How Bong Joon-ho’s Storyboards for Parasite (Now Published as a Graphic Novel) Meticulously Shaped the Acclaimed Film

In Seoul, where I live, the success of Bong Joon-ho's Parasite at this year's Academy Awards — unprecedented for a non-American film, let alone a Korean one — did not go unnoticed. But even then, the celebration had already been underway at least since the movie won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Something of a homecoming for Bong after Snowpiercer and Okja, two projects made wholly or partially abroad, Parasite takes place entirely in Seoul, staging a socioeconomic grudge match between three families occupying starkly disparate places in the human hierarchy. The denouement is chaotic, but arrived at through the precision filmmaking with which Bong has made his name over the past two decades.

When Parasite's storyboards were published in graphic-novel form here a few months ago, I noticed ads in the subway promising a look into the mind of "Bongtail." Though Bong has publicly declared his contempt for that nickname, it has nevertheless stuck as a reflection of his meticulous way of working.




The son of a graphic designer, he grew up not just watching movies but drawing comics, a practice that would later place him well to create his own storyboards. In so doing he assembles an entire film in his mind before shooting its first frame (a working process not dissimilar to that of Western filmmakers like the Coen brothers), which enables him and his collaborators to execute complex sequences such as what the Nerdwriter calls Parasite's "perfect montage."

With the English translation of Parasite: A Graphic Novel in Storyboards now available, video essayists like Thomas Flight have made comparisons between Bong's drawings and the film. Starting with that celebrated montage, Flight shows that, where the final product departs from its plan, it usually does so to simplify the hand-drawn action, making it more legible and elegant. In the short video just above, you can watch one minute of Parasite lined up with its corresponding storyboard panels, one of which incorporates a photograph of the real Seoul neighborhood in which Bong located the main characters' home. This is rich storyboarding indeed, but in his introduction to the book, Bong explains that he doesn't consider it essential to filmmaking, just essential to him: "I actually storyboard to quell my own anxiety." Would that we could all draw worldwide acclaim from doing the same.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Good Movies as Old Books: 100 Films Reimagined as Vintage Book Covers

At one time paperback books were thought of as trash, a term that described their perceived artistic and cultural level, production value, and utter disposability. This changed in the mid-20th century, when certain paperback publishers (Doubleday Anchor, for example, who hired Edward Gorey to design their covers in the 1950s) made a push for respectability. It worked so well that the signature aesthetics they developed still, nearly a lifetime later, pique our interest more readily than those of any other era.

Even today, graphic designers put in the time and effort to master the art of the midcentury paperback cover and transpose it into other cultural realms, as Matt Stevens does in his "Good Movies as Old Books" series. In this "ongoing personal project," Stevens writes, "I envision some of my favorite films as vintage books. Not a best of list, just movies I love."




These movies, for the most part, date from more recent times than the mid-20th century. Some, like Jordan Peele's Us, the Safdie brothers' Uncut Gems, and Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, came out just last year. The oldest pictures among them, such as Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, date from the early 1960s, when this type of graphic design had reached the peak of its popularity.

Suitably, Stevens also gives the retro treatment to a few already stylized period pieces like Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, Joe Johnston's The Rocketeer, and Andrew Niccol's Gattaca, a sci-fi vision of the future itself imbued with the aesthetics of the 1940s. Each and every one of Stevens' beloved-movies-turned-old-books looks convincing as a work of graphic design from roughly the decade and a half after the Second World War, and some even include realistic creases and price tags. This makes us reflect on the connections certain of these films have to literature, most obviously those, like David Fincher's Fight Club and Stephen Frears' High Fidelity, adapted from novels in the first place.

More subtle are Rian Johnson's recent Knives Out, a thoroughgoing tribute to (if not an adaptation of) the work of Agatha Christie; Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, which hybridizes a Philip K. Dick novella with pulp detective noir; and Wes Anderson's Rushmore, a statement of its director's intent to revive the look and feel of the early 1960s (its books and otherwise) for his own cinematic purposes. Stevens has made these imagined covers available for purchase as prints, but some retro design-inclined, bibliophilic film fans may prefer to own them in 21st-century book form. See all of his adaptations in web format here.

via Colossal

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Four Classic Prince Songs Re-Imagined as Pulp Fiction Covers: When Doves Cry, Little Red Corvette & More

There’s a book-lined Knowledge Room in the late Prince Rogers Nelson’s Paisley Park, but the Prince-inspired faux-books that artist Todd Alcott imagines are probably better suited to the estate's purple-lit Relaxation Room.

The Knowledge Room was conceived of as a library where the world’s most famous convert to Jehovah’s Witnesses could delve into religious literature, reflect on the meaning of life, and study the Bible deep into the night.

Alcott’s covers harken to an earlier stage in Prince’s evolution—one the star eventually disavowed—as well as several bygone eras of book design.




Lyrically, there’s no mistaking what Prince's notorious 1984 "Darling Nikki" is about. There's a direct line between it and the creation of parental advisory stickers for musical releases containing what is politely referred to as “mature content.”

Alcott’s 1950s pulp novel treatment, above, is similarly graphic. Those skintight purple curves are a promise that even purpler prose lays within, or would, were there any text couched behind that steamy cover.

"When Doves Cry" makes for a pretty purple cover, too. In this case, the inspiration is a 1950s self-help book, enriched with some Freudian taglines from Prince’s own pen. (“Maybe you're just like my mother, she’s never satisfied.”)

Alcott remembers Prince being "an incredibly liberating figure” when he burst onto the scene:

There was his flamboyant, outrageous sexuality, but also his musical omnivorousness; he played funk, rock, pop, jazz, everything. Purple Rain was the Sergeant Pepper’s of its day, a wall-to-wall brilliant album that everyone could recognize as a remarkable achievement. I remember when I first saw Purple Rain, at the very beginning of the movie, before the movie has even begun, the Warner Bros logo came up and you heard the sound of an expectant crowd, and an announcer says "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Revolution," and the first shot is of Prince, backlit, silhouetted in purple against a dense mist, and he says "Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to get through this thing called life." And I was instantly, incontrovertibly, a fan for life. The confidence of that opening, the sheer audacity of it, adopting the tone of a priest at a wedding, in his Hendrix outfit and hairdo, the sheer gutsiness of that statement, alone, just blew me away. And then he proceeded to play "Let's Go Crazy" which completely lived up to that opening. After that he could have run Buick ads for the rest of the movie and I'd still be a fan.

Decades later, I was sitting in a Subway restaurant at the end of a very, very long, tiring day, and was feeling completely exhausted and miserable, and out of nowhere, "When Doves Cry" came on the sound system. And I was reminded that the song, which was a huge hit in 1984, the song of the year, had no bass line. The arrangement of it made no sense. It was a song put together by force of will, with its metal guitar and its synth strings and its electronic drums. And in that moment, at the end of a long, tiring day, I was reminded that miracles are possible.

Alcott’s miraculous graphic transformations are rounded out with a comparatively understated 1930s murder mystery, Purple Rain and an ingenious Little Red Corvette owner’s manual dating to the mid-60s. Prints of Todd Alcott’s Prince-inspired paperback covers are available in his Etsy shop.

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Classic Radiohead Songs Re-Imagined as a Sci-Fi Book, Pulp Fiction Magazine & Other Nostalgic Artifacts

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch the First Trailer for Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s Adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Classic Sci-Fi Novel

It takes a fearless filmmaker indeed to adapt Dune. Atop its rich linguistic, political, philosophical, religious, and ecological foundations, Frank Herbert's saga-launching 1965 novel also happens to have a plot "convoluted to the point of pain." So writes David Foster Wallace in his essay on David Lynch, who directed the first cinematic version of Dune in 1984. That the result is remembered as a "huge, pretentious, incoherent flop" (with an accompanying glossary handout) owes to a variety of factors, not least studio meddling and the unsurprising incompatibility of the man who made Eraserhead with large-scale Hollywood sci-fi. The question lingered: could Dune be successfully adapted at all?

Well before Lynch took his crack, El Topo and The Holy Mountain director Alejandro Jodorowsky put together his own Dune adaptation. If all had gone well it would have come out as a ten-hour film featuring the art of H.R. Giger and Moebius as well as the performances of Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, David Carradine, Alain Delon, Mick Jagger, and Salvador Dalí.




