Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Ten Favourite Full-Length Films Online For Free

Image from À Propos de Nice (Jean Vigo, 1930)

Film Studies For Free is about to depart on its holidays (sun, sea, sand, and definitely no cyberspace), but -- philanthropic to the last -- it wanted to leave its readers with some cultural and educational sustenance during what will inevitably be its much lamented absence.

So, here, folks, are some (emboldened) links to a few of FSFF's favourite free full-length films currently online, including mini-Luis Buñuel, Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Vigo fests:
See you all again in early-ish August with mammoth links-posts, more video essays, and some 'think-pieces' about Film Studies online, too...

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

More V.F. Perkins Online

Image from You Only Live Once (Fritz Lang, 1937)

Film Studies For Free is extremely fond of the work of V. F. Perkins, world-renowned author of Film as Film (London: Penguin Books, 1972 - see an recent interesting review HERE).

FSFF has previously drawn attention to two pieces of Perkins' hugely influential work which are freely available online:
  • 'Same Tune Again! Repetition and Framing in Letter from an Unknown Woman' (originally published in CineAction! no. 52) republished online by Danish film studies journal 16:9 (September 2003) and accessible HERE.
  • 'Moments of Choice' [on film directing] (originally published in The Movie, ch. 58, reprinted in Ann Lloyd (ed.), Movie Book of the Fifties, Orbis, 1982) republished online by the Australian journal Rouge (issue 9, 2006) and accessible HERE.
Today, it is delighted to bring to its readers' attention a further Open Access essay by Perkins which is currently stored at WRAP: the Warwick Research Archive Project.

The piece is an as yet undated and otherwise unpublished article entitled 'You Only Live Once' that brilliantly treats this magisterial 1937 film directed by Fritz Lang.

Here's an excerpt from the essay with relevant hyperlinks added by FSFF:
Anyone who wants to write usefully about You Only Live Once has to build on the work of George M Wilson. A chapter in [Narration in Light: Studies in Cinematic Point of View (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986)] makes a systematic presentation of the movie’s narrative strategies, and a detailed reading of key images. Wilson shows how Lang’s picture is designed to educate its viewers in the manipulability of the image, and to demonstrate the power of the film sequence to deceive us by obscuring key points in its story and by soliciting preferred readings that the content of the images may not in fact guarantee. The achievement that Wilson uncovers is the more remarkable in that it occurs not in an illustrated lecture but in a fiction movie, one that works to powerful effect within its genre of social protest melodrama.

Wilson’s essay opened my eyes to You Only Live Once, a movie that I had previously found opaque because, apart from its evident social project, I had not seen a purpose in its meticulous design beyond that of giving power and plausibility to a noticeably contrived tale. In what follows I take for granted the main lines of Wilson’s argument in order to develop some remarks on Lang’s mise-en-scène in two representative sequences.

Vampires, Vamps, and Va Va Voom: Recordings and Abstracts

The ever-wonderful Adrian Martin made it all too easy for Film Studies For Free today and very helpfully pointed it in the direction of a wonderful online Film Studies resource: recordings and abstracts of the papers for Vampires Vamps and Va Va Voom: A Critical Engagement with Paranormal Romance, a Two-Day Symposium, organised by the Sìdhe Literary Collective, Monash University, 19 & 20 September 2008. Below are the all important links:
FSFF says Fangs Adrian!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Are you now or have you ever been a non-anglophone film blogger?

HarryTuttle -- he of one of Film Studies For Free's favourite film blogs Screenville, based in Paris (France!) -- is seeking greater contact with non-English language speaking (or not only English-language speaking) film bloggers - in the first instance with ones from 'Iran, China/Hong Kong, [...] Africa, Taiwan, South Korea, The Philippines, Thailand, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, India, Russia'.

Tuttle's aim is both simple and highly laudable: the greater internationalization of critical film discourse by expanding the voices contributing to it, as well as by connecting those voices up much more effectively.
I dream of a blogosphere we could navigate to meet film lovers from any [...] country, and be able to read their thoughts on cinema, in their own language, or translated (one way or the other). I talked about this project for a long time now (here for example), without being able to discover new blogs out there on my own, so I hope to find some help in a collective effort for everyone interested in this endeavour. All help is welcome if you share this concern to meet foreign film bloggers.
The project is connected (as per the link in the quote) to some comments made by Adrian Martin in a FilmKrant article last November:
Almost every film magazine on the Net sticks to an old, pre-WWW format: reviews of current film releases, the latest Film Festivals and events and books, some general reflections on cinema and its cultural context. But the idea of the 'local' reigns supreme: when a new film reaches your city, that's when you devote serious attention to it - for the sake of your local audience. But why should it matter, any longer, whether You, the Living premieres in Cannes in 2007 or Melbourne in 2008 or Iceland in 2010? Cyber-magazines still refuse to face the implications of their global address; they are afraid to throw open their topics and co-ordinates.


[T]he film magazine of the future will be both a generator and an organiser of those critiques.

[Also see the related blog post Nomad Cinephilia (Adrian Martin)]
Great stuff! For its part, to begin with, Film Studies For Free has contributed what it hopes will be a useful link for Screenville's project: one to the website Global Voices Online which has a film feed HERE.

But, if you can help or simply want to find out more about this project, please visit Harry at Screenville tout de suite!

The Art of the Title Sequence - Website

Thanks to the ever-trusty Guardian Guide Internet Review this weekend, Film Studies For Free found out more about a great website devoted to explorations of the beginnings of films: The Art of the Title Sequence. It's a beautifully illustrated site, discussing and streaming an abundance of examples of this Art, from the famously daring-but-coy 'zero gravity' credits from Barbarella through to the brilliant opening to Nina Paley's remarkable animated film Sita Sings the Blues (2008 - see the entire film from Paley's website, or the Internet Archive, for free; a video interview with Paley is HERE).

The Art of the Title Sequence is highly recommended. Below are some links to highlights from the website.

Feature articles:

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Wide Screen Call For Papers on Contemporary European Film and Media Production

TVSpain - Spain on Video
Still and Trailer for the latest film from the current master of European film production and multimedia marketing -Pedro Almodóvar's Los abrazos rotos/Broken Embraces (Spain, 2009)

Film Studies For Free is always happy to post Open-Access related, Film and Media Studies calls for papers. Below is one such call for an OA journal that FSFF has profiled and linked to before: Wide Screen, a peer-reviewed open access academic journal of screen studies that encompasses a multi-disciplinary approach and is devoted to the critical study of cinema and television from historical, theoretical, political, and aesthetic perspectives.

Call For Paper - Special Issue of Wide Screen

European Producers and Production: Contemporary practices in film, television and multimedia environments

Edited by Professor Graham Roberts (Liverpool Screen School, Liverpool John Moores University) and Dr Dorota Ostrowska (School of History of Art, Film and Visual Media, Birkbeck, University of London)

About the Special Issue

This issue of Wide Screen is interested in the ways in which the contemporary media environment has changed the role and function of a producer. We would like to understand new models of production emerging as a result of new media environments (multimedia, game industry, internet). Does the multimedia environment lead to a greater specialisation on the part of particular producers in relation to the content they deliver, or does it result in producers extending their activity into a wider range of media and content? How do the profession, work, role and function of a producer differ depending on the national context in which they function? What is the impact of EU-wide policies on production practices in Europe?

Possible topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

Wide Screen invites articles on individual producers focusing on one of the following themes: co-productions, festival circuits (film, television and computer games markets), EU funding programmes and policies, education and training, freelancers vs in-house producers, networking, contracts, creativity, risk-taking, types of producers (creative, executive, line-producers), contracts, relationship with talent (directors, writers, actors), DVD releases (in particular special collectors editions)/DVD companies; production companies; awards and prizes; relationship with distribution and exhibition sector; producers of shorts, documentaries, fiction; sourcing content (book fairs, theatre productions); content ownership; piracy; private funding, sponsorship, equity versus public funding;


Deadline for submission of full papers: 10 November, 2009

Guidelines and submission information

Articles should be between 4000 and 6000 words can be submitted using the online submission system:

Wide Screen adheres to a strict double blind review, which is defined here:

Any questions/enquiries should be sent to Dorota Ostrowska ( and Graham Roberts (

Monday, 13 July 2009

Film Studies: free online journal content

Image of Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) from The Age of Innocence
(Martin Scorsese, 1993)

Film Studies -- a valuable and valiant journal, founded in 1999, of which Film Studies For Free was extremely fond -- is sadly no longer being published. But FSFF wanted to alert its readers that Manchester University Press, the most recent publisher of this periodical, has made its full contents freely available online from Vols 4-11 (Summer 2004-Winter 2007) inclusive.

FSFF has thus gratefully pasted in the links below from the MUP site and added author names and fuller details of dossiers and reviews.

There are some truly brilliant articles and dossiers here that deserve continued scholarly attention.

Volume 11 (Winter 2007)

Rashmi Sawhney, 'Apotheosis or Apparition?: Bombay and the Village in 1990s Women's Cinema'
(pp 1-13)
Full Article in PDF p1 (196 k)

Alan Marcus, 'The Interracial Romance as Primal Drama: Touch of Evil and Diamond Head'
(pp 14-26)
Full Article in PDF p14 (363 k)

Dolores Martinez, 'Where the human heart goes astray: Rashomon, Boomtown and subjective experience'
(pp 27-36)
Full Article in PDF p27 (129 k)

Merrill Schleier, 'The Grid, the Spectacle and the Labyrinth in The Big Clock's Skyscraper: Queered Space and Cold War Discourse'
(pp 37-48)
Full Article in PDF p37 (162 k)

Greg Tuck, 'Sex with the City: Urban Spaces, Sexual Encounters and Erotic Spectacle in Tsukamoto Shinya's Rokugatsu no Hebi - A Snake of June (2003)'
(pp 49-60)
Full Article in PDF p49 (146 k)

