Weekend links 304

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One of ten new stamps designed by The Chase for the Royal Mail’s Shakespeare celebrations.

• “I basically had this problem with bombast and intensity. And I started to feel like it was a nuclear arms race.” Tim Hecker talking to Rick Moody about loud sounds, Icelandic elves and Minimalism. Hecker’s new album, Love Streams, features contributions from Ben Frost and Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• “He joked in a letter to Edmund Wilson that he had ‘managed to get into Harvard with a butterfly as my sole backer.'” Laura Marsh on Nabokov the lepidopterist.

• The brutal musical legacy of JG Ballard by Tim Noakes. Ballard’s own musical taste, as revealed in his choice for Desert Island Discs, was mostly nostalgic.

One outcome of this sense that homosexual people existed in large numbers while still remaining more or less invisible to the naked eye was the suspicion that when they got together they were likely to engage in something more, something even worse than the indulging of a perversion. Notoriously, the networks of homosexuality seemed to transcend many more formal social and political boundaries, reifying crossovers not only between national and ethnic cultures, but between high society and the demi-mondes of bohemian artists, and so forth. The Homintern certainly helped cross-fertilise the arts.

Gregory Woods on the gay artists and writers who changed the world

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 544 by Tim Gane, Abs’s Cornerhouse Classics by Abigail Ward, and Secret Thirteen Mix 181 by Broken Bone.

I Can’t Give Everything Away: Jonathan Barnbrook’s text-and graphics video for the song by David Bowie.

• “Chernobyl is spooky, in the manner of all disowned places.” Simon Parkin enters the Zone.

Osman Ahmed on why Doreen Valiente is “the mother of modern witchcraft”.

• The camera obscura art of Abelardo Morell.

An oral history of Taxi Driver.

Swiss graphic design in CSS

• RIP Tony Conrad

Lady Macbeth (1972) by Third Ear Band | In The Back Of A Taxi (1984) by Penguin Cafe Orchestra | Butterfly Mornings (2001) by Hope Sandoval & The Warm Vibrations

Welles at 100

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Orson Welles: A First Biography (1946) by Roy Alexander Fowler.

Happy birthday, Orson. The premature celebrity biography is nothing new, as this small volume from the Coulthart library demonstrates. Welles was only 31 in 1946 but was already the director of three feature films. If I’m less of a Welles obsessive today it’s because many of the films and radio plays that were once inaccessible can now be easily seen and heard, although a handful of unfinished projects still wait in the wings. The following is a selection of some favourite Wellesiana, old and new.

• The Mercury Theatre On The Air: Recordings of Welles’ theatre troupe at the Internet Archive and at the dedicated website. The Mercury production of The War of the Worlds is the essential one, of course, but I’m also partial to their production of Dracula which featured Agnes Moorehead playing Mina Harker, Welles as the Count, and a suitably spooky score by Bernard Herrmann. The production of Around the World in 80 Days was later expanded by Welles into an ambitious (and expensive) stage musical in collaboration with Cole Porter.

The Night America Trembled (1957) is a TV dramatisation of the alarmed reaction of some Americans to the War of the Worlds broadcast. Presented live by Ed Murrow, the drama features Warren Beatty, James Coburn, Warren Oates, and Ed Asner (who later presented the BBC’s RKO Story). Closer to Welles is The Night That Panicked America (1975) a TV movie recreation of the original broadcast with Paul Shenar as the director.

Newsreel footage of the final scenes of the so-called Voodoo Macbeth from 1936. As part of the WPA program to return Americans to work, Welles directed an all-black cast with the action of the play moved to Haiti. As usual, Welles wasn’t afraid of rearranging the Bard’s words, and this staging ends with the same lines as his 1948 film version: “Peace! The charm’s wound up.”

• My favourite Welles book is still This is Orson Welles (1992), a collection of Peter Bogdanovich’s interviews edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum. Bogdanovich’s interview tapes can be heard at the Internet Archive.

Orson Welles’ Horrorshow: Colin Fleming on Welles’ Macbeth, “the horror film no one likes to call a horror film”.

Peter Bradshaw on Citizen Kane and the meaning of “Rosebud”.

Six actors who have played Orson Welles onscreen

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Fountain of Youth
The Complete Citizen Kane
Return to Glennascaul, a film by Hilton Edwards
Screening Kafka
The Panic Broadcast

Witches

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Scene of Witchcraft (1510) by Hans Baldung Grien.

Earlier this year Pam Grossman declared 2013 to be the Year of the Witch, so in honour of that (and the season) here’s a handful of sorceresses through the ages. Most can be found in higher quality at the Google Art Project but a couple are from other sources. I’ve taken the liberty of attributing the drawing below to Hans Baldung Grien, not Albrecht Dürer as Google has it. Not only is this the attribution I’ve always seen for this picture but Baldung’s “HBG” monogram is clearly visible beneath the sprawling woman.

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New Year’s Greeting with Three Witches (1514) by Hans Baldung Grien.

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The Witches’ Sabbath (c.1640–1649) by Salvator Rosa.

Salvator Rosa specialised in lurid depictions of bandits, executions and—as here—witches. The excessive imagery appealed to later generations, especially the Romantics. This painting is even more grotesque than usual with its flayed-bird abominations (below) looming out of the shadows.

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Continue reading “Witches”

Weekend links 170

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Owl portrait by Iain Macarthur.

• “Ghost Box is a glance through a window seeing something running alongside our version of reality. Like, what if Paul McCartney had made records with the Radiophonic Workshop?” Ghost Box designer and Mr Focus Group, Julian House is interviewed.

• “…that book with the girl with the hatchet in her head…” Dave Tompkins remembers Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (1973), a formative influence of mine, and that of many other people, it seems.

Salvador Dalí’s 1946 illustrated edition of Macbeth. Related: From Macbeth to the Wizard of Oz: New exhibition explores the erotic side of witchcraft.

I do not want to live in a world where the government and a select few conservative feminists get to decide what we may and may not masturbate to, and use the bodies of murdered women or children as emotional pawns in that debate. It is supremely difficult to achieve radical ends by conservative means. Feminists and everyone who seeks to end sexual violence should be very cautious when their immediate goals seem to line up neatly with those of social conservatives and state censors.

Laurie Penny on the recent Tory policy of attempting to limit online pornography.

The Facebook page for The Wicker Man has details of the pursuit for a complete print of the film. A Blu-ray edition will be released in October.

Anne Billson visited the Hotel Thermae Palace in Ostend, the columnated location of Daughters of Darkness.

Kenneth Anger on how he made Lucifer Rising. The ICA in London is screening his films this weekend.

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Roy Krenkel illustrates Tales of Three Planets by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1964.

The Electric Banana Blows Your Mind: The soundtrack library alter ego of The Pretty Things.

• Mix of the week: an ambient (in the 90s’ sense of the word) DJ set by Surgeon.

Bernie Krause shares the happiest sounds he’s heard in nature.

• RIP Walter De Maria, sculptor and musician.

Sexodrome by Asia Argento with Morgan.

• Metabolist: Identify (1980) | Curly Wall (1980) | Ymuzgo/Pigface (1981)

Jon Finch, 1941–2012

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Macbeth (1971).

There are few actors I’ve ever felt sufficiently cultish about who could make me watch films or TV dramas I wouldn’t otherwise be interested in. Orson Welles would be one (up to a point, he was in a lot of crap in later years), Patrick McGoohan another and Jon Finch most definitely a third. Having watched Finch just over a week ago in Roman Polanski’s superb adaptation of Macbeth it’s been a shock to discover that he’d died shortly after Christmas, the news of his funeral only being announced this week.

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Frenzy (1972).

The cult status stems from the remarkable run of lead roles he was offered in the early 1970s: playing Macbeth for Polanski, the “wrong man” role in Hitchcock’s last great film, Frenzy, and a perfect Jerry Cornelius in Robert Fuest’s adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s The Final Programme. There were plenty of other roles, of course, but those three are standouts which also show something of his range: suitably brooding, weak and malevolent in Macbeth, in Frenzy a hounded man who seems disreputable enough for his friends to suspect he may be a murderer, in The Final Programme as smart and insouciant as Moorcock’s Cornelius ought to be.

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The Final Programme (1973): Finch with Jenny Runacre (Miss Brunner).

I’m happier that Finch played Cornelius instead of James Bond, a role he was offered after Sean Connery quit. Jerry Cornelius, “the English Assassin”, in the first novel in Moorcock’s Cornelius quartet is a kind of anti-Bond, and there were few actors around in 1973 who would have possessed the necessary charisma and intelligence for the part. Mike Moorcock was friends with Finch around the time the film was being made so when I was visiting the Moorcocks in Paris a few years ago I asked him why Finch hadn’t done more with his career after such an impressive start. Mike says he was one of those actors who often preferred to be doing something else with his time.

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Finch and Ronald Lacey (Shades) in The Final Programme.

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On the set of Alien (1978).

Obituaries will no doubt regard Finch’s rejection of the Bond role as a missed opportunity but I wish we could have seen him as intended in Ridley Scott’s Alien where he’d been cast as Kane but had to drop out after contracting a severe case of bronchitis once shooting was underway. The photo and screen grab below are seldom-seen images from the Alien DVD extras. I’ve nothing against John Hurt in the role but with Finch playing the part it would have made a cult film a little more special. He did get to act for Ridley Scott eventually with a small role in Kingdom of Heaven in 2005.

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An outtake from Alien.

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As Count Sylvius in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994).

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Update: Found on an archive disc, this rare photo from the set of The Final Programme showing Finch as Jerry Cornelius facing off with his creator, Michael Moorcock. (Click for a larger copy.) That’s the Space Ritual line-up of Hawkwind in the background. Band and author appear for a fraction of a second in a shot during the film’s arcade scene. Considering how common it was to have rock bands in feature films during this time it still surprises me that Fuest and co. went to all this trouble then left them on the cutting-room floor. The photo was Moorcock’s own, as I recall, something we ran in one of the Savoy books.

Guardian obituary
Independent obituary
Telegraph obituary
Macbeth trailer
Frenzy trailer
The Final Programme trailer

Previously on { feuilleton }
Dan O’Bannon, 1946–2009
Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner