in Cabaret, of course, and Alec Guinness isn’t so far removed from his role as retired spy George Smiley in the BBC’s John le Carré films. And halfway through the film there’s a great surprise which I won’t spoil here.

Kafka is available on DVD finally, although if you’re in the US you’ll have to import it. Soderbergh has talked about reworking the film in a longer version which I’d like to see if he ever gets round to it. Not an easy film to find but it’s worthy of your attention.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Kafka and Kupka
Alexander Hammid
How to disappear completely
Karel Plicka’s views of Prague
Giant mantis invades Prague
Nosferatu
Barta’s Golem