Monday, 31 August 2009

Assorted articles and e-theses: costumes, sound, French and Spanish cinema, and more

Another visit to a university research repository took Film Studies For Free to Exeter, home to some of the most original film-related research in the United Kingdom. Below are some openly accessible research items of note; four especially highly-recommended items are emboldened and marked with asterisks: ***

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Four by Rosenbaum on Fassbinder

In case you missed this, Film Studies For Free wanted you to know that, in the last two months, Jonathan Rosenbaum has been episodically publishing at his website a series of four essays that he wrote last year about various Rainer Werner Fassbinder films for Madman, the Australian DVD label. Like everything else at the site, these essays are really worth reading, so below are the direct links, and below them, you can find a short video clip from one of the films, Katzelmacher:

John Ellis: Film and TV Studies Resources Online

In yet another daring raid on a university research repository - this time, one based at Royal Holloway, University of London, home to a wonderful department of Media Arts - Film Studies For Free discovered three openly accessible articles by John Ellis, author of Visible Fictions: Cinema, Television, Video (1992), TV producer, and one of the most influential academics in the history of media theory and British cinema studies.

FSFF then extended its search for other online research items by Ellis and found the following:

FSFF also wanted to share a related, and truly excellent article by a different esteemed author, which makes much good use of Ellis's work:

Monday, 24 August 2009

The Value of Style: Film Criticism in Scholarship

"The first impulse of any good film critic, and to this I think you would agree, must be of love. To be moved enough to want to share their affection for a particular work or to relate their experience so that others may be curious. This is why criticism, teaching, and curating or programming, in an ideal sense, must all go hand in hand."
"The Letter I would Love To Read To You In Person" by Alexis Tioseco [to Nika Bohinc], July 15, 2008, pt 1, pt 2, pt 3

Image from The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

Today, Film Studies For Free is very merrily celebrating its first birthday. It is marking this auspicious date -- in style and on style -- by posting one of its longest links lists yet: to online and openly accessible articles and essays on the subject of film criticism (scholarly and otherwise) that FSFF's author has found important and/or stimulating over the last years.

FSFF would like its list to be even longer, though, so do please take note of the four headings below (on film style: on film criticism; on film critics; and important, self-reflexive, examples of film criticism online) and do let the blog know of links to other relevant work (especially to good examples of online film criticism), preferably in the comments section, please.

This post was inspired, in great part, some weeks back by the peerless Girish Shambu who launched a characteristically thoughtful and important discussion, in a blog entry entitled "Building A Large Conversation", about the divide that exists between the fields of film scholarship and film criticism. Girish wrote:

Except for a small number of invaluable critic-scholars who work to bridge the gap, the two groups similarly shy away from citing each other. Why is this so? For critics, it would require the significant effort of familiarizing themselves with scholarly literature past and present, an effort made more difficult by the presence of a specialized scholarly vocabulary. For scholars, whose jobs already require them to do vast amounts of reading, this would mean widening their field of vision to include writing in film magazines, the Internet (including blogs), and newspapers. Added to this are the demands in both professions of watching scores of films on a steady basis.

Like Girish, the many important commenters to his blog post, and other thoughtful respondents to it, such as HarryTuttle, FSFF readily acknowledges the difficulties in bridging these gaps.

In his response to Girish's post, film scholar and blogger Chris Cagle wrote eloquently and concisely about those difficulties, but in an optimistic frame, he noted that what might be needed is

a model that's different than pure specialization or pure dilettantism. For lack of a better name, I'd call it randomization. Each scholar specializes but looks to new ideas, methodologies, and inspiration in a limited fashion with the hope that collectively we mitigate the downside of stale intellectual mindsets. The journalist, blogger, or public intellectual could have a role in this.

Film Studies For Free owes its very existence to the desire to help to 'join up' scholars and critics in the global online arena. And it very much seconds Cagle's assertions about what is required to achieve this. Today, then, it reaffirms its own mission by helping to encourage a richer and more connected 'scholar-critic conversation' through the below list of 'randomly collected' but also 'specialized' links.

