Tuesday 30 June 2009

Video Essay 1: On Claude Chabrol's Les Bonnes femmes

It's a really B I G D A Y here at Film Studies For Free. But do, please, be gentle...
This posting brings you the first ever little video essay about a film studies topic (in this case, a single film) produced by this blog's author: Unsentimental Education: On Claude Chabrol's Les Bonnes femmes.
The exercise probably only shows that there's a mighty long way to go with this format for this author before anything near full proficiency in it can be claimed (for example, the voiceover commentary would have sounded a lot better had the person delivering it not been quite so nervous/terrified during the recording). But it's a good enough beginning for what FSFF sincerely hopes will go on to be a regular, if occasional, feature.
The essay has been produced, as previously promised, to coincide with, and thus to contribute to, the final day of the wonderful Chabrol blogathon hosted by Flickhead's blog (see HERE for a list of all the fantastic contributions, so far, to the event).
Some supplementary material about this strange, beguiling film Les Bonnes femmes/The Good Time Girls (France/Italy, 1960, directed by Chabrol), together with a link to a full transcript of the video essay's commentary and some pedagogical and critical reflections on the process of making it, wlll be added to this post as soon as possible. So, do please come back for that. (Updated July 8, 2009: transcript accessible HERE).
But, time was of the essence to join in with the blogathon. So all else can wait. Here below, then, is the essay, archived at FSFF's new supplementary site, for related videos, at Vimeo. It contains a few significant plot spoilers (as few as possible...). Also, please note that, for the purposes of its critical-scholarly analysis and commentary, the essay transforms many of the original elements of the film that it 'quotes', employing newly created still images (and new sounds), slowed motion, and quite heavy (at times) re-editing (including reordering) of image and sound/music.
In other words, you must see the original film, if you haven't done so already. Les Bonnes femmes is currently available on DVD thanks to Kino Video (Region 1 only). It can be ordered from that company's website HERE, or from Amazon.com HERE

Monday 22 June 2009

Adam Curtis Links

Image from Pandora's Box (Adam Curtis, 1992)

Film Studies For Free concurs with David Bordwell's recent assessment that Adam Curtis is one of the most remarkable documentarians working today ('Adam Curtis’s The Power of Nightmares, [is] one of the great docs of recent years').

If you haven't yet heard of him, Curtis is a British television documentary producer who has written and directed a number of hugely influential, multi-part, political film essays, including the award-winning Century of the Self, the aforementioned The Power of Nightmares, The Mayfair Set, Pandora's Box, The Trap and The Living Dead.

FSFF was really excited, therefore, to hear of Curtis's new blog hosted at the BBC website (news courtesy of David Hudson at The Daily and also from a nice post at the great Screen Research website, which FSFF promises to profile in more detail really soon).

Curtis's blog muses mostly about his new project which Charlie Brooker, writing for The Guardian, describes as follows:

He's made a new documentary called It Felt Like A Kiss. Except it isn't just a documentary. It's also a piece of interactive theatre, with music composed by Damon Albarn and performed by the Kronos Quartet. And it doesn't take place in a cinema or concert hall, but across five floors of a deserted office block in Manchester [as part of the Manchester International Festival]July 2-9, 2009]. [...]

In summary, from what I can gather, It Felt Like A Kiss is both the craziest yet crookedly rational project I've ever heard about. Hearing Curtis talk about that huge subject, that huge building, that brink-of-madness, reality-blurring feel, there are a few unmistakeable parallels with Synecdoche, New York, Charlie Kaufman's recent film, in which Philip Seymour Hoffman takes control of an infinitely huge Manhattan warehouse and attempts to stage a boundary-shattering show that will sum up the entirety of human experience. He over-reaches and winds up creating a work of ever-expanding fractal madness. Curtis, I think, has gone a bit mad, too - but to precisely the right degree.

Curtis himself wrote in a post on June 17 - which also carries a longish trailer for the project - that

It Felt Like a Kiss started life as an experimental film I made for the BBC last year. My aim was to try and find a more involving and emotional way of doing political journalism on TV. I decided to make a film about something that has always fascinated me - how power really works in the world. To show that power is exercised not just through politics and diplomacy - but flows through our feelings and emotions, and shapes the way we think of ourselves and the world.

