Weekend links 442

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Orgasm Addict (1977). Design by Malcolm Garrett; collage by Linder.

• RIP Pete Shelley, Buzzcock and Homosapien. Shelley is celebrated for being in the vanguard of Britain’s punk movement, of course. (Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch was the UK’s first independent single.) But he also loved Can, recorded an album of electronic drones (Sky Yen), and in 1983 successfully blended home-computer graphics with his own brand of superior electronic pop music. Related: Malcolm Garrett’s Buzzcocks band logo at Fonts In Use; B’dum, B’dum: Tony Wilson in 1978 talking to Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto about Buzzcocks and Magazine.

• Winter demands ghost stories so Adam Scovell suggests 10 great winter ghost films. Related: Alexandra Heller-Nicholas presents an A–Z of Women’s Horror Filmmaking.

Carey Dunne on the rise of underground LSD guides for psychotherapy. Related: “Psychedelics change the perception of time,” says Shayla Love.

• Ex-Neu! guitarist Michael Rother receives the box-set treatment early next year when the Groenland label reissues his early solo albums.

Jodorowsky, an exhibition devoted to the writer and director, will be staged at El Museo del Barrio, New York, from February next year.

• “From Georges Méliès to Bill and Ted, movie hells remain seriously in hock to the Judeo-Christian playbook,” says Anne Billson.

The Owl’s Legacy, Chris Marker’s 13-part documentary series on Greek culture, receives its debut DVD release.

Topic II (1989), a short film by Pascal Baes of pixilated dancers in the night streets of Prague.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 274 by Koray Kantarcioglu.

• We are the first humans to hear the winds of the planet Mars.

• Patrick Magee reads The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jean-Louis Trintignant Day.

• Mongolian biker rock: Wolf Totem by The HU.

The Quietus albums of the year.

Hell (2001) by Techno Animal ft. Dälek | Hell’s Winter (2011) by Earth | Hell A (2017) by The Bug vs. Earth

The Marat/Sade

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The Marat/Sade (1967).

Good to find this Peter Brook film on YouTube (for the time being…) as I’d been watching Ian Richardson in a couple of things recently and wanted to remind myself of how he fares here. He’s excellent, of course, as the serious foil to Patrick Magee’s equally serious Marquis de Sade. Brook’s film is a recording of his stage presentation of Peter Weiss’s play, and the two actors embody the poles of a dialogue about the perennially knotty problems of revolution, freedom, and the interests of the individual in the face of political abstractions. What fascinates most about the play is the Brechtian nature of the drama: structured as a play-within-a-play (we’re watching the inmates of an asylum performing a fictional Sade drama), and with a proxy audience regarding the performance through iron bars, the staging is as far away from dry theorising as you can get. Brief moments of debate between Sade and the asylum inmate portraying Marat act as punctuations between scurrilous chorus songs and frequent scenes of outright chaos which erupt when the demands of performance become too much for the inmates. It’s loud, sardonic, cynical, and often riveting. One of the more miserable features of drama from the 1960s and 70s is the recurrence of ham-fisted political didacticism which, however well-intentioned, makes for a dismal viewing experience. Weiss’s play shows how well you can deliver political rhetoric when the staging doesn’t ignore the presence of a possibly sceptical audience who might also like to be entertained.

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Peter Brook has had a peculiar career as a film director, most of his films being screen adaptations of his stage productions, or odd one-offs such as his documentary-like (and somewhat superfluous) film of Lord of the Flies, and the bizarre Meetings with Remarkable Men. (More about that later.) Brook’s Royal Shakespeare Company staging of the Weiss play was performed to great acclaim in 1965 so we’re fortunate that it’s captured so well here. The cast includes many first-rate actors, not only Richardson and Magee but Glenda Jackson as the inmate given the task of portraying Charlotte Corday, Michael Williams as the Herald, and (easy to miss among the clown-faced chorus) Freddie Jones. A low-grade YouTube copy does little for David Watkin’s superb photography which gives the film a very different look to other films of the 1960s. Studios films of the era tended to be horribly over-lit so it’s refreshing to find a film such as this using only the available light to illuminate the action. Searching around for DVDs reveals a single Spanish edition which I’m tempted to buy if I could be sure it was widescreen and with the English soundtrack intact. As for the play itself, the concerns may be typical of the period but many of the sentiments have lost none of their relevance. Highly recommended.

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Poe at 200

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Poe by Harry Clarke.

Happy birthday Edgar Allan Poe, born two hundred years ago today. I nearly missed this anniversary after a busy weekend. Rather than add to the mountain of praise for the writer, I thought I’d list some favourites among the numerous Poe-derived works in different media.

Illustrated books
For me the Harry Clarke edition of 1919 (later reworked with colour plates) has always been definitive. Many first-class artists have tried their hand at depicting Poe’s stories and poems, among them Aubrey Beardsley, Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham, W Heath Robinson and Edmund Dulac; none complements the morbid atmosphere and florid prose as well as Clarke does. And if it’s horror you need, Clarke’s depiction of The Premature Burial could scarcely be improved upon.

