Weekend links 593

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Cover art by Gwinn (?) for The Inland Printer, October 1901.

The 50 British films that inspired a young Martin Scorsese. No Michael Powell (or Hitchcock, for that matter) but I think we’re supposed to take The Archers as a given. And he’s always had a commendable taste for British horror; few directors of Scorsese’s stature would put so many Hammer films and minor chillers on a list like this.

• New music: Grey Frequency return with Essentia, an album that explores “the connections and conflicts between internal and external worlds, and our sense of place and function in an unfathomable, transcendent universe”. Ideal Halloween listening, as is much of the Grey Frequency catalogue, especially Paranormal.

• “You don’t want to have a brilliant idea for a novel at the age of 87,” says Alan Garner. Justine Jordan reviews Treacle Walker, the novel in question, here.

In his gloomy tales, predominantly written in French, journalists disappear while hunting for esoteric secrets, ships sailing to mythic islands get lost in unreal waters, protagonists track down occult artefacts such as Dr Dee’s black spirit mirror, and the living wander down alleyways that lead to the hereafter. These are all unfaithfully retold in Ray’s uniquely arcane, often kaleidoscopic prose.

Robert Davidson on Belgian author Jean Ray

• “Poe brings forth, as if out of thin air, a grotesque world fully crystallized.” Sudipto Sanyal on you-know-who.

• At Bandcamp Ed Blair compiles a list of John Carpenter-like music beginning with an album from the man himself.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on the current condition of second-hand bookshops in Britain.

• Mix of the week: Samhain Séance 10: There and Back Again by The Ephemeral Man.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Terence Hannum presents…Horror Soundtracks Day.

• No One Here Knows I’m a Vampire: A Spooky Matt Berry Reading List.

• New/old music: Aqua by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

More dark arts at Unquiet Things.

Treacle Toffee World (1968) by The Fire | Treacle People (1970) by UFO | Woodsmoke & Treacle (2010) by Moon Wiring Club

Weekend links 557

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Poster by Milan Grygar for the 1969 Czech release of Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits.

• “By encouraging composers to engage with sound as something more than just ‘notes on a keyboard’, the result [of the Buchla] was the kind of intricate sound design last heard in musique concrète. Works such as Morton Subotnick’s, Silver Apples of the Moon (1967) show a futurism completely absent on Wendy Carlos’ otherwise highly influential Switched-on Bach (1968), which used the keyboard-controlled Moog modular as if it were merely a glorified organ.” Oli Freke on the evolution of the synthesizer.

• “As humans began settling more consistently in one place to grow and thrive, the penis—or, more specifically, its erect form, the phallus—often came into use as a protector of fields that would prove fertile. In contrast to the comparative prudery of today, the phallus adorned everything from gods to shrines to personal homes and jewellery.” Emily Willingham on penial evolution in the animal kingdom.

• “The Trumpets of Jericho is, in part, so uniquely unsettling because it allows the woman in question to narrate her own horror. She is eager to give birth not to meet her child but so that she can go ahead and kill it.” Reed McConnell on the writings of Unica Zürn and (once again) Leonora Carrington.

At the center of it all, there was one director whom everyone knew, one artist whose name was synonymous with cinema and what it could do. It was a name that instantly evoked a certain style, a certain attitude toward the world. In fact, it became an adjective. Let’s say you wanted to describe the surreal atmosphere at a dinner party, or a wedding, or a funeral, or a political convention, or for that matter, the madness of the entire planet—all you had to do was say the word ‘Felliniesque’ and people knew exactly what you meant.

In the Sixties, Federico Fellini became more than a filmmaker. Like Chaplin and Picasso and the Beatles, he was much bigger than his own art. At a certain point, it was no longer a matter of this or that film but all the films combined as one grand gesture written across the galaxy. Going to see a Fellini film was like going to hear Callas sing or Olivier act or Nureyev dance. His films even started to incorporate his name—Fellini Satyricon, Fellini’s Casanova. The only comparable example in film was Hitchcock, but that was something else: a brand, a genre in and of itself. Fellini was the cinema’s virtuoso.

Martin Scorsese on “Il Maestro”, Federico Fellini

• At Dennis Cooper’s: For Your Crushed Right Eye: The instrumental films of Takahiro Iimura, Tetsuji Takechi, Toshi Matsumoto, Masao Adachi and Takashi Ito.

• “We wanted people to see that we exist.” Joan E. Biren, the photographer who recorded lesbian life in the 70s.

•New music: Alkisah by Senyawa, and Bishintai by Unknown Me.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 683 by Laila Sakini.