Film Studies For Free will, in its downtime, fantasize about a little visit up to Manchester. Meanwhile, below are some of the most interesting, freely accessible, scholarly resources, websites, and online essays about Curtis's work and related matters:

Also see: Erroll Morris's interview with Curtis HERE; Andrew Orlowski's recent article about Curtis for THE REGISTER HERE.

Friday 19 June 2009

Friday Round Up

Film Studies For Free brings you a little Friday round up of just-out-now scholarly links.

Imagining torture by Chuck Kleinhans; Torture documentaries by Julia Lesage; A Simple Case for Torture, redux by Martha Rosler; The Wire and the world: narrative and metanarrative by Helena Sheehan and Sheamus Sweeney; “Don’t Just Watch It, Live It:” technology, corporate partnerships, and The Hills by Elizabeth Affuso; Postmodern marketing, Generation Y and the multiplatform viewing experience of MTV’s The Hills by Amanda Klein; The past isn't what it used to be: the troubled homes of Mad Men by Mark Taylor; Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica reviewed by David Greven; Global formats, gender and identity: the search for The Perfect Bride on Italian television by Michela Ardizzoni; A nightmare of capitalist Japan: Spirited Away by Ayumi Suzuki; The curious cases of Salma, Siti, and Ming:representations of Indonesia’s polygamous life in Love for Share by Ekky Imanjaya; Gender and class in the Singaporean film 881 by Brenda Chan; Cinenumerology: interview with Royston Tan, one of Singapore’s most versatile filmmakers by Anne Ciecko; Visible “waves”: notes on Koreanness, pan-Asianness, and some recent Southeast Asian art films by Anne Ciecko and Hunju Lee; Asia’s beloved sassy girl: Jun Ji-Hyun’s star image and her transnational stardom by JaeYoon Park; Pornography and its critical reception: toward a theory of masturbation by Magnus Ullén; Real sex: the aesthetics and economics of art-house porn by Jon Lewis; Documentary and the anamnesis of queer space: The Polymath, or, The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman by Nicholas de Villiers; Documentary investigations and the female porn star by Belinda Smaill; The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene reviewed by Catherine Clepper; Documenting and denial: discourses of sexual self-exploitation by Leigh Goldstein; Children of Men and I Am Legend: the disaster-capitalism complex hits Hollywood by Kirk Boyle; The exceptional darkness of The Dark Knight by Todd McGowan; The Dark Knight of American empire by Randolph Lewis; Post-Iraq cinema: the veteran hero in The Jacket and Harsh Times by Justin Vicari; WALL-E: from environmental adaptation to sentimental nostalgia by Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann; Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino: the death of America’s hero by Robert Alpert; Interpreting revolution: Che: Part I and Part II by Victor Wallis; The cold world behind the window: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Romanian cinema’s return to real-existing communism by Constantin Parvulescu; Retrieving Emir Kusturica’s Underground as a critique of ethnic nationalism by Sean Homer; Dimensions of exile in the videos of Silvia Malagrino by Ilene S. Goldman; No parking between signs: on Sadie Benning's Flat is Beautiful and early works by Burlin Barr; Sex versus the small screen: home video censorship and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también by Caetlin Benson-Allott; Torture, maternity, and truth in Jasmila Zbanic’s Grbavica: Land of My Dreams by Caroline Koebel; Culture wars: some new trends in art horror by Joan Hawkins; Misogyny as radical commentary: Rashomon retold in Takashi Miike’s Masters of Horror: Imprint by William Leung; The dangers of biosecurity: The Host and the geopolitics of outbreak by Hsuan L. Hsu; The return of horror to Chinese cinema: an aesthetic of restraint and space of horror by Li Zeng; Cross cultural disgust: some problems in the analysis of contemporary horror cinema by Chuck Kleinhans; Media salad by Chuck Kleinhans; Racing into the Obama era by the editors; Remembrance against manufactured amnesia: on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Incident by David Leiwei Li. Plus several book reviews.

'Gypsy Stars in the New Europe' by Aniko Imre; 'When Satellites Fall: On the Trails of Cosmos 954 and USA 193' by Lisa Parks; 'Towards a Typology of Dance TV Contestants' by Christine Quail; 'No Rerun Nation: Canadian Television and Cultural Amnesia' by Serra Tinic; 'And the winner of Britain's Got Talent is . . .' by Lisa W. Kelly.