But all did not go well, and cinema was deprived of what would have been a singular spectacle no matter how it turned out. At least one element of Jodorowsky's Dune has survived, however, in the latest attempt to bring Herbert's complex bestseller to the screen: the music of Pink Floyd, heard in the just-released trailer for Denis Villeneuve's Dune, starring Timothée Chalemet as the young hero Paul Atreides (as well as Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and a host of other currently big names), scheduled for release in December.

If a credible Dune movie is possible, Villeneuve is the man to direct it. His previous two pictures, Blade Runner 2049 and the alien-visitation drama Arrival, demonstrate not just his capabilities with science fiction but his sense of the sublime. Beginning with its setting, the desert-wasteland planet of Arrakis, Dune demands to be envisioned with the kind of beauty that inspires something close to dread and fear. (The first director asked to adapt Dune was David Lean, perhaps due to his track record with majestic views of sand.) Villeneuve has also made the wise choice of refusing to compress the entire book into a single feature, presenting this as the first of a two-part adaptation. And as a lifelong Dune fan, he understands the attitude necessary to approaching this challenge: "Fear is the mind-killer," as Paul famously puts it — so famously that the trailer couldn't possibly exclude Chalamet's delivery of the line.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Behold a Beautiful 400-Year-Old ‘Friendship Book’ Featuring the Signatures of Historic Figures

Maintaining the balance of power among European states has always been a fraught affair, but it was especially so in the years when mercantilism made fragile alliances during the religious wars of the 17th century. This was a time when merchants made excellent diplomats, not only because they traveled extensively and learned foreign tongues and customs, but because they spoke the universal language of trade.

German merchant and diplomat Philipp Hainhofer from Augsburg was such a figure, traveling from court to court to meet with Europe’s renowned dignitaries. As he did so, he would ask them to sign his album amicorum, or “friendship book,” also called a stammbuch. Each signer would then “commission an artist to create a painting accompanying their signatures,” Alison Flood writes at The Guardian.

“There are around 100 drawings” in his autograph book, known as the Große Stammbuch, “which took more than 50 years to compile.” After Hainhofer’s death in 1647, his friend August the Younger—who helped collect the hundreds of thousand of books in the Herzog August Bibliothek—tried to acquire the book but failed. Now it has finally landed in the huge library, one of the world’s oldest, almost 400 years later, after a purchase at a private auction this week.

Friendship books were commonly used at the time to record the names of family and friends. Students used them as yearbooks, and Hainhofer began his collection of signatures as a college student. He gradually gained a select clientele as his career advanced. Signatories, the History Blog points out, “include Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, another HRE Matthias, Christian IV of Denmark and Norway, Cosimo II de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany…” and many others.

Hainhofer’s Große Stammbuch is, as you can see, a beautiful work of art—or almost 100 collected works of art—in its own right. “The elaborateness of the illustrations directly corresponds to the signatory’s status and rank in society,” as Grace Ebert notes at Colossal. It is also a fascinating record of Early Modern European politics, trade, and diplomacy, a fine art all its own.

via Colossal

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Beautiful 1897 Illustrated Book Shows How Flowers Become Art Nouveau Designs

The art of drawing is not the art of observing forms and objects alone, it is not mere mimicry of these objects; it is the art of knowing how far and wherein, and with what just limitations, those forms and objects can be reproduced in a picture, or in a decorative work. - Eugène Grasset, 1896

Flowers loomed large in Art Nouveau, from the voluptuous floral headpieces that crowned Alphonse Mucha's female figures to the stained glass roses favored by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Graphic designer Eugène Grasset’s 1897 book, Plants and Their Application to Ornament, vividly demonstrates the ways in which nature was distilled into popular decorative motifs at the end of the 19th-century.

 

Twenty-four flowering plants were selected for consideration, from humble specimens like dandelions and thistle to such Art Nouveau heavy hitters as poppies and irises.

Each flower is represented by a realistic botanical study, with two additional color plates in which its form is flattened out and mined for its decorative, stylistic elements.

 

The plates were rendered by Grasset’s students at the École Guérin, young artists whom he had “forbidden to condescend to the art of base and servile imitation”:

The art of drawing is not the art of observing forms and objects alone, it is not mere mimicry of these objects; it is the art of knowing how far and wherein, and with what just limitations, those forms and objects can be reproduced in a picture, or in a decorative work.

