Art on film: Je t’aime, Je t’aime

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Design by René Ferracci.

Continuing an occasional series about artworks in feature films with a return to Alain Resnais. This one is less substantial than the Providence post, but 2022 happens to be the director’s centenary year, and this particular film, like Providence, is worthy of greater attention.

Last Year at Marienbad is occasionally proposed as science fiction of a very rarified sort (JG Ballard thought it was) but there’s no question about the SF credentials of Je t’aime, Je t’aime (1968), a drama that uses time travel to explore a troubled romantic relationship. Claude Ridder (Claude Rich), an unattached, suicidal man, is persuaded by scientists to assist with a potentially hazardous experiment. He agrees to a one-minute excursion into his past but the experiment doesn’t work as intended, causing him to be caught between the present—in which he can’t escape from a womb-like time machine—and his recent past, in which he relives brief moments without any awareness during the return period of their being a part of the experiment. The flashbacks that comprise most of the film’s running time show us a random sequence of the events leading to Claude’s suicide attempt, the end result of his relationship with his terminally ill partner, Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot).

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The time machine.

Despite the presence of a time machine and a script by Jacques Sternberg, a Belgian science-fiction writer, Resnais was adamant that Je t’aime, Je t’aime wasn’t a science-fiction film. This is the kind of comment guaranteed to annoy the more zealous SF reader but it’s true in the sense that the film isn’t about time travel or time machines per se; the temporal experiment is a device to allow the non-linear exploration of a human drama that’s the real concern of director and writer. Previous Resnais films had dealt with remembrance of one sort or another, often using flash cuts to juxtapose different moments or scenes remembered or imagined. Je t’aime, Je t’aime pushes these techniques to an extreme, showing us every facet of the Claude/Catrine relationship, from initial meeting to tragic end. The narrative fragmentation isn’t so surprising today but it was a radical step in 1968, one that proved commercially unsuccessful.

In addition to having a Belgian writer, Je t’aime, Je t’aime is mostly set in Brussels, so the art this time is a famous Belgian painting, one of the many versions of The Empire of Light by René Magritte, which appears in the scenes in Claude’s apartment.

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In other hands this might be an incidental decoration but, as Providence demonstrates, Resnais was a director who enjoyed significant details, even if the signification isn’t always obvious. The Magritte painting serves two functions: its slow migration from one side of Claude’s apartment to the other (and the appearance of other pictures around it) shows the passage of time from one flashback to the next.

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Philippe Caza record covers

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Bad Taste (2014) by The Datsuns.

Continuing an occasional series about artists or designers whose work has appeared on record sleeves. Druillet and Moebius have already featured in this series so here’s another French comic artist whose work was popularised in the Anglophone world by Heavy Metal magazine. In addition to comics, Caza has been a prolific cover artist for French fantasy, horror and SF novels, some examples of which are reused here. As with Druillet, many of his record sleeves are reprintings of comics panels, but he’s also created a few pieces specially for vinyl and CD.

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Aber Du (1985) by Haindling.

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Mémoire Des Ecumes (1985) by Torgue.

A soundtrack album (?) for the comic book of the same name by Caza and writer Christian Lejalé.

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Musique Originale Du Film Les Enfants De La Pluie (2003) by Didier Lockwood.

The soundtrack album for an animated feature film co-written and designed by Caza. This follows earlier Caza-derived animations by René Laloux including the feature-length Gandahar (1988).

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Sweat All Night (2013) by Nico’ZZ Band.

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Andreas, HPL and RHB

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Mention of Robert H. Barlow last week reminded me of a comic strip which is an unusual addition to the world of Lovecraft-related art. RHB, written by François Rivière and illustrated by Andreas (Martens), was published in a French magazine, À Suivre, in 1978. I discovered the story when it was reprinted in The Cosmical Horror of HP Lovecraft (1991), an Italian volume that was the first substantial collection in book form of Lovecraftian comic strips and illustrations. Andreas and Rivière’s strip is a short biographical sketch of Robert H. Barlow’s equally short life which focuses on his connections to HP Lovecraft but doesn’t attempt any spurious fictionalisation. A few of the pages were posted at Deep Cuts in June of this year, together with a translation of the French text. The post there notes something that hadn’t occurred to me before, that Rivière would have taken most of his information about Barlow from L. Sprague de Camp’s Lovecraft biography. The post also made me realise that the Cosmical Horror reprint is missing its last two pages, so after 30 years I finally discover that the panel sequence showing a falling cat (seen earlier being dropped from a height by the young Barlow) has a happy conclusion that also ends the strip itself.

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The Spitzner Museum’s Wax Woman.

Andreas has been a favourite comic artist of mine for many years, thanks in part to strips like RHB with its combination of unorthodox page layouts, scraperboard drawings (scratchboard, if you’re American) and the occasional use of enlarged half-toned photos. The scraperboard technique can be a laborious one for a comic artist, especially when applied in a photo-realist manner, which may explain why Andreas has used a more stylised pen-and-ink rendering for many of his own books, the drawings of which often resemble the engraving-like illustrations of Franklin Booth. The only other Andreas strip I’ve seen to date that uses scraperboard is The Spitzner Museum’s Wax Woman, another collaboration with Rivière which relates the ill-fated encounters of a Belgian painter with the woman of the title. The story received its first English printing in issue 17 of Escape magazine in 1989, and its appearance there made Andreas an artist to look out for in the future. The museum tale and the Barlow story were collected with several similar pieces in a book collection, Révélations Posthumes, in 1980. I’d really like to see this even though my French is très pauvre:

Avec ce livre, vous découvrirez d’étonnantes révélations posthumes concernant la vie fulgurante d’un ami et confident de Lovecraft, l’étrange aventure survenue en 1926, à Hastings, à un orphelin et une mystérieuse Thérèse Neele. La rencontre d’un soldat nommé Raymond Roussel et de Jules Vernes, à Amiens. Les origines du talent morbide d’un peintre belge fasciné par les figures de cire du Musée Spitzner. L’avatar maléfique joué à un malheureux jeune Anglais par Pierre Loti en sa maison de Rochefort-sur-Mer.

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Rork.

Révélations Posthumes seems to have been a one-off for Andreas. His subsequent, self-written books are more commercial fare, being a succession of weird adventure stories which follow the exploits of eccentric characters such as Cromwell Stone (an occult detective), the ageless, enigmatic Rork (a white-haired magus and occult detective), Capricorne (an astrologer and occult detective), and so on. As with Philippe Druillet, Lovecraft is never far away: the first episode of Cromwell Stone opens with an epigraph from HPL’s Supernatural Horror in Literature, while elsewhere inexplicable leviathan entities lurk in parallel dimensions, and architectural anomalies abound. The Rork series is especially enjoyable, like Doctor Strange without the superhero histrionics, featuring wildly audacious storylines such as Le Cimetière de cathédrales (1988), in which a graveyard for cathedrals is discovered in the Amazonian jungle.

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The fantasies of Andreas, like those of François Schuiten, might be more familiar to Anglophone readers if his works had been translated more often (or, in the case of RHB, translated at all). Dark Horse ran English versions of stories by Andreas and Schuiten in their Cheval Noir anthology series in the 1990s, and also published English reprints of the Rork and Cromwell Stone books but, as with the translated editions of Schuiten, these are now hard to find. More recently, Titan Books has published a new English edition of the first Cromwell Stone book but I’ve not seen any indication that they’ll be following this with more of the same. (I’ve also not seen the book itself so can’t vouch for the quality of the translation. Titan’s recent Druillet reprints have been riddled with textual errors. Beware.) Rather than wait for translations that might never arrive, the better option would be to improve my French reading skills. Writing this post has prompted me to order a secondhand copy of Révélations Posthumes. I’m looking forward to seeing what else it contains.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Lovecraft archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lovecraft: Démons et Merveilles
The art of François Schuiten
The art of Andreas Martens

Moebius Redux

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It’s Arzak (or Arzach, or Harzak, or Harzakc, etc) again, arriving in today’s post. Hasko Baumann’s Moebius Redux is one of my favourite arts documentaries of recent years but I only discovered recently that the version broadcast by the BBC in 2007 was shorter by 20 minutes than the original 70-minute running time, hence this purchase. It’s a German DVD but has subtitles in French and English plus an extra disc containing 125 minutes of extras, including extended interviews with Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal and many others. That’s my weekend viewing sorted.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Jean Giraud record covers
Arzak Rhapsody
The Captive, a film by René Laloux
The horror
Chute Libre science fiction
Heavy Metal, October 1979: The Lovecraft Special

Jean Giraud record covers

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Disc design for Eight Day Journal (1998) by Sam Rivers / Tony Hymas.

Continuing an occasional series about artists or designers whose work has appeared on record sleeves. I’ve used the artist’s full name (or his Earth name, if you prefer) in the title of this one to distinguish Moebius the comic artist and illustrator from Dieter Moebius of Cluster, Harmonia, et al. As with Harry Clarke, it’s taken a long time for Discogs to compile a substantial collection of these covers, and the catalogue there is still incomplete thanks to a lack of credits on some of the sleeves. Unlike other artists whose cover work tends to be a repurposing of existing art many of the Giraud/Moebius covers were created for the albums on which they appear.

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7 Colts Pour Schmoll (1968) by Eddy Mitchell.

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An album by a prolific French rock’n’roller. Giraud (as he was credited here) was no doubt hired on the strength of his Blueberry strips.

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Blueberry (1973) by Dadi.

And speaking of Blueberry… Jean Giraud drew the adventures of Jean-Michel Charlier’s Western anti-hero for 15 years under the name “Gir”. The character was very popular in France, hence this spin-off single by Marcel Dadi.

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Dadi’s Folks (1973) by Marcel Dadi.

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Jazz Septet (1973) by Ogoun Ferraille.

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Are You Experienced / Axis: Bold As Love (1975) by Jimi Hendrix.

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A gatefold sleeve for a series of four reissues of the Hendrix catalogue on the Barclay label. The other covers were by Philippe Druillet, Jean Solé and an artist unidentified on the link above but it looks to me like the work of Philippe Caza. I’ve got most of the music but I’d buy these for the covers alone.

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