11 Preliminary Orbits Around Planet Lem by the Brothers Quay

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Here come the Quays again with another short documentary for the Polish Cultural Institute. This was posted only a few days ago to acknowledge the centenary of the birth of writer Stanislaw Lem. It’s only the briefest run through Lem’s career as a writer of science fiction but it does include a sequence that lists the films adapted from his work which is a useful reminder of all the ones I’ve yet to see. And the piece ends with an extract from Maska, the Quays’ own adaptation of a Lem short story, and a favourite of mine among their recent films. (Thanks to Tomas for the tip!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
VadeMecum by the Brothers Quay
Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges
Punch and Judy, Michel de Ghelderode, and the Brothers Quay
The mystery of trams
Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013
Holzmüller and the Quays
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD

Weekend links 586

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Cover by Gordon Ertz for The Inland Printer, June 1916.

• “I worry that enthusiasm is being mistaken for a moral virtue, and negative criticism for a character flaw.” Dorian Lynskey on the dying art of the hatchet job. Also a reminder (not that we require it) that the word “fan” in this context has always been an abbreviation of “fanatic”.

• Culture.pl explores the work of Stanislaw Lem, the science-fiction writer “whose works, abilities and quirky sense of humor convinced Philip K. Dick that he was too brilliant to exist and must have actually been a committee of people”.

• The electronic music of Paul Schütze receives a reappraisal on Phantom Limb in November with a compilation album, The Second Law.

Aliya Whiteley on Amanita Muscaria, the hallucinogenic mushroom seen in hundreds of fairy-tale illustrations.

• Stuart Firestein talks to Roger Payne about changing the world’s attitude to whales by recording their songs.

• Jennifer Lucy Allan talks to Sam Underwood about his unique Acoustic Modular Synth.

Jóna G. Kolbrúnardóttir sings Odi Et Amo from Englabörn by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• A forthcoming release on Dark Entries: Back Up: Mexican Tecno Pop 1980–1989.

• Luc Sante looks at Jim Jarmusch’s collages.

John Grant‘s favourite albums.

• RIP Michael Chapman.

• The Divination Of The Bowhead Whale (1978) by David Toop & Max Eastley | Keflavik: The Whale Dance (1980) by Richard Pinhas | Ballet For A Blue Whale (1983) by Adrian Belew

Weekend links 460

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Black Hole (1987) by Suzanne Treister.

• “Most people who are considered heroes are always to be found messing about in someone else’s affairs, and I don’t think that’s very heroic.” Robert Altman talking in 1974 to Jan Dawson about The Long Goodbye.

• “Tea is calming, but alerting at the same time.” Natasha Gilbert on the science of tea’s mood-altering magic.

• Alien spaceship, Hammer horror? Philip Hoare on the pulsating visions of Harry Clarke.

“…world cinema, particularly European cinema…hasn’t shied away from sex and, in fact, has often found ways of using sex to tell a story. Movies like The Duke of Burgundy or Sauvage or BPM gracefully integrate eroticism into the narrative—even when the sex itself is far from graceful. Even the American films that have focused on sex tend to do it with a leer and luridness, regarding sex with a certain narrative fetishism, as opposed to matter-of-factly.”

Rich Juzwiak talking to Catherine Shoard about the current state of sex in the cinema

• Chernobyl again: photographs by David McMillan from inside the exclusion zone.

Lasting Marks: the 16 men put on trial for sadomasochism in Thatcher’s Britain.

• Before Tarkovsky: Michael Brooke on the Russian TV adaptation of Solaris.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 588 by Rouge Mécanique.

• Dustin Krcatovich on The Strange World of Mark Stewart.

• Your Surrealist literature starter kit by Emily Temple.

John Peel’s Archive Things (1970)

5fathom: Things rich and strange

Hole In The Sky (1975) by Black Sabbath | Thru The Black Hole (1979) by Metabolist | Black Hole (1993) by Total Eclipse

Weekend links 447

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Physical Training for Business Men (1917).

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis concludes his discussion with religious scholar Diana Pasulka about anomalous cognition, 2001 monoliths, disclosure, future truths, absurd Christianity, and her book American Cosmic.

• This year the LRB wouldn’t let non-subscribers read Alan Bennett’s 2018 diary but they have a recording of Bennett reading entries here.

• “Glen thought it was very good PR for us to be heavily involved in the druids.” Tom Pinnock talks to the Third Ear Band.

• Rebecca Fasman on the forgotten legacy of gay photographer George Platt Lynes.

• Laura Leavitt on John Cleves Symmes Jr.‘s obsession with a hollow Earth.

• David Parkinson recommends 12 essential Laurel and Hardy films.

• Paul Grimstad on the beautiful mind-bending of Stanislaw Lem.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 277 by Sigillum S.

• The endlessly photogenic Chrysler Building.

Energy Flow by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

195 Gigapixel Shanghai

Solaris: Ocean (1972) by Edward Artemyev | The Sea Named Solaris (1977) by Isao Tomita | Simulacra II (2011) by Ben Frost & Daníel Bjarnason

Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges

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Given the time of year, and last week’s Quays-themed post, this seemed like a good follow-up. Opera North’s production of Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges was broadcast by the BBC during the Christmas holiday of 1989. The opera isn’t quite as saccharine a Christmas entertainment as The Nutcracker Suite but the libretto is still light-hearted fare, being based on a Neopolitan fairy tale in which the son of the King of Clubs is afflicted by melancholy after reading too much tragic poetry. The King stages an entertainment to cheer the Prince but the only thing that makes him laugh is the witch, Fata Morgana, falling over and revealing her underclothes. This humiliation provokes the witch into cursing the Prince to fall in love with three oranges. These he immediately sets off to find, and thereby hangs the tale. Richard Jones directed the production, with the English Northern Philharmonia providing the music. The opera is also sung in English, the translation being by David Lloyd-Jones.

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The stage decor for the Opera North production was designed by the Quay Brothers, one of several operas they worked on around this time. The opera may be a comic one but the design emphasis is on gloom and decay, a feature that extends to Sue Blane’s costumes, many of which seem to have been styled with the Quays’ films in mind. In addition to a Nosferatu-like Leander (the sinister Prime Minister), a company of children appear from time to time wearing masks which make them look like the Quays’ doll-headed puppets. The chorus, meanwhile, wear antique gas-masks of a style which people would now refer to as steampunk. The most overt reference to the Quays films occurs during the King’s entertainment when a vast mutant creature is wheeled onto the stage, the creature’s head being the colossal cousin of the twitching cyclops from Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies. The cumulative effect of the grotesquery combined with absurd comedy is of an opera equivalent of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, all of which makes me wonder what the BBC’s Gormenghast might have been like if the corporation had hired the Quays and Sue Blane to work the same magic they do here. (There is a Gormenghast opera by Irmin Schmidt but I’m not keen on the music and what I’ve seen of the staging it looks a lot less like Peake than this one does.)

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Decor aside, the most notable feature of this production, and the broadcast itself, was the scratch-and-sniff card which was provided to every member of the audience, and to any viewers who bought a copy of the BBC’s Listener magazine before the screening. Each time a numbered card appeared on the stage the audience had to scratch and sniff the relevant panel. The scents—which include orange, of course—are less offensive than those for John Waters’ Polyester (1981) although the audience is still surprised into sniffing the farts of the demon, Farfarello.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Punch and Judy, Michel de Ghelderode, and the Brothers Quay
The mystery of trams
Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013
Holzmüller and the Quays
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD