Derek Jarman corner: one exhibition, two films

Derek Jarman died some time ago but there is currently a retrospective exhibition of his work on in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and I think it is worth your time. I somehow found myself at the opening, where there was free beer, which meant I had a quick viewing but will need to go back to examine it in more detail. The exhibition has considerable audio-visual elements to it, with various of his film work being shown there, including Super8 classics like A Journey to Avebury and the various pop videos he directed (the latter sadly being shown in non-ideal circumstances – a monitor in a corridor at a small-child’s eye level).

The Irish Film Institute has been showing a season of his feature films. Last week I caught his Caravaggio from 1986, which deals impressionistically with the painter’s life, focussing in particular on his relationship with a Roman bruiser (who becomes his model) and the bruiser’s wife, played by Sean Bean and Tilda Swinton respectively; this was one of Bean’s first screen roles and he starts as he means to go on. Caravaggio himself is played by Nigel Terry while various other stars of the British stage and screen show up in a variety of roles. The film looks stunning, despite its all having been filmed indoors in some bunker complex, with the lighting deliberately mirroring the chiaroscuro effect of Caravaggio’s art. It is in some respects impressionistic rather than plot based, but that is not a criticism.

Caravaggio is rather focussed on the artist’s homosexuality, with one particularly memorable and homoerotic scene being the one where the painter throws gold coins to the topless bruiser, who takes them in his mouth. Nevertheless, the film is somewhat restrained in its depiction of homosexuality: although Jarman was keen to push the envelope, there was only so far it could be pushed in 1986. In other respects the film sanitises Caravaggio’s life, downplaying the extent to which he was always killing people in drunken brawls. But it remains a classic of arthouse cinema that I recommend to all readers. If stuck for time the Pet Shop Boys video for ‘It’s A Sin’ is the redux version.

Yesterday I saw Jarman’s Edward II, from 1991. Adapted from Christopher Marlowe’s play (from 1594 or thereabouts). This film is more focussed on narrative than Caravaggio, but it similarly rejects realism, being shot entirely in what seems to be a concrete bunker with anachronistic elements deliberately embraced. It tells the story of that unfortunate king, whose love for another man shocks the establishment, ultimately leading to his overthrow and murder. Tilda Swinton plays the Edward’s queen, whose neglect by her husband drives her into the arms of Mortimer, his main enemy (played in turn by Nigel Terry). I felt a bit like the king’s enemies got the better roles here, with Swinton and Terry shining over Steven Waddington as Edward, though I was also impressed by Andrew Tiernan as Gaveston, the king’s lover.
In contrast to Caravaggio, this film really goes for it in terms of gayness, with the opening scene being Gaveston learning that he is free to return to England while two sailors get it on in the bed he is sharing with them. Jarman tries to present Edward as some kind of gay rights martyr, with at one point his army being a load of protesters waving Outrage banners, but I remained somewhat unconvinced – Edward still comes across as a weak figure and the author of his own misfortunes, who is unwilling to subordinate his private fancies to the needs of the state (compare with Shakespeare’s Henry V and his renunciation of Falstaff on his accession to the throne). Nevertheless, the film is a fascinating piece of work, which left me eager to investigate further both the work of its director and the playwright on whose work it is based.


Derek Jarman (The Quietus)

Title page of 1594 printing of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II (Wikipedia: Edward II of England)

Finding the other Retro Hugo finalists online

In Dublin this August the Hugo Awards for the best science fiction and related stuff from 2018 will be awarded. Dublin will also be awarding Retro Hugos for material from 1943. In a previous post I linked to where most of Retro Hugo finalists in the novel, novella, novelette, and short story categories can be found online. But what of the other categories? Sadly here things seem to be a bit more difficult, but there is still more than nothing that can be looked at online for free.

Best Graphic Story

Readers will I think struggle to find some of the finalists in this category. Jack Cole’s Plastic Man #1: The Game of Death is available in full on the Digital Comics Museum for online reading and downloading. Steve Dowling’s Garth is downloadable from the blog British Comic Compilations (the Garth 001 download contains the material from 1943).

They seem to be the only finalists readily available in full online. The blog The Wonders You Can Do has an interesting post summarising and analysing Wonder Woman #5: Battle for Womanhood (by William Moulton Marsden and Harry G. Peter), complete with some illustrations. The Black Gate blog meanwhile has an illustrated summary of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon: Fiery Desert of Mongo. Hergé’s The Secret of the Unicorn is available in many libraries and all good bookshops; a summary with sample illustrations can be seen on Your local library may also have the 1969 edition of The Collected Works of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which contains Philip Nowlan and Dick Calkins’ Martians Invade Jupiter

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Heaven Can Wait and Münchhausen are both available in full on YouTube. The Internet Archive meanwhile appears to have Batman, Cabin in the Sky, and Phantom of the Opera. And OK.RU has A Guy Named Joe.

Better quality versions of these films may be available from commercial streaming services.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The Ape Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, Der Fuehrer’s Face, and Super-Rabbit are all available on YouTube. The Seventh Victim is on Dailymotion.

That leaves I Walked With a Zombie, for which YouTube has just a trailer. It might be available from commercial streaming services.

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

Here are links to what the Internet Speculative Fiction Database lists the finalists as having edited in 1943. Have a look at each issue’s table of contents and see if it tickles your fancy. If you have infinite time, consider popping over to the Internet Archive to skim some of these issues.

John W. Campbell Jr.: Astounding Science Fiction & Unknown Worlds

Oscar J. Friend: Thrilling Wonder Stories

Mary Gnaedinger: Famous Fantastic Mysteries

Dorothy McIlwraith: Weird Tales

Raymond A. Palmer: Amazing Stories & Fantastic Adventures

Donald A. Wollheim: The Pocket Book of Science Fiction

Best Professional Artist

Samples of Hannes Bok‘s art can be seen here on the blog Monster Brains. Readers can also check out his illustrations to Robert W. Chambers’ “The Yellow Sign” in the September 1943 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries.

While primarily famous for her saucy covers for Weird Tales, Margaret Brundage appears to have had a fairly quiet year in 1943, producing just the one somewhat tame cover then. A Google image search gives a broader look at her career.

Virgil Finlay‘s work can be seen on the covers of the March 1943 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and the February & May 1943 issues of Super Science Stories. Finlay is also noted for his interior art, examples of which can be seen in his illustrations for C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner’s Earth’s Last Citadel (separately a finalist in the Best Novel category).

Unless you have been living under a stone you almost certainly are broadly familiar with the illustrations Antoine de Saint-Exupéry created for his own book The Little Prince, but if you need a refresher check out this post on the blog Faena Aleph.

J. Allen St. John‘s work can be seen on the covers of the January and February 1943 issues of Amazing Stories.

The art of William Timmins can be see on the covers of the February, June, and October 1943 issues of Astounding Science Fiction.

Fanzine and Fanwriter

FANAC.ORG is an amazing archive of fan stuff of yore. The people that run it created a portal page for fanzines from 1943 there, and there you will find links to scans of the finalists in both of the fan categories.

In case you can’t remember, the best fanzine finalists are:
Futurian War Digest, editor J. Michael Rosenblum
Guteto, editor Morojo (Myrtle R. Douglas)
The Phantagraph, editor Donald A. Wollheim
Voice of the Imagi-Nation, editors Jack Erman (Forrest J Ackerman) & Morojo (Myrtle Douglas)
YHOS, editor Art Widner
Le Zombie, editor Wilson “Bob” Tucker 

The Best Fan Writer finalists are:
Forrest J. Ackerman
Morojo (Myrtle Douglas)
Jack Speer
Wilson “Bob” Tucker
Art Widner
Donald A. Wollheim
So there you go. With voting in the Hugos and Retro Hugos closing on 31 July, this does not leave much time to research your ballot.

In the meantime, here is another picture of my cat, with SF books in background:

More cat action

edited with a link to a download of Garth and information on where Buck Rogers: Martians Invade Jupiter can be found (information provided by Ambyr), and also to correct an error in the listing of the nominees in the fanzine category.

1943 Science Fiction and Fantasy Art

As you know, the World Science Fiction Convention is coming to Dublin this year. At this the Hugo Awards for science fiction (and fantasy) works produced in 2018 will be bestowed, but so too will the Retro Hugos, for works produced in 1943. I wrote blog posts for Worldcon on eligible 1943 material, as an assistance to nominators. One of these posts included a list of professional artists who had produced eligible work in 1943. Because I was unsure of the copyright situation regarding hotlinked images and did not want to set the intellectual property cops onto Worldcon, I did not include any pictures in that post. However I do not really care about the copyright cops coming after me, so here are those Retro Hugo eligible artists again, this time with samples of their work. Unless otherwise stated, the images are either from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database or from Galactic Central (which was in turn linked to from the ISFDB).

Many science fiction and fantasy artists of 1943 earned their living creating covers for magazines, some of which could be pretty lurid.

A. R. Tilburne: Weird Tales, January 1943, Weird Tales, September 1943, & Weird Tales, November 1943

Earle K. Bergey: Startling Stores, June 1943 Captain Future, Summer 1943, & Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1943

George Gross: Jungle Stories, April 1943, Jungle Stories, February 1943, & Jungle Stories, Summer 1943

George Rozen: Planet Stories, Fall 1943 & Planet Stories, May 1943

Harold W. McCauley: Fantastic Stories, May 1943, Amazing Stories, May 1943, & Fantastic Adventures, June 1943

J. Allen St. John: Amazing Stories, January 1943 & Amazing Stories, February 1943

Jerome Rozen: Planet Stories, March 1943

Lawrence: Famous Fantastic Mysteries: December 1943

Margaret Brundage: Weird Tales, May 1943(pretty tame by Brundage’s usual standards)

Milton Luros: Astonishing Stories, February 1943, Future Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1943, & Science Fiction, July 1943

Robert Fuqua: Amazing Stories, March 1943, Amazing Stories, April 1943, & Amazing Stories, August 1943

Robert Gibson Jones: Fantastic Adventures, February 1943, Fantastic Adventures, March 1943, & Amazing Stories, November 1943

Virgil Finlay: Famous Fantastic Mysteries, March 1943, Super Science Stories, February 1943, & Super Science Stories, May 1943

William Timmins: Astounding Science Fiction, February 1943, Astounding Science Fiction, June 1943, & Astounding Science Fiction, October 1943

Mervyn Peake would subsequently gain a measure of fame as the author of the Gormenghast novels, but in 1943 he was attempting to earn a living as an artist. His eerie illustrations for an edition of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner appear to be Retro Hugo eligible.
(image from Mervyn Peake, the Official Site)

Children’s book illustrations might also be the kind of thing that appeals to Retro Hugo nominators. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry‘s own illustrations for The Little Prince are a big part of that book’s appeal. Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree would not be the same without Dorothy M. Wheeler‘s illustrations.
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry image from Faena Aleph, Dorothy Wheeler from The Enid Blyton Society)

Boring disclaimer: this list of Retro Hugo eligible artists is not definitive and there may well be other, better artists whose readers’ own researches will uncover.

Le Guess Who: Day Three – frenetic world music and 17th century proto-atonality

This is the third part of my interminable account of my time at the Le Guess Who festival. Previously I posted about the first and second days. This post deals with things I saw on Saturday 10 November.

After lying in until after our housemates had disappeared off into the fleshpots of Utrecht, my Beloved and I had our own breakfast and went off to a former industrial area beyond the old Utrecht walls. Bringing us here was an exhibition of material by the industrial designer Dieter Rams, whose work is often advertised in the pages of the LRB (the other paper of record). Mr Rams is known for the simplicity and clarity of his design work, values that were sadly not in evidence in the venue where his work was being displayed, as it was extremely difficult to find a way into the exhibition space, which appeared to be completely unsignposted. It turned out that the exhibition could only be accessed from the toilet space of a local restaurant. The exhibition itself featured a pleasing range of consumer electronic items of yore, featuring interesting pieces of audiovisual kit from an age when such things did not all have to be black.

That evening then saw us catch a triple header of World music type stuff in the Tivoli’s Cloud Nine venue (so called because it is located on the ninth floor). First up was Hailu Mergia, the taxi-driving Ethiojazz sensation who treated us to his smooth stylings. Then there was Cüneyt Sepetçi, a Turkish clarinettist playing what was billed as Turkish gypsy music. It was pretty exciting and indeed quite dancey, like a slightly more sedate version of Omar Souleyman. Indeed, for all that Turkish and Syrian music are different to each other, this had me thinking that it must be like the unelectronic ur-music on which Souleyman’s turbo-dabke accompaniment is based on.

Speaking of Omar Souleyman, the third of the world musicers was none other than Rizan Said, Omar Souleyman’s keyboardist. It was not clear why he was playing without the vocalist; is there a disturbance in the Force that has sundered their partnership or was Said just playing some solo gigs to show that he has the necessary chops? No answer was provided though his bio in the Le Guess Who programme reports that he has provided music to numerous Syrian artists, as well as to Syrian films and TV programmes, so perhaps he is seeking to make clear that he has an independent existence to the dabke master.

The synthesised music that Said was playing was broadly similar to that which he plays on Omar Souleyman records: frenetic, preternaturally fast approximations to acoustic drum patterns and mental wind instrument melodies. It was great for the dancing and there were even some people attempting dabke dancing in the audience. Initially he played on his own but then he was joined by a vocalist, whose name I did not learn. This guy was interesting, as I found it impossible not to compare him to Souleyman. He was definitely a more accomplished singer, with a far more tuneful voice, but he lacked the astonishing charisma of the master. Nevertheless, we saluted his efforts.

It was now quite late and we made our way from the Tivoli complex, but not to the rest of our bed but to the Janskerk, where we caught the last third of 17th century composer Carlo Gesualdo‘s Tenebrae Responsoria, a four hour long suite of music being performed by the Graindelavoix vocal ensemble. Most people I know are unfamiliar with the crazy life and works of Mr Gesualdo, but I had previous with him thanks to a concert in Dublin by local choral group Gaudete that focused on his work. The most notorious detail of his life is that he murdered his wife and her lover after discovering them in the act of love, escaping legal retribution because nobles like him were above the law. His music is known for its prefiguring of atonal music of the 20th century.

Previous concerts we had attended in the Janskerk had the performers at one end with all the seats facing towards them. For the Tenebrae Responsoria they rearranged the seating so that there was a long central aisle, towards which the pews now faced, perpendicular to the front of the church. The performers, a relatively small group of vocalists, did their thing in the central aisle, but they changed location between each subsection, so people sitting in different locations got to see and hear them up close at least some of the time and interest themselves with the Janskerk’s acoustics as the performers changed location. Overall this was a magical and spectral experience and a definite highlight of the festival, with the only downside being the couple of buzzwreckers who had smoked or drank a bit too much and were a bit disruptive until one of them fell asleep.

IMPORTANT NOTE: neither of the buzzwreckers appear in the above picture.
final part of my Le Guess Who write-up coming real soon


Dieter Rams record player (Modern Magazine – Dieter Rams: Obsolescence Is a Crime)

Carlo Gesualdo (Wikipedia)

More of my Le Guess Who photographs

More of my Utrecht photographs