Rob White, 'Editor's Notebook: Heaven Knows We're Digital Now' ; Joshua Clover, 'Marx and Coca-Cola: Cinema for a New Grand Game'; Laura Mulvey, 'Reconsideration: The Earrings of Madame de . . . ; Michael Colvino, 'Ecosystem: La malavita: Gomorrah and Naples'. As it is celebrating its 50th anniversary, it is also still offering free access to 'Da Capo,' a history of FQ written by founding editor Ernest Callenbach.

[According to its press release,] it’s a timely and stimulating report, confirming that film has been one of the most powerful cultural and social agents of the last 100 years. Taking 200 iconic films from the past six decades, it traces how British cinema has upheld some traditional British values – and mocked, challenged and undermined others. It shows how important film has been in sustaining and developing the identity of the UK’s nations and regions, and in reflecting the changing face of Britain’s different communities. And it charts the extraordinary power British film can wield at home and abroad – even more so with the massive economic and technological evolution film has experienced in recent years. This study highlights the cultural impact of British film. It calls on us to acknowledge and appreciate the strength, the diversity and the rude health of our film heritage and to acknowledge its increasingly vital role in contemporary culture.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Going the distance with Claude Chabrol

Film Studies For Free is rather partial to a good film blogathon and there's potentially a very good one coming up that FSFF readers absolutely must check out. In honour of Claude Chabrol's 79th birthday this June 24, Flickhead aka Ray Young is hosting Ten Days’ Wonder: The Claude Chabrol Blogathon from Sunday, June 21 through Tuesday, June 30.

To paraphrase the kind of clichéd British crime drama dialogue in which the classy Chabrol himself would never indulge, Young has 'plenty of previous' when it comes to the films of this near octogenarian: he is the author of the Claude Chabrol Project website which, among other great resources, hosts detailed interviews with and articles about Chabrol.

The Flickhead blogathon is sure to link to further comprehensive web resources on Chabrol, so below, just to flag up the e-event, is Film Studies For Free's little list of links to online scholarly highlights pertaining to this as yet most under-studied great director.

Film Studies For Free's author is aiming to join in with the Chabrol fest next week, so... à bientôt (s'il vous plaît...). [The link to FSFF's video essay - 'Unsentimental Education: On Claude Chabrol's Les Bonnes femmes' is HERE.]

Thursday 11 June 2009

Suzhou River and 'Sixth-Generation' Chinese Filmmaking

Film Studies For Free's author has been busy writing, for her day job, about 婁燁/ Lou Ye's Chinese/German coproduction 苏州河 /Suzhou he/Suzhou River (2000), a striking film which plays much more cleverly than most movies with the idea of implied authorship.

Below are some links to the freely-accessible, online resources of note pertaining to that film, as well as to 'Sixth-Generation' Chinese filmmaking more generally, which were gleaned as part of the research process:

Tuesday 9 June 2009

María Luisa Bemberg: online resources

Still on the subject of film authorship (see here and here), Film Studies For Free chirpily (cheekily?) cross-posts (again, with Directing Cinema - do visit that blog for some great video clips) a little list of choice, freely-accessible online resources pertaining to the Argentine film director María Luisa Bemberg.

A somewhat late starter as a filmmaker, at the tender age of fifty-eight, Bemberg directed six films against the odds of a hugely difficult economic and political situation in Argentina in the 1980s and 1990s. She has been an important influence on a number of young filmmakers, most notably a favourite of FSFF, Lucrecia Martel (also see HERE). Martel's films have been produced by Bemberg's legendary producer and friend Lita Stantic.

In honour of Bemberg and her films, below is a list of high-quality and freely-accessible online studies of her work:

In English:
In Spanish:

In Italian:

Tuesday 2 June 2009

On Auteurism and Film Authorship Theories

Director Jane Campion (right) and cinematographer Laurie Mcinnes on the set of After Hours (1984). Photograph (1981) by Gayle Pigalle

Film Studies For Free will be concentrating on some shorter (but hopefully still useful) posts in the next few weeks. But here's another long one in the meantime: a whole (shiny) host of links to writing devoted to FSFF's author's main topic of research: film authorship and auteur theory. It has consequently been cross-posted at her other blog Directing Cinema, where lots of discussions of authorship and auteurism may be found. The below list of links to freely accessible online material on these topics will be kept updated, so do consider yourselves warmly encouraged to bookmark this post, and also to suggest further good resources to add to the list (by commenting or via email). Latest update: June 3, 2009