The Dead, a film by Stan Brakhage

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In The Dead (1960), Stan Brakhage’s roaming camera explores the funerary architecture of the huge Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Shots of the tombs and the banks of the Seine viewed from a river boat may be typical tourist fare but Brakhage transforms his footage with fragmented editing, superimposition and continual cutting from positive to negative. The youthful figure glimpsed at the beginning is Kenneth Anger. As usual with Brakhage, the film is a silent one. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Mothlight, a film by Stan Brakhage
Thot-Fal’N, a film by Stan Brakhage

Weekend links 267

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Black Fever (2010) by Polly Morgan.

• “She was something of an Auntie Mame figure for me. We spent years haunting secondhand bookstores in Berkeley, Los Angeles, and New York, talking for hours over ever more bizarre dishes of Chinese Hakka cuisine in a hole-in-the-wall eatery at Stockton and Broadway in San Francisco, watching Kenneth Anger flicks and the surrealistic stop-motion puppet masterpieces of Ladislas Starevich, which Tom Luddy would screen for us at the Pacific Film Archive, over and over again until our eyeballs nearly fell out.” Steve Wasserman remembers Susan Sontag.

California Dreams is “the first career-spanning compendium of Mouse’s work; it includes his recent landscapes and figurative paintings. Taken as a whole, the work is a weird, gilded, space-age, flame-licked way to chart the rise of late-twentieth-century youth culture”. Jeffery Gleaves on the psychedelic art of Stanley Mouse.

• “Not only does moral preoccupation corrupt the artfulness of fiction, but fiction is an inefficient and insincere vehicle for moralizing,” says Alice Gregory, joining Pankaj Mishra to address the question: “Do Moralists Make Bad Novelists?”

Nabokov’s posthumously published Lectures on Literature reprints a corny magazine ad that Nabokov liked to show to his students at Cornell, as an example of a certain kind of sunny American materialism and kitsch (or poshlost, in Russian): it’s an ad for flatware featuring a young housewife, hands clasped, eyes brimming as she contemplates a place setting. Nabokov titled it “Adoration of Spoons,” and it undoubtedly played a significant role in his creation of the suburban widow Charlotte Haze. From such strangely endearing trash was a masterpiece born.

John Colapinto reviewing Nabokov in America by Robert Roper

• “How many typefaces is too many typefaces?” asks Adrian Shaughnessy. “What happens to our ability to discriminate and exercise good judgment when we have a near-infinite number of possibilities?”

• At BUTT: a clip from one of the more dreamlike scenes in Wakefield Poole’s gay porn film, Bijou (1972). Poole’s “sensual memoir”, Dirty Poole, is published by Lethe Press.

John Banville reviews The Prince of Minor Writers, selected essays of Max Beerbohm edited by Phillip Lopate.

• My thanks once again to Dennis Cooper for featuring this blog on his list of cultural favourites.

• More Moogery: Sarah Angliss, Gazelle Twin and Free School in the Moog Sound Lab.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 394 by Francesca Lombardo.

Atlas Obscura gets to grips with the enormous Devil’s Bible.

Feel You, a new song by Julia Holter.

Spoonful (1960) by Howlin’ Wolf | Spoon (1972) by Can | Spoon (2013) by Mazzy Star

More Spare things

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A couple of Austin Spare-related news items arrive in the same week so it’s worth linking again to Earth: Inferno (2003), a short film by Mor Navón & Julián Moguillansky based on the book by Austin Osman Spare. This is a production I have to damn with faint praise by being pleased that Spare is the focus of the work while being disappointed in the film as a whole. Despite the elaborate costumes, careful tableaux and copious nudity, Earth: Inferno confirms that an occult film needs to be more than a record of people dressing up and gesturing hieratically. If nothing else, occult rituals transform the perceptions of those involved, and this quality should be represented or implied in any film dealing with magical operations. The films of Kenneth Anger and Derek Jarman show different approaches, with the raw image transformed by superimposition, exaggerated grain, accelerated/decelerated motion, and so on. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and In the Shadow of the Sun are examples to follow. And now the news:

Lost Envoy: The Tarot Deck of Austin Osman Spare, edited by Jonathan Allen & Mark Pilkington. Out later this year from the fabulous Strange Attractor.

Surrealism, Austin Osman Spare and the Occult Underground of 1890s and 1990s London:

Nadia Choucha discusses the context and evolution of her ground-breaking book, Surrealism and the Occult, first published in 1991. The book traces the evolution of Surrealist ideas and situates them within the occult currents of fin-de-siècle European culture, revealing how these currents infused the work of various thinkers and artists in their quest for the ‘marvellous’. The work of Austin Osman Spare is also discussed as a way of comparing and contrasting his methods and techniques with those of the Surrealists. With the 25th anniversary of the publication of the book approaching, this evening will also present an analysis of the work as occurring within a unique historical and cultural moment.

Jun 23rd, 6:30 pm–8:00 pm at the Last Tuesday Society, London.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Book of Satyrs by Austin Osman Spare
Spare things
Dreaming Out of Space: Kenneth Grant on HP Lovecraft
MMM in IT
Abrahadabra
Murmur Become Ceaseless and Myriad
New Austin Spare grimoires
Austin Spare absinthe
Austin Spare’s Behind the Veil
Austin Osman Spare

Chumlum, a film by Ron Rice

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25 minutes of superimpositions, hammock swinging, fabric waving and costume play with Jack Smith as master of ceremonies. The music by Angus MacLise (under the direction of Tony Conrad, whatever that means) gives the proceedings a suitably dreamy and hallucinatory air, like an attic restaging of Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. Yesterday’s Doctor Benway operation featured Warhol Superstar Jackie Curtis as the nurse, and there are two more Superstars among the participants here: Mario Montez and Gerard Malanga; Montez had appeared in Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures a year before. (Tony Conrad was the sound recordist on that occasion.) Ron Rice’s film was made in 1964, and is another of those products of the mid-60s that anticipates the later excesses of the decade. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, a film by Ira Cohen

The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, a film by Ira Cohen

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An inevitable follow-up to yesterday’s film, Ira Cohen’s fantasia from 1968 is one of the classics of psychedelic cinema, a Kenneth Anger-like delirium that makes great use of Cohen’s obsession with Mylar distortions. Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is the model here, with a cast of revellers adopting various guises; Cohen himself appears as The Majoon Traveler and Death. The long version of the film at YouTube is the expanded edition that Arthur magazine released in 2006. Unfortunately the original score by Angus MacLise has been replaced by something that’s even more annoying that the jokey music for NY, NY. I’d recommend finding a suitably trippy substitute.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Ira Cohen, 1935–2011
Dreamweapon: The Art and Life of Angus MacLise, 1938–1979
William Burroughs by Ira Cohen, 1967
The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda