Criterion have a new coffee table book out for Christmas, which showcases 30 years worth of artwork from their early laserdiscs to the latest Blus. I've always found Criterion art very hit and miss, but one design that has always stood out for me is the in-house artwork for Le Cercle Rouge. Interestingly this cover shares quite a strong resemblance to a book that emerged in 1966 entitled The Naked Society (a book about surveillance) published by Penguin imprint Pelican, and featuring a striking cover design by Derek Birdsall. I wonder did it prove an inspiration for the Criterion sleeve ? If it's mention in the Criterion book, I'd love to know !
Monday, 22 December 2014
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The pic below is a blowup of a still from Alien showing a can of beer (held by Tom Skerritt), featuring the Weylan Yutani logo. This little detail was a pleasant surprise as I assumed the whole Weylan Yutani intruige came with the later films, but it appears the mythology-weaving was already underway. By the way, the still comes from a page I found called Typeset In the Future, which examines every bit of typography seen in the film (and elsewhere, 2001 and Moon). Well worth checking out. I love this kind of fan scholarship.
Monday, 15 December 2014
More Beat stuff... I'm reading Penguin's first collection of William Burroughs Letters (1945-1959) and found this astute description of Neal Cassady, in a 1949 letter Burroughs wrote to Allen Ginsberg: "He is The Mover, compulsive, dedicated, ready to sacrifice family, friends, even his very car itself to the necessity of moving from one place to another. Wife and child may starve, friends exist only to exploit for gas money... Neal must move"
Saturday, 13 December 2014
Saturday, 6 December 2014
Now that we've rolled into December, I'm seeing the first flurries of Best Films of the Year lists, which are a painful reminder that I hardly ever see new films until well after they hit the bargain Blu-Ray section of Amazon. Godzilla and Gone Girl were my only excursions to the cinema this year (I liked both) so with little competition to fend off, my favourite film of 2014 is Under the Skin. I read Michel Faber's debut novel back in 2001 and was a fan. And one of the things I liked best about the film was Jonathan Glazer and Walter Campbell's radical reworking of the novel. A straight adaptation would have presented enormous hazards for any film maker - in the hands of a less talented director, the film might have ended up as just another absurd gimmicky gorefest (one could imagine Neil Marshall fumbling this one), but Glazer and Campbell have quite brilliantly forged a path through the book that is in every way as ingenious as David Cronenberg and Mary Harron's adaptations of Naked Lunch and American Psycho, two novels once considered "untranslatable". Dazzling stuff and a film that pays off with repeated viewings.
Thursday, 4 December 2014
Very much enjoying Sky Arts' South Bank Show Originals series, a fantastic archive of early 80's-era interviews conducted by Melvyn Bragg, in conversation with some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Some of my highlights of the series have been a cheerful Ingmar Bergman, a tipsy unpredictable Francis Bacon, Iggy Pop fondly recalling the incendiary performances of The Stooges, and one of my personal favorites, Norman Mailer discussing his writing habits, including the ritual of crossing a precariously hanging raised wooden platform to get to his writing room, because writing he feels should be infused with danger. My only complaint is that the interviews have been whittled down to 25mins or so from the 50-odd minute original airings. Still, in an age of TV dominated by cookery programs and talent shows, the South Bank Show Originals are my favourite thing on TV right now.