Honourable mention should be made of two less well-known works, Wilfried Sätty’s The Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe (1976) and Visions of Poe (1988) by Simon Marsden. I wrote about Sätty’s collage engravings in Strange Attractor 2, and Sätty’s style was eminently suited to Poe’s work. Marsden’s photographs of old castles and decaying mansions are justly celebrated but in book form often seem in search of a subject beyond a general Gothic spookiness or a recounting of spectral anecdotes. His selection of Poe stories and poems is a great match for the photos, one of which, a view of Monument Valley for The Colloquy of Monos and Una, was also used on a Picador cover for Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

Recordings
These are legion but among the outstanding one-off tracks I’d note two poems set to music, Dream Within a Dream from Propaganda‘s 1985 album, A Secret Wish, and The Lake by Antony & The Johnsons. The latter appeared on the landmark Golden Apples of the Sun compilation and also on Antony’s own The Lake EP.

Among the full-length works, Hal Willner’s 1997 2-CD collection Closed on Account of Rabies features lengthy readings set to music from a typically eclectic Willner line-up: Marianne Faithfull, Christopher Walken, Iggy Pop, Diamanda Galás, Gavin Friday, Dr John, Deborah Harry, Jeff Buckley (one of the last recordings before his untimely death) and Gabriel Byrne. Byrne’s reading of The Masque of the Red Death is tremendous and the whole package is decked out in Ralph Steadman graphics.

Antony Hegarty appears again on another double-disc set, Lou Reed’s The Raven (2003), a very eccentric approach to Poe which I suspect I’m in the minority in enjoying as much as I do. An uneven mix of songs and reading/performances, Reed updates some Poe poems while others are presented straight and to often stunning effect by (among others) Willem Defoe, Steve Buscemi, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Amanda Plummer and Elizabeth Ashley.

Films
Once again, there’s too many films but The Masque of the Red Death (1964) has always been my favourite of the Roger Corman adaptations, not least for the presence of Jane Asher, Patrick Magee and (behind the camera) Nicolas Roeg. I wrote last May about the animated version of The Tell-Tale Heart from UPA. That adaptation, with narration by James Mason, is still on YouTube so if you haven’t seen it yet you can celebrate Poe’s anniversary by watching it right now.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Tell-Tale Heart from UPA
William Heath Robinson’s illustrated Poe
The art of Harry Clarke, 1889–1931

Beckett directs Beckett

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Beckett Directs Beckett
In 1985 Samuel Beckett directed “Waiting for Godot”, “Krapp’s Last Tape” and “Endgame” as stage pieces with the San Quentin Players. All three productions were grouped together under the overall title “Beckett Directs Beckett.” As such they toured throughout Europe and in some parts of Asia to wide acclaim. Furthermore, each time a new tour was organized for these productions, after sometimes lengthy lacunae, Beckett has, with the assistance of Walter Asmus, and/or Alan Mandell, brought them back to performance level.

Though the initial productions as staged in 1985 already brought forth substantial changes in the published acting texts of the plays, each time a re-mounting of the productions occurred additional changes were made. The same was true during the production period for these television versions, with Beckett sometimes making textual changes on the telephone even as a given scene was being taped. For these productions, it was our intention and design to open them out beyond the confines of the stage in order to accommodate them to the television medium. Walter Asmus and Alan Mandell, both of whom enjoyed the author’s complete confidence, were responsible for this part of the endeavor.

The producers have a contractual obligation to Mr. Beckett that no changes be made in the original Beckett productions. However, as someone who has done a good deal of work on television (unfortunately not well known in the US), Beckett realizes the constraints and demands of that medium, and the many significant differences between television and the stage. In mounting the television versions of these productions, therefore, we worked intimately with Beckett on these questions as they arose.

Furthermore, Beckett asked that the taping take place in Paris so that, as he said, he could keep an eye on things. In short, Beckett’s was the creative vision which moved the whole enterprise. Walter Asmus and Alan Mandell, the nominal television directors for the series, were perfectly content to act as the guarantors for Beckett’s directorial vision.

Nothing here should be taken to suggest that we lay claim to the only possible interpretations of these plays, that Beckett’s is the last word on the subject. On the contrary: we sought, and believe we have succeeded, in establishing not only the last versions of the texts which Beckett revised prior to his death, but also provided bench-marks, points of departure from which present and future theater and television and film artists can explore other interpretations. The programs were aired by PBS in the US and have been seen in many other countries throughout the world.

More from the indispensable Ubuweb. Would have been nice for these productions to have been some of those mentioned by Colm Tóibín in his piece for the LRB on Jack MacGowran and Patrick Magee but these are still worth seeing for being directed by the writer. As Tóibín notes with regard to Beckett’s direction:

The journalist Clancy Segal wrote about Beckett’s style of directing as he observed him work with the two Irish actors: “His interventions are almost always not on the side of subtlety but of simplicity . . . The actors tend to want to make the play ‘abstract and existential’; gently and firmly Beckett guides them to concrete, exact and simple actions.”

Previously on { feuilleton }
Colm Tóibín on Beckett’s Irish Actors
Not I by Samuel Beckett
Film by Samuel Beckett