Thursday, 29 September 2011

¡Viva Raúl Ruiz!

Video essay-tribute by Catherine Grant
The above is a very short study of a sequence from Diálogos de exiliados/Dialogues of Exiles (France, 1974/5), an extremely low-budget film written and directed in Paris by the late and much lamented Raúl Ruiz. Diálogos was the first film to be made by that filmmaker in exile from Chile, with many of his countrymen and women, after Augusto Pinochet's 1973 coup d'état against the legally elected Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende. Controversially, at the time, it wasn't exactly the most conventional, or, despite its satire, the most crowd-pleasing 'exile' or 'solidarity' film that could have been made in those circumstances. And yet, as Zuzana Pick wrote of it, "[Diálogos] can fulfill the function that Ruiz intended for it by provoking dialogue. With its clear and evocative title, this first work of Chile’s cinema of resistance inserts itself into the struggle against fascism."
A few weeks back, Film Studies For Free published a sincerely felt tribute to the recently deceased Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz. The tribute took the customary, if somewhat impersonal, form for this blog: a long list of links to openly-accessible scholarly and critical writing on Ruiz's work.

Shortly after that list appeared, though, FSFF's author was asked for a more personal response to the work of one of her favourite film artists: to contribute some thoughts on a beloved moment in Ruiz's films to a wonderful collection of such thoughts -- by critics, academics, and people who knew the Chilean filmmaker -- currently being published in serial form at the MUBI Notebook.

This was how the above, little video tribute came into being. The links to all the contributions are being added below as they, also, appear online.

Many thanks to David Phelps for his wonderful work of commissioning and curation. It was a real pleasure, albeit quite a poignant one, to take part, and an honour to have one's work published in such excellent, international company.


  • The Golden Boat (1990) by C. Mason Wells
  • Poetics of Cinema (1994/2005) by Matthew Flanagan
  • Shattered Image (1998) by Zach Campbell
  • “Los dos caminos” / “The Two Paths” by Cristián Sánchez Garfias
  • Time Regained (Le temps retrouvé, 1999) by David Pendleton
  • Cofralandes, Chilean Rhapsody (2002) by Quintín
  • Klimt (2006) by Adrian Martin
  • A Closed Book (2010) by David Phelps
  • Mysteries of Lisbon (2010) by Carlos Losilla

    Monday, 26 September 2011

    Thrilling the Ears: Sound in Hitchcock's cinema

    Hitchcock's use of sound in Blackmail and Murder is important in three respects. As historical documents the two films overturn some accepted notions of what was technically possible in filming with immobilized cameras and uneditable sound systems. As personal documents they represent Hitchcock's first major experiments in combining sound and image in ways that would not subordinate pictures to dialogue. As films that extend Hitchcock's expressionistic interests into the sound era, they reveal Hitchcock's earliest efforts to use aural techniques to convey a character's feelings. In addition, Blackmail already establishes Hitchcock's predilection for integrating music and sound effects with plot and theme, and it introduces most of his favorite aural motifs. Both films are interesting historically, but Blackmail is the more successful work of art because its aural techniques and motifs are an integral part of a stylistic whole. [Elisabeth Weis, Chapter 2: "First Experiments with Sound: Blackmail and Murder", in The Silent Scream - Alfred Hitchcocks Soundtrack (Rutherford, Fairleigh: Dickinson University Press, 1982), p. 28]
    A new academic year is upon us and Film Studies For Free's author is very happily gearing up to teach, inter alia, Alfred Hitchcock's film Blackmail for the umpteenth time.

    It's a truly great teaching topic, one which usually takes off from the fact that Hitchcock converted his silent film to sound during its production. And it has very fruitfully inspired today's entry on scholarship about sound in Hitchcock's cinema.

    There are some excellent, openly accessible resources linked to below, most notably Elisabeth Weis's wonderful book on this topic, now added to FSFF's permanent listing of online and freely accessible Film Studies e-books.

    Friday, 23 September 2011

    Surveillance Film Studies

    Call Northside 777 (Henry Hathaway, 1948). Take a look at
    Hannah Gregory's great visual essay on this film

    Today, the compulsively unsecretive, positively Panoptic, Film Studies For Free focuses on 'surveillance film studies'. Do cast a beady eye, therefore, at the unsuspiciously Open Access scholarly resources linked to further down the page.

    The post has been inspired by the thrilling chronometric proximity of an interdisciplinary conference, taking place next week, on the “Cultures of Surveillance” at University College London (September 29-October 1), with keynote lectures by the very brilliant professors Tom Gunning and Simon Cole.

    The full programme can be found here. Anyone interested in these topics should also check out some related and highly innovative work online by the amazing film and humanities scholars at UCL at the following four websites:
    • Objects Under Surveillance Museum Roundtable, University College London, January 19, 2011 Videos [m4v] of the event can be viewed by clicking on the images below.
    Intro. & Simon Baker / Sue Woods & Katy McGahan  /  Neil Paterson  /  Discussion                  

    Thursday, 22 September 2011

    Media History Digital Library

    It has been brilliantly publicised already, but Film Studies For Free wanted to make sure all its readers were alerted to the launch of an amazing new website for the Media History Digital Library, an excellent non-profit organisation that, for a good while now, in conjunction with the Internet Archive, has been working to digitize and open up full public access to collections of classic film and media periodicals that belong in the public domain.

    On the site, you will find access to over 200,000 digitized pages of public domain media industry trade papers and fan magazines, including Moving Picture World (1912-1918), Film Daily (1918-1936), Photoplay (1917-1940), Radio Broadcast (1922-1930), and much more.

    As well as its collections, the new website sports a great blog by MHDL Founder and Director David Pierce, and it also has its own Facebook page.

    You are also encouraged to support this brilliant project with sponsorship. As such brilliance doesn't just come about by accident, nor can it possibly come about for free, FSFF strongly urges you to think about supporting this work financially, especially if you know that you, or your institution, are likely to benefit to any great degree from access to these wonderful resources.

    Tuesday, 20 September 2011

    On Bill Douglas, Scottish Cinema and Magical Film Archives

    Film Studies For Free today presents an entry about Bill Douglas, one of the most interesting Scottish filmmakers ever, and a highly likely influence on anyone interesting working in that field today -- in FSFF's undoubtedly Sassenach view, that would include, inter alia, fine film folk like Lynne Ramsay, Peter Mullan, David MacKenzie, and Gillies MacKinnon (plus, perhaps, the otherwise English Andrea Arnold and Shane Meadows).

    Douglas was known especially for his amazing Trilogy (My Childhood (1972), My Ain Folk (1973), and My Way Home (1978)), as well as for the wonderful 1987 film ComradesBut his lifelong collection of cinema artifacts and memorabilia also went on to form the basis of one of the most significant cinema archives in the world, named after him, at the University of Exeter. The Bill Douglas Centre also looks after one of the most important online and openly accessible cinematic archives, too: Everyone's Virtual Exhibition (EVE). If you are so inclined, you may very much like to interact with the BDC at Facebook. 

    The particular occasion for this entry is an upcoming symposium on Douglas's work at the University of Exeter taking place this week on Friday September 23. There are papers from eminent scholars Karen Lury, Andrew Noble, Brian Hoyle, Jonny Murray and Paul Newland and from filmmaker Sean Martin and the BDC's principal donor, Peter Jewell, on all aspects of Douglas's work; the Trilogy, Comrades, his unmade scripts, and his collection. There will also be the first ever screening of Charlie Chaplin Lived Here, Bill and Peter's 8mm film made in 1966. The event is free but please register in advance by email. The full programme of papers is available here.

    FSFF has assembled some great, freely accessible resources below, including links to work on Scottish cinema and also on film archiving. The goodies include a highly informative and clip-filled 2006 documentary "Intent on Getting the Image" about Bill Douglas's life and career, edited by Stuart Eade and produced and directed by Andy Kimpton-Nye.

    At the very foot of the post is a video about the incredibly valuable work of the Bill Douglas Centre. FSFF salutes you!

    On Bill Douglas's Films, and related Scottish cinema:

      On Archive and Online Repository Matters, etc.:

      Monday, 19 September 2011

      Articles from the New Review of Film and Television Studies

      Images from The Story of Adèle H. (François Truffaut, 1975) and The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993) - two films referred to in Agustín Zarzosa's article 'Jane Campion's The Piano: melodrama as mode of exchange'
      Film Studies For Free was very happy to hear that the excellent journal New Review of Film and Television Studies is now offering free access to a great selection of essays, including a recent offering by Thomas Elsaesser on Avatar, and translations from Christian Metz's book Impersonal Enunciation.

      As well as the marvellous aforementioned items, FSFF also highly recommends the articles by Mette Kramer and Agustín Zarzosa.

      All freely accessible material is linked to below. 

      Friday, 16 September 2011

      Winds of Change: Cinema from Muslim Societies

      Film Studies For Free learnt of free online access to a timely and important 'Virtual Special Issue' of the journal Third Text. The excellent contents of the issue are set out below.

      The selected articles are made available to accompany Winds of Change: Cinema from Muslim Societies, a series of films and talks programmed by Third Text and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 21 – 25 September 2011.

      To access the issue please use this link.

      For programme information and tickets to the ICA season click here.
      • 'The Nakba Projected: Recent Palestinian Cinema' by Haim Bresheeth
      • 'Travelling ‘Postcolonial’:Allegories of Zion, Palestine and Exile' by Ella Shohat
      • 'Introduction: Is There a Muslim World?' by Ali Nobil Ahmad
      • 'Paradise Delayed:With Hany Abu-Assad in Palestine' by Hamid Dabashi
      • 'Between Socialism and Sufism: Islam in the Films of Ousmane Sembène and Djibril Diop Mambéty', by David Murphy
      • ‘"Framed Patterns of Infinity": Takva, a Mortal Individual’s Fight for Becoming-Imperceptible' by Serazer Pekerman
      • 'Introduction:The Militant Image: A Ciné-Geography' by Kodwo Eshun and Ros Gray
      • 'Third Cinema/Militant Cinema:At the Origins of the Argentinian Experience (1968-1971)' by Mariano Mestman
      • 'Social Formations of Global Media Art' by José-Carlos Mariátegui, Sean Cubitt and Gunalan Nadarajan
      • 'Introduction:Art,‘EnclaveTheory’ and the Communist Imaginary' by John Roberts
      Again, to access the issue please use this link.

