Short films by Gérald Frydman

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Scarabus.

After writing about Gérald Frydman’s animated short Scarabus (1971) last year it’s taken me all this time to get round to watching the other films on his Vimeo channel, most of which are also animations. Scarabus was of interest for its deftly-crafted Surrealism, and there’s more of the same in some of these later films, especially Agulana. As with another Belgian director, Raoul Servais, Frydman directs all his films but doesn’t always animate them himself, hence the variety of art styles.

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Agulana (1976) is a kind of sequel to Scarabus with human figures being menaced and oppressed in a transforming environment. The Magritte quotient in films such as this raises the question of whether Magritte-ness (for want of a better term) is a quality unique to René Magritte or a component of the general Belgian character. Jonathan Meades insists on the latter in an excellent film of his own about Belgium.

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Alepha (1980) is more Surrealism, which in this case brings to mind the animated films of Piotr Kamler. Naked figures drift over landscapes filled with ambulatory spheres, vast spikes and other structures. Where Kamler favoured electronic soundtracks by Luc Ferrari and Bernard Parmegiani, Frydman has regular collaborator Alain Pierre provide a score of electronic drones.

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La Photographie (1983) is the first of two short films set in the 19th century. This one is little more than an anecdote, with a bored family forced to remain motionless while their photograph is taken, a process that lasts for the entire duration of the film. Outside the studio we see a Jules Verne wonderland of new inventions—dirigibles, rapid transport, electric light, typewriters and so on—where the frenetic activity contrasts with the inertia of the photographic process.

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Le Cheval de Fer (1984) is another photographic anecdote, this time concerning the wager prompted by an argument about whether a horse’s legs left the ground when it was galloping (and if so, at what point). The argument was famously settled by Eadweard Muybridge who invented a system to photographically record animal locomotion, thus paving the way for cinema, and for film animation.

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Les Effaceurs (1991) is Surrealism of a dark and disturbing kind with people urgently trying to scrub away their facial features.

Also on Frydman’s channel is La Sequence Silverstein (2000), a short science-fiction scenario which he wrote but didn’t direct. This one is live action and with dialogue in unsubtitled French. It not bad but I prefer the animations.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Raoul Servais: Courts-Métrages
Scarabus, a film by Gérald Frydman
L’Araignéléphant
Le labyrinthe and Coeur de secours
Chronopolis by Piotr Kamler

Weekend links 567

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Cover art by Roger Dean for Woyaya (1971), the second album by Osibisa. Dean’s flying elephants made their first appearance on the group’s debut album, and have been an Osibisa emblem ever since.

• Many of Roger Dean’s early album covers are better creations than the music on the albums they decorate. This isn’t the case with Osibisa, however, a Ghanaian group based in London whose discography includes (uniquely, I think) two covers by Dean together with one by Mati Klarwein. The group’s first two albums, Osibisa and Woyaya, are exceptional blends of Ghanaian music with rock, funk and jazz whose omission from the generally reliable Kozmigroov list is a serious error. Garth Cartwright talked to Teddy Osei and Lord Eric Sugumugu about Osibisa past and present.

• “The antiheroes of Angry Young Men cinema railed against the limited life opportunities available to them. Wired and frustrated, they especially chafed against girlfriends, wives, domesticity. Yet they never questioned heterosexuality itself. Not, at least, until The Leather Boys (1964), a relatively little-known film directed by Canadian expatriate Sidney J. Furie.” Sukhdev Sandhu on a film about gay life in pre-decriminalisation Britain that offered a slightly more positive view of its subject than the justifiably angst-ridden Victim (1961).

• “Brian Aldiss once confided to me that the big problem with American science fiction writers was that they loved to write about Mars but knew nothing about Indonesia.” Bruce Sterling on the attractions of being an expatriate writer who adopts a foreign persona, as he did for the stories collected in Robot Artists and Black Swans.

• New music: Fire Tower by The Grid / Fripp. Dave Ball, Richard Norris and Robert Fripp have been collaborating on and off since The Grid’s 456 album in 1992. Fire Tower is a preview of Leviathan, a new album out in June on CD/DVD and double vinyl.

• RIP Michael Collins, the astronaut who orbited the Moon alone, listening to Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz in the Command Module of Apollo 11 while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the satellite’s surface.

• “‘Walking with a thesis’ could easily function as the subtitle for a significant number of Iain Sinclair’s books.” Tobias Carroll on Iain Sinclair and the radical act of walking through a city.

• “‘Plain speaking, like plain food, is a puritan virtue and thus no virtue at all,’ Meades pronounces.” Steven Poole reviews Pedro and Ricky Come Again by Jonathan Meades.

• Building a panorama: Clive Hicks-Jenkins‘ latest progress report on his Cocteau-inspired illustrated edition of Beauty and the Beast.

• At Unquiet Things: Groovy Goddesses From Dimension X: Gene Szafrans’ Kaleidoscopic Book Covers.

• From leather boys to leather men: Miss Rosen on the little-known photography of Tom of Finland.

Alexis Petridis attempts the impossible again, with a list of Grace Jones’ best songs.

• At Dennis Cooper‘s: Cars.

I’m A Leather Boy (1967) by The Leather Boy | Warm Leatherette (1980) by Grace Jones | Leather Bound (2017) by Patrick Cowley

Weekend links 565

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The Labyrinth of Crete from Turris Babel (1679) by Athanasius Kircher.

• “My self appointed tutors were, in the order I discovered them, Robbe-Grillet, Borges, Nabokov, and Burgess. All of them associable in one way or another with labyrinths, all practitioners of non-linearity, all happy not to explain, all precursors of Godard’s celebrated and liberating ‘a beginning a middle and an end but not necessarily in that order.’ Burgess, of course, also came from the provincial lower middle class, and gave the address at Benny Hill’s funeral.” Jonathan Meades talking to Owen Hatherley about (what else?) the tastes and opinions which were always to the fore in his long-running series of TV films about architecture, art, food, and culture in general. This time last year I rewatched Meades’ TV oeuvre thanks to downloads from MeadesShrine and YouTube. It’s no surprise to learn that he won’t be making any more of these films now that the increasingly useless BBC has decided that the arts-oriented BBC 4 will be an archive channel only. The days are long past when someone like Meades would be given a new six-part series, or an artist like Leonora Carrington 50 minutes of BBC 1 airtime.

• Food and film: “As with so much else in his life, [Alfred] Hitchcock’s accomplice in this peculiar gastronomic odyssey was Alma Reville, his wife, best friend, longest-serving creative collaborator, and, to quote Hitchcock, ‘as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen.'” Edward White on Alma Reville and the status of food in the Hitchcock household.

• Food and books: “The supply of hides for parchment was always dependent on the dietary preferences of the local population… For hundreds of years, the transmission of knowledge had depended on carnivorous appetites and good animal husbandry.” Ross King on the laborious process of bookmaking in the 15th century.

• At Wormwoodiana: Sphinxes & Obelisks, a new collection of essays “on rare books and recondite subjects” by Mark Valentine.

• New music: crystallise, a frozen eye by James Ginzburg, and Multiverse by Gadi Sassoon.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Amos Tutuola The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952).

• At Spoon & Tamago: Step inside the miniature worlds of Tatsuya Tanaka.

• Mixes of the week: 30 years of People Like Us, and Fact Mix 803 by oxhy.

And all that jazz: innovative album covers from the 1950s on.

• In praise of Edward Gorey, style icon.

Labyrinthe (1995) by Zbigniew Preisner | Labyrinth (2010) by Chrome Hoof | The Seventh Labyrinth (2018) by Pye Corner Audio

Weekend links 480

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Tadanori Yokoo (1974) by Tadanori Yokoo and Will van Sambeek. A poster from the Colourful Japan exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

• The first decade of space-rock pioneers Hawkwind is explored by Joe Banks in Hawkwind: Days of the Underground — Radical Escapism in the Age Of Paranoia, coming soon from Strange Attractor Press. I created the wraparound cover for this one, and will be talking about it here in a later post. Those interested in the book should note that the special edition hardback will include an extra book, plus a print and postcards. Limited to 500 copies so don’t wait around.

• “What we look for in our formative years can be very different from the demands we make later as analytical adults, and it was certainly more important to me that representations of gayness were complex or colourful than that they were positive, whatever that meant.” Ryan Gilbey on 50 years of Midnight Cowboy.

• Mixes of the week: Through A Landscape Of Mirrors Vol. II – France I by David Colohan, and As Imperceptibly As Grief The Summer Lapsed Away by Haunted Air.

If we imagine the material world about us having a concealed component of the fictional and the fantastic, visions buried in its stones and mortar waiting for their revelation, then we may suppose that 18th-century Lambeth was a teeming hub of such imaginal biodiversity. Bedlam alone could account for this ethereal population boom, but then nearby was the Hercules Buildings residence of William Blake, which can have only added to the sublime infestation.

Alan Moore on the visionary art of William Blake

• At the Internet Archive: Ten issues of Ed Pinsent’s The Sound Projector Music Magazine (1996–2002), with bonus Krautrock Kompendium.

• “Like many dictators Franco considered himself an artist.” Jonathan Meades on how fascism disfigured the face of Spain.

Occulting Disk is a new album from the master of unnerving doomscapes, Deathprod, which will be released in October.

• Making MAD: Chris Mautner on the beginning and end of MAD magazine.

John Margolies’ photographs of roadside America.

Fair Sapphire by Meadowsilver.

Jarboe‘s favourite music.

Theme from Midnight Cowboy (1969) by John Barry | Astral Cowboy (1969) by Curt Boettcher | Dayvan Cowboy (2005) by Boards Of Canada

Weekend links 455

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• At Expanding Mind: Tarot expert Mary Greer talks with Erik Davis about Tarot artist Pamela Colman Smith, the Golden Dawn, the art of illustration, Jung’s active imagination, Smith’s musical visions, and the recent study of Smith’s life and work, Pamela Colman Smith: the Untold Story.

• Almost five years have passed since the last album from Earth (if you discount the Bug vs. Earth collaboration Concrete Desert) but the band will release a new album, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, in May. Cats On The Briar is a taster.

Charles Bramesco on Sergei Bondarchuk’s astonishing 7-hour adaptation of War and Peace. I watched the whole thing last weekend: all superlatives are justified.

• The History of the Future: James Conway on leaving Australia for a life in Berlin and publishing. Related: Where is Rixdorf?

• At Spoon & Tamago: Keisuke Aiso‘s artworks, including the Ubume sculpture that became the face of the Momo Challenge hoax.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 282 by Tourist Gaze, and Big Sister’s Scratchy Singles Vol 1 by radioShirley.

Alexander Rose on the 26,000-Year Astronomical Monument Hidden in Plain Sight.

Rebecca Cole and Janise Elie go in search of the Brocken spectre on Burley Moor.

M. John Harrison: Critical Essays, edited by Rhys Williams and Mark Bould.

Forest of Resonating Lamps – One Stroke, Cherry Blossoms by teamLab.

• Tour de France: Jonathan Meades selects 13 exercise-bike Classics.

• At Greydogtales: The Cthulhu Mythos for Beginners.

The Black Tower (1987), a short film by John Smith.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jean Rollin Day.

Ishmael Reed doesn’t like Hamilton.

Babylonian Tower (1982) by Minimal Compact | The Tower (Black Advance) (2007) by Mordant Music | The Tower (Empty Fortress) (2007) by Mordant Music