Weekend links 149

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It’s not cheap but it’s rather tasty: The Changing Faces of Bowie, a limited print at the V&A shop produced for the forthcoming David Bowie exhibition. One hundred artists and designers were asked to choose or create a Bowie-related type design, the collection being printed on holographic paper. Creative Review looked at some details. Related: Bowie’s new album, The Next Day, is now streaming in full at iTunes.

• Marisa Siegel reviews The Moon & Other Inventions: Poems After Joseph Cornell by Kristina Marie Darling, “a fully enchanting if somewhat mysterious collection of poems, written entirely as footnotes”. BlazeVOX has an extract here.

• “[Clement] Greenberg came round to our house in Camden Square. He started telling Bill what he should do to improve a work. Dad lost patience and kicked him out.” Alex Turbull of 23 Skidoo on sculptor father William Turnbull.

“You get the impression that a lot of these young directors have never gained much experience of life outside their film schools or their video-rental stores.”

Anne Billson met Roman Polanski in 1995 to discuss Death and the Maiden.

• Max Beerbohm’s The Happy Hypocrite, and Ronald Firbank’s Vainglory are available in new print-on-demand and ebook editions from Michael Walmer.

• “Bring Back the Illustrated Book!” says Sam Sacks. Some of us would reply that it never went away but merely remains subject to much unexamined prejudice.

The Forest and The Trees: A blog by Genevieve Kaplan about altered texts and book art by herself and other artists.

The Homosexual Atom Bomb: Sophie Pinkham on gay rights, Soviet Russia and the Cold War.

Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Zang Tumb Tuum? A blog devoted to the ZTT record label.

• Nigel Kneale’s TV ghost drama, The Stone Tape, is reissued on DVD later this month.

• The drawings of Victor Hugo.

David Bowie at Pinterest.

•  The Man Who Sold The World (1994) by Nirvana | V-2 Schneider (1996) by Philip Glass | ‘Heroes’ (2000) by King Crimson

Jon Finch, 1941–2012

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Macbeth (1971).

There are few actors I’ve ever felt sufficiently cultish about who could make me watch films or TV dramas I wouldn’t otherwise be interested in. Orson Welles would be one (up to a point, he was in a lot of crap in later years), Patrick McGoohan another and Jon Finch most definitely a third. Having watched Finch just over a week ago in Roman Polanski’s superb adaptation of Macbeth it’s been a shock to discover that he’d died shortly after Christmas, the news of his funeral only being announced this week.

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Frenzy (1972).

The cult status stems from the remarkable run of lead roles he was offered in the early 1970s: playing Macbeth for Polanski, the “wrong man” role in Hitchcock’s last great film, Frenzy, and a perfect Jerry Cornelius in Robert Fuest’s adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s The Final Programme. There were plenty of other roles, of course, but those three are standouts which also show something of his range: suitably brooding, weak and malevolent in Macbeth, in Frenzy a hounded man who seems disreputable enough for his friends to suspect he may be a murderer, in The Final Programme as smart and insouciant as Moorcock’s Cornelius ought to be.

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The Final Programme (1973): Finch with Jenny Runacre (Miss Brunner).

I’m happier that Finch played Cornelius instead of James Bond, a role he was offered after Sean Connery quit. Jerry Cornelius, “the English Assassin”, in the first novel in Moorcock’s Cornelius quartet is a kind of anti-Bond, and there were few actors around in 1973 who would have possessed the necessary charisma and intelligence for the part. Mike Moorcock was friends with Finch around the time the film was being made so when I was visiting the Moorcocks in Paris a few years ago I asked him why Finch hadn’t done more with his career after such an impressive start. Mike says he was one of those actors who often preferred to be doing something else with his time.

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Finch and Ronald Lacey (Shades) in The Final Programme.

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On the set of Alien (1978).

Obituaries will no doubt regard Finch’s rejection of the Bond role as a missed opportunity but I wish we could have seen him as intended in Ridley Scott’s Alien where he’d been cast as Kane but had to drop out after contracting a severe case of bronchitis once shooting was underway. The photo and screen grab below are seldom-seen images from the Alien DVD extras. I’ve nothing against John Hurt in the role but with Finch playing the part it would have made a cult film a little more special. He did get to act for Ridley Scott eventually with a small role in Kingdom of Heaven in 2005.

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An outtake from Alien.

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As Count Sylvius in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994).

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Update: Found on an archive disc, this rare photo from the set of The Final Programme showing Finch as Jerry Cornelius facing off with his creator, Michael Moorcock. (Click for a larger copy.) That’s the Space Ritual line-up of Hawkwind in the background. Band and author appear for a fraction of a second in a shot during the film’s arcade scene. Considering how common it was to have rock bands in feature films during this time it still surprises me that Fuest and co. went to all this trouble then left them on the cutting-room floor. The photo was Moorcock’s own, as I recall, something we ran in one of the Savoy books.

Guardian obituary
Independent obituary
Telegraph obituary
Macbeth trailer
Frenzy trailer
The Final Programme trailer

Previously on { feuilleton }
Dan O’Bannon, 1946–2009
Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner

Repulsion locations

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More Polanskiana. This film location site made the tracking down of locations in Repulsion (1965) an easy business. I was hoping they might have an entry for The Tenant, much of which is filmed around the Porte Saint-Denis in Paris but the only other Polanski entries are for Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby. No matter, one thing I like about the outdoor scenes in Repulsion is the views of South Kensington which Polanski fixed a year or so before Donovan was celebrating the area in a rather more positive manner. I have fond memories of South Kensington in the 1970s since it was the area we stayed in every February during an annual school trip. Barring a slight change of street furniture, the busy traffic island outside the Tube station looked just the same when we were there.

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The exterior of Kensington Mansions in Trebovir Road, the location for Carol’s apartment. I’d always thought this was in a street near the Tube station but it’s actually some distance away in Earl’s Court.

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Colin (John Fraser) and Carol (Catherine Deneuve).

The hair salon where Carol works is Thurloe’s in Thurloe Place, and the shop in question is still a hair salon. Google’s Street Views were taken in May 2012 so the flags are out for the Queen’s Jubilee.

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Just down the road from Thurloe’s is the Hoop & Toy, the pub where Carol’s would-be boyfriend, Colin, goes drinking with his misogynist friends.

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The traffic island outside the Tube station which in the latest Street View was still looking like a building site. The most surprising thing about the row of shops around the Tube station is that Dino’s, a restaurant visible in some of the film shots, is still there almost fifty years later.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Polanski details
Repulsion posters
Through the Wonderwall

Polanski details

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Roman Polanski as Alfred in Dance of the Vampires (1967).

I’ve always admired the attention to detail in Roman Polanski’s films, a quality evident not only in his careful adaptations but also in areas that lesser filmmakers might ignore. Dance of the Vampires (1967) is a good example (sorry, I refuse to call it by the title MGM used for its edited US release): the sets and decor are remarkable, and the editing and camera work so skilfully blends studio constructions with location shots that for years I was convinced the film was made in a genuine European castle. The atmosphere is so carefully sustained that I found the whole thing as terrifying on first viewing as any Hammer film, despite the broad humour. In the set-piece moments Polanski (and soundtrack composer Krzysztof Komeda) put many of the later Hammer vampire films to shame.

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The Vampire Portraits

The production design and art direction for Dance of the Vampires was created by Wilfred Shingleton and Fred Carter, both of whom later worked on Polanski’s Macbeth, and who fill the rooms with mouldering furnishings and rotting decoration. One striking sequence concerns a walk through a gallery of vampire portraits that are the creepiest paintings seen on film since Ivan Albright’s portrait of a decrepit Dorian Gray. Film credits in the 1960s were sparse so there’s no indication of the artist responsible. However, one portrait glimpsed at the end of the gallery (below) is a copy of the “Ugly Duchess” painting by Quinten Matsys.

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Rosemary’s Book

A sign that filmmakers care about detail is when they make their fictional books look like the genuine article. The history of witchcraft in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) could easily have been glimpsed very briefly but Polanski shows Rosemary leafing through its pages in a sequence of Hitchcock-like view-reaction-view shots that make it appear as convincing as possible. The shots also make the viewer examine the book through Rosemary’s eyes, something Polanski does throughout the film.

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Repulsion posters

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More Roman Polanski. The BFI is running a season of the director’s work through January and February so Repulsion (1965) and Chinatown (1974) have been put back into circulation nationwide. I don’t live in London but I have a large number of Polanski’s films on DVD so it looks like this month will also see a mini-season in south Manchester. Anchor Bay released a set of Polanski’s first three films (plus a disc of his short works) a few years ago, a great collection whose only flaw was a lack of Jan Lenica’s poster art for Repulsion and Cul-de-Sac (1966). I don’t know what posters are being used to promote the new release of Repulsion but something using Lenica’s artwork would seem essential.

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The colour and brush style of the prone figure is very typical of Lenica but when combined with either the Clarendon typeface in the British example above, or the blocky lettering for the French poster, a Saul Bass-like design appears. The gender and eye symbols in the hand-drawn lettering reinforce a resemblance which I’d guess was deliberate. The title sequence for Repulsion, with the credits sliding across a close view of Catherine Deneuve’s eyeball, could almost have been created by Bass; the director’s credit (below) requires no further argument.

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