Karina von Lindeiner reviews Daniela Berghahn,
Hollywood Behind the Wall: The Cinema of East Germany (pp 61-71); Andrew Shail reviews Vanessa Toulmin, Electric Edwardians: The Story of the Mitchell and Kenyon Collection; Michael Grant reviews Reynold Humphries, The Hollywood Horror Film, 1931–1941: Madness in a Social Landscape; Reynolds Humphries reviews Gary D. Rhodes (with Richard Sheffield), Bela Lugosi: Dreams and Nightmares, and Mikel Koven, La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film.
Full Section in PDF p61 (103 k)

Volume 10 (Spring 2007)

Luke McKernan,'"Only the screen was silent ...": Memories of children's cinema-going in London before the First World War'
(pp 1-20)
Full Article in PDF p1 (273 k)

Simon Brown , 'Flicker Alley: Cecil Court and the Emergence of the British Film Industry'
(pp 21-33)
Full Article in PDF p21 (122 k)

Elizabeth Lebas , 'Glasgow's Progress: The Films of Glasgow Corporation 1938-1978'
(pp 34-53)
Full Article in PDF p34 (324 k)

Janet McBain, 'Green's of Glasgow: `We Want "U" In''
(pp 54-57)
Full Article in PDF p54 (124 k)

Richard Brown, 'The Missing Link: Film Renters in Manchester, 1910-1920'
(pp 58-63)
Full Article in PDF p58 (157 k)

Frank Gray, 'Kissing and Killing: A Short History of Brighton on Film'
(pp 64-71)
Full Article in PDF p64 (113 k)

Brigitte Flickinger, 'Cinemas in the City: Berlin's Public Space in the 1910s and 1920s'
(pp 72-86)
Full Article in PDF p72 (173 k)

Kate Bowles, '"All the evidence is that Cobargo is slipping": An ecological approach to rural cinema-going'
(pp 87-96)
Full Article in PDF p87 (120 k)


Alan Lovell reviews Don Siegel, A Siegel Film; Katerina Loukopoulou reviews Angela Dalle Vacche, ed., The Visual Turn: Classical Film Theory and Art History; Lance Pettitt reviews Myrto Konstantarakos, ed., Spaces in European Cinema, Anne Jackel, European Film Industries, Dina Iordanova, Cinema of the Other Europe, and Peter Hames, ed., The Cinema of Central Europe; Robert Shaughnessy reviews Sarah Hatchuel, Shakespeare, from Stage to Screen, and Judith Buchanan, Shakespeare on Film.
(pp 97-115)
Full Section in PDF p97 (146 k)

Volume 9 (Winter 2006)

David Lavery, '"No More Undiscovered Countries": The Early Promise and Disappointing Career of Time-Lapse Photography'
(pp 1-8)
Full Article in PDF p1 (92 k)

Lee Carruthers, 'Biding Our Time: Rethinking the Familiar in Steven Soderbergh's The Limey'
(pp 9-21)
Full Article in PDF p9 (124 k)

Jacqueline Furby, 'Rhizomatic Time and Temporal Poetics in American Beauty'
(pp 22-28)
Full Article in PDF p22 (82 k)

Wendy Everett , 'Remembering the Future: Terence Davies and the Paradoxes of Time'
(pp 29-39)
Full Article in PDF p29 (98 k)

Steven Peacock, 'Holding onto moments in The Age of Innocence'
(pp 40-50)
Full Article in PDF p40 (94 k)

David Butler, 'The Days Do Not End: Film Music, Time and Bernard Herrmann'
(pp 51-63)
Full Article in PDF p51 (86 k)

Des O’Rawe, 'Ten Minutes for John Lennon'
(pp 64-67)
Full Article in PDF p64 (42 k)

Conference Reviews

Michael Grant, 'The Enduring Value of André Bazin: A Report on the 46th Thessaloniki Film Festival, 18–27 November 2005'
(pp 68-69)
Full Article in PDF p68 (21 k)


Ian Christie reviews Clare Kitson, Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: An Animator’s Journey, and: The Vertov Collection at the Austrian Film Museum; Sarah Leahy reviews Alison Smith, French Cinema in the 1970s: The echoes of May; Andrew Martin reviews Andrew Klevan, Andrew Klevan, Film Performance: From Achievement to Appreciation
(pp 70-76)
Full Section in PDF p70 (122 k) Thomas Tode, Barbara Wurm et al, eds, Dziga Vertov

Volume 8 (Summer 2006)

Torben Grodal , 'The PECMA Flow: A General Model of Visual Aesthetics'
(pp 1-11)
Full Article in PDF p1 (128 k)

Jonathan Frome , 'Representation, Reality, and Emotions Across Media'
(pp 12-25)
Full Article in PDF p12 (109 k)

Amy Coplan , 'Catching Characters' Emotions: Emotional Contagion Responses to Narrative Fiction Film'
(pp 26-38)
Full Article in PDF p26 (123 k)

