Directions to Servants by Tenjo Sajiki


Tenjo Sajiki was an avant-garde theatre troupe led by Shuji Terayama from 1967 to 1983. The name of the troupe is taken from the Japanese title of Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis, a film I happened to be watching again this weekend. Terayama is known more in the West for his cinematic work than his many plays, consequently I never expected to see any of his theatrical productions until stumbling across this short TV documentary about a performance of Jonathan Swift’s Directions to Servants that Tenjo Sajiki were staging in Europe in 1978. (There’s actually a lot of Tenjo Sajiki footage out there once you start looking for it, including whole videos of original stagings.) The film has the additional attraction of being a rare early episode from the BBC’s Arena arts series, made during the period when the programmes were only 30 minutes long, with director Nigel Finch often acting as unseen commentator and interviewer. Regular readers will be aware that Arena has cult status on these pages but I didn’t get to see many of the earliest programmes, and usually don’t expect to find those from the late 1970s at all, video-recording only really becoming widespread a few years later.


Whoever unearthed this film must have liberated it from the BBC archives since it has a time code running through it. The film is a curio more than anything else which makes me wonder why anyone went to this amount of trouble to find something that isn’t very revealing about its subject. The play was a difficult one for audiences, being performed in Japanese while the audience was forced to watch select views on TV monitors or sit inside black boxes being pushed around the performers by stage-hands. Terayama had treated the audience like this for other plays, the disruption being his way of reflecting our own disrupted view of real events. It’s a shame that Arena caught Tenjo Sajiki while they were touring this particular play. Shortly before this the troupe had staged an adaptation of Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin which was followed a few years later by Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, either of which would have been more interesting to see.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Les Chants de Maldoror by Shuji Terayama

Weekend links 685


Art by Naoyuki Katoh, 1982.

• RIP Paul Reubens. Here’s Steven Heller on Pee-wee Herman and his clinically hyperactive playhouse (not forgetting Gary Panter’s involvement); Bruce Handy on Paul Reubens’ preposterous grace; and David Hudson on Paul Reubens before and after Pee-wee.

Three Thousand (2017), a short film by Asinnajaq in which “a riveting collage portrays a century of Inuit history, and envisions a vibrant future”.

• New music: Velocity Of Water by Suki Sou; The Blue Beyond by Jana Winderen; and Jäi mieleen by Aki Yli-Salomäki.

DJ Food posted a handful of psychedelic LP sleeves for non-psychedelic artists. There’s a lot more to be found.

• “We had no rules. Song structure didn’t exist. It was nihilistic.” It’s Bush Tetras again.

• “Infrared light reveals hidden portrait beneath 1943 René Magritte painting.”

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Gakuryu Ishii Day.

Tequila (1958) by The Champs | Tequila (1958) by Perez Prado | Tequila (1972) by Hot Butter



“Evoluon”: a Space Age name for a Space Age building in Eindhoven, Holland, constructed in 1966 by the Dutch electrical and electronics company, Philips. The building was designed by Leo de Bever and Louis Christiaan Kalff, and functioned for a number of years as a science museum, combining exhibits of innovative gadgetry with a three-dimensional representation of “the future” familiar from exposition architecture. I’d guess that Kalff was responsible for the flying-saucer shape, having already designed a range of lamps for Philips with similar shapes in the 1950s.


Bert Haanstra’s Evoluon was a short promotional film which was broadcast regularly by the BBC from 1968 to 1972 for trade test purposes, although I don’t recall ever seeing it before. Being someone who’s always liked architecture that looks like it fell out of a science-fiction magazine (preferably with a name to match: Skylon, Atomium, Space Needle, etc), an exhibition centre shaped like a flying saucer would have made an impression. British TV schedules were often empty during the daytime so films like this were broadcast for the benefit of TV retailers who needed something better than the testcard flickering on the screens of their brand-new colour boxes. As a science museum Evoluon looks like it was more fun to visit than the London Science Museum, with a profusion of interactive exhibits. (Although this isn’t to say that the London museum isn’t worthwhile, I went there several times in the 1970s. They have many large historical exhibits in the bigger halls, including the re-entry module from Apollo 10.) The music in Haanstra’s film isn’t much better than the bland testcard soundtracks but you do hear a snatch of eerie sound produced by a Cristal Baschet when the unique instrument makes a brief appearance. Philips’ own record division had many more suitable soundtracks at this time via their very collectable Prospective 21e Siècle recordings of avant-garde music. Most of these records aren’t easy listening by any means but the series was aiming at the same idea of a shiny future filled with surprising novelties.


And speaking of “futuristic” music, a computer-generated Evoluon may be seen flying through the 3-D concert visuals for Spacelab by Kraftwerk who also played one of their recent concerts inside the building. I thought they could have done more with the visuals for this number, and with some of the other videos in the 3-D collection. Maybe they look better through 3-D glasses. I wouldn’t know, my eyesight has always been (and will remain) resolutely two-dimensional.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The world of the future
Space Needle USA

Dekalog posters by Ewa Bajek-Wein


One of the pleasures of our age of cultural plenitude is the opportunity to immerse yourself in entire filmographies. I did this recently with almost all of Wes Anderson’s films (I skipped Bottle Rocket, and I still haven’t seen Asteroid City); last week it was the turn of Krzysztof Kieslowski, with a run through four of his Polish films—The Scar, Camera Buff, Blind Chance and No End—followed by the final quartet of The Double Life of Veronique and the Three Colours Trilogy. This week I’ll be working my way through Kieslowski’s Dekalog, a cycle of ten hour-long films that I’ve had on disc for years but not watched all the way through for some time.


Dekalog (or The Decalogue) is a series that Kieslowski made for Polish TV in 1988, although subsequent acclaim for the cycle (famously from Stanley Kubrick) has seen it treated as a work of cinema in its own right, albeit one that few people are likely to watch in a single sitting. Two of the films were also expanded to feature length and released individually as A Short Film About Love and A Short Film About Killing. Each film concerns different inhabitants of the same housing estate, with the problems they face (or that they create) being related to one of the Ten Commandments. None of the Commandments are named as such, we’re left to guess from the numbers which is which. I imagine this would have been more obvious to an audience in Poland where Catholicism remained a dominant presence despite the disapproval of the Communist authorities. I was dragged through the Catholic church as a child but I still couldn’t list all the Ten Commandments today without cheating. Kieslowski’s films aren’t as dourly moralistic as this structure might suggest. Ironic circumstance was one of his persistent themes, his characters usually find their desires thwarted or fulfilled in ways they didn’t anticipate at all. Fate, rather than the hand of God also plays a part, dramatically so in Blind Chance where we see three different futures for a young student running to catch a train.


Ewa Bajek-Wein’s posters turned up when I was searching for designs by Andrzej Pagowski, an artist responsible for many of the Polish posters for Kieslowski’s films, including the two Dekalog features. Bajek-Wein’s designs, created for a 2009 reissue of the cycle, continue the Polish tradition of original and unorthodox approaches to the cinema poster which extends in this case to the graphics as well as the artwork. Titles and other credits on 20th-century Polish posters were often casually hand-lettered, with the details pushed to the margins. The artwork here maintains the elusiveness of the theme; if you don’t know which number relates to which Commandment you’re left to guess from the picture. Films five and six are easy enough to decipher but I’ll be looking up the titles of the rest before I watch them again.



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Kling Klang rundfunk


Kraftwerk on film and video, courtesy of recent uploads at the Internet Archive. These are mainly promotional clips, together with a few choice TV appearances. I’ve never liked music videos very much, even ones made for music that I enjoy a great deal, but I’m always curious to see how Kraftwerk portrayed themselves at different stages of their career, especially the early years when they were still tuning the group persona. I’m fairly sure I hadn’t seen the videos for Radioactivity and Antenna before, while some of the later videos are present in two or more versions. The quality is variable but that’s how things go with this group; everything from 1970 to 73 is treated like a period that never happened, while the years from 1974 to 1981 have been subject to continual revision. Kraftwerk is unique in being a very popular group that buries or reworks much of its own history, record covers included, leaving us with a trail of deleted or neglected “produkt” that ends up circulating secondhand or in bootleg form. A couple of these promo videos have been attached to CD singles but only a small portion of this material has been recycled into the official catalogue as it stands today.

Winter Soest (1970)


The group in their rock-freakout period playing to an audience of bored/bewildered/enthusiastic German hippies. With Klaus Dinger on drums and Ralf playing some kind of portable keyboard. Spot the leitkegel.

Pop2 (1973)


Pop2 was French TV’s equivalent of Germany’s Beat Club and the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test. This clip is from a programme devoted to “Kosmische” German music which also featured Tangerine Dream, Guru Guru, Klaus Schulze, and (in conversation) comic artist Philippe Druillet. The music here is very much in the melodic mode of the third album, Ralf & Florian. This is also about the last time you see Ralf wearing his leather jacket. The spectacles didn’t remain for long either.

Radioactivity (1975)


Antenna (1975)


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