Kenneth Anger’s Maldoror

teske.jpg

Kenneth Anger, Topanga Canyon, Composite with Gustave Doré Engraving (1954) by Edmund Teske.

Les Chants de Maldoror, 1951–1952.
16mm; black and white; filmed in Paris and Deauville.

With a hand-held 16mm camera I shot my first series of short haiku. This was my apprenticeship in the marvels that surround us, waiting to be discovered, awake to knowledge and life and whose magical essence is revealed by selection. At 17, | composed my first long poem, a 15 minute suite of images, my black tanka: Fireworks.

I had seen this drama entirely on the screen of my dreams. This vision was uniquely amenable to the instrument that awaited it. With three lights, a black cloth as décor, the greatest economy of means and enormous inner concentration, Fireworks was made in three days.

An example of the direct transfer of a spontaneous inspiration, this film reveals the possibilities of automatic writing on the screen, of a new language that reveals thought; it allows the triumph of the dream.

The wholly intellectual belief of the “icy masters” of cinema in the supremacy of technique recalls, on the literary level, the analytical essays of a Poe or the methods of a Valéry, who said: “I only write to order. Poetry is an assignment.”

At the opposite pole to these creative systems there is the divine inspiration of a Rimbaud or a Lautréamont, prophets of thought. The cinema has explored the northern regions of impersonal stylization; it should now discover the southern regions of personal lyricism; it should have its prophets.

These prophets will restore faith in a “pure cinema” of sensual revelation. They will re-establish the primacy of the image. They will teach us the principles of their faith: that we participate before evaluating. We will give back to the dream its first state of veneration. We will recall primitive mysteries. The future of film is in the hands of the poet and his camera. Hidden away are the followers of a faith in “pure cinema.” even in this unlikely age. They make their modest “fireworks” in secret, showing them from time to time, they pass unnoticed in the glare of the “silver rain” of the commercial cinema. Maybe one of these sparks will liberate the cinema….

Angels exist. Nature provides “the inexhaustible flow of visions of beauty.” It is for the poet, with his personal vision, to “capture” them.

Kenneth Anger—Modesty and the Art of Film, Cahiers du Cinéma no. 5, September 1951

* * *

Little is known about Anger’s activities during the mid-1950s. By 1958 he still had not been able to complete any films in Paris. He held on to his hope of completing Maldoror. His stack of preproduction notes and sketches had grown larger and he had plans to photograph nudes in a graveyard. Several Parisian Surrealists threatened to hand Anger’s head to him if he shot Maldoror. The book’s fluid, dreamlike imagery had been one of the trailblazers of Surrealism, and his detractors felt that a gauche American with a reputation for pop iconography and bold homosexual statement would debase a sacred text.

Bill Landis—Anger: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger, 1995

* * *

I discovered the book when I was quite young. I loved it, put a lot of passion into it. I found people to play the parts. I found settings, gaslit corners, places still had the romantic look of a Second Empire. It was a terrific ambition to make this epic film-poem. I found ways to translate the text’s extraordinary images. I planned to film a mid-nineteenth century story taking place in twentieth century Paris. I filmed “the hymn to the ocean” on the beach at Deauville, with Hightower and members of the Marquis de Cuevas Ballet. They danced in the sea; tables were placed beneath the water line so the dancers could stand on their points. It looked as though they were standing on waves. The people who called themselves “Surrealists” were furious—this group of punks threatened me—they didn’t want a Yank messing round with their sacred text. I just told them to go to hell! I also managed to film the war of the flies and pins. I put bags of pins and dozens of flies into a glass container; revolved the container and filmed in close-up. As the pins dropped the flies zigzagged to escape. In slow motion an impressive image.

Kenneth Anger—Into the Pleasure Dome: The Films of Kenneth Anger, edited by Jayne Pilling & Michael O’Pray, 1989

* * *

The sections of the film that were completed [are] stored in the Cinémathèque Française, but [their] exact whereabouts in the archive is unknown, with no images from the film being currently available for reproduction.

Alice L. Hutchinson—Kenneth Anger, 2004

Previously on { feuilleton }
Donald Cammell and Kenneth Anger, 1972
My Surfing Lucifer by Kenneth Anger
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome: The Eldorado Edition
Brush of Baphomet by Kenneth Anger
Anger Sees Red
Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon
Lucifer Rising posters
Missoni by Kenneth Anger
Anger in London
Arabesque for Kenneth Anger by Marie Menken
Edmund Teske
Kenneth Anger on DVD again
Mouse Heaven by Kenneth Anger
The Man We Want to Hang by Kenneth Anger
Relighting the Magick Lantern
Kenneth Anger on DVD…finally

The poster art of Josef Vyletal

vyletal11.jpg

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.

vyletal07.jpg

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.)

vyletal13.jpg

The Black Tulip (1967).

vyletal01.jpg

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968).

vyletal12.jpg

The Trygon Factor (1968).

Continue reading “The poster art of Josef Vyletal”

Weekend links 471

maclean.jpg

Pink Floyd, Lee Michaels, Clear Light (1967) by Bonnie MacLean.

• Electronic musician Mort Garson has been subject to a revival of interest recently, with reissues of his works as Ataraxia (The Unexplained), and Lucifer (Black Mass). The latest reissue is Mother Earth’s Plantasia (1976), an album released under Garson’s own name, and one of several works of plant mysticism from the 1970s (see Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants, and Green by Steve Hillage).

• “It is striking how much of this work sounds like a missing link from the art world to the popular groups of the time, such as the Detroit techno pioneers Cybotron and the Japanese electro legends Yellow Magic Orchestra.” Geeta Dayal on the reconfigured Speak & Spell machinery of Paul DeMarinis.

The cost of free love and the designers who bore it: Madeleine Morley meets the women of psychedelic design.

For the transhumanist anarchist Wilson, the neurological relativism revealed by his own learning and personal deprogramming experiments called for a form of ‘guerrilla ontology’ that lampooned, rejected and transmitted much needed interference into the ‘reality tunnels’ that attempt to control much of contemporary society and individual behaviour. In the Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy, characters are repeatedly placed in positions of cognitive dissonance, where they are forced to reevaluate their own belief systems due to experiences that they are unable to accommodate.

Sean Kitching on the 40th anniversary of Robert Anton Wilson’s Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy

• They said books were dead, they were wrong: Adrian Shaughnessy on a decade of Unit Editions.

• Mixes of the week: Xianedelica by Jesús Bacalão, and Kosmische Mix By Tarotplane.

• Swinging 60s surrealist Penny Slinger: “Collectors thought I came with the art”.

• Cabaret Voltaire: Chance Versus Causality (Teaser).

Luc Sante on postcards of American violence.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Peter Whitehead Day.

Computerwelt (1981) by Kraftwerk | Speak And Spell (1984) by Christina Kubisch | Time Space Transmat (1985) by Model 500

Weekend links 426

slinger.jpg

Self Preservation (1970–77), a collage by Penny Slinger from the series An Exorcism.

• RIP John Calder, one of the most important British publishers of the last century whose death was acknowledged in the Washington Post (and in the Telegraph, a paper that would have given him no support during his censorship battles) but at the time of writing hasn’t been mentioned at all in the increasingly useless Guardian. The omission in the latter seems even more surprising when Calder himself wrote obituaries for the paper, and they ran an archive piece two weeks ago for the 50th anniversary of Calder & Boyars’ successful court defence of Last Exit to Brooklyn. “Publishing is an industry run by capitalists now.

• Another 50th anniversary: David Bushman asked Alan Moore for his memories of Patrick McGoohan’s superb TV series The Prisoner.

Michael Moorcock in conversation with Hari Kunzru at Shakespeare and Company, Paris.

Stephen O’Malley presents Acid Quarry Paris – In Session with Richard Pinhas (Heldon).

• When a rock is a stone: Louise Steinman on finding Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.

• Victorians, Vaults, and Violet Water: a profusion of links at Greydogtales.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 666 by Róisín Murphy.

• The amazing adventures of Melinda Gebbie.

Starbirthed

Exorcism (1971) by Lucifer | The Final Calling (Physical Exorcism) (1984) by CTI | Exorcism Of The Hippies (2010) by Mater Suspiria Vision

John Aarts’ Lucifer

aarts01.jpg

The Lucifer in question being the principal character in a play of the same name by Dutch poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel (1587–1679). I confess that I hadn’t heard of this work before even though it’s well-known in the Netherlands, and may also have influenced Paradise Lost. The version linked here is an American reprint of an earlier edition from 1898 that was the first English translation of the play. The graphics by John Aarts appear to be wood engravings but I’m not certain of that, matters not being helped by the present invisibility of Mr Aarts. In addition to a suite of full-page illustrations there are many embellishments in the nascent Dutch Art Nouveau style. And unlike many books that repeat the same two or three vignettes there’s a lot of variation throughout so it’s worth seeing the book as a whole.

aarts02.jpg

aarts03.jpg

aarts04.jpg

Continue reading “John Aarts’ Lucifer”