Querelle de Brest

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Querelle de Brest (1947) by Jean Genet. Cover design by Jean Cocteau.

This weekend’s viewing was Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982) which is marvellous in its new Blu-ray transfer, and a great improvement on the muddy picture of the earlier DVD release. The film is still only the briefest sketch of Genet’s novel (although Genet biographer Edmund White enjoyed it) but I like the overheated atmosphere, the phallic set designs, Franco Nero (hey, it’s Django Gay!), and the film as a whole is a fitting memorial to Brad Davis, everyone’s favourite sweating matelot. So in honour of all that, here’s a small collection of Querellerie past and present.

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Querelle de Brest was published in a limited edition of 525 copies illustrated throughout by Jean Cocteau who didn’t avoid the pornographic details. Even though copies were seized by the authorities, and the author fined, Cocteau’s involvement did little to harm his public reputation, something that’s impossible to imagine happening elsewhere. A few of the illustrations follow below, many more of the series can be found scattered across various websites.

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Continue reading “Querelle de Brest”

Skivvies

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Not had anything for a while deserving of the eye candy tag so here’s some gratuitous shots from a short promo video for some underwear company or other (he said disingenuously). The ad is directed by Steven Klein, and the piece as a whole doesn’t appear to have had a straight viewer in mind given the amount of shots that look like AMG beefcake or extra auditions for Fassbinder’s Querelle. And speaking of Rainer’s matelots, they’ve been in mind recently following news that the director’s Genet fantasia will be making a welcome appearance on Blu-ray later this month. The DVD format didn’t do much for those saturated colours so this is good to hear. (Underwear tip via Homotography.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hello, sailor
Querelle again
Sailors
Mikel Marton
Exterface

Weekend links 124

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Couple with Clock Tower (2011) by Louise Despont.

Assuming such a thing doesn’t already exist, there’s a micro-thesis to be written about the associations between the musicians of Germany’s Krautrock/Kosmische music scene in the early 1970s and the directors of the New German Cinema. I’d not seen this clip before which shows the mighty Amon Düül II jamming briefly in Fassbinder’s The Niklashausen Journey, a bizarre agitprop TV movie made in 1970. More familiar is the low-budget short that Wim Wenders helped photograph a year earlier showing the Düül performing Phallus Dei. Wenders later commissioned Can to provide music for the final scene of Alice in the Cities. And this is before you get to Werner Herzog’s lengthy relationship with Popol Vuh which includes this memorable moment. Any others out there that I’ve missed?

Album sleeves in their original locations. And speaking of album sleeves, photo prints of some very famous cover designs by Storm Thorgerson will be on display at the Public Works Gallery, Chicago, throughout September and October.

Crazy for kittehs: the quest to find the purring heart of cat videos: Gideon Lewis-Kraus goes where few journalists dare to tread. Also at Wired, the same writer explores the Cat Cafés of Tokyo.

The City of Rotted Names, a “shamelessly Joycian cubist fantasy” by Hal Duncan, available to read in a variety of formats on a pay-as-thou-wilt basis until Monday only.

• Jailhouse rockers: How The Prisoner inspired artists from The Beatles to Richard Hawley.

How To Survive A Plague, a documentary about HIV/AIDS activism in the US.

• Deborah Harry: hippy girl in 1968, punk in 1976, and Giger-woman in 1981.

Alan Garner answers readers’ questions about his new novel, Boneland.

• For steampunk aficionados: ‘COG’nitive Dreams by Dana Mattocks.

• David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Madonna & Asparagus: Kraftwerk in 1976.

• New music videos: Goddess Eyes I by Julia Holter | Sulphurdew by Ufomammut | Warm Leatherette by Laibach.

Saint Genet

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Miracle of the Rose (1965). Photo by Jerry Bauer, design by Kuhlman Associates.

[William Burroughs is] without a doubt…the greatest American writer since WWII. There are very, very few writers in his class; I think Genet is about the only one whom I’d put in the same category. All the British and American writers so heavily touted—the Styrons and the Mailers and their English equivalents—it’s just not necessary to read anybody except William Burroughs and Genet.

JG Ballard, RE/Search interview, 1984.

