Sundial and Mile End Purgatorio

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The Black Tower.

I ought to have devoted this post to The Black Tower (1987), John Smith’s short and sinister film which I linked to at the weekend. It was good to watch it again after seeing a TV screening (no doubt the only one) on the UK’s Channel 4 in 1988. It also reminded me of the two shorter films linked here, both of which were also shown on Channel 4 a few years later in Benjamin Woolley’s excellent Midnight Underground series. All three films are linked by their London locations and their different solutions to the perennial problem of the micro-budget filmmaker looking to make the most of limited resources.

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Sundial.

Smith’s film is the more substantial work, and of particular interest to those looking for examples of weird (or horror) cinema that avoids Hollywood cliches. The Black Tower combines static views of an unusual building with voiceover and sound effects to turn a mundane piece of architecture into a growing menace. Using a voiceover to craft a narrative from unrelated shots has always been a useful and flexible technique, especially if money is limited; Peter Greenaway did this with all of his early films, and it’s an approach also favoured by Patrick Keiller and Terrence Malick.

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Mile End Purgatorio.

Guy Sherwin uses the same technique for Mile End Purgatorio (1991), an East-End riff on Dante, Hamlet and the Bible, with words by Martin Doyle. William Raban’s Sundial (1993) has no voiceover but it follows The Black Tower in making the Canary Wharf tower the centre of its attention, the fixed point in the passing of a single day. Sherwin and Raban also show how much can be done with a single minute of film.

Weekend links 74

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Johnny YesNo video cover, 1983. Design by Neville Brody.

Being a Cabaret Voltaire enthusiast of long standing it was good to hear last week about the imminent reappearance of Johnny YesNo, an hour-long film by Peter Care for which the Cabs provided the soundtrack. Mute Records will be releasing Care’s debut on DVD in a set which includes two versions of the film together with two music CDs. I never got to see the original release on CV’s VHS label, Doublevision; for most of the 1980s I didn’t even have a colour TV never mind a video recorder so I missed all CV’s videocassettes aside from Gasoline In Your Eye. The new edition will be available in November. Brainwashed has a list of the contents while The Quietus posted a clip from the new “redux” version. (And before anyone tells me it’s on YouTube…yeah, everything is on YT in shitty quality and barnacled with the misanthropy-inducing drivel which passes there for comment. If I’m going to watch something for the first time I’d prefer it to be on a shiny disc, thanks.)

• The world has noticed Terrence Malick again following the release of The Tree of Life. Malick’s second feature is returning briefly to UK cinema screens, an event which prompted David Thomson to ask Is Days of Heaven the most beautiful film ever made?

• This week in imaginative art: S. Elizabeth on The Fantastical Fairy Tale Art of Sveta Dorosheva, AS Byatt on the strange paintings of Richard Dadd (there’s another Dadd article here), and Rick Poynor on Chris Foss and the Technological Sublime.

Ethan Hein demonstrates how Alan Lomax came to have copyright control over many songs he had nothing to do with simply by recording traditional music.

Visual Vitriol:  The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation, a book by David Ensminger.

• More Club Silencio: Inside David Lynch’s Paris nightclub and a gallery of photos.

Histoire un-Naturelle, selected works by Ruth Marten.

Come hither: The deceptive beauty of orchids.

Facsimile Dust Jackets.

• More Peter Care: Just Fascination (1983) by Cabaret Voltaire | Sensoria (1984) by Cabaret Voltaire | Rise (1986) by Public Image Ltd.

Chris Parks

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Chris Parks created effects sequences for The Fountain and The Tree of Life. His showreel can be viewed here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Len Lye
Matrix III by John Whitney
Symphonie Diagonale by Viking Eggeling
Mary Ellen Bute: Films 1934–1957
Norman McLaren
John Whitney’s Catalog
Arabesque by John Whitney
Moonlight in Glory
Jordan Belson on DVD
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney
Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood

Weekend links 54

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Film and opera posters by Franciszek Starowieyski (see below).

• At first glance, Jerzy Skolimowski’s new film, Essential Killing, sounds like Joseph Losey’s Figures in a Landscape (1970) reworked for our era of renditions, torture and war without end. The trailer is here; Sight & Sound liked the film and dismissed any Losey comparisons. The Quietus interviewed the director this week, and there’s also a video interview here.

“He was trying to tell the truth about war. In the 1950s the US was telling itself a mythic, grandiose, heroic story about the second world war and GI Joe saving the world. [James] Jones was saying, ‘That wasn’t the war I saw, I want to write something more honest and realistic. Whatever the mid-America myth, one of the things men were doing was giving blow jobs for money.'”

From Here to Eternity is published in an uncensored edition.

Edogawa Rampo‘s sinister short story The Human Chair concerns a man who conceals himself inside a chair. Taiwanese artist Lan Hungh may have had Rampo’s story in mind for his Demolished Chair art piece about which we’re told “Hungh’s flaccid penis is the only body part that’s visible, and becomes hard as soon as anyone starts discussing the chair or sitting on it.” BUTT magazine spoke to the artist.

…unaware of their double standards, the police objected to the portrayal of men in Harrison’s work as demeaning. There was Hugh Hefner squeezed into a bunny girl costume, a beefy but emasculated Captain America wearing false breasts and a stars ‘n’ stripes-patterned basque, and Valerie Solanas, the radical feminist who tried to murder Andy Warhol, stamping on his Brillo box artwork.

A piece about artist Margaret Harrison whose work is on show at Payne Shurvell, London.

Connecting Science and Art: “Novelist Cormac McCarthy (!), filmmaker Werner Herzog, and physicist Lawrence Krauss discuss science as inspiration for art and Herzog’s new film on the earliest known cave paintings.”

• At Tumblr: Gurafiku, “a collection of visual research that encompasses the history of Japanese graphic design”, and Archidose.

• “Michael Moorcock’s Modem Times 2.0 is a good introduction to the literary legend.”

• The Spring 2011 edition of Periwinkle Journal (Queer Art + Creativity) is now live.

• Rick Poynor (again) on [Franciszek] Starowieyski’s Graphic Universe of Excess.

• Coudal now have a page of links for the great Terrence Malick.

Wake in Progress is Finnegans Wake illustrated.

Brown Study, a blog by Jay Babcock.

• RIP Sidney Lumet.

Ry Cooder & The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces: Let’s Have a Ball is a film by Les Blank of a fantastic performance by Cooder’s band in Santa Cruz, California, in 1987. It’s not available on DVD but most of it can be seen on YouTube.

Weekend links 41

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Being an inveterate Kubrickphile I was naturally pleased to hear that some of the excised scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey have survived in a watchable form, even though I’m often ambivalent about the restoration of such material. While it was good to see at last the missing French compound sequence of Apocalypse Now, for example, that sequence added nothing to the film as a whole and its inclusion was spoiled by music which Coppola used for sentimental reasons. In Kubrick’s case, there’s a longer version of The Shining which the director allowed to be screened on UK TV in the 1980s but, again, most of the unseen material was incidental and added nothing to the film.

• Related: Roger Ebert’s review of 2001 from 1968; Olivier Mourgue, designer of the Djinn chairs seen in the film’s space Hilton scenes; Magnificent obsession, a Vanity Fair piece from 2002 about the search for the missing scenes from The Magnificent Ambersons. Meanwhile, the trailer for Terrence Malick’s new film, The Tree of Life, features some surprising cosmic moments among its scenes of family life.

The separate history [of gay and lesbian artists] has been kind of edited out of art history but in fact art history is very much interwoven with gay or queer history. In a way the two can’t be separated. America doesn’t like anything uncomfortable. I find in my dealings with museums that if I ask a question and the answer is ‘no,’ they don’t answer. If the answer is ‘yes,’ I get these amazingly enthusiastic responses. I find it sort of strange sometimes, not being American myself. In a way what they’re doing is editing out the uncomfortable. David Wojnarowicz’s work can make you uncomfortable — and they’ve edited out that possibility in the show.

Canadian artist AA Bronson (see below).

• More on the Smithsonian versus David Wojnarowicz affair: Frank Rich examined the train of events in a comment piece, Gay Bashing at the Smithsonian, for the NYT; the Andy Warhol Foundation threatened to withdraw their funding for future Smithsonian events unless the work is reinstated, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation will be doing the same; another artist featured in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition, AA Bronson, requested that the gallery withdraw his work from the show in protest; the NPG refused, citing a contractual arrangement; among the increasing number of galleries showing support for Wojnarowicz, Tate Modern, London, will host an event in January which will feature a screening of the contentious video; lastly, there’s a protest event in New York City today (Sunday, December 19th) at 1.00pm, details here.

• More censorship in America: Jeffrey Deitch Censors Blu’s Political Street Art Mural. In the book world, writer Selena Kitt finds her erotic incest stories removed from Amazon’s Kindle store. Other authors, Jess C Scott and Esmerelda Green, have had their erotic titles removed from the store. Selena Kitt says:

When some of my readers began checking their Kindle archives for books of mine they’d purchased on Amazon, they found them missing from their archives. When one reader called to get a refund for the book she no longer had access to, she was chastised by the Amazon customer service representative about the “severity” of the book she’d chosen to purchase.

Can you imagine buying a paper book and the bookstore then paying you a visit to forcibly reclaim it? To date no adequate explanation from Amazon has been forthcoming but they’ll be happy to sell you a Kindle edition of the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom.

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Galaxy M51 aka The Whirlpool. One of the Top Astronomy Pictures of the Year from a selection by Bad Astronomy. Photo by the Hubble Heritage Team & Robert Gendler.

• More cosmic events: there’ll be a total lunar eclipse this coming Monday, visible in much of the Northern Hemisphere.

• “Heterosexuality is the opiate of the masses!” The Raspberry Reich (2004), a film by Bruce LaBruce.

New editions of Borges poetry. Fine so long as you accept that the translations can never truly satisfy.

• Just the thing for the winter weather, illustrations for Pushkin’s Queen of Spades from 1966.

• Another Ghost Box download: Radio Belbury Programme 1: “Holidays & Hintermass”.

Monsters, Inc: Arcimboldo and the Wunderkammer of Rudolf II.

• Silent Porn Star found some burlesque lamps.

Giant airship powered by algae.

Space Oddity (1969) by David Bowie.