The Moulettes, “Devil of Mine”

The ambitious, online highly atmospheric video for “Devil of Mine” from The Moulettes self titled album resembles nothing less than a Baroque fairy tale “creepshow” and/or meandering  hallucinatory dream told through a “pioneering technique utilizing live action, stuff stop motion, and motion GFX”.

A twisty track that is at turns sinister, playful and cleverly, unexpectedly catchy – at 2:06, for example: the juxtaposition of Hannah Miller in a puritanically prim ruffled night dress and cap surrounded a ghoulishly jazzy, finger snapping beat crowd – this is a delightfully decadent, debauched, yet danceable “cacophony of sound”.  A real toe (bone) tapper!

Bonus!  Here is some sneaky backstage footage of the video.

Better Than Coffee: Hawaii Toast

An exotic new craving on this post Labor Day morning before the start of the work week, even, perhaps, before one’s first steaming sip of strong coffee: a concoction consisting of toasted bread, processed meatstuff, a limp, plasticky piece of American cheese, and a slice of canned pineapple possibly past its expiration date.  This, apparently, is “Hawaii  Toast”, a delicacy whose existence I was very much ignorant of until just yesterday. Just look at it! Delicious, or what?

Judging from his orgiastic consumption of the things, it would seem Alexander Marcus finds this to be true as well.
His… um… excitement, you’ll soon see, is quite evident.

Thanks, Mathyld for sharing this!

(via wikipedia) Alexander Marcus … is a persona of the German music producer Felix Rennefeld…
Rennefeld’s music is a mixture of modern electronic club music and folk music, which he has named ‘Electro Lore’, a combination of ‘electro’ and ‘folklore’…Marcus exaggerates many of the clichés present in pop music, and his music videos feature “trashy” objects, such as a recurrent plastic globe called “Globi”. Spiegel Online sees the character as a typical example of a return to pop-art social criticism. Never breaking out of character, he leaves the question of whether he is a parody unanswered:

The idea that the guy might really be as barmy as it seems, remains at least possible.

—Uh-Young Kim for Spiegel Online

And, for added hilarity, a translation of the lyrics. Guten apetite, indeed.

The Tragedy of Belladonna

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Belladonna of Sadness (?????????, Kanashimi no Belladonna) (1973) –an animated Japanese art house film by director Eiichi Yamamoto– is a rare and beautiful, though polarizing piece of avant-garde cinema.

A sexploitative, psychedelic rock opera set in the Middle Ages, the synopsis for Belladonna of Sadness from various internet sites describes it thusly: “The beautiful peasant woman Jeanne is raped by a demonic overlord on her wedding night. Spurned by her husband, she has no outlet for her awakened libido, which develops to give her powers of witchcraft.” and “…in her powerlessness she is gradually driven to ancient superstitions and satanic practices, and then accused, tortured and executed for witchcraft. ”

With striking visuals not unlike a Beardsley illustration or Klimt painting, it is more a fluid tableaux of watercolor elegance than actual moving animation.  Despite the bewitching, breathtaking art, one never loses sight that it is a tragic story of unrelenting cruelty and despair. At certain points, it is an almost excruciating watch.

According to :

Belladonna is an adaptation of La Sorcière, the 1862 novelized history of satanism and witchcraft in the late middle ages. The book was written by feminist, freethinker, and Frenchman Jules Michelet, who, like many other post-revolution French intellectuals, was eager to condemn the barbaric European forces of the prior few centuries. In Michelet’s story, the practice of witchcraft is not simply the leftover trace of ancient pagan traditions, but an active rebellion against an oppressive church and system of government. …According to Michelet, the spirit of rebellion and experimentation found in 14th century witchcraft was a progenitor of the enlightenment values yet to come. Furthermore, this was a movement led by women, those who likely suffered the most at the hands of the church and the feudal system.”