Daniel Barratt , 'Tracing the Routes to Empathy: Association, Simulation, or Appraisal?'
(pp 39-52)
Full Article in PDF p39 (171 k)

Michael Z. Newman, 'Characterization as Social Cognition in Welcome to the Dollhouse'
(pp 53-67)
Full Article in PDF p53 (303 k)

Jens Eder , 'Ways of Being Close to Characters'
(pp 68-80)
Full Article in PDF p68 (116 k)

Carl Plantinga, 'Disgusted at the Movies'
(pp 81-92)
Full Article in PDF p81 (238 k)

Patrick Colm Hogan, 'Narrative Universals, Nationalism, and Sacrificial Terror: From Nosferatu
(pp 93-105)
Full Article in PDF p93 (208 k) to Nazism'

Karen Renner , 'Repeat Viewings Revisited: Emotions, Memory, and Memento'
(pp 106-115)
Full Article in PDF p106 (81 k)

Malcolm Turvey, 'Imagination, Simulation, and Fiction'
(pp 116-125)
Full Article in PDF p116 (62 k)

Thomas E. Wartenberg , 'Film as Argument'
(pp 126-137)
Full Article in PDF p126 (99 k)

Introduction: Author Meets Critics: Noël Carroll's Engaging the Moving Image
(pp 138-139)
Full Article in PDF p138 (26 k)

Murray Smith, 'My Dinner with Noël; or, Can We Forget the Medium?'
(pp 140-148)
Full Article in PDF p140 (263 k)

Jinhee Choi , 'Naturalizing Hollywood?: Against the Naturalistic Account of Filmic Communication'
(pp 149-153)
Full Article in PDF p149 (35 k)

Cynthia Freeland, 'Evaluating Film'
(pp 154-160)
Full Article in PDF p154 (90 k)

Noël Carroll , 'Engaging Critics'
(pp 161-169)
Full Article in PDF p161 (56 k)


Edward Buscombe reviews Stanley Corkin, Cowboys as Cold Warriors: The Western and US History; Peter Hutchings reviews Geoff Mayer, Roy Ward Baker; Paisely Livingston reviews Torben Grodal, Bente Larsen, and Iben Thorving Laursen (eds), Visual Authorship: Creativity and Intentionality in Media. Northern Lights Film and Media Studies Yearbook, Amy Sargeant reviews Alan Lovell and Peter Krämer (eds),Screen Acting, and Pamela Robertson Wojcik (ed.), Movie Acting: The Film Reader.
(pp 170-176)
Full Section in PDF p170 (71 k)

Volume 7 (Winter 2005)

Jeff Smith, 'Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been A Christian?: The Strange History Of The Robe As Political Allegory'
(pp 1-15)
Full Article in PDF p1 (182 k)

Jennifer Langdon-Teclaw, 'Negotiating the Studio System: Adrian Scott and the Politics of Anti-Fascism in Cornered'
(pp 16-31)
Full Article in PDF p16 (178 k)

Erica Sheen, 'Un-American: Dmytryk, Rossellini and Christ in Concrete'
(pp 32-42)
Full Article in PDF p32 (178 k)

Karen McNally, '"Sinatra, Commie Playboy": Frank Sinatra, Postwar Liberalism and Press Paranoia'
(pp 43-53)
Full Article in PDF p43 (76 k)

Brian Neve , 'The Hollywood Left: Robert Rossen and Postwar Hollywood'
(pp 54-65)
Full Article in PDF p54 (135 k)

Peter Stanfield, 'A Monarch for the Millions: Jewish Filmmakers, Social Commentary and the Postwar Cycle of Boxing Films'
(pp 66-82)
Full Article in PDF p66 (481 k)

Steve Neale, 'Swashbucklers and Sitcoms, Cowboys and Crime, Nurses, Just Men and Defenders: Blacklisted Writers and TV in the 1950s and 1960s'
(pp 83-103)
Full Article in PDF p83 (98 k)

Dossier: An Interview with Albert Ruben
(pp 104-115)
Full Article in PDF p104 (67 k)

Dossier: An Interview with Cy Endfield
(pp 116-132)
Full Article in PDF p116 (66 k)


Gary Bettinson reviews Yingjin Zhang, Chinese National Cinema; Steven Peacock reviews Jonathan Rosenbaum, Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons.
(pp 128-132)
Full Section in PDF p128 (361 k)

Volume 6 (Summer 2005)

Kelly Davidson and John Hill , '"Under control"?: Black Narcissus and the Imagining of India'
(pp 1-12)
Full Article in PDF p1 (284 k)

David Trotter, 'Virginia Woolf and Cinema'
(pp 13-26)
Full Article in PDF p13 (152 k)

Elizabeth Lebas, 'Sadness and Gladness: The Films of Glasgow Corporation, 1922-1938'
(pp 27-45)
Full Article in PDF p27 (236 k)

Dossier on Chris Marker: The Art of Memory (Including contributions by Catherine Lupton; Jonathan Kear; Barry Langford; Thomas Tode (translated by Bernd Elzer); Patrick ffrench.) (pp 46-96)
Full Article in PDF p46 (979 k)


Paul Coates reviews Joseph G. Kickasola, The Films of Krzysztof Kieślowski: The Liminal Image; Peter Stanfield reviews Edward Dimendberg, Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity; Sarah Cardwell reviews Grahame Smith, Dickens and the dream of cinema.
(pp 97-102)
Full Article in PDF p97 (69 k)

Volume 5 (Winter 2004)

Richard Morris, '"To Realise the Ideal": Miscellaneous Remarks on Godard's Conceptual Processes Apropos of Sauve qui peut (la vie)'
(pp 1-7)
Full Article in PDF p1 (51 k)

Daniel Morgan, '"No Trickery with Montage": On Reading a Sequence in Godard's Pierrot le fou'
(pp 8-29)
Full Article in PDF p8 (187 k)

Michael Grant, 'Fulci's Waste Land: Cinema, Horror and the Abominations of Hell'
(pp 30-38)
Full Article in PDF p30 (250 k)

Ora Gelley, 'Europa '51: The Face of the Star in Neorealism's Urban Landscape'
(pp 39-57)
Full Article in PDF p39 (183 k)

Peter Krämer, 'The Many Faces of Holly Golightly: Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Hollywood'
(pp 58-65)
Full Article in PDF p58 (178 k)

Gary Bettinson, 'Penning Dramatic Chance: Adaptation, Dürrenmatt, and The Pledge'
(pp 66-79)
Full Article in PDF p66 (270 k)

Geoff King, 'Weighing Up the Qualities of Independence: 21 Grams in Focus'
(pp 80-91)
Full Article in PDF p80 (166 k)

J. J. Murphy, 'Harmony Korine's Gummo: the Compliment of Getting Stuck with a Fork'
(pp 92-105)
Full Article in PDF p92 (314 k)

Dossier: Hans Keller: Essays on Film Music (Introduction by Christopher Wintle)
(pp 106-131)
Full Article in PDF p106 (226 k)

Review Ian Christie reviews Oksana Bulgakowa, Sergei Eisenstein:A Biography.(pp 132-136)
Full Section in PDF p132 (149 k)

Volume 4 (Summer 2004)

Rachel Moore, 'Love Machines' (pp 1-11)
Full Article in PDF p1 (143 k)

Charles Musser, 'The Hidden and the Unspeakable: On Theatrical Culture, Oscar Wilde and Ernst Lubitsch's Lady Windermere's Fan' (pp 12-47) (File currently inaccessible)
Full Article in PDF p12 (478 k)

Reidar Due, 'Hitchcock's Innocence Plot' (pp 48-57)
Full Article in PDF p48 (168 k)

Maria Wyke, 'Film Style and Fascism: Julius Caesar' (pp 58-74)
Full Article in PDF p58 (576 k)

Alan Marcus, 'Reappraising Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will' (pp 75-86)
Full Article in PDF p75 (351 k)

Constantine Verevis, 'Remaking Film' (pp 87-103)
Full Article in PDF p87 (230 k)

Dossier - Episodes from a Lost History of Movie Serialism: An interview with Hollis Frampton (Interview by Deke Dusinberre and Ian Christie (pp 104-118))
Full Article in PDF p104 (318 k)

Richard Brown reviews Jon Burrows, Legitimate Cinema: Theatre Stars in Silent British Films, 1908–1918 (pp 119-120)
Full Article in PDF p119 (30 k)

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Video Essays on Films: A Multiprotagonist Manifesto

'A Fair(y) Use Tale' by Eric S. Faden. Faden is an Associate Professor of English and Film Studies at Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA). He studies early cinema and digital image technologies, and creates film, video, and multimedia scholarship called "media stylos" that imagine how scholarly research might appear as visual media. See his 'A Manifesto For Critical Media' (essay) and 'The Documentary's New Politics' (media-stylo) in Mediascape, Spring 2008; and his wonderful 'Media Stylo' about cinema 'Tracking Theory:The Synthetic Philosophy of The Glance' By Eric S. Faden, Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular, Volume 2 Issue 2, Winter 2007

Opening with Eric Faden's inspiring work, and following on from its own numerous championings of the online video essay as a hugely promising tool for Film Studies, Film Studies For Free is very happy to present, today, a 'Video Essay Manifesto'. It humbly hopes that it will both inform its readers and stir them to try out this critical/pedagogical genre for themselves ('How to' information-links are given at the foot of the post).

Immediately below, there are lots of pointers to as well as little snippets from useful and stimulating reflections on the video essay by those who have pioneered it in virtuosic online forms (Kevin B Lee, Steven Boone, Matt Zoller Seitz, Jim Emerson, Eric Faden, and Christian Keathley), by others who have commented on such work, and a few other key interventions on offline "films (or videos) about films" by critics, activist filmmakers, and theorists (Hans Richter, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Alexandra Juhasz, Jean-Luc Godard, and Slavoj Žižek).
  • [T]he film essay enables the filmmaker to make the ‘invisible’ world of thoughts and ideas visible on the screen. Unlike the documentary film that presents facts and information, the essay film produces complex thought—reflections that are not necessarily bound to reality, but can also be contradictory, irrational, and fantastic.
Hans Richter, "Der Filmessay: eine neue Form des Dokumentarfilms" (The Film Essay: A New Form of Documentary Film) paraphrased by Nora Alter, “Memory Essays”, Stuff It: The Video Essay in the Digital Age (ed. Ursula Biemann, Zurich: Edition: Voldemeer, 2003), 12-23, p. 13

  • [S]ometimes when I try to convey something about my experience of movies -- filtered, as always, through reflections and contrasts between images, memories, themes, styles -- what I really want to do is make a movie about it. That seems like the shortest, most direct way from imagination to articulation. The movie itself (as Godard famously suggested) is the criticism, the analysis.
Jim Emerson, Close Up: The Movie/Essay/Dream, Scanners, October 17, 2007

  • Beyond simply having movies on DVD, the full range of digital video technologies enable film scholars to write using the very materials that constitute their object of study: moving images and sounds. As Victor Burgin has demonstrated, digital technologies have “expanded the range of possibilities for dismantling and reconfiguring the once inviolable objects offered by narrative cinema.” Thus, while such technologies provoke a new way of watching and thinking about films, they also offer a new way of conducting and presenting film research.
'The Scholarship of Sound and Image: Producing Media Criticism in the Digital Age', presented by Christian Keathley (Middlebury College), Andrew Miller (Sacred Heart University), Eric Faden (Bucknell University), and Jason Mittell (Middlebury College), (also including material produced by Craig Cieslikowski (University of Houston) Session Proposal for MIT6 - Stone and Payrus, Storage and Transmission International Conference April 24-26, 2009

  • [This] is the next important step in film criticism. We can now "write" using the very materials that constitute our object of study: moving images and sounds. But doing this demands re-thinking conventional critical forms. Lots of experimenting must be done [...].
Christian Keathley, Comment on Close Up: The Movie/Essay/Dream, Scanners, October 17, 2007

  • Digital technologies that enable the combination of images, sounds, and written text invite us not just to move critical discussion into a new presentational context, but demand that we re-imagine the very relationship between an object of study and critical commentary about it.
Christian Keathley, 'A Whirlpool of Things', in media res, May 14, 2007

  • [I] liked the video essay's refiguring of artist and audience relationship. While the idea of "interactive" media has been much hyped in recent years, it seems to me the "essay" film has long existed as an interactive form. Unlike traditional Hollywood narrative and its more homogenous, disposable, and formulaic approach, the essay film intentionally invites the audience to probe, re-view, and question the film's content and style. For me, much of today's interactive media design requires interactivity of hands and mouse but not necessarily the brain. I wanted to use a familiar, perhaps even dated, media form (the movies) but in a different way (the essay).
Eric Faden, Author's Statement 'Tracking Theory: The Synthetic Philosophy of The Glance By Eric S. Faden, Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular, Volume 2 Issue 2, Winter 2007

  • One could argue that the decline of film criticism in recent years — observable in the habits of most newspaper and magazine editors in both Europe and North America as well as most films academics in North America — is not so much a reflection of the changing tastes of audiences (as these editors and academics often insist) as it is the power of multicorporations to eliminate everything that interferes with their promotion. Just as the so-called “American independent” filmmakers promoted by the Hollywood studios via Sundance usually means the filmmakers who have lost their independence, “film criticism” in the mainstream now refers mainly to promotional journalism; true independents and critics have to function in the margins. On more ways than one, the traffic is moving underground. Philosophically speaking, Histoire(s) du cinéma is a dangerous work because it dares to raise the issue of whom cinema, film criticism, and film history belong to. Truthfully, they belong to everyone today with a VCR [or DVD player], but contractually, they belong to the state, and the state today — especially from the standpoint of an American like myself — is Disney. It is Disney and its client states such as Miramax that set our cultural agendas and rewrite our official film histories and critiques via the mass media. By writing his own film history and criticism on video, using means that are readily available and relatively inexpensive, Godard is proposing a direction that filmmakers and video artists everywhere could explore with benefit — the direction of appropriation, a movement already inaugurated by the critical and historical reappraisals of the New Wave, and continued in Histoire(s) du cinéma by other and more subterranean means, such as poetry and autobiography. Recalling Paris Belongs to Us, Jacques Rivette’s first feature, I propose a slogan: Paramount belongs to us.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, 'Trailer for Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma',, May 21, 2009 (also see: Jonathan Rosenbaum, 'LE VRAI COUPABLE: Two Kinds of Criticism in Godard’s Work',, May 14, 2009)
  • If the potential for essayistic images shadowed much of the twentieth century and began self-consciously and definitively to articulate that potential at the mid-point of that century, today, I believe, the essayistic flourishes especially in the expansion of new technologies and changing venues for imagistic spectatorship and reception. Through the technological play, layering, and interactivity offered by new kinds of films, new media, and the Internet, the essayistic can now fully embrace its love affair with experiential contingencies of all sorts--from the privacies of dying on film or the public media events that propel wars to, ultimately, the very activity of film scholars as they engage their own objects on their own terms.
Timothy Corrigan, 'Expression, the Essayistic, and Thinking in Images', Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular, Volume 2 Issue 2, Winter 2007
  • In 2007 I started my blog Shooting Down Pictures to chronicle the completion of a typically obsessive cinephile project: to finish watching the 1,000 Greatest Movies of All Time as determined by They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, a website that compiled over 1,800 lists by critics, filmmakers and scholars to create what is supposed to be the most authoritative consensus of great films. (As of this writing I have seen 962 of the films). For each film that I watch, I write a review, compile quotes and links to writings on the film, and embed video clips of the film that are online. As the project progressed, I felt the urge to comment directly on some of these clips, or to combine my reflections on the film with clips to directly illustrate my observations. By applying my filmmaking and editing background to the current digital technology that allows for ripping/copying and editing video and uploading it to the web, my work in the video essay format thus began. So far I've produced over 50 video essays, most of which can be accessed on my blog and my YouTube channel. With each video, I try to take a different approach that reflects the film and its impact on me. The focus may be on a single sequence (i.e. La Haine; The Saragossa Manuscript), a performance (Un Coeur en Hiver), music (And the Ship Sails On), sociological context (The World According to Garp; Gran Torino), or even autobiographical reflection (The Hour of the Star; America America). In some cases I film original footage to supplement or highlight an aspect of the film (And God Created Woman; The Vanishing compared to Zodiac), or work with footage of an event associated with the film (a midnight screening of El Topo; a group viewing of Duel; an interview with Paul Schrader and Ed Lachmann regarding their film Light Sleeper). I've used text inserts to highlight areas of the frame (The Evil Dead II), a device that fellow video essayists Steven Boone and Matt Zoller Seitz have taken to greater lengths. I've even given voice to the honorable dead, with a narration of the late Susan Sontag's immortal essay on Hitler: A Film from Germany set to footage illustrating her insights. There is no strict guiding principle to my approaches concerning the format of these videos other than a deathly fear of repeating myself and a desire to increase the level of sophistication with each attempt at this new form of film criticism.
Kevin B Lee, 'The Viewer as Creator', Kunst der Vermittlung: Aus den Archiven Filmvermittlung Films”/“The Art of Mediation: Films About Films,” April 2, 2009
  • New forms of distribution of the internet and the digital technologies have made all means for the production of movie-commenting movies easily accessible for today’s web-prosumer. Vast numbers of feature-films and other cinematographic productions exist as digital footage, recording- and editing devices in various complexity are availabe for everyone. When it comes to working with this treasure, the pertinent questions are analogous or even identical to those that authors of movie-commenting movies are confronted with: Which elements of an existing movie can I work with? What can be used, what am I allowed to use? What is a citation, what is a copy, what is a transmission? What is —in the broadest sense—legally or even morally interesting or possible, what is aesthetically interesting or possible in the working-with or the deictical gestures (the showing)? And who should watch all this? To be more specific: What is the difference between digital footage found on the net and the tangible footage collected in movie archives or found in the dustbin of history? What is algorithmic and what is intellectual indexicalization? We have been looking for various forms and formats of movie-commenting artefacts in the internet. Starting from these we are going to discuss the questions mentioned above with Sebastian Lütgert (pirate cinema). The film selection focuses on works created within the frame of American Weblogs – particularly “Shooting Down Pictures”, the project of our special guest, the filmmaker and critic Kevin B. Lee. Examples include video essays on current and classical films by Nicole Brenez, Kristin Thompson, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Matt Zoller Seitz, and others.
'Films About Films and the Internet': Programme Description of "The Art of Mediation" Session on Internet 'Films about Films and the Internet', Shooting Down Pictures, April 16, 2009
  • Each video takes anywhere between 8-20 hours to produce (one I'm working on now, which I hope will be my best, most sophisticated yet, has already crossed the 30 hour threshhold). I don't make any money off doing this. What I do get is: the geeky filmmaker satisfaction of having worked through a movie by literally working it inside out; collaborating with an ever-growing roster of fellow cinephiles whose generosity of insight is often humbling; and finally, sharing all this with a global audience that appears to get something out of this as well. One of the greatest sensations in life is when one feels he is learning and growing through what one does, especially in the company of others. That to me is what this is all about.
Kevin B Lee, Comment on 'Copy Rites: YouTube vs. Kevin B. Lee', The House Next Door Online, Tuesday, January 13, 2009
  • Kevin [Lee]'s trailblazing example inspired me to give up print journalism last year and concentrate on filmmaking, and make video essays—criticism with moving pictures—a key part of my new life. I've been privileged to work with Kevin on video essays for The Museum of the Moving Image, which believed in the critical relevance and legal sturdiness of the format and asked us to do series on the films of Oliver Stone and the opening credits of HBO's The Wire. Many other critic-filmmakers have followed in Kevin's footsteps, including Jim Emerson, publisher of Scanners, who dove into the pool with a wordless video essay tied into The House's "Close-Up Blog-a-thon," and who recently uploaded a ripped DVD clip from Warner Bros' The Dark Knight to augment his recent series of articles attacking the film for narrative and visual sloppiness. Can a critic argue without clips? Sure. Film criticism has largely done without external accompaniments for a century and can continue to do without them. But it's important to note that clips and still frames have been a central part of cinema studies since its inception. Anyone who's attended a film history or theory course knows how valuable they are. Clips often determine the difference between learning something and truly understanding it. They're quotes from the source text deployed to make a case. Take them away, and you're left with the critic saying, "Well, I can't show you exactly what I mean, so I'll describe it as best I can and hope you believe me." This, in a nutshell, is the defining difference between criticism pre- and post-millennium. For the first time ever, when someone says to a critic, "Show me the evidence," the critic doesn't need to unlock a film archive vault or even haul out a DVD player to produce it. He can call it up online anytime, anywhere, for anybody. The implications are astounding. The technology's potential has only begun to be tapped. And as you know, there's more to it than classroom-style argumentation. Digital editing software and DVD-ripping technology permits anybody with filmmaking skill and the right tools—say, Handbrake to rip discs, MPEG Streamclip to convert them to edit-able format, and iMovie or Final Cut to put the pieces together—to manipulate commercial media in all sorts of ways, then post the result on the Internet.
Matt Zoller Seitz, 'Copy Rites: YouTube vs. Kevin B. Lee', The House Next Door Online, January 13, 2009
  • ["The Pervert's Guide to Cinema" takes film criticism in yet another direction. It's an essay in the form of a documentary, incorporating clips and placing the critic (Slavoj Žižek) into the film-worlds he's examining and interpreting. As I wrote from the 2006 Toronto Film Festival]:
    • This isn't quite the first film of this sort ("A Journey Through American Cinema with Martin Scorsese" springs to mind) -- but there ought to be more. The genre of movies about movies -- in-depth appreciations and evaluations of films that go beyond clip reels like "That's Entertainment!" into something deeper and, well, more entertaining -- is something I hope will blossom over the next few years. It's something I've been thinking about a lot: film criticism needs to expand beyond mere words, and make better use of other media, including the web and film/video itself, where the images themselves can be seen while they are analyzed.
    Jim Emerson, 'TIFF: The Pervert's Guide to Cinema', Scanners, September 9, 2006

Also see:

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Agnès Varda Podcast and Links

Film Studies For Free is working on a longer post on video essays, but it had to rush to its readers, in the meantime, with the hot news of a great podcast interview with French director and film essayist Agnès Varda by a longstanding admirer and acquaintance of hers, radio journalist Ruth Seymour for the Politics of Culture slot at KCRW. Their principal topic of conversation was Varda's latest documentary Les Plages d'Agnès/ The Beaches of Agnès (France, 2009). The interview has been online since yesterday and FSFF sends its thanks for the rapid tip-off to Sasha Berman.

The podcast can be accessed at the KCRW website by clicking HERE. For those interested the English-language press kit (pdf) for The Beaches of Agnès can be accessed HERE. See also Nick Dawson's great recent interview with Varda for Filmmaker Magazine HERE.

Below is an FSFF selection of links to highly worthwhile and freely-accessible online material pertaining to this great filmmaker.

Video essay by Varda (in French):

Réponse de femmes, Notre corps, notre sexe - un documentaire d'Agnès Varda (1977) 7 mins 48 secs

'In 1975, it was the Year of the Woman. [French TV channel] Antenne 2 asked seven female filmmakers the question : “How does it feel to be a woman?”. They had to answer with a seven-minute movie. Agnès Varda chose to answer with the cine-leaflet “Réponses de femmes”. It is a possible answer concerning women’s bodies and the feminine condition. In this short movie, women, from female children to old women, chat about sex, desire, advertising and children (to have some or not) : “our object-body, our taboo-body, our body with or without children, our sex, etc...”. How can we experience our body? How can we experience our sex? On a white set, women, dressed or naked, try to answer the question “What is a woman?”. One answers: “To be a woman is to be born in a female body”. Nothing more, no idea of feminine essence, or predisposition to motherhood, ideas against which the feminist movement was struggling. A pregnant and naked woman, dancing and laughing loud, made a lot of viewers react : Antenne 2 got a lot of written reproaches. This cine-leaflet was aired on Antenne 2 the 23rd of June 1975. It was also nominated to Cesars 76, category documentary short-movie.' By Feminism in Cinema weblog.

See IMDB entry on this film HERE.

Video interviews and talks:

Scholarly articles in English:
Scholarly article in French:
Scholarly article in Spanish: