Weekend links 574

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Poster for Beauty and the Beast (1978) by Josef Vyletal.

• Next month, Second Run release Juraj Herz’s 1978 adaptation of Beauty and the Beast on region-free blu-ray. I watched this last year on a Czech DVD so it’s good to hear it’s being given an upgrade. Herz’s film is a distinctly sinister take on the familiar tale, with a bird-headed Beast that’s closer to Max Ernst than anything you’ll find in illustrations for Perrault’s stories.

• “In a coincidence so unlikely it almost seems, well, magical, the girls traced illustrations from a book of folklore that also contained a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, a reflection of a reflection of a reflection.” Audrey Wollen on the Cottingley fairy photographs. Related: The Coming of the Fairies by Arthur Conan Doyle.

• “[Mark E. Smith], with his love of Stockhausen, HP Lovecraft, and (bizarrely) the sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, becomes a reverse coder, an apostle of avant pulp, a ‘paperback shaman’.” Sukhdev Sandhu reviews Excavate! The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, edited by Tessa Norton and Bob Stanley.

• “Found photos of men in love from 1850–1950“. Maybe. As before, I’m always cautious about imposing a narrative on old photographs.

• Mixes of the week: A mix for The Wire by Pamela Z, and a dose of post-punk esoterica by Moin for XLR8R.

DJ Food takes another dive into back issues of International Times in search of ads for London’s Middle Earth club.

• At The Smart Set: Colin Fleming watches John Bowen’s drama of pastoral horror, Robin Redbreast.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Heavily plotted non-linear structures whose velocity lacks narrative drive.

Ryan Gilbey attempts to rank Robert Altman’s features into a list of 20 best.

• Still Farther South: Poe and Pym’s Suggestive Symmetries by John Tresch.

• New music: At One Point by Scorn.

Visionist‘s favourite albums.

The Beast (1956) by Milt Buckner | Leggo Beast (1978) by Gregory Isaac’s All Stars | This Beast (1983) by Tuxedomoon

The poster art of Josef Vyletal

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The Hero is Afraid (1965).

Film posters by Czech artist Josef Vyletal (1940-1989) have appeared here in the past, but after watching Juraj Herz’s gloomily Gothic Beauty and the Beast (1978) at the weekend—a film for which Vyletal not only created a poster but also provided the title sequence and paintings seen within the film—I thought the artist deserved a post of his own.

Josef Vyletal was a prolific poster artist and designer—the Terry Posters website states that he created 115 designs for the cinema—who also worked as a book illustrator. Between commercial assignments he produced paintings in a macabre Surrealist style that filtered into his commercial work, the Herz titles included. The absence of barriers between private obsessions and commercial imperatives is what makes the film posters created by Czech and Polish artists so attractive, as well as so surprising to Anglophone viewers. There’s no sense of these works being produced by committee, of a gaggle of marketing executives fretting over details behind the scenes. Some of Vyletal’s interpretations are so extreme and uncompromising by Hollywood standards it’s impossible to imagine even an adventurous chain like Alamo Drafthouse commissioning them, never mind a risk-averse studio. One of the designs I singled out for an earlier post is an ideal example, a poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which dispenses with any visual reference to the film in favour of a liberal borrowing of the bird-headed figures from Max Ernst’s The Robing of the Bride. It’s a commonplace when discussing the films of Jan Svankmajer to situate the director in the history of Czech Surrealism which remained a clandestine movement during the Communist years. But Vyletal’s paintings demonstrate a confidence that the average Czech filmgoer could accept Surrealist imagery when being tempted by the latest fare from Hollywood.

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The Naked Eye (1966).

Given my own tastes for Surrealist imagery many of the examples shown here tend in this direction. Vyletal was a versatile artist who utilised a number of different styles, including collage and a bold graphic style of black shapes on coloured backgrounds. In addition to borrowing from Ernst he also borrowed (or swiped) figures from Aubrey Beardsley on at least two occasions (see below). Most of the examples here are collages augmented by or combined with paint, collage being a quicker solution when faced with deadlines. Terry Posters has many more examples.

(Note: the name Vyletal should include an accent but the coding on this blog throws up errors when it encounters unusual accents. My apologies to Czech readers.)

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The Black Tulip (1967).

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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968).

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The Trygon Factor (1968).

Continue reading “The poster art of Josef Vyletal”

Weekend links 409

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Poster for Steppenwolf (1974), a film directed by Fred Haines (his only one) based on the novel by Herman Hesse, and starring Max von Sydow and Dominique Sanda. No artist or designer credited.

• “…in her 20s, she heard two elderly folk singers and was struck by their ‘gentle dignity’. It cemented her own philosophy: ‘No dramatising a song, no selling it to an audience, no overdecorating in a way that was alien to English songs, and most of all, singing to people, not at them.'” Laura Snapes on Shirley Collins and her memoir, All in the Downs.

• Many of the BBC’s sound effects were available for years in necessarily small collections on vinyl, tape and CD. Now you can download over 16,000 of them for free here. The interface is still primitive so try typing some words into the search box to see what shows up.

Carl Swanson on Natalie Frank’s paintings based on Pauline Réage’s Story of O, and the problems these caused when she tried to exhibit them.

• Pictures of the Jazz Age: Regina Marler reviews three books about photographer Berenice Abbott.

• “The late Juraj Herz was a one-man wave of Czechoslovak horror,” says Kat Ellinger.

Mark Dery on William S. Burroughs and the dead-end horror of the Centipede God.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 648 by Laraaji, and XLR8R Podcast 538 by Fluxion.

Kashmir by Forming The Void, and Kazakhstan by Brian Eno.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Dominique Sanda Day.

PixaTool by Kronbits.

Born To Be Wild (1968) by Steppenwolf | Steppenwolf (1976) by Hawkwind | Der Steppenwolf (2015) by Selofan

Weekend links 408

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Kujaku (2018) by Yasuto Sasada.

• “The Ernst picture [Of This Men Shall Know Nothing] has also been interpreted as depicting sexual alchemy, which also ties in with much of Peter Grey’s writing on Babalon and the goddess’ connection to sexual magic and the three ‘Fs’: f(e)asting, flagellation and fucking!” Hawthonn’s Phil & Layla Legard talk to Folk Horror Revival about their superb new album, Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing).

• South London “Psychic Circuit”: A walk with London writer Iain Sinclair inspired by cult writer Steve Moore—from Shooter’s Hill and the Shrewsbury burial mound to Charlton House then Maryon Park and the locations used in Antonioni’s Blow Up.

• Czech filmmaker Juraj Herz, director of The Cremator (1969) and Morgiana (1972), died last week. One of his later films, The Ninth Heart (1978), featured an animated title sequence by Jan Svankmajer and Eva Svankmajerova.

• The week in psychedelic visuals: Ben Marks on Bill Ham’s San Francisco light shows (a piece from 2016), and Dangerous Minds on Astralvision’s Electric Light Voyage (1979), a light show on Betamax tape.

• “From glaciers to nuclear bunkers, photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews descends into the dark heart of the Swiss mountains that inspired Mary Shelley.”

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 250 by Sote, and XLR8R Podcast 537 by SNTS.

When The Horses Were Shorn Of Their Hooves, new music by Dylan Carlson.

Emily Temple on Edward Gorey’s illustrated covers for literary classics.

Hidden Hydrology: Coil’s Lost Rivers studio sessions.

Tube: Minimalist YouTube search

Sukhdev Sandhu is In Wild Air

• Lost Roads (1988) by Bill Laswell | Lost Sanctum (1994) by Lull | Lost Ways (2016) by Pye Corner Audio

Ikarie XB 1

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A science fiction novel by Stanislaw Lem (The Magellanic Cloud, 1955).

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Illustration by Teodor Rotrekl.

A film by Jindrich Polák, adapted from Lem’s novel by Polák and Pavel Jurácek. (1963).

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A Second Run DVD (2013).

With the exceptions of Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Stalker (both in a league of their own), I’ve never been very enthused about Eastern Bloc science-fiction cinema. If I hadn’t been watching some Czech films recently, and listening to the soundtrack music of Zdenek Liska, I might not have bothered with this one despite its being promoted as a visual influence on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ikarie XB 1 won the Grand Prize at the Trieste International Science Fiction Film Festival in 1963, a tie with Chris Marker’s La Jetée. (Umberto Eco was one of the judges.) Fifty years on, Marker’s film has hardly dated at all while Ikarie XB 1 seems very much of its time. But Polák’s film still has some things going for it, surprisingly so considering the director was more used to making comedies.

Ikarie XB 1 is a spaceship travelling to Alpha Centauri in the year 2163. The DVD subtitles don’t translate the name Ikarie so unless you already know it means “Icarus” there’s no foreshadowing of any possible threat, at least until the opening shots of a deranged crewman stumbling through empty corridors. Many of the scenes which follow seem over-familiar but only because the scenario of space-crew as interstellar family has become such a standard feature of filmed space opera from Star Trek on. The production design is dated, of course, but the film makes great use of black and white in the lighting patterns, on-screen visuals, clothing designs, etc. It’s easy to see why Kubrick thought it was a cut above other SF films of the period, especially with its widescreen compositions. The DVD booklet (and Kim Newman’s interview on the disc) mention Kubrick’s stylistic borrowings; judge for yourself with these screen-grabs. I was hoping the Liska soundtrack might be more electronic than it is. It’s very much a Liska score—at times you can’t help but imagine a Svankmajer puppet lurking round a corner—but with added reverb and spectral organ chords. The latter assist a sequence where two of the crew members explore an apparently derelict space station.

This page reviews the film in some detail (complete with plot spoilers). For the curious, the entire film is a free download at the Internet Archive.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Fiser and Liska
Two sides of Liska
Liska’s Golem
The Cremator by Juraj Herz