“The film adaptation of La Sorcière is often very faithful to the book…It tells the story of an archetypal witch (unnamed in the book, named Jeanne in the movie) who suffers a series of misfortunes that lead her down the path from being a chaste, obedient peasant’s wife, to giving in to her awakened earthly desires, to finally blossoming into the bride of Satan himself. The process of selling one’s soul to the Devil can be interpreted literally or metaphorically, but keep in mind that at least according to Michelet, those who would enter into such a pact in the middle ages presumably believed they were literally sacrificing eternity for just a glimmer of relief from a cruel and bleak life… Her relationship with the Devil may be nothing but a psychological coping mechanism for the brutality she suffers.”

Is Belladonna of Sadness a misogynistic sleaze-fest, a surreal feminist empowerment message, or a stylistic gem of exquisite curiosity? Perhaps a baffling hybrid of all of these things? Repeated viewings do not make the question any easier to answer.  Those fortunate enough to find a (subtitled) copy may judge for themselves; in the meantime, several film stills can be found below.

The Frantic Expressionist Art of Josef Fenneker

Nerven, Marmorhaus

There is a weirdly compelling sort of attraction to the exaggerated melodrama present in Josef Fenneker’s work.  Inky backgrounds of blackest shadows and murky, moody gloom provide stark contrast to bloodless facial expressions, vivid with violent emotion – whether delirious passion, or murderous lunacy – and it is not difficult to imagine oneself mesmerized, whipped into a maelstrom of sympathetic mania when confronted with such imagery.

Toten Tanz, Marmorhaus

Fenneker, a German artist in 1920s Berlin, “became the eye of the cultural and political hurricane that was Weimar Germany”.  A painter, graphic designer, and stage designer, he worked in a “mixed style, strongly tinged with expressionist characteristics”, and there is the foreboding of gathering storms and imminent, though decadent, doom in almost all his work.

Born in 1895, the son of a grocer, little of Josef Fenneker’s early life in Bocholt  is known.  Perhaps inspired by his uncle Anton Marx, a church painter and architect, Fenneker studied at the Arts and Crafts schools in Munster, Dusseldorf and Munich, and became one of Emil Orlik’s master-class students at the school of the Berlin Arts and Crafts Museum.

First employed by Berlin theaters – most notably the Marmorhaus, the “paramount movie palace of Germany” –  Fenneker designed numerous film posters, between 1919 and 1924.   A “ combination of Radio City Music Hall and Graumans Chinese Theater”, any film premiering there gained “instant prestige”. Thus, Fenneker was not just another movie poster designer, but THE movie posterist of his day, in whose hands the “art of the film poster arguably reached its zenith,” and in the postwar years he became “one of the most sought after designers of film posters. “  Fenneker went on to create stage designs for theater and illustrations for such magazines as Simplicissimus and Jugend.

Josef Fenneker died in Frankfurt in January1956 of heart failure. In the obituaries of the regional and national press, he was noted as one of the most important and most original German set designers of the 1920s and 1930s.  More than 300 works have been preserved from his vast oeuvre by the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, several more of which can be seen below the cut.

A Decadent Parade of Outrageous Fancies: Alastair

Drôles de gens que ces gens-là

“Who is Alastair”, nurse wrote J. Lewis May in 1936. “No one knows; not even – it is hinted – Alastair himself.”

An artist, ailment composer, cialis sale dancer, mime, poet, singer and translator, Alastair was a fascinating and elusive personality, and perhaps best known as a gifted illustrator of the fin-de-siecle period.

Officially born of German nobility in 1887 to the family of Von Voigt, and later mysteriously acquiring the title of Baron, Hans Henning Voigt was an enigma. He claimed to be a changeling…the spawn of an illegitimate union between a hot headed Bavarian prince and a pretty Irish lass (and many of his relations later accepted this explanation of his origins). To his delight, “he was referred to as German by English writers, as English by German writers, and as Hungarian by French writers.”

Our Lady of Pain

A collector of characters, Alastair had a great gift for friendship despite his bizarre and capricious persona, theatrical behaviors, and perpetual unhappiness. Among those in his inner circle were Harry and Caresse Crosby; Harry, having heard of Alastair, believed him to be “the embodiment of all his fantasies, a creator of the most outrageous fancies”, and hastened to meet with him. Many years later Caresse recalled of the first visit, “He lived in a sort of Fall of usher House, you know, with bleak, hideous trees drooping around the doors and the windows… a blackamoor ushered us into a room where there was a black piano with a single candle burning on it. Soon Alastair himself appeared in the doorway in a white satin suit; he bowed, did a flying split and slid across the polished floor to stop at my feet, where he looked up and said, ‘Ah, Mrs. Crosby!’”

A Tribe of Dark and Poetic Creatures

Les gardiennes du temple : “La tordue “

Like a menagerie of majestic, menacing mythological creatures from savage campfire fables, or ancestral memories translated through the fantastical filter of dreams, Svene’s dark sculptures possess a primitive grace, a fierce  splendor, and a shadowy awareness of faith, and fear and love,   inextricably linked.

As a dance teacher, art director and choreographer for a collective, the enigmatic Svene’s  artistic path seemed to be mapped out;  during those years she had explored music, choreography and scenography….but felt that a part of her “remained asleep”

Harry Crosby’s Black Sun

Harry Crosby and unidentified woman, Four Arts Ball, Paris

“Yet it was precisely in his character … to invest all his loyalty and energy in magic: at first the approved magic of established religion; later the witchwork of poetry and sun worship; finally the black mass of violence” -Geoffrey Wolf, Author of Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby

Harry Crosby – self indulgent socialite, tortured poet, wealthy mystic …. a playboy who lived his life with reckless abandon – was a man both adored and reviled. He has been described by some as “a representative figure of the so-called Lost Generation”, the bohemian 1920s.

A godson of J.P. Morgan Jr., Harry was a Harvard graduate and a decorated war veteran, who had left school to become an ambulance driver in France with his upper-crust chums during World War I. He ended up with the Croix de Guerre for valor and, after a few frustrating years back in Boston, fled to Paris for the rest of his short life. Married in 1922 to Mary Phelps Jacob, known as “Caresse”, they lived the “ultimate Bohemian lives as poets, artists, and patrons in Paris in the 1920’s. To every adventure their answer was always ‘yes’.” Harry once sent a telegram from Paris to his father, the quintessential sober, patriarch, which read, “Please sell $10,000 worth in stock. We intend to live a mad and extravagant life.”

While living and writing in Paris Harry Crosby founded The Black Sun Press, one of the “finest small presses of the twentieth century”.   In 1924, the Crosbys went public with their first book. The following year, they each published their first collections of verse. Harry commissioned Alastair – a “spectacularly camp” German creator of beautifully decadent and Gothic fantasies – to illustrate his second collection, Red Skeletons.  Soon they were issuing works by other writers, including Poe, James, Wilde, Joyce and D. H. Lawrence.

Color plate from Red Skeletons, by artist Alastair

On December 10, 1929, Harry was found in bed with a .25 caliber bullet hole in his right temple next to his mistress, the newly married Josephine Bigelow who had a matching hole in her left temple, in an apparent suicide pact. Harry’s toenails were painted red and strange symbols were tattooed between his shoulder blades and on the soles of his feet. A lover of dark mysteries to the last, he left no suicide note. London’s Daily Mirror speculated on psychological motives, while New York’s Daily News blamed poetry and passion: “Death itself had been the motive, others speculated, just as aspiring poet Harry’s life had been his greatest artwork.”

Coilhouse recently caught up with Erik Rodgers, founder of String and a Can Productions, and director of The Black Sun: The Life and Death of Harry Crosby, who provides his own insight into Harry Crosby’s strange, short life and speaks to what makes the man such a fascinating study.

Coilhouse: How did you come to decide Harry Crosby might make good material for a play – what it was about him or his life that inspired you, or what aspect of him you were hoping to shed more light on? How did you come across him to begin with?

Erik Rodgers: I actually came upon Caresse first, while developing a project on Salvador Dalí.  [My business partner] was intrigued by the idea of such an accomplished and independent female from that era, and started researching her life.   Of course as soon as she began reading about Caresse, she discovered Harry as well.  Their story captured her imagination, and she began relating to me some of the details as she read them. We both felt there was something vital and overlooked in their story, something that had been obscured by all the scandal and negative criticism.

A Singular Duality: The Photography of Meryem Yildiz

Meryem Yildiz’s world is a prescient place of whispered warnings, subtle secrets and an eerie language of memory, of reveries, of loss.  Strange, stark, images of ostensibly quotidian objects – “mementos, hidden treasures, dusty mirrors, nonchalant cats, mason jars, pages lost and found” – are laden with layer upon fragile layer of ambiguous allegory and understated intent.  There is a structured discontinuity here; moments fragmented, multiplied, merged yet again, that creates an uncanny whole – broken spaces full and empty, austere and adorned.  A Delphian dream, interrupted, repeating itself over and over.

A bit of  biography from Meryem’s website provides an intriguing glimpse into how her diverse background has influenced her work, manifests itself in current endeavors, and inspires future projects and collaborations – and the artist has herself kindly answered a few of our questions, elaborating on these points.

Born in Montréal from a French-Canadian mother and a Turkish father, Meryem was exposed to a variety of outlooks at a very young age, driving her to the diversity and malleability of perspectives … self-taught, Mme Yildiz’s work arises essentially from a wise use of unconventional resources. Throughout the creative process and at the heart of her work, Meryem Yildiz never forgets cognition, whether hers or others, nor the messages the human mind wishes to express (or to suppress).  It is no surprise then, to learn that she majored in psychology at McGill University and completed a graduate diploma in translation at Concordia University.

COILHOUSE: The duality you feel influences your work –  from your background and  exposure to different and disparate outlooks  –  can you expound upon this?
MERYEM YILDIZ: With my upbringing, I was confronted to two different worlds. This duality is a functional one: I love each culture without subduing the other, and without melding them into an indiscernible hodgepodge. When one is removed from the other, my reality and my self no longer make sense. The same applies to how I approach most of my work. By favouring diptychs, I can illustrate two facets of a single story. Whether it is a moment cut in half, a before or an after, or elements of a same narrative: one could not be without the other.

Jane Quiet, Occult Detective

Much as her name would suggest, Jane Quiet is a woman of few words.

…none at all, to be exact.

But in all truthfulness, and surely most would agree, words completely fail to do justice to scenes such as the one depicted above!

I stumbled across Jane Quiet, Occult Investigator quite by accident, whilst conducting a bit of research on the internet; to further elaborate, it was a serendipitous miss-spelling of Dennis Wheatley which led me directly into her path. Heralded as a “Denise Wheatley,” Jane Quiet is the co-creation/collaboration which crept from the minds of author K.A. Laity (Unikirja) and artist Elena Steier (Revenge of the Vampire Bed and Breakfast, Goth Scouts). The comic “presents the adventures of occult investigator Dr. Jane Quiet who uses her practical knowledge and esoteric studies to uncover the sources of paranormal disturbances.” If that is not compelling enough, this author whose writing has been praised by Clive Barker as “full of fluent style and poetic dialogue” has added the twist of an entirely silent comic.

From the author’s website :

“I think it was Elena’s idea to riff on John Silence, the psychic investigator created by Algernon Blackwood, master of the weird tale, about a hundred years ago. John Silence was rich doctor, skilled in weird science and keen to explore occult phenomena. It was an idea ripe for reinvigoration.”

If you are curious as to how one goes about writing a story with no dialogue, inquiries and subsequent replies can be found in a snippet below.

Coilhouse And how did you find the find the process of “writing” a silent comic?

K.A. Laity: Thank you — it was hard as HELL to write! You can see the script online: I think it was just an off-hand remark, “hey, we could make it a silent comic, wouldn’t that be appropriate!” then when I started writing it, I cursed myself endlessly for having the idea. There was a lot of back and forth while Elena was drawing – partly because she always has lots of projects going on, but also because she would say “you can’t do all this in one panel” and either draw what she thought would work or ask me to work it out more carefully. It’s great discipline. I’m glad Elena is so patient and flexible. The anxiety of collaborating with friends is fearing that it will affect your relationship if things go badly. I really had to let go of control and find joy in the unexpected frisson that would occur. A lot of it is about leaving a looseness for the other person to do what they do best. The first drafts weren’t quite Moore-like, but they were far too specific. I learned to focus on what had to happen and the tone, and let Elena produce her magic.