Thursday, 25 March 2010

New Issue of Scope online now: Lynch, Haneke, horror, Spanish comedy, auteurism and digital cinema

Image from Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)

Film Studies For Free is delighted, as ever, to announce that a new issue of Scope: An Online Journal of Film and Television Studies has been published.

It's yet another extremely successful issue for this journal, with a full set of very strong articles, and a rich offering of book and film reviews, plus conference reports. The full table of contents is reproduced below with direct links to all items.

FSFF particularly liked Matthew Croombs' article on afterwardsness and trauma in two films by Resnais and Haneke.

Scope #16 (February 2010)


Book Reviews

Film Reviews

Conference Reports

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Hollywood Left and the Blacklist Era

Private Property - Joseph Losey's The Prowler by Matt Zoller Seitz 

at The L Magazine, March 2010
(also see Justin Stewart's essay on this film in the same issue)
A ghost town also frames the haunting final scenes of Joseph Losey's The Prowler, when an adulterous couple (Evelyn Keyes and Van Heflin) take refuge in an abandoned Mojave desert village so that the woman can secretly give birth to their child. Webb killed Susan Gilvray's husband, successfully making it look like an accident, and he fears that proof of their affair will put him under suspicion.
He's a shady, disaffected cop who first meets Susan when he responds to her report of a prowler. She's a lonely housewife whose husband is an all-night DJ, a disembodied voice on the radio, unable to provide her with the child she craves. Webb takes one look at the wistful blonde and her luxurious Spanish-style suburban palace and decides he wants both. Reluctantly Susan succumbs to his aggressive persistence, as he keeps turning up to investigate an imaginary intruder, finally gunning down her husband, ostensibly by mistake. Fragile and passive, Susan believes Webb's story and marries him; their wedding is mirrored by a funeral at the church across the street.
Isolated in the desert ruin, Susan struggles through a difficult labor. The refuge turns deadly, with dust storms raging, and in desperation Webb finally fetches a doctor to save his wife, and she learns the truth about him when she realizes he plans to kill the man who saved her. The setting is appropriate: though they conceived a child, their relationship built on greed and deception is more barren than Susan's first, childless marriage.   Imogen Sara Smith, 'In Lonely Places: Film Noir Outside the City', Bright Lights Film Journal, Issue 65, August 2009 [my emphasis]
Film Studies For Free, a born "fellow traveller" blog if ever there was one, today brings you some choice links to high quality material pertaining to the study of the Hollywood Blacklist era.

The post begins with Matt Zoller Seitz's latest video essay - a wonderful dissection of Joseph Losey's 1951 film noir thriller The Prowler. This was one of the last films Losey made in Hollywood before fleeing the US, refusing to inform on his friends to the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Zoller Seitz compellingly teases out The Prowler's concerns with social class and property; these would become even more central themes in Losey's film work after his exile to England.  

Friday, 19 March 2010

Read all about it: first issue of Celebrity Studies

Publicity shot of the celebratedly "eternally young"
(boyishly middle-aged) film star Jackie Chan

Film Studies For Free is delighted to flag up Routledge's new journal Celebrity Studies as its inaugural issue is available free to download online. A quick glance at the names of editors and contributors will show that this is a highly worthwhile new venture. A detailed examination of its rationale and its contents underscores that very positive first impression.

Celebrity Studies focuses on the critical exploration of celebrity, stardom and fame. It seeks to make sense of celebrity by drawing upon a range of (inter)disciplinary approaches, media forms, historical periods and national contexts.

FSFF's increasingly ancient author particularly enjoyed the most 'film studies' oriented article in this issue: Chris Holmlund's wonderful essay 'Celebrity, Ageing, And Jackie Chan: Middle-Aged Asian In Transnational Action'. Below is the abstract for that contribution, and below that are direct links to all the issue's contents:
Assessing ageing is one of the key tasks confronting celebrity and star studies today. If film could reflect upon its own relation to death only from the 1950s on, in films such as Sunset boulevard (1950) and Whatever happened to Baby Jane (1962), where 'the aging process of the first generation of stars exposed a glamour worn thin on screen', today 'the allure of the star' is most definitely 'inseparable from his or her heroism and ruin' (Celeste 2005, Journal of Popular Film and Television, 33, pp. 32, 29). Today, moreover, middle age increasingly matters. With 78 million people in the US aged 44-62, internet and print marketing, movies, television and more tout rejuvenation through Botox, steroids, plastic surgery and wardrobe/cosmetic make-overs. Hollywood stars and celebrities point us towards a brave new world where mature adulthood is seen primarily in chronological, biological and medical terms. It is no coincidence that photographs of healthy, wealthy stars grace each issue of AARP Magazine. Trainers, nips, tucks, lighting, make-up and digital retouching all help. Nor is it coincidence that roughly half are men - most white; a goodly number black. What, however, of middle-aged, Asian, male celebrities? Global mega-star Jackie Chan offers the perfect opportunity to explore ageing, race and masculinity in transnational action. Drawing upon Gina Marchetti's analysis of Chan's 'flexible masculinity' in the Rush hour trilogy (2009), I study the nine films released theatrically post-2000 featuring the middle-aged star. In conclusion, I speculate upon what the future will bring, remembering that we are all 'aged by culture.' Screen Actors Guild (SAG) statistics chillingly indicate just how few roles are available to actors (if especially to actresses) of all races after 40. Asians in particular are marginalised. Might other models of ageing be possible? How do film stars and celebrities impact upon conceptions and experiences of ageing today in our increasingly 'mediagenic' culture? Jackie Chan serves here as 'special case' and as 'test case'.

Volume 1, Issue 1: Table of Contents


      Celebrity Forum:

        Book Reviews:

          Wednesday, 17 March 2010

          Dorothy Arzner and female film authorship

          Like some film blogs of great note, Film Studies For Free has been pondering Kathryn Bigelow's recent Oscar for achievement in film directing. All in all, it concurs with Steven Shaviro's assessment in his wonderful recent blogpost on this event:
          Given the Academy’s lame choices for best film and best director over the years, Bigelow’s Oscars can scarcely be credited as a verification or proof of her auteurial status; but I am nonetheless greatly pleased, and indeed thrilled, and indeed a bit amazed, that so singular and powerful an artist has actually (and quite unusually) received this sort of recognition.
          FSFF's very own Bigelow links post is in preparation, but today, in part prompted by an excellent article in the latest issue of Sight & Sound by Sophie Mayer, this blog brings you a little list of links to online and openly accessible scholarly writing touching on the wonderful work of Dorothy Arzner, one of Bigelow's (acclaimed but unrewarded by the Academy) female forbears in the commercially-successful, Hollywood, movie-directing business.

          Like Bigelow, Arzner has been a hugely important figure to feminist film scholars and theorists, and so some of the work below explores her work in that context.

          The Digital Humanities: Culture Machine Call for Papers

          Image from The Pillow Book (Peter Greenaway, 1996)

          Every so often, Film Studies For Free chooses to circulate important calls for papers for kindred-spirited projects. The CFP for the longstanding advocate of Open Access scholarship Culture Machine below falls absolutely into that category. The CFP says it welcomes "papers that ... suggest a new, somewhat different take on the relationship between the humanities and the digital". It seems to FSFF that some Audiovisual/Moving Image Studies material would be essential to that take, especially when it comes to thinking about  scholarship beyond the written text....


          Special issue of Culture Machine, vol. 12;
          edited by Federica Frabetti (Oxford Brookes University)

          The emerging field of the Digital Humanities can broadly be understood as embracing all those scholarly activities in the humanities that involve writing about digital media and technology as well as being engaged in processes of digital media production and practice (e.g. developing new media theory, creating interactive electronic literature, building online databases and wikis). Perhaps most notably, in what some are describing as a ‘computational turn’, it has seen techniques and methodologies drawn from Computer Science – image processing, data visualisation, network analysis – being used increasingly to produce new ways of understanding and approaching humanities texts.

          Yet just as interesting as what Computer Science has to offer the humanities, surely, is the question of what the humanities have to offer Computer Science; and, beyond that, what the humanities themselves can bring to the understanding of the digital. Do the humanities really need to draw so heavily on Computer Science to develop their sense of what the Digital Humanities might be? Already in 1990 Mark Poster was arguing that ‘the relation to the computer remains one of misrecognition’ in the field of Computer Science, with the computer occupying ‘the position of the imaginary’ and being ‘inscribed with transcendent status’. If so, this has significant implications for any so-called ‘computational turn’ in the humanities. For on this basis Computer Science does not seem all that well-equipped to understand even itself and its own founding object, concepts and concerns, let alone help with those of the humanities.

          In this special issue of Culture Machine we are therefore interested in investigating something that may initially appear to be a paradox: to what extent is it possible to envisage Digital Humanities that go beyond the disciplinary objects, affiliations, assumptions and methodological practices of computing and Computer Science?

          At the same time the humanities are not without blindspots and elements of misrecognition of their own. Take the idea of the human. For all the radical interrogation of this concept over the last 100 years or so, not least in relation to technology, doesn’t the mode of research production in the humanities remain very much tied to that of the individualized, human author? (Isn’t this evident in different ways even in the work of such technology-conscious anti-humanist thinkers as Deleuze, Guattari, Kittler, Latour, Negri, Ranciere and Stiegler?)

          So what are the implications and possibilities of ‘the digital beyond computing’ for the humanities and for some of the humanities’ own central or founding concepts, too? The human, and with it the human-ities; but also the subject, the author, the scholar, writing, the text, the book, the discipline, the university...

          What would THAT kind of (reconfigured) Digital Humanities look like?

          We welcome papers that address the above questions and that suggest a new, somewhat different take on the relationship between the humanities and the digital.

          Deadline for submissions: 1 October 2010

          Please submit your contributions by email to Federica Frabetti:

          All contributions will be peer-reviewed.

          Established in 1999, CULTURE MACHINE is a fully refereed, open-access journal of cultural studies and cultural theory. It has published work by established figures such as Mark Amerika, Alain Badiou, Simon Critchley, Jacques Derrida, Henry Giroux, Mark Hansen, N. Katherine Hayles, Ernesto Laclau, J. Hillis Miller, Bernard Stiegler, Cathryn Vasseleu and Samuel Weber, but it is also open to publications by up-and-coming writers, from a variety of geopolitical locations.

          Gary Hall
          Professor of Media and Performing Arts
          School of Art and Design, Coventry University
          Co-editor of Culture Machine
          Co-founder of the Open Humanities Press

          My website

          Latest: 'Deleuze's "Postscript on the Societies of Control"', Culture Machine 11, 2010

          Saturday, 13 March 2010

          Deleuzian film studies in memory of David Vilaseca

          Image of Ingrid Bergman as Karin in Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)
          For [French philosopher Henri] Bergson, the brain does not produce a representation of what it perceives. Perception is the mutual influence of images upon one another, of which the brain is only another image—it does not “produce” anything, but filters impulses into actions or non-actions. The implications for film are two-fold. By addressing the perceiving subject as one image among the world of images, Bergson steps outside models that locate perception and memory within the mind of the subject. I would further suggest, following [Gilles] Deleuze, that Bergson’s theory of matter allows us to see film not as a fixed representation, a concrete image of a “real” object, but as an image in its own right, with its own duration and axes of movement. What we might call the film-image thus occurs in the gap between subject and object, through the collision of affective images.
          Deleuze’s formulation of the film-image as a mobile assemblage (sometimes a frame, sometimes a shot, a sound, or the film as a whole) lends itself to this reading. It refuses to reduce the physical image on the screen to a mere reproduction of an assumed “real” object it represents. Such a formulation similarly reevaluates the relationship between the concrete optical and sonic images that comprise the film. Rather than conceiving of each component as a “building block,” it allows for the shifting conglomerations of elements which are themselves dynamic and mobile. A film cannot be distilled to a structure that originates from outside itself. Instead, each film-image is contingent, particular, and evolving.
          The distinction between the time- and movement-images becomes more clear in this context. Rather than a question of either content or form, the difference lies in their affective power, whether they are bent toward action, in the case of the movement image, or if they open into different temporal modalities. It is in this second case that the time-image falls, and it is here that Deleuze locates the creative potential of film. This potential does not exist solely within the physical image itself, however, but is contained as well in the modes of perception and thinking that it triggers. Much like the time-image, the mental faculty most attuned to the openness of time, according to Bergson, is that of intuition.
          Amy Herzog, 'Affectivity, Becoming, and the Cinematic Event: Gilles Deleuze and the Futures of Feminist Film Theory', in Koivunen A. & Paasonen S. (eds),Conference proceedings for affective encounters: rethinking embodiment in feminist media studies , University of Turku, School of Art, Literature and Music, Media Studies, Series A, No. 49
          Film Studies For Free lovingly presents its long list of links to online and openly accessible film-studies resources of note pertaining to the work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Like lots of continental theorists invoked in Film Studies, 'Deleuze' has been somewhat of a moveable feast, but, as the links below testify, in recent years this particular feast has been a highly nourishing one for a variety of approaches to this discipline.

          This FSFF entry is one of two posts to be dedicated to the fond memory of David Vilaseca, Professor of Hispanic Studies and Critical Theory at Royal Holloway, University of London. Professor Vilaseca tragically died in a road traffic accident in London on February 9, 2010. His achievements in life were many, as this touching obituary written by his good friend and mentor Professor Paul Julian Smith eloquently sets out. Both in person and in his writing he was an inspiration. He will be much missed.

          FSFF's author had met David Vilaseca on a number of occasions over the years and is a keen follower of his brilliant work on queer, Catalan, and Hispanic culture. She wishes to express her sincere condolences to David's family, friends, and colleagues.

          David Vilaseca had a particular interest in Deleuzian philosophy as well as in the critique of Deleuze's work by fellow French philosopher Alain Badiou. Three of his related essays are linked to below, and interested FSFF readers should also look out for his third book Negotiating the Event: Post-deconstructive Subjectivities in Spanish Literature and Film, to be published this Autumn, which will undoubtedly explore further the pertinence of Deleuze and Badiou's work for film studies.

          Good Film and Cultural Studies-related Deleuzian websites:
                  Deleuzian film studies:
                  • Kara Keeling, 'Deleuze and Cinema', Critical Commons, 2010 ("The following selection of film clips from films discussed by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze were compiled in the Fall of 2009 by the participants in Professor Kara Keeling's Critical Studies graduate seminar on Deleuze and Culture at the University of Southern California")

                              Wednesday, 3 March 2010

                              B for Bad Cinema: Colloquy from Monash

                              Image from Snakes on a Plane (David R. Ellis, 2006); Read Kirsten Stevens's article Snakes on a Plane and the prefabricated cult film' (pdf) from the new issue of Colloquy

                              It's going to continue to be a little quiet around here at Film Studies For Free as its author busies herself with finishing off a couple of video essays that will be posted here very shortly.

                              The essays will also form the basis of two talks to be given in the next few weeks: on March 8 at Liverpool John Moores University; and on March 17 at the University of Sussex (details to follow).

                              The title of both talks, as per the following abstract, is:
                              Quote/Unquote? The "Unattainable [Film] Text" in the Age of Digital Reproduction
                              Following the lead of scholars Christian Keathley, Eric Faden, Jason Mittell, Andrew Miller and Craig Cieslikowski in the summary of their conference panel on The Scholarship of Sound and Image: Producing Media Criticism in the Digital Age (MIT6, Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission, April 24-26, 2009), in this talk Catherine Grant will revisit Raymond Bellour's essay on 'The Unattainable Text' (Screen, Vol 16, No 3, 1975: 19-27), as well as Laura Mulvey's more recent considerations of film 'possession', and 'pensiveness' in the digital age (Death 24x a Second (London: Reaktion, 2006). Then she will examine the issue of film quotation in audiovisual work, as well as, more generally, the possibilities offered to film studies by the rising generation of online digital-video essays about films and film theory.

                              All articles are in pdf format. To download the whole issue as one file, click Issue 18.

                              B for Bad Cinema from Colloquy (Monash University), Issue 18, December 2009