Weekend links 440

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The title of that film was originally different [Illusions]… I woke up one day and thought of Bad Timing which sounds exactly like the right title—for my career. Now there was a film I really thought was one to which there would be a different response. Whilst filming I felt sure that this was one for the streets, one that people would really want to see. — Nicolas Roeg

So long to the great Nicolas Roeg, always one of my favourite film-makers. Roeg’s works were naturally attractive when I was a teenager because he’d made a horror film and a science-fiction film; when these eventually turned up on TV it was evident that this was a director working on a level that had more in common with Continental Europe than Hollywood. Beyond the generic content it was his approach to directing that made his films essential: a fragmented editing style derived from Alain Resnais via Richard Lester (see below), a cosmic perspective almost entirely absent from the parochial concerns of British cinema, and a seemingly effortless ability to find visual rhymes in anything. Despite the “bad timing” comment above Roeg was fortunate to be working throughout the 1970s when having an approach that ran counter to the prevailing trends wasn’t an obstacle to maintaining a career; as with Ken Russell, you watch some of the films today and are amazed and grateful that they were made at all. When reading the forthcoming plaudits it would be worth remembering that even the films regarded now as Roeg’s best struggled for acceptance: Pauline Kael dismissed Don’t Look Now as “trash”, US screenings of The Man Who Fell To Earth provided explanatory notes for the hard-of-thinking, Bad Timing was described by its own distributors as “a sick film made by sick people for sick people”, while the distributors of Eureka hated the film so much that for a time it could only be screened in the UK if the director was also present.

• Related: Where to begin with Nicolas Roeg, and Nicolas Roeg: It’s About Time (2015), a 59-minute documentary for the BBC directed by David Thompson. Previous Roeg-related postings on this site include: The Nicolas Roeg Guardian Lecture, 1983 (Roeg discusses Eureka and other films with Philip Strick); Beyond the Fragile Geometry of Space (charting the recurrence of a book title from Don’t Look Now); Canal view (using Google Street View to find the church in Don’t Look Now); and Petulia film posters (designs for a Richard Lester film from 1968 that was photographed by Roeg, and whose fragmentary editing style prefigures the familiar Roeg technique).

• Edward Woodward’s greatest screen role wasn’t a prudish policeman or a mysterious vigilante but was David Callan, a conflicted assassin working for a division of the British Secret Service. Joseph Oldham explains.

• Mixes of the week: A mix for The Wire by Jing, FACT Mix 681 by Kelly Moran, and Crépuscules d’Automne, a seasonal mix by Stephen O’Malley.

• More Gorey: in 1978 Jeremy Brett was playing Dracula in the touring version of the Edward Gorey-designed play.

• Liberated from the LRB paywall for a brief time: George Melly writing in 1992 about René Magritte.

• Welcome to the witch capital of Norway: Chelsea G. Summers investigates.

Space colony artwork from the 1970s.

• At I Love Typography: Magic printed.

Memo From Turner (1970) by Mick Jagger | Wild Hearts (1985) by Roy Orbison | Be Kind To My Mistakes (1987) by Kate Bush

Weekend links 293

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Red Petals by Sarah Meyohas.

• “For MMoB, I want it to be like a [Werner] Herzog movie, so at our concerts the people on stage aren’t necessarily people who are named. We’re trying to create an entity that is beyond music and relates visually and sonically with everything in a way that’s different.” Randall Dunn talks to Simona Mantarlian and Daniel Jones about the Master Musicians of Bukkake and his production work for other artists.

• “Is reel-to-reel tape the new vinyl?” asks FACT mag. It’s certainly better than cassette tape (if less convenient) but it was always a niche format for albums, even in the 1970s. Rene Chun made a similar argument for an emerging trend last October. Those expensive machines do look tempting… Early adopters should start collecting here before prices rise.

Airwaves: Songs From The Sirens is a new release of spectral audio transmissions by A Year In The Country: “…a gathering of scattered signals plucked from the ether, cryptograms that wander amongst the airwaves…” Physical versions come with the usual plethora of monochrome artefacts.

A vivid memory to his friends, Litvinoff was one of those people whose performance was their life. His most lasting achievement was the profound influence he had on Performance – the hallucinatory film directed by Nic Roeg and Donald Cammell, and starring Mick Jagger, which captured the London of the late 1960s, merging pop stardom, violent criminality, illegal drugs, gender-blurring, the occult and Jorge Luis Borges.

Jon Savage on David Litvinoff

• Virgin Prunes “are THE #1 most underrated group of the post-punk era” says Richard Metzger. I’d say that honour goes to The Passage but the Virgin Prunes were unique even if they’re too often dismissed as a freak footnote in the U2 story.

Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World is a free exhibition at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, that will run until August 2016. Related: “John Dee painting originally had circle of human skulls, x-ray imaging reveals.”

• “What I’m seeing now is an awful lot of people just following things. We tried to find our own thing and ask, ‘What else is there?'” Charles Hayward on the past and present of post-punk band This Heat.

• “I’ve never been tempted to write anything that was not essentially nightmarish.” Thomas Ligotti in a comprehensive profile (originally run in 2010) at Dennis Cooper’s blog.

• Mixes of the week: An introduction to Stereolab by Jon Dale, and Silent Radio Transmission Jan 2016 by SilentServant.

• Kicked Toward Saintliness: Max Nelson on the dark erotics of Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers.

• Reverse Engineering: Danny Hyde on Coil, Backwards and NIN.

Fuck Yeah! Anna von Hausswolff

Harry Flowers (1970) by Jack Nitzsche | Flowers In The Air (1970) by Sally Eaton | Darkness: Flowers Must Die (1972) by Ash Ra Tempel

Donald Cammell and Kenneth Anger, 1972

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Another resurrected article. Cinema Rising was a short-lived newsprint film magazine that ran for three issues in the UK in 1972. I have a few pages from the rare first issue that was part of a batch of old underground newspapers I was given a few years ago. (The Frendz Hawkwind strip is from the same haul.) Cinema Rising was edited by Simon Hartog and Tony Rayns, the latter being a long-time Kenneth Anger aficionado which would explain both the magazine title and the presence of a photo feature about Anger’s Lucifer Rising. The bulk of this post is a short interview with Donald Cammell that’s of interest for his comments about the gender roles in Performance and his opinion of Jorge Luis Borges whose recurrence as both signifying text and presiding magus in Performance is never really explained.

Cammell’s next film after Performance would have been Ishtar (no relation to the notorious Warren Beatty flop), the themes of which Cammell discusses at the end of the piece. The Cammell biography describes a script concerning a film star and Hollywood producer who want to make a film in Morocco. While there they get involved with a woman who embodies various mystical/mythological feminine attributes; there’s also a sub-plot about the pair kidnapping an American judge. Mick Jagger was down for the role of the film star while William Burroughs was slated to play the judge. Given how wayward Cammell’s later films became it’s difficult to say whether this would have been good or not. Performance could very easily have been terrible but that film also had Nicolas Roeg on board.

After the Cammell piece there are photos from Cinema Rising‘s Kenneth Anger feature which show the director at work on the new version of Lucifer Rising. I’ve not seen any of these stills or the two black actors before—what happened to their parts? Note that some of the captions are misspelled: the photos should be credited to Diarmid Cammell—Donald’s brother—while the Adept (not “Lucifer”) is Haydn Couts.

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DONALD CAMMELL: PERFORMANCE TO ISHTAR, Cinema Rising, no. 1, April 1972

Donald Cammell’s first movie was Performance, made in collaboration with Nicolas Roeg; the most unexpected British movie of recent years, and one of the very few products of the British industry capable of holding its own in an international context. Cammell’s new script is Ishtar, originally written with Mick Jagger in mind for the lead again, but possibly to be made without him; Cammell is currently in America to raise the backing for the film.

In the following extracts from a conversation with John du Cane (recorded last year), Cammell speaks of his background and interests…matters that inform his new script at least as much Performance.

Collaboration

“In the recent past, reverence for the director of a film as sole creator has been vastly exaggerated, through critical efforts. I’m thinking particularly of the Cahiers du Cinema ‘author’ concept—I’ve been living in Paris, and have been quite aware of it for a long time. The kind of theory of creativity that’s arisen there (and in related worlds in New York) is, succinctly, crap. It’s a way of trying to demonstrate the view that cinema is an artform, and that therefore there must be a single creative mind controlling the artefact, through to its ultimate form. It’s a way of justifying movie-making, socially and culturally.

“But leaving aside the reasons for the concept, I think it’s contradicted by the facts. I think that many of the greatest artefacts things that have moved people most throughout history—have been collectively produced. You don’t even have to look for examples: the whole of Egyptian culture, arcane cultures generally. Today in tribal cultures, the vast majority of the products are collectively produced. The hangup is the concept of one ego necessarily controlling the production in order for that ego to be expressed; the notion that the expression of an ego is the final goal of any artwork, that this is what it’s for. I think that an artwork expresses itself, that the creators involved will all see in it their own egos, each one individually satisfied when looking at the final work. My analogy is with contemporary music, where people go into it collectively, and their egos are satisfied collectively and individually. Look at Mick and Keith and their confreres: they see in their work as The Rolling Stones what they each wanted to say. Working in the film medium is ideally suited to interaction of different heads; it’s the ideal medium for all the good functions of collective work.”

Continue reading “Donald Cammell and Kenneth Anger, 1972”

Martin Sharp, 1942–2013

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Oz magazine no. 15, October 1968.

The psychedelic art of Australian artist Martin Sharp has featured here on several occasions. Unlike his British and American contemporaries who maintained a single graphic style, Sharp was a versatile artist whose work could range from loose, often cartoony drawing and painting to very detailed collage designs; he was also as happy as any other artist of the period to plunder art history, as the cover for issue 15 of Oz demonstrates. The Mick Jagger figure from that cover was later reworked as a poster for “Turner’s Purple Orchestra”, one of a number of pieces of Sharp art which can be glimpsed throughout Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg’s Performance (1970).

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Performance (1970): Michele Breton and a Martin Sharp collage.

Sharp’s involvement with Oz magazine, and the creation of a handful of endlessly reproduced designs—the Bob Dylan Mr Tambourine Man poster, Jimi Hendrix in a Jackson Pollock explosion, the sleeve art for Cream’s Disraeli Gears—makes his art some of the most visible of the period. People may not necessarily know the name but they’ll recognise the work.

In 2009 Sharp’s Oz colleague Germaine Greer wrote a warm appraisal of the artist and his work. A few more examples follow. There’s a great selection of posters and other art and design here.

The GuardianMartin Sharp, Australian artist who came to symbolise the ’60s | Martin Sharp in pictures

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Mister Tambourine Man (1966).

Continue reading “Martin Sharp, 1942–2013”

Brush of Baphomet by Kenneth Anger

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Another recent piece of Angeriana, and another short video sketch, Brush of Baphomet (2009) is a kind of addendum to Anger’s The Man We Want to Hang (2002), being a further look at Aleister Crowley’s paintings. The title refers to one of Crowley’s many occult names. As a painter Crowley’s technical ability was almost nil but that never dissuaded him from trying, and I’m sure I’m not alone in finding his work to have a naive malevolence. Anger has had a lifelong interest in Crowley’s paintings, famously journeying in 1955 to the abandoned villa in Cefalù, Sicily, where he cleaned whitewash from the walls to reveal the remains of the murals Crowley had painted there.

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The music in Brush of Baphomet is a surprising choice, an extract from the second part of Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon (1967). Anger’s musical selections have never been random ones so you have to wonder why this particular score. Was it because the electronics are reminiscent of the Moog drones Mick Jagger supplied for Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)? Subotnick’s title is borrowed from The Song of Wandering Aengus by WB Yeats, a poet for whom Crowley (also a poet) had little affection. In Crowley’s occult novel Moonchild, Yeats appears as “Gates”, a mediocre painter (yes, well…), who ends up being killed in an act of magical revenge. Crowley must have been mortified a few years later when Yeats was awarded a Nobel Prize.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Anger Sees Red
Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon
Lucifer Rising posters
Externsteine panoramas
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