Holzmüller and the Quays

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US one sheet (1996).

Heinrich Holzmüller (also spelt Holtzmüller) was a German printmaker and calligrapher active during the 16th century. He may have been dead for centuries but this inconvenience didn’t prevent him from appearing as an interviewer in the catalogue for the MoMA exhibition of artworks by the Brothers Quay that ran throughout the end of 2012.

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Film tie-in edition of Jakob von Gunten (1995).

One of the more informative pieces of information to come from that interview concerned the Quays’ resurrection of typefaces designed by Holzmüller in his Liber Perutilis, a book about lettering and calligraphy published in 1553. The Quay versions were most visible around the time of the production of their first feature, Institute Benjamenta (1995): you can see them on the posters, on the cover of the Serpent’s Tail tie-in edition of Jakob von Gunten and also inside the rare soundtrack CD which the Quays designed for Lech Jankowski.

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Institute Benjamenta soundtrack booklet (1998).

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Institute Benjamenta soundtrack booklet (1998).

I’ve had the MoMA catalogue since it was published, and more than once had searched half-heartedly for Holzmüller’s book without success. A more recent search turned up the goods, however (sometimes it helps to keep following leads from one page to another): a copy of Liber Perutilis may be found online at the Universitätsbibliothek Basel.

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Liber Perutilis is only a short book compared to some in the field, but it’s also much more varied and original than others I’ve seen. Among the alphabets which the Quays digitised there are sets showing the letters doubled and tripled in the manner of monograms. The Quays have often signed themselves using a double Q so this may explain the attraction. The undoubled alphabet is especially striking for Holzmüller’s distortions of the letterforms which make them seem like characters viewed under rippled glass. At a time when most books about lettering and calligraphy were showing alphabets produced by careful and elegant hands this is a feature which to our eyes seems surprisingly advanced. The Quays have copied the alphabets fairly closely, making minor changes such as rounding off an E and adding the J and U which are always missing in Latin alphabets of the period. Elsewhere in the book there are many examples of calligraphic flourishes and some unusual pieces of decorative knotwork. As for Holzmüller’s posthumous interview, copies of the MoMA catalogue are still available, while the interview itself will be reprinted in the booklet for the BFI’s forthcoming Blu-ray collection, Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD

A mix for Halloween: Unheimlich Manoeuvres

Unheimlich Manoeuvres by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Presenting the ninth Halloween playlist, and another mix of my own. The one last year was pretty abrasive so this year I’ve put together something that’s more concerned with atmospherics and dynamics than jangling the nerves. There’s some continuity in the presence of Roly Porter who brought things to a thundering conclusion last year and does the same here with the final piece from his tremendous Life Cycle Of A Massive Star.

Some of the other music is a bit more obscure than usual, even by my standards. A few people will know that Lull is the name used by Napalm Death’s Mick Harris when fashioning doomy ambience; The House In The Woods is Martin Jenkins aka The Head Technician from Pye Corner Audio; Isnaj Dui is British musician Katie English; Mandible Chatter is (or was) a US duo, Grant Miller & Neville Harson who recorded several uncategorisable albums in the 1990s. Blessings From The Kingdom Of Silence is from their fifth release Food For The Moon (1997), an album I picked up secondhand which I’m surprised to find was a limited edition of 100 copies. As a consequence you may not hear this piece elsewhere.

As before, the tracklist is on the Mixcloud page but I’m repeating it here with dates added for each recording.

Jerzy MaksymiukTitle music from ‘The Hourglass Sanatorium’ (1973)
CyclobeWounded Galaxies Tap At The Window (2010)
Larry Sider & Lech JankowskiSounds & music from ‘Street of Crocodiles’ (1986)
LullThoughts (1994)
LustmordThe Cell (2002)
Robin Guthrie & Harold BuddHalloween from ‘Mysterious Skin’ (2005)
Popol VuhOn The Way from ‘Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night’ (1979)
The House In The WoodsDark Lanterns (2013)
Sussan DeyhimPossessed (2008)
Isnaj DuiNorth (2013)
Mandible ChatterBlessings From The Kingdom Of Silence (1997)
Paul SchützeThe Rapture Of The Drowning (1993)
Roly PorterGiant (2013)

Previously on { feuilleton }
A mix for Halloween: Ectoplasm Forming
A playlist for Halloween: Hauntology
A playlist for Halloween: Orchestral and electro-acoustic
A playlist for Halloween: Drones and atmospheres
A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!
Dead on the Dancefloor
Another playlist for Halloween
A playlist for Halloween

La femme qui se poudre

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The DVD collection of films by Piotr Kamler turned up last week so I’ve been alternating viewing of that with shorts by Patrick Bokanowski. The latter is less an animator than a filmmaker who uses animation or film effects to achieve his aims, together with masks and very stylised performances. Bokanowski’s early film La femme qui se poudre (The Woman Who Powders Herself, 1972) runs for 15 minutes, and is as remarkable in its own way as his feature-length L’Ange (1982). La femme qui se poudre has the same masked figures engaged in activities which often lack easy interpretation; in both films the atmosphere can shift from absurdity to the edge of horror and back again. For me what’s most remarkable about this particular short is the way it anticipates both Eraserhead and the early films of the Brothers Quay yet still seems little known. The Quays are on record as admiring L’Ange but I’ve yet to see any sign that David Lynch knew of this film in the 1970s. I’d be wary of assuming that Lynch was imitating Bokanowski, artists are quite capable of finding themselves working in similar areas independently.

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Films of this nature always benefit from well-matched soundtracks: Piotr Kamler uses recordings by different electronic composers; Eraserhead had Fats Waller and the rumblings and hissings of Alan Splet; the Quays have unique compositions by Lech Jankowski. La femme qui se poudre and L’Ange have outstanding soundtracks by Michèle Bokanowski, the director’s wife and an accomplished avant-garde composer. Her work is as deserving of further attention as that of her husband. DVDs of L’Ange and a collection of Patrick Bokanowski’s short films may be purchased here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Le labyrinthe and Coeur de secours
Chronopolis by Piotr Kamler
Brothers Quay scarcities
Patrick Bokanowski again
L’Ange by Patrick Bokanowski