Jean Genet (the “Saint” was a gift from Jean-Paul Sartre) was born on December 19th, 1910 so consider this a late centenary post. Some of Ballard’s debt to William Burroughs can be found in writings such as The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) and his early text experiments. Genet’s influence, if we have to look for such a thing, I usually see in the use of metaphor to transform an uncompromising reality. Like the moment at the beginning of Crash (1973) when the crushed bodies of package tourists are compared to “a haemorrhage of the sun”. Genet’s writings effected similar transformations from squalid prison environments, turning the sexual assignations and passions of the inmates into ceremonial acts which assume the lineaments of a new religion. He used to claim in later life to have forgotten all his works but we haven’t forgotten him. A small selection of Genet links follows.

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Esquire, November 1968.

RealityStudio:

Burroughs’ most famous and most widely read piece for Esquire remains his coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, “The Coming of the Purple Better One,” which was included in Exterminator! Burroughs was hired to cover the convention along with Terry Southern, who was a pioneer in New Journalism with his “Twirling at Ole Miss” (which appeared in Esquire in February 1963), John Sack, who wrote on the experiences of Company M in Vietnam for Esquire (with the legendary cover “Oh my God — We hit a little girl”), and Jean Genet, an authority on oppression who turned increasingly politically active after the events in Europe in May 1968. (Continues here.)

Ubuweb:
Un Chant d’Amour (1950): Genet’s short homoerotic drama which he later disowned. The film’s masturbating prisoners and naked male flesh made it notorious and, for later generations of filmmakers, a pioneering and influential work.
Le condamné à mort (1952): A reading of Genet’s poem (in French) with electroacoustic accompaniment.
Ecce Homo (1989): A short film by Jerry Tartaglia which cuts scenes from Un Chant d’Amour with gay porn.

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Bibliothèque Gay:
Vingt lithographies pour un livre que j’ai lu, Jean Genet, Roland Caillaux, 1945. A sequence of twenty pornographic drawings.

YouTube:
The Maids (1975): Glenda Jackson and Susannah York in a film by Christopher Miles based on Genet’s play. There’s also Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982) but YouTube’s limitations don’t do it any favours.
Jean Genet (1985): an extract from the BBC interview where the writer makes a fool of interviewer Nigel Williams. This captured Genet a few months before his death and he remains the stubborn outsider to the last, questioning the conventions of the television interview which he compares to a police interrogation. A transcript of the whole fascinating event can be found here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Emil Cadoo
Penguin Labyrinths and the Thief’s Journal
Un Chant D’Amour by Jean Genet

Weekend links 10

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One of a number of vintage ads and ephemeral items at this Flickr set.

• From 1971: The Anthony Balch/William Burroughs/Jan Herman video experiment.

• The NYT reports on World on a Wire, a neglected science fiction drama by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

• “While some of the technology industry’s brightest minds were inventing the first PCs and developing groundbreaking software, they were also feeding their heads with LSD.”

• The archive of author and illustrator Mervyn Peake has been acquired by the British Library for £410,000.

• Thames & Hudson are publishing I Wonder, a book by the wonderful Marian Bantjes, later in the year. Her site has a preview. I want.

• The gays: It’s election season in the UK so My Gay Vote looks at how the three main parties have supported LGBT issues. (No data for the graphs, however.) Is theatre finally glad to be gay? Yet more Tumblrs: I heart skinny boys & Cute boys with cats.

• Trend-spotter, “svengali”, Situationist and the man who named the Sex Pistols: RIP Malcolm McLaren. The Guardian ran a number of memorial pages. Related: Anarchy in Gardenstown.

• Dublin’s One City, One Book choice for April 2010 is The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The Catastrophist: Christopher Hitchens on JG Ballard.

Steampunk Taxidermy by Lisa Black.

• LIFE looks back at Aleister Crowley.

• Groovy songs of the week: Julie Driscoll (with Brian Auger & The Trinity), a pair of songs by Bob Dylan—This Wheel’s On Fire—and Donovan—Season Of The Witch—and sets which look like a collaboration between Verner Panton and Marcel Duchamp. Amazing.