Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Art of Fugue: on Marguerite Duras's Film Aesthetics

Excerpt from the opening sequence of India Song (Marguerite Duras, 1975)
The repetition of situations, events, memories, and words abounds in Duras's texts. This repetition seems to emphasize the changing, unstable aspect of memory and language and move the reader to question his or her own memory and examine the dynamics of forgetting. . . . memory is seen as volatile and impossible. [...] It is a remembering that destroys memory and leads to a new memory, which can replace the last only fleetingly and without substance [...]. [Carol Hoffman, Forgetting and Marguerite Duras (University of Colorado Press, 1991): 35-6] 
Impossible de parler de HIROSHIMA. Tout ce qu’on peut faire c’est de parler de l’impossibilité de parler de HIROSHIMA. / It is impossible to speak about Hiroshima. All one can do is to speak of the impossibility of speaking of Hiroshima [Marguerite Duras, Script of Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais, 1960)]
Marguerite Duras s'avère savoir sans moi ce que j'enseigne / Marguerite Duras turns out to know what I teach without me [Jacques Lacan, "Hommage fait à Marguerite Duras du ravissement de Lol v. Stein," Ornicar? 34, Paris: Navarin, 1985]
The cinema of Marguerite Duras is characterized by the notion that a film is nothing but a highly complex mental construct, a universe where memories and senses are reorganized under subjective orders. In contrast to other filmmakers who probably share the same notion (Alain Resnais, for instance), Duras relies heavily on the power of sound and particularly the suggestive power of the human voice to provoke and promote an active participation of the spectator’s imaginative process.
[Dong Liang, 'Marguerite Duras's Aural World: A study of the mise-en-son of India Song', Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, Volume 1, Issue 2, Autumn 2007, pp. 123-139]
Duras’s spectators must play an essentially active and creative role and question the concepts of listening and looking, as well as the relationship between the two. [Wendy Everett, 'An Art of Fugue? The Polyphonic Cinema of Marguerite Duras', in Williams, J. (ed.), Revisioning Duras: Film, Race, Sex (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), pp. 21-36,  33]
[W]e are perpetually forced to recognize that changing rhythms and contextual juxtapositions [in Duras's cinema] do not fulfill a narrative function, at least not in the accepted notion, but exist to create internal patterns or variations that themselves express the film’s themes, and gradually develop its potential meanings
[Wendy Everett, ‘Director as Composer: Marguerite Duras and the Music Analogy’, Literature Film Quarterly,  Vol. 26, no. 2, 1998, 124–129: 127]

Film Studies For Free has been pondering the films of Marguerite Duras a lot recently. This happens fairly often, its true (FSFF's author first alighted on and fell in love with Planète Duras during a year abroad in France at the tender age of 20).

But, this week its ponderings have particularly been provoked by catching up with an experimental feature-length film -- cinematically complex and ambitious on a Durasian scale, and with some notably similar fugue techniques and themes -- made by a former colleague and friend, which is about to begin a two week run at London's ICA (there's a Q and A with the director and others on September 1). Do catch it if you can.

Perestroika -- written, directed, edited and produced by film artist (and academic) Sarah Turner -- has already been shown at a number of key film festivals, and will also very shortly be making a critical splash as the chosen "Film of the Month" in Sight and Sound's October issue, with a long review by Chris Darke. In the meantime you can read a lot more about it here and at FSFF's little sister site Filmanalytical, too, where you can watch a short excerpt.

Today's links list may be relatively small, but it is perfectly formed with some extremely high quality and, delightfully, freely accessible studies of Duras's film aesthetics.

Full Length Feature Films Free Online via BFI and Daily Motion

Film Studies For Free can't believe its eyes!!

The British Film Institute has entered into a partnership with the advertising-supported, video-streaming site Daily Motion to provide access to some of the incredible wealth of films that the BFI has funded and distributed over many years.

Currently, as of today, the new channel is hosting 47 films of varying lengths, from amazing silents to rare poetic documentaries (like Chris Petit's Radio On), as well as some incredibly important live action and animated fiction films, including a number of otherwise hard to see works by Terrence Davies and Lotte Reininger.

A must-visit site and a hugely laudable resource. Thank you BFI.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Dreaming Movies: RIP Satoshi Kon (1963-2010)

Image from Ohayo/Good Morning (part of Ani*Kuri15) (Satoshi Kon, 2008) See the video embedded below

[...] Kon fully takes advantage of what makes animated films unique. [His film Paprika (2006)] is ultimately a dream about movies, as well as a movie about dreams. The way characters jump in and out of settings first made me think of Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr., perhaps the original virtual reality movie. One can also easily link Paprika to such films as David Cronenberg's eXistenZ. In another moment that may be a nod to Cronenberg, two of the characters jump into a television screen. Because this is a truly animated film, Kon creates a universe where a long office hallway and walls suddenly undulate with the solidity of a half-filled waterbed, characters in advertisements leap out into other billboards or out into the streets, and giant toy dolls threaten the planet.
It is the dense and detailed imagery that makes Paprika stand out. Frames are crowded with giant marching frogs, large appliances and living dolls. The goofy spirit of the film is close to the self-refererential work of the Fleischer Brothers' earlier work with Koko the Clown and Betty Boop. The story loops around itself like a mobius strip, with dreams and dreams within dreams.
Paprika, the character, dreams of a street where there are old fashion movie theaters, one of which shows Roman Holiday. Kon even has a character going to a multiplex that is showing nothing but Kon's previous features on each of the screens. Movies have informed Kon's films, so that Perfect Blue is an anime thriller that has reminders of Hitchcock, De Palma and Argento. Tokyo Godfathers, with both its plot about an abandoned baby and Christmas setting could well have been inspired by John Ford's Three Godfathers. While Kon has not cited specific films as influences on Paprika, he did agree with the observation that his new film was "like a collision of Hello Kitty and Philip K.Dick." [Peter Nellhaus, 'Aurora (Colorado) Asian Film Festival, Part 3', Coffee coffee and more coffee, June 3, 2007]

Film Studies For Free was very sad to hear of the untimely death at the age of 46 of Japanese  anime auteur Satoshi Kon. Paprika, the film Peter Nellhaus is referring to above, a complex and densely entertaining oneiric thriller, was one of FSFF's author's favourite animated films of recent years.

Kon directed his first film, Perfect Blue, in 1997, followed by Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika, and the television series Paranoia Agent. A fifth film, The Dream Machine, is still in production at the time of his death.

Some great memorial linkage about Kon has been posted in the last few days by David Hudson. But there are not too many online scholarly studies of Kon's work yet, sadly, though FSFF is sure that will change. For now, then, here are some links to the very worthwhile resources and discussions that have been made freely accessible.

    Tuesday, 24 August 2010

    Immaturity Abides! On Teen, "Gross Out" and Dumbass Comedy

    Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)

    Film Studies For Free is two years old today. You go, blog!

    In honour of its tentative entry into digital post-toddlerdom (and hopefully not the terrible twos), it wanted to celebrate online and openly accessible studies of what FSFF likes to think of (in its über-scholarly way) as those liminal film genres and cycles of comic immaturity, awkwardness, stupidity, and tastelessness -- that is to say, all varieties of the teen (or arrested development) comedy (including the "teen sex comedy", the "gross-out" comedy, comic "dude flicks" and "bromances"), as well as studies of related issues.

    Today's scattershot links list is partly an offshoot of FSFF's recent entry on the romantic comedy, and partly its first experiment in "crowdsourcing" via its blossoming Facebook page. Thanks so much to those who suggested items there.

    If anyone else has any bright ideas for further additions, do please 'fess up. FSFF earnestly promises that you won't be ritually humiliated, or mercilessly laughed at, at all  :o)

                          Friday, 20 August 2010

                          Lots of Film Studies PhD Theses Online

                          Masculine 'musculinity' (almost) all grown up -  Sylvester Stallone, in The Expendables ( Stallone, 2010). (See Yvonne Tasker's PhD on masculinity and action movies)

                          It was time for one of Film Studies For Free's regular visits to a research repository search-engine to see which PhD theses have been made openly accessible online since this blog last took a look.

                          A few of the below PDF files have been linked to before by FSFF but the vast majority have not come up in earlier searches. And there are some fabulous items here: such as Yvonne Tasker's paradigm shifting thesis on gender and action cinema, and Donato Totaro on time and the long take in the cinema. And what a truly astounding variety of topics!

                          Routledge Film Studies free online: Celebrity and Stardom; European Cinema; Race and Film; and Audience and Spectatorship

                          Update at 14.33 BST: The PDF files linked to here are currently not working. Will sort out and update as soon as possible. Apologies for any inconvenience.
                          Cate Blanchett as Galadriel in the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
                          While it is often the emergence of exceptions that proves rules, the very existence of Film Studies For Free shows that there might occasionally be such a thing as a free lunch.

                          At the same time, this wily blog is certainly no purist when it comes to campaigning for Open Access in scholarly publishing. FSFF's inbuilt pragmatism means that it is always very happy to pass on news of the experiments of otherwise 'closed' or 'subscription only' academic publishers with marketing strategies involving limited free online access to their scholarly publications.

                          While there is, as yet, no challenger on the horizon to Intellect's extensive championing of the Film Studies freebie, publishing giant Routledge is currently offering up occasional free 'article collections' for particular subjects. Their Film Studies collection is focused on the following four key themes: Celebrity and Stardom; European Cinema; Race and Film; and Audience and Spectatorship.

                          Free access to the below articles in their current collection will last until December 31, 2010, so do be sure to download them before then.

                            Saturday, 14 August 2010

                            A Fistful of "Spaghetti Western" Studies

                            BFI Researcher's Tales: Sir Christopher Frayling on Spaghetti Westerns 
                            (Frayling is author of Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans From Karl May to Sergio Leone [London: I.B.Tauris, 1981, 1998]; Sergio Leone: Something To Do With Death [London: Faber and Faber, 2000]; and
                            Sergio Leone: Once Upon a Time in Italy [London: Thames and Hudson, 2005]).

                            It was the spaghetti Westerns… that first eliminated the morality-play dimension and turned the Western into pure violent reverie [...] What made these [...] popular was that they stripped the Western form of its cultural burden of morality. They discarded its civility along with its hypocrisy. In a sense, they liberated the form: what the Western hero stood for was left out, and what he embodied (strength and gun power) was retained. Abroad, that was probably what he had represented all along.
                            Pauline Kael, Killing Time, in Karl French (ed.), Screen Violence (London: Bloomsbury, 1974), pp. 171-178: 172.

                            Today, to accompany its list of links to openly accessible scholarly studies of the Spaghetti (or Italian, or Euro) Western, and related topics, the normally garrulous Film Studies For Free was going to treat its readers to an improbable, digital impersonation of  Clint Eastwood's performance as the Man With No Name in what is often called "The Dollars Trilogy" directed by Sergio Leone.

                            Sadly, no dice: while it looks good in a poncho, not only does FSFF fall short in performing moral ambiguity, but it's also fairly hopeless when it comes to capturing taciturnity. 


                            Do please enjoy the links, anyway. Grazie.

                            Tuesday, 10 August 2010

                            In-Sight from Excursions: action movies, neuroscience, dreamscapes, intermediality and spectatorship

                            Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)
                            The image seems to be a way of marking such a potential separation between exterior and interior while belonging to both. Moreover, that condition of holding ‘in sight’, as a means of externalisation as belonging to the image, is realised in the easy conceptual slippage from ‘in sight’ to ‘insight’- originally ‘internal sight’ or seeing with the eyes of the mind, that later becomes a seeing into a thing or subject. To bring an object within sight is to affect the ‘inner eye’, to re-formulate the relationship of the visible to the invisible, presence to absence.  Lindsay Smith, 'Foreword: In-Sight', Excursions, Vol. 1, Issue 1 (June 2010), i-ii

                            Thanks to the regular updates to Jurn, the excellent search-engine that Film Studies For Free uses in its every waking hour (and then dreams of every night), FSFF found its way to a newish e-journal -- Excursions -- with a first issue replete with interesting and, yes, insightful items on film.

                            Its Mission Statement reads as follows:
                            Excursions is an invitation to journey into the unfamiliar, a space in which to reflect upon the travels of concepts, beyond the boundaries of one’s discipline. An on-line peer-reviewed journal, Excursions is designed to showcase high-quality, innovative and inventive postgraduate research. Run by postgraduates in the School of English at the University of Sussex, we aim to encourage work that plays with the permeable nature of academic disciplines. As such, our interest lies in the interdisciplinary. Each issue of the journal has a theme which contributors can interpret as they see fit. We welcome critical papers or creative pieces and seek to place cultural, political, artistic and scientific discourses together in surprising combinations and illuminating moments of collision.
                            And here is the table of contents:


                            Monday, 9 August 2010

                            "Bollywood" for Beginners and Beyond: Introductions to Popular Hindi Cinema Studies

                            Kajol and Shahrukh Khan in  Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge / The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride (Aditya Chopra, 1995)

                            With a wary eye on the fast-approaching (in many places at least) and not-so-mellow fruitfulness of a new academic year, Film Studies For Free today brings you its handy guide to online introductions to popular Hindi cinema.

                            Not all of the wonderful, openly accessible resources linked to below the embedded video are designed for those new to this core academic film studies subject, but all are clearly written, and thus very accessible, as well as highly informative to those at many different stages in their scholarly fascination with this most popular of world cinemas.

                            Talking of fascination, a nice place to start might be Jonathan Torgovnik's wonderful online portfolio of photographs: Bollywood Dreams (Phaidon Press, 2003).

                            Discussion between author Anupama Chopra, leading filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and Bollywood expert and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at NYU Tejaswini Ganti. The discussion is moderated by Richard Allen, Chair of Cinema Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts.

                            Friday, 6 August 2010

                            Good Fella: Martin Scorsese Studies

                            Updated August 19, 2010
                            Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

                            (Persevere beyond the opening few minutes - it's worth it)

                            Here's a not so little links list that Film Studies For Free has been concocting for tanto tempo... It's a collection of mostly academic, and all great quality, studies of the work of American filmmaker Martin Scorsese, one of the most utterly beloved of all directors among Film Studies undergraduates. And with Afterhours, Goodfellas and The Age of Innocence among this blog's author's favourite films, who is FSFF to disagree with such intensity?

                            Suggestions for any high-quality additions to this list would be most welcome.