Weekend links 294

napoleon.jpg

Painting by Alex Tavoularis.

• There are silent films, and then there is Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927), a five-and-a-half hour historical drama following the emperor’s life from boyhood to the invasion of Italy. The word “epic” is overused but Gance’s film demands the description: in addition to the recreation of huge battles and scenes from the French Revolution, cinema screening required three projectors for sequences which are either multi-screen or three times the width of the Academy ratio. The film was revived in the early 1980s after an extensive restoration by Kevin Brownlow, but Napoleon is still more talked about than seen so news of a forthcoming digital release by the BFI is very welcome indeed. The poster above is from this collection which includes more information about the film and its troubled history. Related: a trailer for a 2012 screening at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

• “His films broke with traditional production methods, having virtually no shooting script and capturing the freshness of their genesis.” RIP Jacques Rivette. In 1998 Frédéric Bonnaud talked to Rivette about the director’s cinematic likes and dislikes. Elsewhere, Jonathan Romney speculates that Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974) “might be the only film in which the story is dreamed by a passing cat”.

Strange Flowers‘ selects 16 books for (what’s left of) 2016. Stand-out for me is Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné by Linda Gertner Zatlin which will be published in May. Two cased volumes, a total of 1104 pages, and a price tag of $300.

It’s a powerful trope, but it also risks trading one stigma for another: ‘‘Phobia’’ is now so embedded in our language that it’s easy to forget that it is a metaphor comparing bigots to the mentally ill. The comparison also has the effect of excusing those Americans—like certain presidential candidates in the 2016 race—who wield prejudices strategically. It’s not your fault if you get sick. But hating people is a choice.

Amanda Hess on how “-phobic” became a weapon in the identity wars

• Delving into the shadowy world of occult art: Priscilla Frank talks to Pam Grossman about her Language of the Birds exhibition. Related: “The occult never quite goes away,” says Kenneth Anger.

• “It was a magic day in our happy, young lives.” A proposal for a monument in Baltimore celebrating the final scene of John Waters’ Pink Flamingos.

• Mixes of the week: Wrap Up Warm Mix by Moon Wiring Club, Secret Thirteen Mix 175 by Inner8, and FACT mix 533 by Roly Porter.

• “He was less an architect than a Busby Berkeley with a penchant for Black Masses.” Jonathan Meades on Albert Speer.

• More film posters: Benjamin Lee on the compromises that have made contemporary posters “drab and uninspiring”.

• The vast and ghostly landscape of “Britain’s only desert”: photographs by Robert Walker.

Wyrd Daze, Lvl2 Issue 5, is free and brimming with the weird.

• The films of Michael Mann in 44 shots.

Laurie Anderson‘s favourite films.

Flamingo (1959) by Henry Mancini | Moon Occults The Sun (2006) by Espers | The Moon Occults Saturn at Dawn (2015) by Steve Moore

Weekend links 188

blackwell.jpg

The Baron in the Trees (2011), a book-cut sculpture by Su Blackwell.

Kurt Andersen at Vanity Fair examines the latest claims that Vermeer used a combination of lenses and mirrors to aid the creation of his remarkable paintings. David Hockney caused a considerable fuss in 2006 when he made similar assertions. Andersen recounts how Tim Jenison (who isn’t an artist) decided to test the hypothesis by building a replica of the room from Vermeer’s The Music Lesson (1662–65) which he then painted with the assistance of a lens-and-mirror apparatus. I’m agnostic on this issue, and don’t regard it as a devaluing of the work of Vermeer (or any other artist) if some special apparatus was used to help create the paintings; artists for centuries have been using whatever technology was available.

One point which isn’t mentioned in the article: lens optics were being developed to a high standard in the Netherlands during Vermeer’s time. One of the developers of the microscope, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, was a contemporary of Vermeer’s in Delft, and is even alleged to be portrayed in some of the artist’s paintings.

• Before Alfred Hitchcock’s film and Daphne Du Maurier’s short story, The Birds was an “eerie yet satirical and rather metaphysical novel” by Frank Baker, inspired in part by Arthur Machen. Michael Dirda reviews a new edition. Related: “The Day of the Claw: A Synoptic Account of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds“, an essay by Ken Mogg examining avian menace through the ages.

Kevin Brownlow and Carl Davis on how they brought Abel Gance’s 270-minute silent masterwork, Napoleon (1927), back to the screen.

Finally, he was asked about the growth of surveillance and the militarization of the police.

“The phenomenon itself shouldn’t be surprising—the scale was surprising—but the phenomenon itself is as American as apple pie,” Chomsky said. “You can be confident that any system of power is going to use technology against its enemy: the population. Power systems seek short-term domination and control, not security.”

Matthew Robare on “American Anarchist” Noam Chomsky in (of all places) The American Conservative.

• “Why the hell wouldn’t I?” Evan J. Peterson on reading/performing his poetry in public, and his new book, The Midnight Channel.

The adversaria of Google Books: captured mark of the hand and digitization as rephotography.

• No surprise that the rabies-haunted town of Scarfolk is soon to have its history fixed in print.

Mazzy Star made a rare TV appearance last week, playing a song from their recent album.

The Sorcerer Blog is obsessively devoted to William Friedkin’s cult film.

• Unexpected Artefacts: Pushing the envelope with Bristol’s Emptyset.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 097 by Lee Gamble.

• At PingMag: Ryokudo—Tokyo’s Green Roads.

Norman Records’ Top 50 albums of 2013.

Birds Of Fire (1973) by Mahavishnu Orchestra | Attack Of The Killer Birds (2006) by Émilie Simon | One Thousand Birds (2012) by Six Organs of Admittance

Strange cargo: things found in books

books1.jpg

The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects by Alexandra David-Neel & Lama Yongden, City Lights Books (1972).

One of the additional pleasures of buying old books besides finding something out-of-print (or, it has to be said, something cheap) occurs when those books still possess traces of their previous owners. A recent posting on The Other Andrew’s page concerned book inscriptions, something any book collector will be used to seeing. Less common are the objects which slip from the pages when you’ve returned home. There are several categories of these.

1: Bookmarks

I have a substantial collection of bookmarks proper, from embossed strips of leather to the more mundane pieces of card of the type that bookshops frequently give away. But I also make a habit of using odd inserts to mark a place as did the previous owners of these volumes. The City Lights book (above) came with a very fragile leaf inside it which may well be as old as the book. Another City Lights book I own, the Artaud Anthology from 1965, included a newspaper article about Artaud. Newspaper clipping inserts are discussed below.

Continue reading “Strange cargo: things found in books”