      Thursday, 15 September 2011

      V.F. Perkins on FILM AS FILM

      Victor Perkins discusses his ideas and approaches to film aesthetics

      Film Studies For Free just got wind of the below videos: seven segments of a truly fascinating interview with V.F. Perkins which took place at the Kino 8 1/2 in Saarbrücken, Germany, and was filmed by Media Art and Design Studiengang.

      In the interview, Perkins engagingly discusses his approach to film studies and, in particular, talks about the trajectory of his seminal 1972 book Film as Film. A wonderful resource.

      And once you've watched the videos, make sure to check out the listings of links to some of V.F. Perkins work online at the very foot of FSFF's entry.

      Friday, 9 September 2011

      Documentary and Space: New issue of MEDIA FIELDS JOURNAL

      Framegrab from El Valley Centro (James Benning, 2000). Read Elizabeth Cowie's article on Documentary Space, Place, and Landscape which discusses Benning's film, among others. Cowie is author of the new book Recording Reality, Desiring the Real (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011)
      Film Studies For Free brings you openly accessible brilliance from the latest issue of Media Fields Journal. It's a really excellent issue on documentary and space - a must-read. And however hyperbolically positive (the always hyperbolically positive) FSFF is, it doesn't always say that. So, do yourselves a big favour and click on the below links without further ado.

      Sunday, 4 September 2011

      Bitter Brilliance: Links to Nicholas Ray Scholarship and Criticism

      If the cinema no longer existed, Nicholas Ray alone gives the impression of being capable of reinventing it, and what is more, of wanting to. While it is easy to imagine John Ford as an admiral, Robert Aldrich on Wall Street, Anthony Mann on the trail of Belliou la Fumée or Raoul Walsh as a latter-day Henry Morgan under Caribbean skies, it is difficult to see the director of Run For Cover doing anything but make films. A Logan or a Tashlin, for instance, might make good in the theatre or music-hall, Preminger as a novelist, Brooks as a school teacher, Cukor in advertising - but not Nicholas Ray. Were the cinema suddenly cease to exist, most directors would in no way be at a loss; Nicholas Ray would. After seeing Johnny Guitar or Rebel Without A Cause, one cannot but feel that here is something which exists only in the cinema, which would be nothing in a novel, the stage, or anywhere else, but which becomes fantastically beautiful on the screen. [Jean-Luc Godard, [On Nicholas Ray's Hot blood]', Cahiers du cinéma, 1957, cited by Sam Rohdie, 'Studies', Screening the Past, Issue 19, 2006]
      In the opening credit sequence of Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Jim Stark, played by James Dean, stumbles to the foreground of the wide, Cinemascope image and lays down to play with a miniature toy monkey. After winding it up and childishly watching it march and clap its cymbals, he paternally makes a bed for it out of assorted litter and puts it to sleep under a blanket of wrinkled paper. This brief moment not only provides immediate insight into Dean’s character, but it also foreshadows the entire story to come: young Jim’s paternal drive to ‘be a man,’ induced in part by a pathetically weak father figure, leads him to adopt Plato [Sal Mineo] as a younger sibling/child whom he can protect (like he wishes he was protected). In fact, Plato acts as a direct visual stand-in for Jim’s toy, as is clear from the latter’s attempt to give Plato his jacket in the police station moments after the opening sequence, a gesture that Plato would finally accept seconds before his death at the end of the film, when Jim would put him to rest—like his cherished toy that had run out of energy—by zipping up his jacket for the cold beyond. Jim’s own father surprisingly repeats this gesture by putting his jacket over his son’s shoulders in an inaugural act signaling his desire to protect his child from the gratuitous cruelty of the world. [Gabriel Rockhill, 'Modernism as a Misnomer: Godard’s Archeology of the Image', Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy - Revue de la philosophie française et de langue française, Vol XVIII, No 2 (2010) pp 107-129: 110-111]
      Today, inspired in part by the appearance yesterday of Serena Bramble's video tribute (above), Film Studies For Free collects snippets from and links to scholarship and critical writing on the films of Nicholas Ray.

      This year marks the centenary of Ray's birth. Interestingly, the years since are remarkably short on online and openly accessible scholarly studies of his work, but mightily longer, luckily, on some really excellent film critical work. The below list aims to link to the best and most interesting of both those categories, but if you know of great items missing from this selection, please feel free to tell FSFF about them in the comments. Thank you!

      Evan Meeker's video The Rebel Within uses experimental editing techniques "to probe Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause analyzing scenes and dialogue with the intention of drawing out hidden themes and character traits easily glanced over in the original."