A fascinating and informative excerpt from the audio commentary track on the British Film Institute's brand new Dual Format Edition of RIDDLES OF THE SPHINX (Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, 1977). You can find more information about this new video version of the film here and read a new interview with Mulvey about its making here.
Riddles of the Sphinx was made in 1976-7. The film used the Sphinx as an emblem with which to hang a question mark over the Oedipus complex, to illustrate the extent to which it represents a riddle for women committed to Freudian theory but still determined to think about psychoanalysis radically or, as I have said before, with poetic license. Riddles of the Sphinx and Penthesilea, our previous film, used ancient Greece to invoke a mythic point of origin for Western civilization, that had been critically re-affirmed by high culture throughout our history. [... S]ome primitive attraction to the fantasy of origins, a Gordian knot that would suddenly unravel, persisted for me in the Oedipus story, and its special status: belonging to very ancient mythology and to the literature of high Greek civilization, chosen by Freud to name his perception of the founding moment of the human psyche. My interest then concentrated on breaking down the binarism of the before/after opposition, by considering the story as a passage through time, a journey that could metaphorically open out or stretch the Oedipal trajectory through significant details and through its formal, narrational, properties. [Laura Mulvey, 'The Oedipus Myth: Beyond the Riddles of the Sphinx', PUBLIC, 2, 1989, FSFF's emphasis]
Film Studies For Free proudly presents an entry in honour of one the most important, most brilliant, most influential and hardest-working film and moving image scholars of all time: Laura Mulvey, professor of film and media studies at Birkbeck, University of London, a Fellow of the British Academy, and recently, co-founder of the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image. Mulvey is the author of: Visual and Other Pleasures (Macmillan, 1989; second edition, 2009), Fetishism and Curiosity (British Film Institute, 1996; 2nd ed. 2013), Citizen Kane (in the BFI Classics series, 1996) and Death Twenty-four Times a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (Reaktion Books, 2006). And she has made six films in collaboration with fellow film theorist and practitioner Peter Wollen including Riddles of the Sphinx (BFI, 1978) and Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti (Arts Council, 1980) and with artist/film-maker Mark Lewis Disgraced Monuments (Channel 4, 1994)
FSFF's author has a pretty good record in celebrating Mulvey's influence on film studies already, having been lucky enough to take part, earlier this year, in a day devoted to this activity at Birkbeck's Institute of Humanities - an event recorded by Backdoor Broadcasting. The happy occasion for today's eFestschrift, however, is the British Film Institute's release of a new DVD/BluRay disk of Riddles of the Sphinx, the hugely significant and original feminist film Mulvey co-directed and produced in 1976/77 with her partner Wollen (the disk also contains their first film together: Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons ).
To accompany this entry FSFF was honoured to be able to produce a short, exclusive extract of a sequence of its choice from the DVD audio commentary accompanied version (as embedded above). FSFF warmly thanks Laura Mulvey herself, as well as Hannah Maloco and the BFI, whose Production Board thankfully funded Riddles of the Sphinx, for kindly allowing this blog to create such a memorable and instrumental item of openly accessible film studies.
Beneath the BFI's own Riddles of the Sphinx clip (embedded below) -- a commentary free version of substantially the same sequence -- you can find a wonderful listing of links to openly accessible online scholarly work by and about Laura Mulvey. It provides ample testimony, were it needed, as to why she has been, is, and always will be, one of the true greats of our subject - as Michel Foucault probably would have put, a veritable 'founder of discursivity' for our discipline...
Online written work by Laura Mulvey:
- 'Between Melodrama and Realism: Under the Skin of the City (2001)', The Cine-Files, Issue 4, 2013
- 'The Death Drive', Afterall Journal, 10, Autumn/Winter 2004
- 'The Earrings of Madame de ...' Film Quarterly Summer 2009, Vol. 62, No. 4
- '[On Fetishism and Curiosity] Reply to MacKinnon and Sorfa', Film-Philosophy, 5.6, February 2001
- 'The Oedipus Myth: Beyond the Riddles of the Sphinx', PUBLIC, 2, 1989
- 'Unmasking the Gaze: Some Thoughts on New Feminist Film Theory and History', Lectora, 2, 2001
- 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', Screen, 16.3, Autumn, 1975 pp. 6-18
- 'Plaisir visuel et cinéma narratif', Laura Mulvey (première partie); and 'Plaisir visuel et cinéma narratif', Laura Mulvey (seconde partie), Débordments, 2012
Online written work by Peter Wollen about Mulvey/Wollen's joint work:
- 'Knight's Moves', PUBLIC, 25, 2002
- 'The Field of Language on Film', October, 17, Summer 1981 [Lux Online version]
Online video/audio work by or featuring Laura Mulvey:
- Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities Celebrates Laura Mulvey, Birkbeck, University of London, February 7, 2013
- British Film Institute Researchers' Tale: Laura Mulvey on the Blonde, March 8, 2010
- Cinemaphilia: Laura Mulvey at the 'Moving Image As Art' Symposium, TATE Modern, June 1, 2001
- Added 'Death 24x a Second', PodAcademy, December 2012
- Jeff Wall: Six Works, TATE Modern, December 2, 2005
- Jerwood Visual Arts lecture by Professor Laura Mulvey, 2013
- In Conversation: Film theorist Laura Mulvey talks to Director Mark Lewis (6 Parts), CineCity 2009 - Brighton Film festival
- Iranian Women Filmmakers (2002) (Produced, directed by: Hamid Khairoldin, Majid Khabazan)
- Itinerancy, Dislocation, Nomadic Subjects: Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami,1997),
Birkbeck, University of London, June 25, 2013 [with Amber Jacobs and Rosalind Galt]
- 'Laura Mulvey in conversation with Griselda Pollock', Studies in the Maternal, 2 (1) 2010
- Laura Mulvey – Love and Death in Three Films by Max Ophuls: Liebelei (Germany 1932), Letter from an Unknown Woman (US 1948) and Madame de… (France 1953), Royal Holloway University of London, June 2012
- London Critical Theory Summer School 2013 – Friday Debate II [with Stephen Frosh, Esther Leslie, Laura Mulvey and Costas Douzinas]
- Talking Film Laura Mulvey - Part 1, Stedelijk Museum, 2011
- Talking Film Laura Mulvey - Part 2, Stedelijk Museum, 2011
- The Many Faces of Frida Symposium, TATE Modern, October 1, 2005
- Underwire Interview with Laura Mulvey, 2013
Online writing about Laura Mulvey's work:
- Rakhee Balaram, Entry on 'Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen', Lux Online
- Katalin Bálint, 'Are Women Really Focalised? Overlap Between the Concepts of Male Gaze and Focalization in Film Theory', PsyArt, March 15, 2011
- Erika Balsom, Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013)
- Michael Brooke, BFI Screenonline entry on 'The BFI Production Board: The Features'
- Eleanor Burke, BFI Screenonline entry on 'Laura Mulvey'
- Eleanor Burke, BFI Screenonline entry on 'Peter Wollen'
- Francesco Casetti, 'The City and its Moving Images: Hypertopia' (video), Afterall Journal, June 2013
- Franceso Casetti, 'The Relocation of Cinema', NECSUS,
- Daniel Chandler, 'Notes on The Gaze', 2000; especially the section on Laura Mulvey on film spectatorship
- Ian Christie (ed.), Audiences: Defining and Researching Screen Entertainment Reception (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012)]
- Matthew Croombs, 'Pasts and Futures of 1970s Film Theory', Scope, 20, June 2011
- Charles Esche,'What does it mean to say that feminism is back? A reaction to Riddles of the Sphinx', Afterall Journal, 15, Spring/Summer 2007
- Chris Fennell, 'Laura Mulvey on Riddles of the Sphinx', BFI, October 1, 2013
- William Fowler, BFI Screenonline entry on 'Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons (1974)'
- Monika Gagnon, 'Beyond Post-Feminism: The Work of Laura Mulvey and Griselda Pollock', Canadian Women's Studies, 11.1, 1990
- John Haber, 'Laura Mulvey: Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', HaberArts, [date unknown]
- Daniel Herbert, 'Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image by Laura Mulvey ', Scope, Issue 10, Feburary 2008
- Stefan Jovanovic, 'The Ending(s) of Cinema: Notes on the Recurrent Demise of the Seventh Art, Part 2', Offscreen Journal, April 30, 2003
- Carolyn Korsmeyer, 'Feminist Aesthetics', The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
- Kendra Preston Leonard, 'Silencing Ophelia: Male Aurality as a Controlling Element in Olivier's Hamlet', Scope, 14, June 2009
- Katharina Lindner, 'Spectacular (Dis-) Embodiments: The Female Dancer on Film', Scope, 20, February 2011
- Lux Online Entry on 'Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen'
- Kenneth MacKinnon, 'Curiously, Fetishism Can Be Fun', Film-Philosophy, 5.4, February 2001
- Jennifer Proctor, '[Mulvey's Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema assignment:] Popcorn Maker for Film Studies', Nanoramas, February 25, 2013
- Paula Quigley, 'Undoing the Image: Film Theory and Psychoanalysis', Film-Philosophy, 15.1, 2011
- Lucy Reynolds, BFI Screenonline entry on 'Riddles of the Sphinx (1977)'
- Eivind Røssaak (ed.), Between Stillness and Motion Film, Photography, Algorithms (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011)
- Alison Rowley, 'Between Les Rendez-vous d’Anna and Demain on Déménage: m(o)ther inscriptions in two films by Chantal Akerman', Studies in the Maternal 2(1) 2010
- Richard Rushton, 'Deleuzian Spectatorship', Screen, 50.1, 2009
- Ellen Seiter, 'Re-vision: the limits of psychoanalysis', Jump Cut, no. 33, Feb. 1988, pp. 59-61
- David Sorfa, 'Hieroglyphs and Carapaces: The Enigmatic Real in Laura Mulvey's Fetishism and Curiosity', Film-Philosophy, 5.5, 2001
- Wanda Strauven, The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded (Amsterdam University Press, 2006)
- Marijke de Valck, Malte Hagener (eds), Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory (Amsterdam University Press, 2006)
- Griet Vandermassen, 'Woman as Erotic Object: A Darwinian Inquiry into the Male Gaze', The Evolutionary Review: Art, Science, Culture, eds. Alice Andrews and Joseph Caroll. New York: SUNY Press, 2010, pp. 69-75
- Belén Vidal, Figuring the Past: Period Film and the Mannerist Aesthetic (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012)
- Maria Walsh, 'Against Fetishism: The Moving Quiescence of Life 24 Frames a Second', Film-Philosophy, 10.2, September 2006
- Matt Wiley, 'Avoiding the Masculine “Gaze”: Frustrated Homosexual Desire and the Eroticized Role of the Camera In Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Antonioni’s Blow Up', Cinetext, 2003