Zemania

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Invention for Destruction (1958).

In addition to Jean Kerchbron’s Golem my weekend viewing involved a fresh immersion in the semi-animated fantasies of Karel Zeman, one of which, Invention for Destruction, I’d not seen for many years. It hadn’t occurred to me before how closely Zeman’s technique on these films matches some of my own recent illustration when it applies original drawn elements to settings constructed from old engravings. For Zeman, combining actors with animated models and pictorial backgrounds was an economical way of bringing to life the worlds of Jules Verne, Rudolf Erich Raspe and others while retaining the feel of the original book illustrations. These films are also closer to the Max Ernst school of engraved collage than they may at first seem. The mansion at the beginning of Invention for Destruction could easily have been an illustration of a single building but Zeman offers a hybrid construction with unrealistically conflicting perspectives; later on we see a desert cavalry of camels on roller skates. It’s no surprise that Jan Svankmajer admires Zeman’s films. And having recently watched all the Svankmajers it’s good to know there are several Zeman features still to see.

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Weekend links 498

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The Sentinel 280, a car design by Syd Mead from 1964.

• “Boris Dolgov did not exist. The man who bore that name may have existed, but there never was a man in the United States with that name until 1956, too late for Weird Tales.” Teller of Weird Tales on the mysterious identity of a magazine artist.

• Saying goodbye to 2019 also meant saying farewell to Vaughan Oliver, Neil Innes and Syd Mead. Related: Vaughan Oliver at Discogs; I’m The Urban Spaceman; a look back at Syd Mead’s vehicle designs.

Lanre Bakare on how ambient music became cool. (Again. This begs the question of when it became uncool, especially when a ten-year-old Brian Eno piece about “the death of uncool” is being quoted.)

Westerners interpreted the peyote experience very differently from the practitioners of the peyote religion, where the focus was “ritual, song and prayer, and to dissect one’s private sensations was to miss the point”. Writers such as Havelock Ellis, who published an essay on his peyote experiences in the Lancet in 1897 (it’s likely that he also administered the substance to his friends W.B. Yeats and Arthur Symons), instead tended to focus on its visual effects. Ellis described “the brilliance, delicacy and variety of the colours” and “their lovely and various textures”. Peyote reached Europe in tandem with the X-ray, cinema and electric lights, Jay notes, and “nothing delighted the eye of the mescal eater so much as the new electrical sublime”.

Emily Witt reviewing Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic by Mike Jay

Peter Bradshaw takes on the thankless task of ranking Federico Fellini’s feature films.

Geoff Manaugh on when Russia and America coöperated to avert a Y2K apocalypse.

• “Music is an ideal medium for interstellar communication,” says Daniel Oberhaus.

Keith Allison on Karel Zeman, a creator of remarkable cinematic fantasies.

•  Japanese Designer New Year’s Cards of 2020.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Vera Chytilová Day.

2020 in public domain.

Sentinel (1992) by Mike Oldfield | Sentinels (2001) by Cyclobe | Sentinel (2004) by Transglobal Underground

Weekend links 481

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L’Hamestoque (1977) by Christine Gaussot.

• Another announcement from Strange Attractor Press: Of Mud & Flame
A Penda’s Fen Sourcebook
edited by Matthew Harle and James Machin will be published at the end of October. Among the contents will be the screenplay of David Rudkin’s cult television play, an item that’s always been impossible to find in print.

• A trailer for Journey to the Beginning of Time (1955), another semi-animated fantasy film by Karel Zeman which will released on disc next month by Second Run.

• “There was craziness in getting lost and dizzy.” Stereolab choose favourite songs from their back catalogue.

E=MC² (1976), an album of spacey jazz-electronica by Teddy Lasry which has never been reissued.

• “Why do so many book covers look the same? Blame Getty Images,” says Cory Matteson.

• Mix of the week: The Ephemeral Man’s Teapot by The Ephemeral Man.

Masataka Nakano has been photographing a deserted Tokyo for almost 30 years.

• Beyond the bounds of depravity: an oral history of David Cronenberg’s Crash.

Woodblocks in Wonderland: The Japanese Fairy Tale Series.

• A new novel by M. John Harrison is always a good thing.

Hamid Drake‘s favourite music.

Warm Leatherette (1980) by Grace Jones | Crash (1980) by Tuxedomoon | A Crash At Every Speed (1994) by Disco Inferno

Weekend links 363

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The Constant Drumbeat of Terrible News (no date) by Allison Sommers.

• Nadia Khomami on Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty, an exhibition at the British Library. Related: Simon McCallum‘s potted history of LGBT characters on British screens. Elsewhere: writer and philanthropist Chuck Forester on gay sex in the 1970s.

The Panic Fables: Mystic Teachings and Initiatory Tales by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Finally available in English, a collection of all the comic strips written and illustrated by Jodorowsky when he was living in Mexico in the 1960s.

• A trailer for the restored print of The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1961) by Karel Zeman. Related: collage designs by Graphic Manipulator for a Japanese collection of Zeman’s films.

• “Whether divining ancient wisdoms or elevating the art of cold reading, Tarot is a form of therapy, much like psychoanalysis,” says James McConnachie.

James Reith on “the Icelandic publisher that only prints books during a full moon – then burns them”.

• Mixes of the week: Wire 400 Mix #6 by Emptyset, and Secret Thirteen Mix 223 by Constantine.

• Mud And Flame: Penda’s Fen re-examined by Matthew Harle and James Machin.

Tilda Swinton in a Leonora Carrington-inspired fashion shoot for i-D magazine.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on William Burroughs’ The Wild Boys.

Applied Ballardianism: A Theory of Nothing by Simon Sellars.

• At Dangerous Minds: The Dark Rift by Jim Jarmusch’s Sqürl.

French Underground Rock: 1967–1980; a Discogs list.

Suzanne Ciani‘s favourite albums.

Infinite artwork: Untitled, 2017

Rip, Rig And Panic (1965) by The Roland Kirk Quartet | Panic (1984) by Coil | Flash Of Panic (1994) by Axiom Ambient

The Hour-Glass Sanatorium by Wojciech Has

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The original Polish poster by the incredible Franciszek Starowieyski.

The shrinking pool of films still unavailable on DVD contracted by at least one title recently with the surprise appearance in the UK of The Hour-Glass Sanatorium (Sanatorium pod klepsydra; 1973) from the distinctively-named Mr Bongo Films. I’ve been waiting to see this for at least twenty years so being able to walk into Fopp and buy a copy for a mere £12 strikes me as one of those small but rarely acknowledged miracles of contemporary existence.

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Director Wojciech Has is more well-known for his long and weird 1965 adaptation of the equally long and weird Saragossa Manuscript, a rambling semi-fantastical novel by Jan Potocki from around 1805. David Lynch described Saragossa as “Simultaneously horrific, erotic and funny…this is one mother of a film,” and the same description could be applied to The Hour-Glass Sanatorium, as far as I’m aware the only other excursion Has made into full-on strangeness. If anything, Sanatorium outdoes his earlier work on just about every level. Readers familiar with the writings of Bruno Schulz will already have recognised the title as being a truncated variant of Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, the second and final collection of Schulz’s unique and very strange stories.

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