On a final note, FSFF has received lots of encouragement in its first year of existence, but none warmer, more timely or more generous than that given in its early days by Girish, whose own website continues to be a huge inspiration in all sorts of ways. Thanks a million to him, and to all of you who have welcomed and supported this blog. Onwards!

On film style:

On film criticism:

On film critics:

Important, self-reflexive, examples of film criticism online:

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Saturday, 22 August 2009

Happy Saturday Reading: New 'World Picture Journal'

Song of Youth (Qingchun zhi ge, directed by Cui Wei and Chen Huai’ai, 1959)

Film Studies For Free is delighted to report that the new Summer 2009 issue of World Picture Journal (number 3) has just been posted at its website. The issue is on 'Happiness'

Below are direct links to its three film-related articles. The issue also includes other wonderful essays on Adorno and John Stuart Mill, and a fabulous interview with Adam Phillips:

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Thursday Links (Renoir's Toni, Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, McElhaney's Minnelli)

And on it goes... That is to say, some more, assorted, quality links to online, openly-accessible, film studies material of note, today, from the relatively indefatigible Film Studies For Free.

This blog is preparing for a legendary links post on Monday, its first birthday, so please come back for that. Until then, do enjoy the below gems:

Despite their apparent simplicity, Akerman’s assured framing and narrative, built out of blocks of real time intercut by radical ellipses, are not easily replicated. Rather, the film’s impact is indirectly evident in the emergence of a new phenomenological sensibility and approach to observation and the weight of time in the work of contemporary filmmakers as diverse as Abbas Kiarostami, Gus van Sant, Pedro Costa, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Todd Haynes, Jia Zhangke, and Tsai Ming-liang.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

FourDocs' fabulous documentary films and resources online

Still from O Dreamland (Lindsay Anderson, UK 1953, shown as part of first Free Cinema programme in 1956)

Film Studies For Free wanted to flag up for its readers the existence of FourDocs, the great (British) Channel 4 documentary website. That is to say, it wanted to flag up its continued but not everlasting existence, that is...

According to the FourDocs weblog, the site

was set up in 2005 to provide a platform for new filmmakers to showcase their own short documentaries, receive feedback from leading industry experts and discuss them with each other. The site functioned as an online film school, with video guides covering everything from structure and lighting to editing choices. The archive timeline contextualised 30 or so definitive documentaries, such as Listen to Britain, The Lift and The Boy Who’s Skin Fell Off, and perhaps most inspirational were the interviews with award winning directors like Molly Dineen and Paul Watson.

The FourDocs site is currently 'on hold', and probably being 'reconceived' even as FSFF writes; we eagerly await information about the new form it will take.

In the meantime, Film Studies For Free urges you to take advantage of all the great resources on offer at the site while you still can, in particular its fantastic archive which includes a library of full length documentaries representing some of the best filmmaking of the past century.

See below for FSFF's A-Z list of direct links to viewable films, including classics of 1920s and 1930s British documentary, several spectacular examples of Free Cinema, and wonderful, recent documentary filmmaking. National accessibility to the films might vary, however; to be sure, once you've pressed 'play' at the site's pages, remember also to click on the arrow pointing to the bottom right hand corner of the mini video player.

FSFF thinks, though, that there are plenty of other worthwhile resources on the films accessible via these links even if there turn out to be some international restrictions on viewing. Enjoy!

  • A Visit to..., George Cricks 1906 -- A Visit to Peek Frean & Co's Biscuit Works. A promotional film that turned mechanical tedium into industrial lyricism
  • Babitsky's War, Paul Yule 2000 -- An investigation into the disappearance of a journalist in Chechnya
  • The Battle of Orgreave, Mike Figgis/Jeremy Deller 2001 -- Reconstructing miners clashing with the police in Yorkshire and looking back at the decline of coal mining in the 80s
  • Before Hindsight, Jonathan Lewis/Elizabeth Taylor-Mead 1977 -- Examining editorial attitudes in the non-fiction British cinema and newsreels of the thirties towards the rise of Fascism
  • The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, Patrick Collerton 2003 -- Hugely-influential story of a man with a rare disease that led to his skin peeling off, and his last days of life
  • The Dinner Party, Paul Watson 1997 -- Conservative voters in the home counties come together to discuss their politics.
  • Divorce Iranian Style, Kim Longinotto 2001 -- Documentary about women and divorce in Iran set in a family law court in Tehran.
  • The Drifters, John Grierson 1929 -- The lives of herring fisherman of the North Sea, as portrayed by John Grierson.
  • The Dying Room, Kate Blewett 1995 -- In 1995, Brian Woods and Kate Blewett uncovered the systematic neglect of abandoned babies in China.
  • The Firing Line, Nicholas Cohen 1996 -- Army cadets from a private school take their end of year training tests.
  • The Girl Chewing Gum, John Smith 1976 -- Pretending to direct an everyday 1970s East End street scene
  • The Grave, Belinda Giles 1997 -- A team of forensic archeologists try to piece together what happened in a massacre during the Yugoslav conflict.
  • Heart of Britain, Humphrey Jennings 1941 -- Made by Humphrey Jennings and the Ministry for Information, this film is a tribute to the workers of Britain during World War Two.
  • Housing Problems, A. Elton/E. Anstey 1935 -- Provocative depiction of living conditions in the slums in South London.
  • Industrial Britain, J.Grierson/R.Flaherty 1933 -- This film about British Industry in the 1930s portrays the industrial worker as a heroic figure, championing the craftsmanship of the individual behind the dehumanizing façade of the industrial landscape.
  • Julia's Baby, Marilyn Gaunt 1994 -- A deaf blind mother fights with social services to be able to bring up her baby.
  • The Leader..., Nick Broomfield 1991 -- The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife. Documentary about the South African neo-Nazi leader Eugene Terreblanche, and Nick Broomfield's attempts to get an interview with him.
  • The Lift, Marc Isaacs 2001 -- Marc Isaacs' award winning film set in a lift in some council flats.
  • Listen to Britain, H.Jennings/S.McAllister 1942 -- Documentary showing a Britain united in the war effort through a montage of various scenes of daily life.
  • London, Patrick Keiller 1992 -- A surreal and imaginative portrait of a depressed London in 1992, as the city lurched from one crisis to another
  • Manhunter, Witold Starecki 1996 -- Rabbi Gordon's job is to track down wayward husbands and force them to divorce their wives.
  • The Man Who..., Joseph Bullman 2000 -- The Man Who Bought Mustique. The story of Lord Glenconner from Scotland, who bought an island in the Caribbean and then lost it.
  • Momma Don't Allow, T. Richardson/K. Reisz 1956 -- A celebration of the free spirit of youth and Teddy Boys, particularly in London's 1950s working class.
  • O Dreamland, Lindsay Anderson 1956 -- The start of the Free Cinema movement, the iconic Margate funfair as a metaphor for the shabbiness of modern life
  • Operation Hurricane, Ronald Stark 1953 -- Documentary recording the construction and testing of Britain's first atomic bomb.
  • P Company, Ian Taylor 1992 -- The never seen before and brutal four week selection test for the elite parachute regiment.
  • Seven Days in Hell, Sue Bourne 1993 -- Businessmen go on an outward bound course that makes P Company look like a picnic.
  • Soldat, Paul Jenkins 2001 -- Documentary about the once great but now decaying Russian Army and the soldiers forced to endure it.
  • Sunday Sport, Norman Hull 1997 -- Inside the newsroom of the newspaper that everyone pretends they don't buy.
  • Terminus, John Schlesinger 1961 -- Observational film looking at the comings and goings of London's Waterloo railway station.
  • This is a True Story, Paul Berczeller 2003 --Investigating the mysterious death of a Japanese girl in Fargo, USA
  • The Unforgiving, Clive Gordon 1993 -- Documentary about the conflict in former Yugoslavia.
  • The Valley, Dan Reed 1999 -- The plight of the Albanian population in Kosovo.
  • The Wet House, Penny Woolcock 2002 -- Observing Providence Row refuge for the alcoholic homeless, a place where the residents can drink as much as they like

This and that (Perkins, Rich on Kuchar Bros, Westerns, Fan Videos, Timecode, Kubrick and the Coens)

Trailer for It Came From Kuchar - As Alexandra Juhasz writes at Media Praxis: '[This] documentary does little more than let the brothers, their films, and fans speak for themselves. And what more do we need? Inventive, life-long bohemians making their work outside dominant structures and to an international fanbase of crazed cineastes. As I implied regarding Fig Trees recently: it becomes an increasingly rare pleasure to see work that resides outside the dumbed down regime of the popular.'

Having been briefly out of action, Film Studies For Free is sorting through its in-tray and to-do lists. Below are some assorted bits of online news and links that it wanted you not to miss:

In this audio interview Emmy Winner Charlotte Robinson talks with B Ruby Rich, American Scholar and Film Critic about Director Jennifer M. Kroot’s documentary “It Came From Kuchar.” Long before YouTube, there were the outrageous, no-budget movies of underground, filmmaking twins George and Mike Kuchar. George and Mike grew up in the Bronx in the 1950’s. At the age of twelve, they became obsessed with Hollywood melodramas and began making their own homespun melodramas with their aunt’s 8mm camera. They used their friends and family as actors and their Bronx neighborhood as their set. Early Kuchar titles featured in this film include “I Was A Teenage Rumpot” and “Born of the Wind”. In the early 1960’s, alongside Andy Warhol, the Kuchar brothers shaped the New York underground film scene. Known as the “8mm Mozarts”, their films were noticeably different than other underground films of the time. They were wildly funny, but also human and vulnerable. Their films have inspired many filmmakers, including John Waters, Buck Henry, Atom Egoyan, Guy Maddin and Wayne Wang (all are interviewed in this film). Despite having high profile fans, the Kuchars remain largely unknown because they are only ambitious to make movies, not to be famous.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Reverse Shot Symposium on Claire Denis

Home recovering from the flu (yes, that flu), Film Studies For Free wanted to let its readers know of some great new essays published by Reverse Shot, the quarterly, independently published film journal, on the work of French director Claire Denis (a firm-favourite filmmaker of this blog and its author). Links to the written essays and interview are below. But there's also a beautifully put-together video essay on Denis's film L'Intrus (2004) by Kevin B. Lee that FSFF also highly recommends.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Studies of 'Third Cinema' and anti-Eurocentric film culture

Subtitled introduction to the first part of Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino's 1968 Third Cinema classic La hora de los hornos/The Hour of the Furnaces (made by the Grupo Cine Liberación collecive), 1968 on YouTube. Also see the first part ('Neocolonialismo y violencia'/'Neocolonialism and Violence') in its entirety, without subtitles, HERE.

Two events in particular provoked Film Studies For Free's posting, today, of a webliography of openly accessible, online material about Third Cinema and anti-Eurocentric film culture: the revamping of the website of Michael Chanan, one of the most important anglophone writers on Third Cinema (note the updated page for his online essays and papers and his new blog address); and the publication of a new issue of online film journal Offscreen (volume 13, issue 6), with an article on Third Cinema by Nicola Marzano.

The film-studies links are below, but first, here are links to three essential 'Third Cinema' Manifestos: Julio García Espinosa, 'For an Imperfect Cinema' ; Glauber Rocha, 'Aesthetic of Hunger'; and Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, 'Towards a Third Cinema' (Published online courtesy of Revolutionen aus dem Off: EINE RETROSPEKTIVE DES DRITTEN KINOS IM AUFBRUCH, ZEUGHAUSKINO BERLIN, April 18-May 27, 2009)