Phallus Dei (1969) by Amon Düül II | Sidereal Hands At The Temple Of Omphalos (1996) by Scenic | Starman (feat. Peter Brötzmann) (2017) by Phallus Dei

Weekend links 504

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Eric Burdon and the Animals, Mother Earth, Hour Glass; Fillmore Auditorium, October 19-21, 1967 by Bonnie MacLean.

• RIP Bonnie MacLean, another of the original San Francisco poster artists, and the only woman of note in the US psychedelic poster scene. (Not the only woman, however; in Europe we had Marijke Koger.) Related: Bonnie MacLean’s posters at Wolfgang’s. And RIP to illustrator Tom Adams, an artist whose exceptional covers for novels by Agatha Christie are only one part of a long and varied career.

The Litanies Of Satan (1982), the short but uncompromising debut album by Diamanda Galás, is reissued on Galás’s own label later this month. Further albums from her remarkable back catalogue will follow. Related: video of Galás performing The Litanies Of Satan in 1985.

• “Scorsese is amazed that United Artists didn’t touch one frame of Raging Bull, since it’s the first time in his life as a feature director that this has apparently occurred.” In 1981 Derek Malcolm talked to Martin Scorsese about his reasons for making a boxing picture.

“…in a post-AIDS world, its scenes of mass male-on-male decadence evoke a sense of the spiritual: Not to put so blunt a phrase on it, but the majority of the men we see in Cruising‘s bars would likely die within the next decade, victims of a very heterosexual genocide of neglect. These are blurred, melancholic memories locked forever within Cruising‘s celluloid; a phantasmagoria of men whose liberation was not legislatively delivered, but recovered in the privacy of leather bars and cruising joints. The film’s overt sexuality makes it hard to escape a sense of catastrophic loss.”

Jack King on William Friedkin’s Cruising

• The Pet Shop Boys’ eccentric feature film, It Couldn’t Happen Here (1988), is released on blu-ray and DVD in June. The video for You Were Always On My Mind gives an idea of the contents.

• “Orion being one of the brightest constellations makes it a lot of people’s favourites, and he was my favourite as a kid.” Ben Chasny on his history of stargazing.

• “You think the Holy Grail is lost? No. I have it on my piano.” John Boorman talks to Xan Brooks.

• Laura Cumming on the dark and haunting paintings of Belgian Symbolist Léon Spilliaert.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 631 by Ondness.

Alistair Ryder chooses 10 great killer plant films.

Howl by John Foxx And The Maths.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Gleam.

The Litanies Of Satan (1969) by Ruth White | Grail (1971) by Grail | Plants’ Music (1981) by Ippu-Do

Powell & Pressburger: A Pretty British Affair

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“It’s the only thing that fulfils its promise…magic,” says Martin Scorsese, referring to a shot of an arrow thudding into its target at the beginning of a feature film. A pierced target accompanied by the words “A Production of The Archers” heralded the films made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger from 1943 to 1957, films that included The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), A Canterbury Tale (1944), I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948), Gone to Earth (1950) and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951). A Very British Affair (1981) is a 50-minute documentary made for the BBC’s Arena strand by Charles Cabot and Gavin Millar that charts the progress of Powell and Pressburger’s partnership. There’s also some discussion of Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), the film that sank his career in Britain but which is now regarded as a masterpiece of self-reflexive cinema.

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This is the best documentary about The Archers, not only for the interviews with the two men but also for the extraneous business with Michael Powell in Los Angeles and New York. In both cities the director is seen with two younger filmmakers who helped resurrect his reputation in the 1980s: Francis Coppola (seen wandering around the sets used in One from the Heart) and Martin Scorsese. The latter is interviewed during the filming of The King of Comedy, and we get to see a brief between-takes moment with Jerry Lewis and Robert De Niro. Powell was a kind of backroom advisor to Scorsese at this time, offering suggestions during the production of Raging Bull and After Hours. On the west coast he was working on projects that would have been films for Coppola’s American Zoetrope but—as we now know—nothing materialised.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Rite of Spring and The Red Shoes
Michael Powell’s Bluebeard revisited
The Tale of Giulietta

The Beard, a film by Ian Emes

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The Beard (1978) is a short, surreal animated film, directed by Ian Emes and based on an idea and illustrations by Peter Till. Electronic musician Adrian Wagner provided the soundtrack. I’d been looking for this on YouTube for a while, hoping to see it again. It’s a great piece of work, opening in a comical fashion when a shaving man (voiced by William Rushton) finds his beard taking on a life of its own, then turning increasingly nightmarish. A low-res copy sourced from video tape does no justice to the detailed drawings but it’s still worth a watch.

Somewhat better known, if not quite so strange, is Martin Scorsese’s student film, The Big Shave (1967), which may be seen here.