He also expected students to hone their powers of observation through intense study of the organic structures that would provide their inspiration, becoming intimately acquainted with the character of petal, leaf, and stem:

Beautiful lines are the foundation of all beauty. In a work of art, whatever it be, apparent or hidden symmetry is the visible or secret cause of the pleasure we feel. Everything that is created must have some repetition in its parts to be understood, retained in the memory, and perceived as a whole

When it came to adorning household implements such as vases and plates, Grasset insisted that decorative elements exist in harmony with their hosts, sniping that any artist who would distort form with ill considered flourishes should make a bas-relief instead.

Thusly do chrysanthemum stems provide logical-looking ballast for a chandelier, and a dandelion’s curved leaves hug the contours of a table leg.

Grasset's best known student, Maurice Pillard Verneuil, whose career spanned Art Nouveau to Art Deco, absorbed and articulated the master’s teachings:

 

It is no longer the nature (artists) see that they represent, that they transcribe, but the nature that they aspire to see; nature more perfect and more beautiful and of which they have the interior vision.

 

View Eugène Grasset’s Plants and Their Application to Ornament as part of the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections here. Or find illustrations at RawPixel.

via The Public Domain Review

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Sylvia Beach Tells the Story of Founding Shakespeare and Company, Publishing Joyce’s Ulysses, Selling Copies of Hemingway’s First Book & More (1962)

Revisiting Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast a couple of decades after I read it last, I notice a few things right away: I am still moved by the prose and think it’s as impressive as ever; I am less moved by the machismo and alcoholism and more interested in characters like Sylvia Beach, founder of Shakespeare and Company, the bookstore that served as a base of operations for the famed Lost Generation of writers in Paris.

“Sylvia had a lively, sharply sculptured face, brown eyes that were as alive as a small animal’s and as gay as a young girl’s,” Hemingway wrote of her in his memoir. “She was kind, cheerful and interested, and loved to make jokes and gossip. No one that I ever knew was nicer to me.” Indeed, Hemingway also “recounts being given access to the whole of Sylvia Beach’s library at Shakespeare and Company for free after his first visit,” notes writer RJ Smith.




Beach founded the shop in 1919, encouraged (and funded) by her partner Adrienne Monnier, who owned a French-language bookstore. Beach's mostly English-language Shakespeare and Company would become a lending-library, post office, bank, and even hotel for authors who congregated there. She supported the great expatriate modernists and hosted French writers like André Gide and Paul Valéry. She also published James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922 when no one else would, after earlier published excerpts were deemed “obscene.”

Joyce was shaped by Paris, and owed a huge debt of gratitude to Beach, just as readers of Ulysses do almost 100 years later. Forty years after the novel’s publication, Beach traveled to Ireland to celebrate and sat down for the long interview above in which she remembers those heady times. She also tells the story of how a Presbyterian minister’s daughter—who went to church in Princeton, NJ with Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson—became a pioneering out lesbian modernist bookseller in Paris.

Beach remembers meeting “all the French writers” at Monnier’s shop after her time studying at the Sorbonne and how American writers all came to Paris to escape prohibition at home. “For Hemingway and his most of his friends,” says Harvard historian Patrice Higonnet, “Paris was one long binge, all the more enjoyable because it wasn’t very expensive.” For Beach, Paris became home, and Shakespeare and Company a home away from home for waves of expats until the Nazis shut it down in 1941. (Ten years later, a different Shakespeare and Company was opened by bookseller George Whitman.)

“They were disgusted in America because they couldn’t get a drink,” Beach says, “and they couldn’t get Ulysses. I used to think those were the two great causes of their discontent.” Her interviews, letters, and her own memoir, Shakespeare and Company, tell the story of the Lost Generation from her point of view, one animated by an absolute devotion to literature, and in particular, to Joyce, who did not reciprocate. When Ulysses sold to Random House in 1932, he offered her no share of his very large advance.

Beach was forgiving. “I understood from the first,” she said, “that working with or for Mr. Joyce, the pleasure was mine—an infinite pleasure: the profits were for him.” She was doing something other than running a business. She was “cross-fertilizing,” as French writer Andre Chamson put it. “She did more to link England, the United States, Ireland, and France than four great ambassadors combined.” She did so by giving writers what they needed to make the work she knew they could, at a very rare time and place in which such a thing was briefly possible.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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