Readouts

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The HAL Project.

January flew by in a blizzard of work so posting here tended to rely more on pictures than words. As usual the things I’ve been designing will be unveiled when they’re closer to being published or released but for now here’s some new or not-so-new items worthy of note.

The HAL Project screensaver. I’ve never had much time for gaudy screensavers, I prefer something which doesn’t get annoying when I’m otherwise engaged. For a while now I’ve been using the Mac-only Lotsawater which turns your monitor into a vertical water tank with slow motion ripples. I replaced that this week with Joe Mackenzie’s HAL Project screensaver (for Mac and Windows) which throws up random samplings of the HAL 9000 monitor animations from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sounds a bit dull until you see it in action, very crisp and detailed graphics, many of which mimic the animations of those in the film. I’ve belatedly realised how similar these fields of colour and their lines of white type are to the opening titles of A Clockwork Orange, yet another connection between the two films. Now I can sit trying to figure out some of the less obvious 3-letter codes for the spacecraft’s systems; Stanley Kubrick was so thorough you just know they all mean something.

Via the Kubrick obsessives at Coudal.

A pair of new blogs. Designer Barney Bubbles should need little introduction here but if you require one then read this. Paul Gorman has been in touch to inform me of a new online companion to his BB book, Reasons To Be Cheerful, which already looks like a treat with displays of Bubbles creations that didn’t make the book.

Writer Russ Kick was also in touch this week with news of his books and book culture blog, Books Are People, Too. Russ is the author of several books for Disinformation and his Memory Hole website notoriously caused a headache for the Bush regime when he forced photos of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq onto the front pages of American newspapers.

Songs of the Black Würm Gism. And speaking of books, the much delayed sequel to DM Mitchell’s landmark Lovecraft anthology, The Starry Wisdom comes shambling into the light of day at last. The Creation Oneiros website describes it thus:

The Black Würm Gism Cult – oceanic insect porn – a vortex of cosmic mayhem stalked by ravening lysergic entities – a post-human psychedelic seizure of Lovecraftian text, art and fragments. SONGS OF THE BLACK WÜRM GISM picks up where the acclaimed anthology THE STARRY WISDOM left off and goes beyond – way beyond! – what H.P. Lovecraft dared to show. Editor D.M. Mitchell presents an illustrated brainstorm of visceral deep-sea dream currents, aberrant trans-species sex visions, and frenzied ophidian entropy.

Contributors include: alan moore (cover illustration), john coulthart (introduction), grant morrison, david britton, ian miller, john beal, david conway, kenji siratori, herzan chimera, james havoc, reza negarestani, & many others

Yes, the rather pompous introduction for this volume is mine and the cover is Alan Moore’s psychedelic arachnoid rendering of the demon Asmodeus, the same picture I used to create my little hidden film on the Mindscape of Alan Moore DVD. The Starry Wisdom roused a vaporous fury among the more staid Lovecraft readers so I look forward to seeing what squeaks of outrage this new book inspires. Publication is set for September 2009 but you can order it now from Amazon and other outlets.

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Ghost Box haunts again. And if anything was going to provide a suitable soundtrack to “aberrant trans-species sex visions, and frenzied ophidian entropy” you could do worse than some of the works of the Ghost Box collective, especially the spooky and abrasive Ouroborindra by Eric Zann. Ritual and Education is a new download-only sampler of Ghost Box tracks and probably an ideal place to start if your curiosity is piqued by my recurrent raves about these releases. From An Ancient Star is the latest CD from Belbury Poly which swaps the Pelican Books graphics of earlier works for a convincing piece of crank lit. cover art which wouldn’t look out of place in the RT Gault archives.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Demon Regent Asmodeus
The Séance at Hobs Lane
Ghost Box
2001: A Space Odyssey program

Pablo Ferro on YouTube

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Dr. Strangelove titles (1964).

There’s less of his work around than there should be, unfortunately. Saul Bass is justly celebrated for his title sequences and poster designs yet Pablo Ferro—whose titles were equally innovative and memorable—is rarely heard of even though you’ll have seen a lot of his work.

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Bullitt titles (1968).

Ferro’s advertising films brought him to the attention of Stanley Kubrick for whom he created titles and trailers for Dr. Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange (1971). The hand-drawn quality of the Strangelove titles was revisited for Stop Making Sense (1984) and Men In Black (1997), while the frenetic pace of the Clockwork trailer still seems advanced over thirty years later. This collection lacks his titles for the original Thomas Crown Affair (1968) but you can see a mix of Ferro’s split-screen work (which includes parts of the titles) here.

By Pablo Ferro:
Dr. Strangelove trailer
Dr. Strangelove titles
Bullitt titles
A Clockwork Orange trailer
Stop Making Sense titles
To Die For titles
LA Confidential titles

This Is Pablo Ferro

About Pablo Ferro:
• Pablo Ferro documentary clips: I | II

Quick Cuts, Coarse Letters, Multiple Screens—an article by Steven Heller
• Free Ferro-derived fonts! Pablo Skinny | Major Kong

Previously on { feuilleton }
Juice from A Clockwork Orange
Clockwork Orange bubblegum cards
Alex in the Chelsea Drug Store

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1912–2007

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Another one bites the dust… What are the odds against two of the last surviving big names of cinema expiring in the same week? I could never get fully behind Antonioni the way I could with Bergman, I didn’t think much of the Neo-Realist school that Antonioni began as a part of and his later Italian films such as La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962) seemed like vacuous stylistic exercises. He divided opinion even among his peers—Orson Welles couldn’t bear his work whereas Stanley Kubrick put La Notte in a “ten best” list in 1963. I always enjoyed Blow Up (1966) even though it seems fatuous next to Performance while Zabriskie Point (1970) is a joke. But I like The Passenger (aka Professione: Reporter, 1975) very much.

A simple story—reporter in the Sahara swaps identities with a dead arms dealer then goes on the run—featured Jack Nicholson giving one of his last good performances before his descent into gurning self-parody. Also Ian Hendry, Steven Berkoff (between Kubrick films) and Jenny Runacre shortly before she was in Jubilee for Derek Jarman. The film works as an extended travelogue, ranging from Africa to England then into Spain as Nicholson’s character picks up student Maria Schneider on his travels and is pursued by his wife (who doesn’t believe he’s dead) and men intent on killing him. Events are resolved during a celebrated seven-minute single take where the camera passes miraculously through the iron bars of a hotel window. One of Antonioni’s finest qualities was his appreciation of architectural and cinematic space and the final shot of the film is a perfect example of this. The Passenger was out of circulation for years but is now available on DVD.

Guardian obituary | David Thomson appreciation

Previously on { feuilleton }
Further Back and Faster

If….

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Lindsay Anderson‘s masterpiece, If…., is finally given a DVD release in the UK in June. Anderson’s film—the dramatic resistance to authority by three boys at an unnamed British school—was made in 1968 but I didn’t get to see it until (as I recall) 1977. I was 15 at the time and feeling increasingly desperate and hidebound by school-life so this film was explosive in its psychological impact as well as its story (that grenade on the poster was very apt). Given my age and the year, I’m supposed to have cult yearnings toward the wretched Star Wars but it was If…. that made the lasting impression.

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Poster for the 2002 re-release.

If…. was important for a number of reasons, not all of them obvious during that first viewing. I didn’t go to an all-boys public school (note for Americans: “public school” in Britain actually means an expensive, private establishment) but my grammar school had been an all-boys place a few years before I arrived. Some teachers wore gowns at assembly and many of the older teachers there were of a rigid, brutalist mindset exactly like the ones in Anderson’s film. Bullying was endemic, uniform rules were enforced to a degree that would make an army colonel proud and you stood out from the crowd at your peril; I had friends there but I hated every minute. So here comes young Malcolm McDowell on the television screen, effortlessly charismatic and insouciant in his first film role, portraying the ultimate Luciferan rebel, one who (as Anderson writes in the screenplay preface below) says “No” in the face of overwhelming odds. Reader, I identified so very much…. The famous ending (borrowed from Jean Vigo’s Zéro de Conduite) where Mick and the other “Crusaders” fire guns and throw grenades at the rest of the school was headily wish-fulfilling. (And given recent events, you’ll also see below that Anderson and screenwriter David Sherwin regarded that ending as metaphorical, not literal.)

Continue reading “If….”

Perfume: the art of scent

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I’ve yet to see Tom Tykwer’s film of Patrick Süskind’s novel, Perfume—The Story of a Murderer, and remain reluctant to do so; it’s a rule in cinema that good books make bad films and vice versa. Perfume is a good book and a favourite of mine which makes the prospect of film adaptation even more worrying. (As an aside, Tykwer dispels the persistent rumour that Stanley Kubrick dismissed Perfume as an unfilmable novel.)

Reservations apart, I’ve been listening to the tremendous soundtrack all week after a recommendation from a friend (hi Philip!). The music is credited to Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and the director, and features the near unprecedented involvement of conductor Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, an orchestra that rarely stoops to the level of the film soundtrack. This prompted speculation about the distinct challenge Süskind’s book presents to a designer: how best to represent the entwined strands of Grenouille’s career as a perfumier and a murderer of young women?

Continue reading “Perfume: the art of scent”