Hamfat Asar, a film by Lawrence Jordan

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I was reminded of Lawrence/Larry Jordan recently when reading Deborah Solomon’s biography of Joseph Cornell, Utopia Parkway, in which Jordan receives passing mention for helping Cornell with some of his film work in the 1960s. One of Jordan’s short films was featured here in 2014 but I’d not been very diligent in looking for more, a considerable oversight when he was an early and accomplished practitioner of animation using collaged engravings and illustrations. He wasn’t the only animator producing work like this in the 1960s, Harry Smith, Jan Lenica and Walerian Borowczyk also used these methods, but Jordan seemed to favour the idiom more than others.

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Hamfat Asar dates from 1965, and is immediately notable for moving its collaged figures over a shoreline landscape which remains fixed for the entire running time. The narrative, such as it is, concerns a stilt-walking figure attempting to cross from one side of the screen to the other but whose progress is continually impeded by a succession of figures, creatures and bizarre assemblages. The film has been described as representing “a vision of life beyond death” although this isn’t very evident at all. Jordan’s films are much more Surreal in the true sense of the word than many other collage animations which tend towards satire or comedy, Terry Gilliam’s work for Monty Python being an obvious example of the latter. The combination of Surreal engravings with black-and-white film stock gives Hamfat Asar a distinct Max Ernst flavour, which is no bad thing. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Carabosse, a film by Lawrence Jordan
Labirynt by Jan Lenica
Science Friction by Stan VanDerBeek
Heaven and Earth Magic by Harry Smith
Short films by Walerian Borowczyk

Blood And Rockets by The Claypool Lennon Delirium

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In an overburdened media landscape the words “Terry Gilliam-like animation” could easily mean some hastily-compiled film with a few nods to the collage style that Gilliam popularised in his interludes for the Monty Python TV series. Rich Ragsdale’s music video for The Claypool Lennon Delirium (Les Claypool and Sean Lennon) is much more than this, being a witty and inventive pastiche of the complete Gilliam style, replete with an abundance of sight gags, and familiar touches such as fizzing bombs, clutching hands and chattering heads.

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The subject of the song is Jack Parsons, the ill-fated Californian rocket engineer whose wild life and entanglement with the West Coast chapter of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis led to scandal and an untimely death. Parsons’ story is one of the more curious episodes in 20th-century occultism—a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard was also involved in the Crowley shenanigans—but this must be the first time the history has been recounted in the form of a psychedelic ballad. Ragsdale is no slouch with the occult symbolism either, adding a number of Thelemic touches to the inevitable Satanic iconography. As befits the sex-obsessed Parsons the video also contains a fair amount of phallic imagery and boob constellations that somehow evaded the attentions of the YouTube Penis Police. Watch it here. (Thanks to Erik Davis!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Aleister Crowley: Wandering The Waste revisited
Occult gestures
Konx om Pax
Aleister Crowley: Wandering The Waste
Brush of Baphomet by Kenneth Anger
Rex Ingram’s The Magician
The Mysteries of Myra
Gilliam’s shaver and Bovril by electrocution
Aleister Crowley on vinyl

The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine

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A final Orson Welles post for this week of Wellsiana. Welles was a familiar face on UK television in the early 70s, mostly for the notorious sherry adverts but he was also popular on chat shows. For Anglia Television he presented a number of short story adaptations in Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries, but had nothing else to do with the series. His appearance on The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (1971) is unusual for being an acting role in a sketch series, with Welles presenting and narrating a film about the preservation of endangered British aristocrats. There’s some crossover here with the London sketches Welles had filmed a couple of years before (see yesterday’s post): Welles played an English Lord in one of those sequences, and one of his co-actors was Tim Brooke-Taylor, a writer on Comedy Machine.

I’d hope that Marty Feldman needs no introduction. Most people know him as Igor in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein but in the late 60s and early 70s he was almost another member of the Monty Python team, writing and performing in the pre-Python At Last the 1948 Show (the origin of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch). The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, which ran for 14 episodes, is very Pythonesque—there’s even a Terry Gilliam title sequence—but the format is much more traditional. Besides Orson Welles, a highlight of this episode is Spike Milligan reading some of his nonsense poetry, and performing in a sketch about competing undertakers. Watch it here:

The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine Part 1 | Part 2

Previously on { feuilleton }
Orson Welles: The One-Man Band
The Immortal Story, a film by Orson Welles
Welles at 100
The Fountain of Youth
The Complete Citizen Kane
Return to Glennascaul, a film by Hilton Edwards
Screening Kafka
The Panic Broadcast

The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn

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I probably should have posted this when the Monty Python reunion shows were in progress since the first time I saw it was as the support film for a screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1974.

The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn (1956) is one of the few film outings for The Goons, the radio-comedy troupe who famously influenced the Pythons and The Beatles. Joseph Sterling was the director. The 27-minute film features a diminished Goons cast: regulars Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, with Dick Emery replacing Harry Secombe; all three have multiple roles, as they did in the Goons, and Emery did later in his TV shows. It’s a cheap production but packed with silly sight gags, some of which draw attention to the film medium: no wonder the Pythons liked it. Most surprising of all is seeing Michael Deeley listed as producer; Deeley started out producing lowly fare such as this but went on to produce some very notable British films including The Man Who Fell to Earth and Blade Runner.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film

Graham Chapman’s opinion

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The announcement this week that the surviving members of the Monty Python team were getting back together has caused an understandable flurry of excitement. This isn’t something I share despite having the entire run of the Python films and TV series on DVD. I usually feel the same way about band reunions: rather than revisit past glories I prefer to see people doing something new. That said, it would be nice if Eric Idle would allow a DVD release of his Rutland Weekend Television series. His low-budget Python spin-off was broadcast once in the 1970s and hasn’t been seen since, to the continual annoyance of co-star and collaborator Neil Innes.

Graham Chapman will be absent from the reunion, of course. His polemic for Channel 4’s Opinions has nothing to do with Monty Python beyond his presence but it’s something I’ve always remembered so it’s good to find it on YouTube. Opinions was a run of half-hour pieces-to-camera by a different person each week; I saw this one when it was broadcast in 1984 but don’t recall any of the others. Chapman’s contribution was memorable at the time for his talking directly and unapologetically about alternatives to heterosexual relations, and what we’d now call hetero-normativity. This would hardly raise an eyebrow today but in 1984 attitudes towards gay people in the UK were growing increasingly harsh under a right-wing government, a virulent press, and the beginning of the AIDS crisis. Chapman’s plea for universal tolerance wouldn’t have made much of an impression but it was good to hear someone talking this way, even if only for 30 minutes on the channel with the least amount of viewers. Chapman was the first person I saw talking on TV about being gay at a time (the 1970s) when few people in public life dared to admit such a thing. His cheerful example was a great riposte to an atmosphere of widespread fear and loathing. His Opinions piece is witty, silly, over-exuberant (as his acting often was), and self-reflexive in the manner the Pythons made their own. You also get to see his partner, David Sherlock, in a variety of background roles. Watch it here.