Weekend links 264


Stonehenge Suite, No.10 (1977) by Malcolm Dakin.

• “Part of me always wanted to write a teatime drama. That’s something that I wanted to get out of my system,” says director Peter Strickland. The results may be heard here. In the same interview there’s news that Strickland will be adapting Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape for radio later this year.

• “He was, as one obituary stated in terms unusually blunt for the time, ‘not as other men’.” Strange Flowers on the eccentric and profligate Henry Cyril Paget (1875–1905) aka The Dancing Marquess.

• “Please tell Mr Jagger I am not Maurits to him.” MC Escher rebuking The Rolling Stones. The artist is the subject of a major exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland from June 27th.

Often mentioned in the same breath as works of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, Ó Cadhain’s novel is, in some ways, even more radically experimental. For starters, all the characters are dead and speaking from inside their coffins, which are interred in a graveyard in Connemara, on Ireland’s west coast. The novel has no physical action or plot, but rather some 300 pages of cascading dialogue without narration, description, stage direction, or any indication of who’s speaking when.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin on the newly-translated Cré na Cille (The Dirty Dust) by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

Paul Woods examines “10 Edgy Properties No Film Producer Dared To Touch
(Yet)”. No. 2 is David Britton’s Lord Horror.

Mallory Ortberg ranks paintings of Saint Sebastian “in ascending order of sexiness and descending order of actual martyring”.

The Sign of Satan (1964): Christopher Lee in a story by Robert Bloch for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Sympathy For The Devil – The True Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment.

• At Dangerous Minds: Paul Gallagher on the seedy malevolence of Get Carter (1971).

• Mix of the week: Sonic Attack Special – Earth by Bob’s Podcasts.

Sanctuary Stone (1973) by Midwinter | The Litanies Of Satan (1982) by Diamanda Galás | Sola Stone (2006) by Boris

Sebastiane by Derek Jarman


Sebastiane Opens
October 1976: Sebastiane opened at the Gate cinema in Notting Hill last night after a day of record attendances and good reviews. At the opening Barney James, who plays the centurion, sat next to my parents. At the end of the film he turned to Dad and said, “I don’t suppose forces life was ever like that.” To my surprise Dad replied, “I was out in the Middle East before the war and it’s really quite accurate.”

After its opening at the Gate, where it played for four months before moving into the West End, Sebastiane opened all over the world to wildly different reviews. The Germans found our Latin untuned to their ears, and the French, at least so I was told, panned it. In the States it was classed S for Sex and we were unable to advertise it – so the audiences turned up expecting hardcore and were disappointed. However in Italy and Spain it was a stunning success with lyrical reviews. In Rome, Alberto Moravia came to the first press show and praised the film in the foyer saying that it was a film that Pier Paolo would have loved.

Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge (1991)

Pasolini would indeed have loved Sebastiane (1976) which owes much to the Italian director’s historical films, especially Oedipus Rex (1967) and Medea (1969). The film was Jarman’s first feature (co-directed with Paul Humfress), produced on a very small budget, and filmed on the coast of Sardinia. Brian Eno provided the music, and Lindsay Kemp has a memorable cameo appearance in the opening scene. The events which lead to the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (Sebastianus) are dramatised from the point of view of a group of Roman soldiers who have Sebastianus among their company. The film is notable for its all-Latin dialogue, and for being the first non-porn film to feature a male erection, although that detail is often missing from prints which judiciously crop the lower portion of the screen.

The copy linked here has somehow turned up at the Internet Archive, and is the same erection-free version which has circulated for some years on DVD. The sneaky censorship would have been justified ten or more years ago but makes no sense today when far more explicit films are easily available. But if you haven’t seen Sebastiane then you have an opportunity for as long as this copy remains available…which may not be for long since I’m sure its copyright can’t have lapsed.

The late, unlamented and very reactionary British film critic Leslie Halliwell once complained that Pasolini’s “Trilogy of Life” films featured “a forest of male genitalia”. The same might be said of Sebastiane which, judging by the intemperate comments one sees on review sites, provokes a similar splenetic reaction. “It’s just gay porn!” they shriek, to which the obvious response is “No, it isn’t”, and “So what if it was?” A century of cinema has paraded the bodies of women for the gaze of the heterosexual male, the same male who chokes on his dudgeon when faced with the very thing he carries between his legs. Grow up, boys. Also at the Internet Archive (for the time being) is Derek Jarman’s The Garden (1990), the most personal of his later films until his final feature, Blue, in 1993.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Journey to Avebury by Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman’s music videos
Derek Jarman’s Neutron
Mister Jarman, Mister Moore and Doctor Dee
The Tempest illustrated
In the Shadow of the Sun by Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman at the Serpentine
The Angelic Conversation
The life and work of Derek Jarman

The art of Guido Reni, 1575–1642


Atalanta and Hippomenes (c. 1612).

More golden apples appear in this painting by Guido Reni, not the most famous ones in art history—those would be all the Apples of Discord seen in the various Judgements of Paris—these are the fruit of the sacred tree in the Garden of the Hesperides which Hippomenes drops to prevent Atalanta from beating him in a race. The object of interest here isn’t the apples but the near-naked male, a favourite subject for Baroque artist Guido Reni whose work strikes viewers today as significantly homoerotic. This interpretation is by no means a recent one: Oscar Wilde was famously smitten with Reni’s depiction of Saint Sebastian (below) when he saw the painting in Genoa; in the 20th century the same painting (or one of Reni’s other Sebastians) excited the 12-year-old protagonist in Yukio Mishima’s novel Confessions of a Mask. Here’s what GLBTQ has to say about Reni:

Given the fierce homophobia prevailing in Europe during the Baroque era, historians seeking to reconstruct the lifestyles and works of queer artists often have to depend upon undocumented anecdotes and innuendoes.

Utilizing this type of evidence (including rumors about his supposed disdain of women, his possible romantic involvement with his long-time assistant, his interest in cross-dressing, and his “delicate” mannerisms), recent scholars interpret Guido Reni (1575–1642) as a gay artist.

The disdain of women is referred to in an earlier account, as are other pertinent details:

He was accustomed to paint with his mantle about him, gathered gracefully over his left arm. His pupils, of whom he had a great number—at one period no less than eighty, drawn from nearly every nation of Europe—vied with each other to serve him, esteeming themselves fortunate to have opportunities to clean his brushes or to prepare his palette. He had no dearth of models in the multitude of youths and disciples which surrounded him; but all that Guido cared of them was to refresh his memory by viewing their limbs and torsos, and after that he could adjust them and correct their imperfections.

In the same way any head sufficed him for a model. Being once besought by Count Aldovrandi to confide in him who the lady was of whom he availed himself in drawing his beautiful Madonnas and Magdalens, he made his color-grinder, a fellow of scoundrelly visage, sit down, and commanding him to look upward, drew from him such a marvelous head of a saint that it seemed as if it had been done by magic. Better than any other artist he understood how to portray upturned faces, and boasted that he knew a hundred ways of making heads with their eyes lifted to heaven. He often declared that his favorite, models were the ‘Venus of Medici’ and the wonderful heads in the Niobe group.

He was always in great fear of sorcery and poisoning, and for that reason could not endure women in his house, abhorring to have any dealings with them, and, when such were unavoidable, hurrying them through as rapidly as possible. Old women were his especial detestation, and he always fled from them, and lamented grievously if one of them should appear when he was about beginning or closing some commission.

From Guido Reni (1903)

That’s one way of either justifying your misogyny or explaining to the neighbours why your house is full of young men with no women.


Saint Sebastian (1615).

Speculation about the sexuality of artists from past centuries seldom leads anywhere but it can be a fun parlour game, provided you take accounts like the one above with a pinch of salt. In Reni’s case you’d have to point to the many paintings where a religious subject is used as the merest pretext for some shirtless male pulchritude. This was a common ploy in other areas of art: landscape painting evolved as a genre in its own right when post-Renaissance artists began to shrink the religious figures who were the ostensible subject of their commissions into the corner of a field or the shadows of a valley; the imagination could be given free rein by the expedient of painting an apocalypse or a Temptation of St Anthony.

Reni lets loose his temperament by returning to a range of religious subjects that happen to feature attractive youths. Even his picture of Sacred Love defeating Profane Love (below) shows a divine figure who seems to represent more of the libido than the subject should require. Elsewhere he follows Caravaggio with a youthful John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness in an almost total state of nature. Reni’s angels are some of the most androgynous figures you’ll find in Baroque painting; the model for his very girlish Archangel Gabriel also appears as Jesus in another painting, raising a somewhat scandalous implication as to the real paternity of Christ.


David with the Head of Goliath (1605).

The following selection of paintings is a prejudiced choice, of course. Some of these can be seen at a much larger size at the Google Art Project. Frivolous speculation aside, at his best Reni could be very good indeed as in this superb portrait of Saint Matthew with another androgynous angel. It’s no surprise to read that his work was in great demand throughout his life.

Continue reading “The art of Guido Reni, 1575–1642”

Arrow by The Irrepressibles


I’ve kept wondering when we’d hear more from The Irrepressibles following the release of their wonderful Mirror Mirror album. Here at last is a new song, Arrow, from a forthcoming album, Nude. Lyrical allusions to Saint Sebastian accompany two naked guys wrestling until…well, go and see. (Thanks to Thom for the tip!)

Directed & choreographed by Jamie McDermott
Camera Person: Kate Perring
Filmed at Studio 7, Alston Works, London.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Los Bikers by Dënver
The Lady Is Dead and The Irrepressibles

Fred Holland Day revisited


St Sebastian with wounded chest (c. 1906).

The work of American photographer Fred Holland Day (1864–1933) has featured here in the past but it’s only recently that I came across the archive of prints at the Library of Congress. Not all the works there are digitised yet, and some are still unavailable for viewing, but the LoC prints one can view are always quality scans. Day would have been a significant photographer whatever his subject but his work has additional interest today for its overt homoerotic dimension; he manages to play the usual evasive games with Biblical themes or Classical mythology whilst maintaining a pictorial quality through soft focus and heavily-grained paper. The mood of some of these shots makes them seem far in advance of other work of the period.


St Sebastian in loincloth, tied to tree with rope, arrows in stomach and side, hands behind back (1906).

Continue reading “Fred Holland Day revisited”