Saturday 27 September 2008

Paul Newman, 1925-2008

One of the most intelligent Hollywood actors (and directors) ever, Paul Newman, died last Friday at the age of 83. Newman studied acting at Yale University and, under Lee Strasberg, at the Actors' Studio in New York City. His first film acting role was in The Silver Chalice (1954), and his career in the movies went on to span six decades.

There's a report and a good obituary on the BBC website (links HERE and HERE). And below you can find the three sections of a good video overview of Newman's career, together with that of his partner, Joanne Woodward, who survives him.

YouTube videos posted by Cammie37, respectively HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

It's a Wonderful Point...

It's a Wonderful Life bank run scene, posted on YouTube by NemoPublius (March 30, 2008)

A little bit of ... not very scholarly fun, today.

Chris Cagle over on Category D posted very wittily last week about the wonderful things that go on in the media While Rome Burns...

Well, exactly a week has gone by since his post, and Rome is still burning, but I just wanted to share an essential link with you to an item from the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, as reported by the BBC website today, which was based on the quintessential 'film-studies film', It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, USA, 1946). The BBC page link is HERE; and the related Today programme audio file link HERE).

A little taster:

Russell Taylor, one of the writers of Alex, the cartoon of city life which runs in the Daily Telegraph's business section, has written his own version of James Stewart's speech from It's A Wonderful Life [see video embed and audio file above]. It captures just how Alex Masterley - the caddish hero of the comic strip - would describe the events of the past week.
"So, you want to withdraw the money you deposited with us? Yes, well, I'm afraid we can't give you back your money because we don't have it. You see, what happened is that we lent the money you gave us to Joe and the Kennedys and Mrs Maklin to buy houses with, and then we lent them some more money to buy a second property on a buy-to-let basis and a third rental property too and then we lent them some more money against the value of all the various properties that we'd lent them the money to buy, so they could go on a nice holiday..."
And on it goes. Funny stuff. And timely, too. But, as they sometimes say in and around Rome, "Fa caldo..."

Monday 22 September 2008

More on artists' film and video: an e-book, and 'vodcast' links

From Ecology, directed by Sarah Turner, 2007. Photo: Matthew Walter/Sarah Turner

A few more links have been added to Film Studies For Free's list of film-scholarly podcasts and videocasts, most notably one to a page on the LUXONLINE site, a brilliant web resource for exploring British based artists’ film and video in-depth (offering critical writing, stills, streaming video clips, and other contextual resources).

The link I've just added is to LUXONLINE's offering of 'vodcasts' of interviews with leading British film artists and curators (link HERE, please note, though, that you need to be registered first with iTunes in order to access almost all of the vodcasts). There are video interviews with Andrew Kötting, Angela Kingston (independent curator), Tina Keane, Ruth Novaczek, Chris Welsby, Alia Syed, Stephen Dwoskin, and Harold Offeh. The latest vodcast is with Sarah Pucill (there's currently no need for an iTunes account for this one: there's a direct link HERE)

The LUXONLINE site also has a lot of original artists' films, or clips from artists' films, available for viewing in streaming video, so it is well worth taking the time to explore the site properly. You can start your searches for resources by particular artists HERE and for particular streamed films/clips HERE.

There's another organisation which has even more user-friendly listings to assist with tracking down British-based artists' film available for viewing more generally on the web (links HERE and HERE). The British Artists' Film and Video Study Collection is a research project led by David Curtis and Steven Ball and based at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, London. It focuses in particular on the history of artists' film and video in Britain.

Like LUXONLINE, the British Artists' Film and Video Study Collection also provides a good collection of freely accessible research papers on artists' film or by film artists (link HERE), including ones by Malcolm Le Grice and Michael Mazière. There's also a paper by my friend and former colleague in Film Studies at the University of Kent, Sarah Turner, which sets out some of the conceptual background to her 2007 film Ecology (read a BBC interview HERE), which premiered at last year's Cambridge Film Festival.

Finally, there's also a link now in Film Studies For Free's 'Film Open Access e-books' listing to Gene Youngblood's hugely influential and prescient Expanded Cinema, a 444 page book, originally published in 1970 (downloadable in a single .pdf via; and also accessible HERE in separate sections via Expanded Cinema, as the very useful Wikipedia article on it argues, was
the first book to consider video as an art form, [and] was influential in establishing the field of media arts. In the book [Youngblood] argues that a new, expanded cinema is required for a new consciousness. He describes various types of filmmaking utilising new technology, including film special effects, computer art, video art, multi-media environments and holography.

Saturday 20 September 2008

Some Bordwellian inspiration (in blogpost and podcast)

The latest blog post by David Bordwell ('They’re looking for us', 19 September 2008) treats the important issue of the reaction shot, a film technique which provides 'one of the most enjoyable and arousing dimensions of cinematic storytelling'.

Bordwell's post is, as usual, a remarkable, and beautifully illustrated, piece of digital scholarship which takes us, very entertainingly, from a contemporary example of a reaction shot (drawn from the 2007 film Music and Lyrics, directed by Marc Lawrence), and working thus in the context of what Bordwell considers intensified continuity editing; through Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975), John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986), Carl Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928), and Carol Reed's The Third Man, ending up with Road Warrior (1981, aka Mad Max II, directed by George Miller).

Bordwell's impressive tour of this technique explores the many ways in which the reaction shot instructs us 'in how to respond to the fictional world as a whole', as well as cognitive, or neuroscientific, theories of how 'Reaction shots may gain their strength from not merely our ability to understand facial expressions but the power of facial expressions to trigger in us an echo of the emotion displayed.'

Bordwell concludes his highly informative and enlightening post with characteristic modesty: 'There’s much more to say about the reaction shot'. He's right, of course: we might 'want as well to talk about films that withhold information about characters’ reactions—by using enigmatic or ambiguous reaction shots, or by eliminating reaction shots altogether'. ' But it is really difficult to imagine saying anything more, or saying anything in a more illuminating way, in under 2,750 words. With their blog Observations on film art and Film Art, Bordwell, and Kristin Thompson, his partner and frequent co-writer, have very much perfected the art of concise and scholarly digital communication.

We must be very thankful, thus, that both of them came to be inspired by the possibilities for the creation and dissemination of new film scholarship which are offered by the internet, in general, and by weblogging, in particular. There's a great podcast in which Bordwell talks about this very topic (recorded in January 2007), which is very much worth checking out. It's accessible HERE at Zoom in Online (be warned that you have to endure a short advert, and not-the-best audio quality, though).

[Note added on September 8, 2008: Check out a fascinating, subsequent post on reaction shots - 'Non-Reaction Shots' on the great blog IScreen Studies, by Ben Goldsmith, who reacts very productively indeed to Bordwell's thoughts]

Wednesday 17 September 2008

More great Film Studies podcasts: Pinewood Dialogues

I just came across another great, free source of podcasts of film scholarly note, via the wonderful Museum of the Moving Image's  Moving Image Source website, where I was checking out a girish recommendation for the publication of September articles.

The podcasts are accessible via a Moving Image Source page called Pinewood Dialogues ('Selected Conversations with Innovative and Influential Creative Figures in Film, TV, and Digital Media'). There are some 73 podcasts currently posted, of interviews with, and dialogues between, filmmakers and other creative folk, including the likes of Werner Herzog and Jonathan Demme, Stan Brakhage, Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker, Michael Powell, Patricia Rozema, George A. Romero, Fernando Meirelles and Rachel Weisz,  and François Ozon, among many others.

Thursday 11 September 2008

More Film Studies videos online: Haynes, Minghella, Ahtila, Varda, and Mulvey

Eija-Liisa Ahtila, from 'The House' (2002)

Here below are some more links to great online webcasts of very worthwhile, film and film-studies events, as stored in the Tate Galleries online archive (see previous posts on this topic HERE, HERE, and HERE):
There is also a webcast of an interview, in the 'Moving Images' series, with Laura Mulvey (7 March 2002) at the Tate Modern, but the link is reported as faulty by the Tate website at present. They say they will fix it, so wait a while, and then try HERE. While on the subject of Mulvey, HERE's a link to an online version of her classic essay, 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema'.

And, to conclude, HERE's a link to an already pretty widely-known, online 'access point' for Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (Todd Haynes, 1987 - also added to Film Studies For Free's regular listing of 'Film Practice As Research Links').

V.F. Perkins Online

A tiny little post to indicate the websites where two indispensable articles about film (and film studies) by Victor Perkins, world-renowned author of Film as Film (London: Penguin Books, 1972), can be found:
  • 'Same Tune Again! Repetition and Framing in Letter from an Unknown Woman' (originally published in CineAction! no. 52) republished online by Danish film studies journal 16:9 (September 2003) and accessible HERE.
  • 'Moments of Choice' [on film directing] (originally published in The Movie, ch. 58, reprinted in Ann Lloyd (ed.), Movie Book of the Fifties, Orbis, 1982) republished online by the Australian journal Rouge (issue 9, 2006) and accessible HERE.

These are the two highlights of a number of recent updates to Film Studies For Free's listing of links to 'Individual Authors' Online Writing Of Note'.

[Note added on September 26, 2008: for a detailed discussion of Perkins' 'Moments of Choice', please see my posting on it on the Directing Cinema blog (link HERE).]

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Pan's Labyrinth, the Edit Room, and Wide Screen journal

I had added the very nice looking blog Edit Room, a most welcome continuation of the now sadly defunct SubalternCinema (see definition), to Film Studies For Free's blog roll a little while back (annoyingly for me, though, not in time to add it to my - it turns out, non-updateable - scholarly blog poll...). Anyhow, I just got round to taking a much closer look at this wide-ranging blog (up and running since January 2007) and I think it has an enormous amount to recommend it to film-studies scholars and students.

The Edit Room's subtitle/tagline is 'Wide Screen Journal Editors' Blog'. Wide Screen Journal describes itself as
a peer-reviewed, open access journal. It is devoted to the critical study of cinema from historical, theoretical, political, and aesthetic perspectives. With radical changes in the modes of production, distribution, and exhibition, the journal aims to combine the best of academic and journalistic critique of cinema to inform readers about the various critical vantage points from which to understand cinema in this dynamic environment. (link HERE)
Wide Screen Journal is to be launched fully with its first issue later this year and is currently calling for papers. Here's a snippet from this CFP which you can read in full HERE:
the inaugural issue of Wide Screen aims to critically re-examine cinema against the backdrop of existing hegemonies and re-conceptualise the cinema located in the gaps of the popular. We invite critical papers on "subaltern cinema" and the "subaltern" in cinema.

Wide Screen is edited by Kishore Budha, of the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds, UK, Gopalan Ravindran, Dept. of Mass Media and Communication, University of Madras, India, and Kuhu Tanvir, a journalist with, an Indian television news and entertainment company.

To return to the subject of the Edit Room, which is also run by Budha, Ravindran and Tanvir, this blog is usefully organised around the following film-cultural and film-studies related categories: Books, Call for Papers, Film and Politics, Film and Society, Film and Technology, Film Festivals, Film Industry, Film Policy, Film Reviews, Film Theory, Must Read, and Uncategorized (!).

There is a welcome emphasis, across all these blog-post categories, on global, subaltern, articulations of cinema, and some really high quality reflection, in particular, on Hindi, Tamil, and other South Asian cinemas.

But one of the items in the Edit Room that most caught my eye (with my own particular research interest in contemporary auteurism, as well as in Spanish-language cinema) was Kuhu Tanvir's discussion of Guillermo del Toro's 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno, Mexico/Spain/USA). Tanvir's article, entitled Pan's Labyrinth of History (also accessible via the Edit Room's Must Read category page), explores the allegorical and fantastic aspects of del Toro's film more deftly, concisely, and powerfully than any other piece of writing on the film that I have yet come across (and I have read quite a few...).

Here's a taste of Tanvir's subtle take on del Toro's film, from near the beginning of her discussion:

In a film based on a fascist camp in Spain during the Second World War it would be easy to think that Ofelia [the film's young protagonist] will use the fantastic as a space where she can escape Vidal [her new step-father] and his cruelties. And that del Toro will use the fantastic as symbolic of the real, in a way masking it. This is precisely what he does not do.

Tanvir wears her undoubtedly fine scholarship nice and lightly. She is as happy to support her argument with quotes from good quality online interviews with del Toro (such as this one HERE) as she is with theory drawing upon Hayden White's "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality".

And why shouldn't she, and we, be happy thus? 'Open Access' oughtn't just to mean 'open and accessible' in a mere technical sense, but also 'open and accessible' intellectually, wherever possible. Tanvir's article, in particular, and the Edit Room, in general, are rich, scholarly, open, and accessible resources, as, I'm sure, the Wide Screen journal will also be in due course. Good luck to the latter and I hope that FSFF's readers will both enjoy and benefit from exploring what it and its stable mate have to offer.

Saturday 6 September 2008

For Ever Godard

My recommendation today, another addition to Film Studies For Free's listing of scholarly resources in audio or audiovisual form (also see HERE and HERE), is for podcasts of audio-recordings of several sessions from the 2001 For Ever Godard conference. The link (to a MySpace page, which takes a while to load) is HERE.

The site's blurb about the conference reads as follows:
FOR EVER GODARD was a four-day international conference held at Tate Modern, London, 21-24 June 2001. It is the first event of its kind ever to be devoted to Godard's work in Britain. It brings together both well-established commentators and the younger generation of critics working in the fields of film and television, art history, cultural studies, philosophy, music, and literature. It draws on talent from many different countries and from different intellectual backgrounds.

There are also lots of Godard-related YouTube videos embedded on this site, as well as some great images. There's a good review of the conference by Maximilian Le Cain at senses of cinema HERE (and a detailed review of the related book collection For Ever Godard, on Film-Philosophy, 10. 1, by Katerina Loukopoulou HERE).

Film Studies For Free's principle of full disclosure requires me to note my own involvement in the For Ever Godard conference; I was a member of the advisory committee, and was also lucky enough to chair a great session on Godard's lyricism with both Adrian Martin (see a lovely article by Martin on Godard in a special issue on 'French Cinema Present And Past' at senses of cinema HERE; as an aside, I highly recommend girish's enlightening interview with Martin HERE) and André Habib (see a good piece by Habib on Godard at senses of cinema HERE). I also contributed to the published collection of work which was based on the conference, from which sample spreads can downloaded for free via this link HERE.

[An addition to the original posting: I was just exploring some of the YouTube Godard links and came across one I wished I'd known about when I was writing my chapter for the For Ever Godard book, which dealt with Godard's collaboration with his partner Anne-Marie Miéville on Sauve qui peut (la vie) and other films: this really interesting 8 minute long video of Godard promoting Sauve qui peut (la vie) in America in 1980 (posted on YouTube by evillights)]

Godard Interviewed by Deanna Kamiel - 1980

Friday 5 September 2008

An E-book and more podcasts

Thanks to Chris Cagle's ever excellent Category D: a film and media studies blog (the subject of which I hope to return to shortly), I've been able to add another e-monograph to Film Studies For Free's new listing of Film Open Access e-books (joining Bordwell on Ozu and Kolker's The Altering Eye, so far). Back in July, Category D discussed and linked to Jennifer E. Langdon, Caught in the Crossfire: Adrian Scott and the Politics of Americanism in 1940s Hollywood (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), which has been made available as an e-monograph thanks to Gutenberg-e, a program of the American Historical Association and Columbia University Press. The Gutenberg-e blurb for Langdon's book is given as follows:

In the summer of 1947, Crossfire, a controversial thriller exposing American anti-Semitism, became a critical and box-office hit, and RKO producer Adrian Scott was at the pinnacle of his career. Within several months, however, he was infamous as a member of the Hollywood Ten, blacklisted for his refusal to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. In Caught in the Crossfire: Adrian Scott and the Politics of Americanism in 1940s Hollywood, Jennifer E. Langdon reconstructs the production and reception of Scott's major films to explore the political and creative challenges faced by Hollywood radicals in the studio system and to reassess the relationship between film noir, antifascism and anticommunism, and the politics of Americanism.

Following yesterday's blog post, I also discovered a few more film-scholarly podcasts (or video/webcasts) of note that I added to that listing on FSFF. These are as follows:

[UPDATE (added 11.9.08): I followed up on the technical difficulties with accessing Tate Gallery video podcasts and found that information about these has now been posted on the Tate website:

Important Information! Tate's Real Player service is being replaced by a new service, and we are currently in the process of re-encoding all of our existing material into the new video format. Some Online Events archives are not currently available due to changes in the way Tate delivers video online. We apologise for the temporary loss and are working hard to put them online as soon as possible.]

As always, any further suggestions for FSFF's resource listings will be very gratefully received and anyone suggesting items will always be properly acknowledged.

Thursday 4 September 2008

Free podcasts (and video podcasts/webcasts) of film-scholarly note

Film Studies For Free now has a listing of links to free podcasts (and video podcasts/webcasts) of film-scholarly note. It is currently headed by a link to the podcast page of the website feminism 3.0 (also accessible via the blog New Research in Feminist Media Art/Theory/History) run by my friend Vicki Callahan of the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee). The podcast currently posted is of an interview with the media artist Cecelia Condit in which she discusses her work. Some of Condit's video work is posted to her website. A nice Afterimage article about Condit's work, by Kelly Mink (Jan-Feb., 1998), is available HERE.

I've also posted a link to the hugely rich Tate Galleries listing of podcasts. Film-scholarly related highlights on this enormous listing include a podcast of the Tate Modern event 25-11-2007 Film Synergies which discussed the practice of Latin-American film co-production with Europe, which became widespread in the 1990s. The event included the screening of the 46-minute documentary Latin America in Co-production (Libia Villazana, UK/Peru 2007), which explores the mechanisms of this practice.

There's a podcast of the Tate Modern event 22-07-2007 Patrick Keiller in which Keiller presents and discusses material from Londres, Bombay (2006), his multi-screen video reconstruction of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai.

There's a podcast of the Tate Modern event 16-06-2007 Surrealism and Film: Study Day, held on the occasion of that gallery's major exhibition 'Dalí & Film', which explored the work of Salvador Dalí in relation to the wider links between surrealism and film.

There's a podcast of the Tate Modern event 24-02-2007 Robert Beavers, about the season dedicated to this American film artist's work.

And there's a whole host of great podcasts on animation (beginning with this one) drawing on the three-day international conference at the Tate Modern 02-03-2007 Pervasive Animation which united speakers from a wide range of research agendas and creative practices, and thus facilitated 'much-needed dialogue centred on the ubiquitous and interdisciplinary nature of animation, its potentially radical future development, and its ethical responsibilities for spatial politics in moving image culture.'

Any suggestions of further links to good film-related podcasts (and video podcasts/webcasts) from FSFF's readers would be most welcome.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

The Bioscope's 'Lost sites' posting

Over on Luke McKernan's supreme, early and silent cinema blog The Bioscope there's an essential posting of links to 'Lost sites', a list of vital web resources on the subject of silent cinema that are no more. Although the seeming impermanence of the Web can be a problem for scholarly activities on it, such as archiving, many such 'lost sites' can still be found via the Internet Archive and its ‘Wayback Machine'. But one needs to know what to look for, and this is where The Bioscope's posting comes in. McKernan lists nine such sites as an initial guide to lost early and silent cinema resources (including sites on Italian early cinema, the Lumière brothers, and Muybridge). He adds that,
Archiving the Internet is becoming a subject of increasing concern. The Internet Archive leads the field, of course, but the UK Web Archiving Consortium is building up to the day when every UK website will be archived as a matter of legal deposit. For those intrigued by dead sites in general, take a look at Ghost Sites of the Web (these are sites that still exist on the Web, but which have been abandoned).
While I'm on the subject of The Bioscope, I should mention that this blog is also very deservedly celebrating surpassing 150,000 visits since 2007, a remarkable achievement, but unsurprising considering the truly unrivalled wealth of scholarly and other resources that The Bioscope opens up for its readership. Dr Luke McKernan is Curator, Moving Image at the British Library, and has written on early cinema, newsreels, film propaganda and Shakespearean cinema. His current areas of research include early colour cinematography and children’s cinema-going before the First World War. What is particularly wonderful about his contribution to online film scholarship is that he exhibits a so-far unparalleled enthusiasm (I would say) for making a very large part of his scholarly work available to anyone who wishes to access it electronically, at the same time as being in a great position to do this, as a national library curator. He runs two further, excellent scholarly websites on early and silent cinema: Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema and, on the subject of his PhD thesis, Charles Urban, Motion Picture Pioneer.

I enjoyed reading a summary posted on the British Film Institute website, a while back, of McKernan's contribution to a series of talks at the BFI entitled 'Researchers' Tales', in which he spoke about setting up The Bioscope. You can read the full talk he gave in a pdf download available HERE. Or, read a nice (html) summary of the talk HERE. Here's the conclusion he reaches, about the value of web scholarship, in the summary version:
The web is not only an unmatched research tool, but an outstanding means to publish research, to engage with not only one's established research community but to reach out to other disciplines and new audiences. The tools that now exist, such as blogs, enable us to ask new questions of cinema history and to construct revitalised means of conveying understanding. If you know something, there is no excuse for not publishing it, sharing it, and collectively contributing to a greater body of knowledge.

Film Studies For Free takes its film scholarly-blogger's hat off to the inspirational Luke McKernan.

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Expanded Cinema and Unspoken Cinema: 'Film practice as research' links

I have just placed a new link in Film Studies For Free's blogroll to the useful Expanded Cinema weblog, an 'online platform for experimental film, early video, and sound-based, durational work.' All of the material is being curated by Joao Ribas from available media online, 'emphasizing an overlooked facet of the archival function of new media.' Ribas has another good blog, commenting on art/film curatorial matters, among others, too: Notes and Queries. On Expanded Cinema, not all of the video embeds or links are permanently stored (one presumes, for technical reasons), but there's still a lot of good stuff there and it's well worth exploring.

I also posted a blog link to Unspoken Cinema (by HarryTuttle et al), a great resource for practitioners and scholars of what the blog-blurb calls
Contemporary Contemplative Cinema (C.C.C.): the kind that rejects conventional narration to develop almost essentially through minimalistic visual language and atmosphere alone, without the help of music, dialogue, melodrama, action-montage, and the star system.
Phew. The legendary HarryTuttle is also the blog author of SCREENVILLE, which, among other great features, has lists of cinema webcasts and online video. I have added his custom video search page to FSFF's list of resources aimed at those engaged in Film or Screen Media 'Practice as Research' (or 'Research by Practice').

Film Practice as Research (basically, higher-education-based film and video practice that can give a 'reflexive account of itself [its form, especially] as research’) is a lively, but still 'emerging' research area, perhaps primarily in the UK. As the meagre sources of funding for artists' (and non-commercial) film and video in this country have almost completely dried up in recent years, outside the academy, many more filmmakers than before have turned to teaching to (part-)fund their work, not only in practical filmmaking college departments and art schools, but also in Film and Media Studies University departments, too. In this latter context, the academic requirement to be 'research active' and 'excellent' (and measurably so...) has led to the growth in this discourse of 'practice as research'. The Wikipedia page on this matter, that I've linked to, covers the sometimes controversial issues raised by these new ways of working, around the 'articulation as research' of practice-based work, as well as peer-review and dissemination, etc., quite well.