Weekend links 604


Poster by Chris Ware for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010).

• “He is a proponent of “slow cinema,” which is to say, movies that inspire reflection because they are unhurried but fluid, clear but framed by mystery.” Hilton Als on the metaphysical world of Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

• “You could take off your clothes and lay in the sun, nude, with other guys looking for sex, right in Manhattan. And the police didn’t care. It was safe…” Stanley Stellar on his photographs of New York’s “Gay Piers”.

• At Wormwoodiana: An interview with RB Russell who talks about his new book, Robert Aickman: An Attempted Biography.

• New music: Mysterium by Held By Trees; A Journey by Hinako Omori; Waves by The Soundcarriers.

• Get some cosmic perspective with an updated version of Charles & Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten.

• You Cut Your Hair and Made a Friend: Richard Conway on Ladytron’s 604 and Light & Magic.

• At Unquiet Things: The Tawdry Technicolor Horrors of Vicente B. Ballestar.

• Alexis Petridis compiles a list of the late James Mtume’s greatest recordings.

• Steven Heller’s Font of the Month is Valvolina.

Slow Motion (1978) by Ultravox | Slow And Low (1995) by Tetsu Inoue | Slow Burning Ghosts (1996) by Paul Schütze

Cosmic Zoom


Cosmic Zoom (1968) is a short, semi-animated film by Eva Szasz, one of the many great shorts financed by the National Film Board of Canada. When I wrote about this in 2006 there was only a low-res version available for viewing on the NFB site while Powers of Ten (1977), a very similar film by Charles and Ray Eames, could be seen on YouTube. Three years on and Powers of Ten has disappeared behind a registration wall but Cosmic Zoom can now be seen in higher quality on the newly relaunched NFB site. A shame about the annoyingly obtrusive onscreen logo but it’s worth browsing the site for more of their excellent animations, not least the work of Norman McLaren. The time when these shorts would regularly turn up on UK TV are long gone so it’s good to know that they’re now available for viewing any time we wish.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Norman McLaren
Cosmic Zooms

Cosmic zooms


Cosmic Zoom was a short animated film by made by Eva Szasz in 1968 for the National Film Board of Canada.

This film probes the infinite magnitude of space, and its reverse, the ultimate minuteness of matter. Animation art and animation camera achieve this journey to the farthest conceivable point of the universe and then into the tiniest particle of existence—an atom of a living human cell—with a freshness and clarity that would seem impossible with other means of exposition. Film without words.

The film zooms out from a boy rowing a boat across a lake, into the farthest reaches of space, then back down to earth again to focus on a mosquito on the boy’s arm, then further down into cells and atoms.

A similar film called Powers of Ten (from which the still above is borrowed) was made in 1977 by Charles and Ray Eames. The Eames’ film is a lot more detailed and with a running commentary full of scientific information. You can see it on YouTube here.

The ultimate Eamesian expression of systems and connections, Powers of Ten explores the relative size of things from the microscopic to the cosmic. The 1977 film travels from an aerial view of a man in a Chicago park to the outer limits of the universe directly above him and back down into the microscopic world contained in the man’s hand. Powers of Ten illustrates the universe as an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mystery. The film also demonstrates the Eameses’ ability to make science both fascinating and accessible.

Just to show the persistence of a fascinating idea, there’s a nice java animation here.

View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.