Weekend links 728

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Composition: Cones and Spirals (1929) by Edward Alexander Wadsworth.

• “Repeating items over and over, called maintenance rehearsal, is not the most effective strategy for remembering. Instead, actors engage in elaborative rehearsal, focusing their attention on the meaning of the material and associating it with information they already know.” John Seamon on the vicissitudes of memory, and how actors remember their lines.

• “Mary McCarthy described it as ‘Fabergé gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem, an infernal machine, a trap to catch reviewers, a cat-and-mouse game, and do-it-yourself novel’, among other things.” Mary Gaitskill on the pleasures and difficulties of Nabokov’s greatest novel, Pale Fire. Also a reminder that I ought to read it again.

• New music: Movement, Before All Flowers by Max Richter; A Thread, Silvered And Trembling by Drew McDowall; Unspeakable Visions by Michel Banabila.

• Among the new titles at Standard Ebooks, the home of free, high-quality, public-domain texts: Ulysses by James Joyce.

• The latest cartographical design from Herb Lester Associates is Facts Concerning HP Lovecraft and His Environs.

• At the Daily Heller: A look back at the craze for poster stamps.

• Mix of the week: A tuning mix for The Wire by Tashi Wada.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Michael Lonsdale Day.

Annie Hogan’s favourite music.

Clockworks (1975) by Laurie Spiegel | Tin Toy Clockwork Train (1985) by The Dukes Of Stratosphear | Clockwork Horoscope (2008) by Belbury Poly

Monaco on Resnais

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After watching Providence again I yielded to further temptation and ordered a copy of the book that first introduced me to the film itself and to the Resnais oeuvre as a whole. I’d been itching for some time to re-read James Monaco’s study to see if it was as good as I remembered. In many ways it’s a lot better, especially now that I’ve been able to see most of the films he examines. Alain Resnais was published in 1978 which means it only covers the first third of the director’s filmography, but all of these films were mysterious and intriguing to me in 1983, a period when I was busy looking for items of interest on the art and film shelves at Manchester’s Central Library. The other key discovery in the film section was A Cinema of Loneliness by Robert P. Kolker, the book that introduced me to Martin Scorsese’s films at a time when most of them were difficult to see. Kolker also deepened my interest in Robert Altman and Arthur Penn, while replacing my flagging interest in science-fiction cinema with a new curiosity about film noir.

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An essential text, and a better book about American cinema in the 1960s/70s than the gossip-filled pages of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.

The science-fiction interest may have been flagging by this point but it was actually a book about the genre that alerted me to Alain Resnais in the first place, as I noted here. Je t’aime, Je t’aime is the Resnais film that involves a time-travel experiment but descriptions of the mysteries and formal elegance of Last Year at Marienbad were of greater interest, even more so when I found a copy of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s screenplay. The films themselves, however, remained frustratingly out of reach. One of the things I really don’t miss about the 1980s is being able to read about films such as these, or others like El Topo (or Taxi Driver, or Night Moves, or Performance…), while wondering when I’d ever get to see them.

Monaco’s book provides an overview of the first few decades of Resnais’s career, from his early start in the 1940s (two lost Surrealist experiments are mentioned), to the documentaries of the 1950s, ending with Providence in 1977. Much of the detail originates from conversations with Resnais himself, and while Monaco doesn’t avoid interpretative speculation he’s never tiresomely academic. One of the more valuable chapters concerns some of the films that Resnais was trying to make in the 1970s. (And one of the minor revelations is reading about a director with his reputation struggling to get his projects financed.) The only detail I remembered about the unmade films was his plans to direct a script he commissioned from Stan Lee. That’s Smilin’ Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame, inventor of all those vapid superheroes. Stan Lee working with Alain Resnais sounds like some kind of sarcastic postmodern joke but Monaco says that The Monster Maker would have been “a grand and exuberant compendium of all the cliches of the B movie which have thrilled and enthralled audiences for fifty years: science fiction, sentimental romance, horror, revenge, and cataclysm…” We’ll never know what this may have been like, and maybe that’s for the best. Monaco refers to the director’s lifelong love of comics—one of the Resnais films of the 1980s, I Want to Go Home, was about a comic artist—but I still find the Stan Lee project a step too far, especially when there were so many great comic artists and writers working in France in the 1970s. Resnais wasn’t unaware of these; in my post about Je t’aime, Je t’aime I noted the presence of a Druillet drawing on the wall of Claude’s apartment. More promising than The Monster Maker was a script about the Marquis de Sade written with Grove Press boss Richard Seaver, and a tenuous plan to make a film about HP Lovecraft with William Friedkin producing. This apparently fell through when Friedkin left to direct The Exorcist but the interest in Lovecraft further reinforces the Lovecraftian suggestions in Providence, something that Monaco says were explored in a review by Richard Corliss for New Times magazine. I’ve not been able to find this online, unfortunately.

All of which reminds me that I’ve still not seen Resnais’s first feature, Hiroshima Mon Amour, nor any of the post-Providence films with the exception of Smoking/No Smoking which I saw on TV years ago and didn’t enjoy very much. The latter is an odd thing for Brits to watch, being based on an Alan Ayckbourn play which means it concerns a cast of typical middle-class English types (with names like “Celia Teasdal”) except that here they’re all played by French actors speaking their native language. This makes for distracting viewing but I now feel ashamed for not having given it more of a chance. It’s one more film to go looking for in the future.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Providence on DVD
Art on film: Je t’aime, Je t’aime
Art on film: Providence
Marienbad hauntings
Les Statues Meurent Aussi, a film by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais
Toute la mémoire du monde, a film by Alain Resnais

Weekend links 720

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The Poet and the Siren (1893) by Gustave Moreau.

• “Some books become talismans. Because they are strange, wildly different to the common run of literature; because they are scarce, and only a few precious copies are known to exist; because, perhaps, they liberate by transgressing the moral limits of the day; because their authors are lonely, elusive visionaries; because, sometimes, there is an inexplicable glamour about the book, so that its readers seem to be lured into a preternatural reverie. This book possesses all those attributes.” Mark Valentine in an introduction he wrote for a 1997 reprint of The Book of Jade (1901) by David Park Barnitz. The book’s author was an American writer who died at the age of 23 after publishing this single volume, a collection of poetry inspired by his favourite Decadent writers. Praise from HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Thomas Ligotti has since helped maintain the book’s reputation. The Book of Jade turned up recently at Standard Ebooks, the home of free, high-quality, public-domain texts. Also the home of an increasingly eclectic list of publications.

• At n+1: The Dam and the Bomb by Walker Mimms, a fascinating essay about the entangling of Cormac McCarthy’s personal history with his novels which makes a few connections I didn’t expect to see. Also a reminder that I’ve yet to read McCarthy’s last two books. Soon…

• The latest installation from teamLab is Resonating Life which Continues to Stand, an avenue of illuminated eggs on the Hong Kong waterfront.

• At The Wire: Symphony of sirens: an interview with Aura Satz, David Toop, Elaine Mitchener, Evelyn Glennie and Raven Chacon.

• At Unquiet Things: The Art of Darkness presents The Sleeper May Awaken: Stephen Mackey’s Unrestful Realms.

• RIP Marian Zazeela. There’s a page here with a selection of her beautiful calligraphic poster designs.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Tomona Matsukawa’s realistic paintings reconstruct fragments of everyday life.

• At Public Domain Review: Thom Sliwowski on The Defenestrations of Prague (1419–1997).

Trinity (2024), a short film by Thomas Blanchard. There’s a lot more at his YouTube channel.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Lotte Reiniger’s Day.

Sirens (1984) by Michael Stearns | Sirens (1988) by Daniel Lanois & Brian Eno | Siren Song (2009) by Bat For Lashes

Weekend links 719

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The Decoy (1948) by Edith Rimmington.

• “Among other things, [Dalí’s] storyboards involved [Ingrid] Bergman turning into a statue that would then break up into ants.” Tim Jonze talks to film scholar John Russell Taylor about the storyboards for Alfred Hitchcock’s films, including the ones for Spellbound which Taylor found in a bric-a-brac sale.

• “Of all the pop acts that proliferated in the early 80s, it was Soft Cell who retained punk’s sharp, provocative edges.” Matthew Lindsay on 40 years of Soft Cell’s This Last Night In Sodom.

• Coming soon from White Rabbit books: Futuromania: Electronic Dreams, Desiring Machines and Tomorrow’s Music Today by Simon Reynolds.

Anathema to many philosophical systems, or perhaps philosophy itself, Lovecraft’s philosophical project fundamentally holds that contemplations of higher reality or the nature of things can never be fully realised. Ultimately, the search for knowledge does not constitute some telos, some purpose, for humankind, but rather leads to the violent dissolution of the self. Higher reality is that which the limited human psyche can never fully comprehend.

Sam Woodward on the cosmic philosophy of HP Lovecraft

• At Public Domain Review: Grotesqueries at Gethsemane: Marcus Gheeraerts’ Passio Verbigenae (c.1580).

• “Here is a remarkable form of popular heraldry.” Mark Valentine on the mystique of old inn signs.

• At Bandcamp: Brad Sanders on where to begin with Lustmord’s cosmic ambient.

• New music: Eleven Fugues For Sodium Pentothal by Adam Wiltzie.

• At Aquarium Drunkard: Jason P. Woodbury talks to Roger Eno.

Gomorrha (1973) by Can | Sodom (1978) by Can | Spellbound (1981) by Siouxsie And The Banshees

Weekend links 715

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Portrait d’Arthur Rimbaud (1933) by Valentine Hugo.

• Among the new titles at Standard Ebooks, the home of free, high-quality, public-domain texts: At the Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft.

Retro-Forteana is “Andrew May’s Forteana Blog, focusing on the weirder fringes of history (and other old-fashioned stuff)”.

• Mixes of the week Bill Laswell Mix No. 7: The Return of Celluloid by Voice of Cassandre, and Isolatedmix 126 by Saphileaum.

• At Bajo el Signo de Libra: The second part of a look at photographs by Herbert List of Italians and Italian life.

• New music: Worship: Bernard Herrmann Tribute by The Lord, and Cursory Asperses by Celer.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on the joy of obscure journals.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Paul Clipson Day.

Persher’s favourite music.

At The Mountains Of Madness (1968) by HP Lovecraft | Mountains Of The Moon (2002) by Jah Wobble And Temple Of Sound | Mountains Crave (2012) by Anna von Hausswolff