Ubu

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One last film post for a very busy week. Ubu is a highly-stylised animated adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. This was a British production directed in 1978 by Geoff Dunbar who employs an ink-spattered style reminiscent of Ralph Steadman’s drawings; in place of vocal dramatisation Pa and Ma Ubu shriek horribly and occasionally spit out speech balloons. As a condensation of the play, and a taste of Jarry’s grotesquery, this feels a lot closer to its source than Jean-Christophe Averty’s 1965 film which seems polite by comparison. Ubu took a long time to arrive on YouTube so watch it while you can, it may well vanish again.

Ubu pt. 1 | Ubu pt. 2

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bring Me the Head of Ubu Roi

Gerald Scarfe’s Long Drawn-Out Trip

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Yet more animation. Long Drawn-Out Trip was Gerald Scarfe‘s first foray into the medium, produced in 1972 at the request of the BBC who sent the artist to Los Angeles to try out the new De Joux animation system. The process needed only six or eight drawings per second of film thus reducing the usual amount of labour. Scarfe says in the first book collection of his work, Gerald Scarfe (1982), that the 16-minute film was still very labour intensive.

The subject of Long Drawn-Out Trip is Los Angeles and America itself, the concerns being the same ones that Ralph Steadman was depicting that year in his illustrations for Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72: venality, violence, vulgarity and the omnipresent spectre of Richard Nixon, a president who had the good fortune to be drawn many times by two of Britain’s greatest living satirists although he wouldn’t have thanked them for it. In Scarfe’s film we also find Mickey Mouse being reduced to his constituent lines and colours after smoking a joint. In the 1980s Scarfe regularly drew Ronald Reagan wearing the famous mouse ears, something that nearly got him fired from his post at the Sunday Times after Rupert Murdoch saw one of the cartoons. Long Drawn-Out Trip had a more favourable effect when it was seen by Roger Waters who asked Scarfe to create some animations for Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here tour. The animated sequences for The Wall have their origin in this short film.

Long Drawn-Out Trip can be viewed here where the 4:3 ratio has been grievously stretched to 16:9. For those who know how, I’d suggest downloading it then watching it in the proper aspect ratio.

Weekend links 95

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Seven Songs (1982) by 23 Skidoo. Sleeve by Neville Brody.

The first volume of The Graphic Canon will be published in May by Seven Stories Press, a collection of comic strip adaptations and illustrations edited by Russ Kick. The anthology has already picked up some attention at the GuardianWestern canon to be rewritten as three-volume graphic novel—and Publishers’ WeeklyGraphic Canon: Comics Meet the Classics. I know someone who’ll bristle at the lazy use of “graphic novel”. The Graphic Canon isn’t anything of the sort, it’s a three-volume voyage through world literature presented in graphic form with a list of contributors including Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Molly Crabapple, Rick Geary, and Roberta Gregory. My contribution is a very condensed adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray that will appear in volume 2. More about that closer to the publication date.

• LTM Records announces a vinyl reissue for Seven Songs (1982) by 23 Skidoo, an album produced by Ken Thomas, Genesis P Orridge & Peter Christopherson that still sounds like nothing else. Related: an extract from Tranquilizer (1984) by Richard Heslop, cut-up Super-8 film/video with audio collage by 23 Skidoo.

• New exhibitions: Another Air: The Czech–Slovak Surrealist Group, 1991–2011 at the Old Town City Hall, Prague (details in English here), and Ed Sanders – Fuck You / A Magazine of the Arts 1962–1965 at Boo-Hooray, NYC.

• “…we have a situation where the banks seem to be an untouchable monarchy beyond the reach of governmental restraint…” Alan Moore writes for the BBC about V for Vendetta and the rise of Anonymous.

Announcing Arc: “a new magazine about the future from the makers of New Scientist“. Digital-only for the time being, as they explain here. Their Tumblr has tasters of the contents.

• From another world: Acid Mothers Temple interviewed. Also at The Quietus: Jajouka or Joujouka? The conflicted legacy of the Master Musicians.

• More from Susan Cain on introverts versus extroverts. Related: Groupthink: The brainstorming myth by Jonah Lehrer.

Ten Thousand Waves, an installation by Isaac Julien.

Afterlife: mouldscapes photographed by Heikki Leis.

• The book covers of Ralph Steadman. And more.

• “James Joyce children’s book sparks feud

Arkitypo: the final alphabet.

Book Aesthete

Kundalini (1982) by 23 Skidoo | Vegas El Bandito (1982) by 23 Skidoo | IY (1982) by 23 Skidoo

The art of Ronald Searle, 1920–2012

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Undertakers. From Punch magazine (undated).

I started trying to draw like Ronald Searle when I was about eight. So there was Jabberwocky and Ronald Searle I was turning into by the time I was thirteen. You know, I was determined to be Lewis Carroll (giggles) with a hint of Ronald Searle.

John Lennon, 1968

Does the late Ronald Searle need any introduction? Everyone knows he created the anarchic schoolgirls of St Trinian’s in the 1940s, although their exploits had the greatest audience in the films based on Searle’s cartoons rather than the original drawings. Searle’s work first came to my attention through reprints of the Molesworth books he produced with Geoffrey Willans in the 1950s—Down with Skool! (1953), How to be Topp (1954), Whizz for Atomms (1956) and Back in the Jug Agane (1959)—a masculine riposte to St Trinian’s which allowed for a broader range of humour than the slapstick and short-skirted salaciousness the films drifted into. The Molesworth books are perhaps best appreciated at age 11 as this LRB review notes; looked at with older eyes all I see is a portrait of a rigidly class-bound nation whose boarding schools, gowned masters, “maters” and “paters” could only inspire affection in the Etonians currently attempting to govern Britain. But the drawings remain a treat: wiry and mordant with flashes of a viciousness that make Searle the godfather of Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman.

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The girls of St Trinian’s, Lilliput magazine, December 1949.

Given Searle’s influence on generations of newspaper cartoonists it’s no surprise that the British papers are being free with the plaudits. Links to various stories follow. The images here are taken from earlier posts or pulled from my bookshelves. The illustration of Engelbrecht below is from the Savoy Books edition of Maurice Richardson’s The Exploits of Engelbrecht which I designed in 2010.

Guardian obituary | Telegraph obituary | NYT obituary
• Ronald Searle in pictures: Telegraph | Guardian
Ronald Searle: a life in pictures by Steve Bell.
Mike Leigh: ‘Ronald Searle was my inspiration’.
Ronald Searle: Now let’s have some fizz: Gerald Scarfe remembers his friend and childhood hero.
Ronald Searle was our greatest cartoonist – and he sent me his pens, says Martin Rowson.

Other links:
Perpetua, the Ronald Searle tribute
Searle at VTS
Winespeak at BibliOdyssey

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Engelbrecht versus Grandfather Clock. From The Exploits of Engelbrecht (1950) by Maurice Richardson.

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“A trap for dere Santa”. From How to be Topp (1954) by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.

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The Coming of the Great Cat God (1968).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Engelbrecht lives to fight another day
Ronald Searle book covers
Engelbrecht again

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