Wednesday 30 September 2009

Glasgow's Finest: work by Caughie, Geraghty, and great e-theses, too

Image from The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972), a film studied in Philip Drake's PhD thesis on Hollywood performance

It's been a busy month here at Film Studies For Free, but let's end it on a high note. Today's little film and media studies links list is of salient items from Enlighten, the e-prints archive at the University of Glasgow, an institution of which FSFF's author is personally very fond, given its wonderful department of Theatre, Film & Television Studies.

This research repository houses some true Open-Access treasures by very important authorities in these disciplines, such as a recent item on film authorship by John Caughie, editor (and author of much) of Theories of Authorship, and four articles by Christine Geraghty, one of the most significant figures in British cinema and television studies. There are also some further excellent items by great, younger scholars, like Philip Drake (now a lecturer in the Film, Media, and Journalism Department at the University of Stirling).

Tuesday 29 September 2009

The Prolonged Sorrow of the Filipinos: An Appeal by a Cinephile

Image from Maicling pelicula nañg ysañg Indio Nacional/A Short Film About the Indio Nacional, Or, The Prolonged Sorrow of the Filipinos (Raya Martin, 2005)
Martin’s Maicling Pelicula is an intensely personal film projecting the young director’s emotional impressions of the era bygone into actualities of the beginnings of the uprising, the stirrings of Philippine nationalism. [...] Maicling Pelicula throws down the gauntlet—and with rude authority—for the heights of sophistication and beauty that the Filipino aesthetic may reach.
Alexis Tioseco, November 11, 2006

Film Studies For Free's author imagines that its readers have been as shocked and upset as she has been to see the news footage of the recent Philippines floods caused when Tropical Storm Ketsana/now Typhoon Ondoy hit on Saturday. Independent filmmakers from the Philippines, like Raya Martin, are producing among the most compelling cinematic work in the world at the moment. Their communications about the floods on Twitter and Facebook have very powerfully expressed the awful scale of the country's current emergency.

FSFF urges you, if you are able, to investigate how to donate to any of the charitable organisations currently mobilising their resources to provide emergency support. One such organisation (based in the UK) is the Disasters Emergency Committee (also, a good point of call for those responding to the Southern Pacific tsunamis and the Indonesian earthquake [added Oct 1]); Google links for Help for Typhoon Ondoy Victims in the Philippines are here; the Philippine Red Cross is linked to here; other links, for those based in the Philippines, are listed here. If readers want to supply other links to, or information about, any further ways of donating, or helping, you are warmly encouraged to use the comments section of this blog for that purpose. Thank you.

Below is a small selection of key links to online resources on the subject of the cinema of the Philippines (including, at the very foot of the post, a wonderful Cahiers du cinéma video interview in English with Raya Martin) to remind us just how worthy of critical and other support that cinema is. Very sadly, as regular readers of FSFF will know, some of the best entries in the list come from a now silenced voice, that of one of the most eloquent champions of Philippine cinema: Alexis Tioseco, murdered in Quezon City, Philippines, along with partner and fellow critic Nika Bohinc, several weeks ago. They are much missed.

Lots of Links from the Twitterverse and Beyond

Tarzan Call, Number 5 in the List Universe 'Top Ten Sound Effects We All Recognize':
"The Tarzan [call] is the distinctive, ululating yell of the character Tarzan, as portrayed by actor Johnny Weismuller in the films based on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, starting with [Tarzan of the Apes] (1932)."

Film Studies For Free is now regularly tweeting (and retweeting) one off links to great online and open-access resources (or, sometimes, just fun ones...). Click here if you're interested in following those leads as they are posted.

It makes sense, then, to come up with occasional round-up posts of those links for FSFF blog readers. And this also provides a good opportunity to throw into that mix other film and media studies items of note that might otherwise get missed.

So here, in no particular order, are a whole bunch of great links:

Drawing on the vast archives of the George Eastman House Motion Picture Collection, including Louise Brooks’ personal collection, this exhibition will celebrate the hundredth anniversary of her birth. It is also a rare opportunity to examine vintage stills, which are often overlooked but were seminal to the creation of cinematic icons, particularly in the 1920s and 30s when the burgeoning picture magazines were feeding off the publicity machines of film capitals like Hollywood and Berlin.

Monday 28 September 2009

Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water

Updated with more links - Oct 1, at 08.30

Sequence 1 from Nóż w wodzie/Knife in the Water (Roman Polanski, 1962)

Two magisterial sequences furnish today's Film Studies For Free offering. They come from one of FSFF's author's favourite films (and perhaps her favourite film to teach): Knife in the Water (Nóż w wodzie, Poland 1962), the first full-length feature film directed
by Roman Polanski and co-written by him (inter alia, with Jerzy Skolimowski; the music is by jazz composer Krzysztof Komeda, with saxophone played by Bernt Rosengren; the actors are Zygmunt Malanowicz as the boy, Jolanta Umecka as Krystyna, and Leon Niemczyk as Andrzej, the husband).

These two sequences do far more than simply hint at a directorial greatness that would only come later. Rather, they show ample evidence from the beginning of his career as to just why, FSFF humbly opines, this director mightily deserved a life-time achievement award for his cinematic oeuvre
. As Peter Bradshaw wrote of Knife in the Water, to mark a 2004 retrospective of the director's work:
The raw talent of this film is still obvious, as it was to landmark Paramount producer Robert Evans ("I loved the little Polack!"), who sponsored Polanski's Hollywood career and, in movies such as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, brought to full flower his extraordinary ability to create menace. It's all here, clenched like a fist.
By the way, if you are surfing the internet from the US or Canada you can watch this film online and in full for free, for the next month, courtesy of The Auteurs. Just click here. FSFF couldn't recommend it more highly.

Today, following news of Polanski's arrest in Switzerland, pending the processing of an extradition request by US attorneys, Zurich Film Festival president Debra Winger stood publicly in solidarity with Polanski: "We stand by and wait for his release and his next masterwork", she said.

FSFF is proud to line up beside Winger and with some of the others who have spoken out for Polanski's release. But please see here, here, here, and Richard Brody's hugely compelling 'Polanski Redux' (last link added Oct. 1) for opinions about some of the many complications of the current extradition case; these continue to provoke at least ambivalence, for plenty of us ('romantic auteurist') admirers of Polanski's films, about what should be the final legal outcome (given that Polanski pled guilty to his 1978 rape charge, he has continued to argue, albeit in absentia and unsuccessfully, that the original conviction against him was unsound due to "judicial and prosecutorial misconduct", and his victim has requested that the case now be dropped, so as not to cause any further damage to her and her family).

Here, in honour of Polanski's work for the cinema and in the hope of a rapid and proper processing of the current charges against him for all those directly affected, are some FSFF links to discussions of his first film.

Thursday 24 September 2009

E-book Index: University of California Press Public Access Film Studies Books

Film Studies For Free regularly visits the brilliant online archive of the University of California Press to check out its range of public-access e-books. There are now more than thirty full-length, UC Press film-studies, or film and media-studies related, books openly accessible online now. So FSFF delightedly and painstakingly put together the list, below, of direct links to each and every last one of them. FSFF will keep you updated about future, film-related developments at the archive, too.

Thanks to UC Press and their book authors for their great attitude to publishing scholarly works online.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Jarman Award 2009 winner is Lindsay Seers

Recording of part of Lindsay Seers' exhibition 'Swallowing Black Maria'
(more info here)
Lindsay Seers's Extramission 6 (Black Maria) [is] one of the real finds of [the Altermodern: Tate Triennal exhibition, 2009]. Seers shows a semi-autobiographical, quasi-documentary film about her life, screened in a mock-up shed whose design is a copy of Thomas Edison's Black Maria, his New Jersey film studio. The story is implausible, troubling, and beautifully told by different narrators.

As a child, Seers is so overwhelmed by visual stimulus that she cannot speak. As soon as she sees a photograph, she decides she wants to be a camera. She uses her mouth as the camera, and goes about with a black bag over her head. As she grows up, Seers stops being a camera, and wants instead to be a projector. She wears a model of Edison's studio on her head, projecting the movies in her mind. She struggles to illuminate the world.

The whole story is both dreamlike and moving. How much of it is true? There are interviews with Seers's mother and with a psychologist. Are they really who we think they are? As I staggered out, someone muttered "What is she on?" Adrian Searle,, February 3, 2009

Film Studies For Free is very happy to add its congratulations to the many being deservedly delivered today to Lindsay Seers following the award to her yesterday of this year's Jarman prize for artists working with the moving image. Seers, whose hypnotic work as an artist includes film practice-based research produced as a lecturer in arts practice at London's Goldsmiths College, receives a cash prize, but also a very valuable broadcast commission – to make four artworks for Channel 4’s acclaimed Three Minute Wonder slot (3MW). FSFF looks forward to watching those.

The Jarman Award was inspired by British avant-garde film-maker Derek Jarman, one of the most innovative, esteemed and visionary artists of the last century. Interviews and features on this year’s award shortlist and Jarman's legacy can be found at Engine, an online forum from Animate Projects.

Below are some further links to online and openly accessible resources, reviews and information about Lindsay Seers' work.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Pedro Costa: A Retrospective

Revised and updated version

The Rabbit Hunters by Pedro Costa (one of t
hree episodes of a 2007 project created by the Jeonju Film Festival to produce and distribute short films created in digital format and directed by three directors with complete creative freedom. The other episodes are Respite by Harun Farocki and Correspondences by Eugène Green).

Watching any of Pedro Costa’s films grabs hold of our gaze and forces us to personally experience the motion of the film. At times his scenes sting our eyes with their piercing pain, and at times they wrap our eyes in ineffable tenderness. [Shigehiko Hasumi]
Like his European contemporaries Ulrich Seidl and Harun Farocki, Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa is a veritable pioneer in the fusion of documentary and fiction. As London's Tate Modern museum is about to embark on its fantastic retrospective of the whole of Costa’s oeuvre (at the Starr Auditorium from 25 September–4 October 2009), the ever-timely Film Studies For Free presents its own retrospective of links to valuable (mostly English-language) work about him published online.
Whenever it can, FSFF stands on the shoulders of giants: on this occasion, welcome lifts were given by Girish Shambu, Michael Guillén, David Hudson, HarryTuttle, and Ryland Walker Knight with their respective links lists and discussions or interviews around the time of North American retrospectives of Costa's works and the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Thanks a lot, guys.

FSFF's London readers should also note that Costa will give a talk called 'Thoughts on Films' at Birkbeck College, associated with the Tate retrospective at 7.30pm on Tuesday 29 September (further details HERE).
And, finally, at the very foot of this post, for its francophone readers, FSFF has embedded two rather enlightening segments from a wonderful video interview with Costa (in unsubtitled French) at Cannes in 2009.

Austrian cinema for export #1: Ulrich Seidl

Image from Import Export (Ulrich Seidl, 2007)

Unlike [Michael] Haneke or his protégée Jessica Hausner, [...] Seidl finds the disturbing not in extraordinary outbursts of violence or helplessness, but rather in the everyday strangeness all around us, a world he transmits formally in blurring and ultimately deconstructing the boundaries between fact and fiction, documentary and feature. He ranks, alongside Egon Humer, as the most important Austrian documentary filmmaker of the 1990s and has only strengthened this position in the last few years.

Ulrich Seidl has repeatedly emphasised in interviews and public appearances that he never intended to be, and indeed does not see himself solely as, a documentary filmmaker. Like others working in Austria's subsidy-dependent film landscape, Seidl stumbled upon the documentary as a means to realise his cinematic aspirations without having to resort to making movie-of-the-week fare. And even before shooting Dog Days Seidl refused to call his films documentaries, maintaining that all his films have both “documentary and fictional levels”.

Seidl's stylised, laconic regard of quotidian quirks moved his work beyond the social reportage and discourses of “authenticity” and “reality” that inform other domestic documentaries. The world he records lacks any pre-packaged shine. Seidl is uninterested in “life's few happy moments”, which he justifies by asserting the contrast between his cinematic project and a wedding photographer's job.

Mattias Frey (hyperlinks added by FSFF)

Film Studies For Free brings you the first of a number of Austrian cinema-themed links-lists: this one is to anglophone, scholarly, or otherwise very useful, and openly accessible online resources related to the film work of Ulrich Seidl. Below the links list are some excerpts from his early films (trailers for some of the later ones can be seen at the official websites in the links-list).

Monday 21 September 2009

Angelism and rage: Sally Potter links

Sally Potter is exceptional among directors in having made both successful commercial features and experimental films. Besides filmmaking, her career incorporates dance, choreography, music and performance art; these elements are interwoven in her films, all of which - while very different from each other - confront issues around performance, gender and genre and appeal to the significance of musicality and movement in a medium which is in essence non-verbal.
Annette Kuhn

On the surface a satire on fashion, Rage is an indictment of the very market logic that forces stars to parade themselves on the red carpet in Berlin’s inevitable snow. It’s a reclamation of beauty from the bankers, and central to its ravishing struggle is Jude Law as Minx, a Russian-American supermodel. Minx refers to herself in the third person as “she” but the film leaves open the question of how Minx understands this pronoun for herself.

While not as centrally queer as Orlando, Rage is deeply concerned with that queerest of themes: what we say of ourselves and what (secretly) we cannot say but long to. Its compassion is amplified by its stunningly simple visual style; shot in tiny photographers’ studios using greenscreen, the film is also a message to budding filmmakers who think their projects are unlikely to get funding. Potter, a friend of Derek Jarman’s, is one of the few filmmakers committed to his mission of: make things with what you have.

Sophie Mayer

In a brilliant article discussing the role that other media play within film ("The Film Stilled", Camera Obscura 24, September 1990), Raymond Bellour recently suggested that these singular moments of eruption or invasion can point in two quite contrary directions. On the one hand, there are moments of video in film that point backwards, regressively, to a lost, even archaic past. Here, video becomes a sad, deathly emblem of nostalgia in the lives of people who are finding it hard to get themselves together. This occurs in the current release Falling Down, where the relentless camera movement into Michael Douglas' family video in the final shot expresses the complete disintegration of his identity. But, in a completely different spirit, video moments can point forward to utopian, transcendent, sometimes mystical states and experiences. Bellour gives this trend in cinema the curious name of 'angelism' - and what's most curious about it is that he coined the word before seeing Sally Potter's Orlando, where, in its final vision, video texture fills the screen as a child's video camera [that of Orlando's daughter] discovers an angel hovering in the sky, singing.
Adrian Martin

On the day that Rage, Sally Potter's new film, embarks on its 'multiplatform, interactive' release-week (today begin the mobile phone episodes), Film Studies For Free (a big Potter fan of old) is delighted to premiere its own selection of choice, openly accessible, scholarly links to Potter resources:

Tuesday 15 September 2009

In fond memory of Patrick Swayze

The power behind Film Studies For Free's e-throne is a 'person of a certain age', making her (chrono) logically susceptible to a good number of the many charms and talents of actor Patrick Swayze. She is, thus, saddened by the news of his untimely death.

Swayze was an actor of surprisingly slight physical stature, but one who loomed very large and very beautifully, not only in Hollywood and independent cinema, and, of course, in the estimation of his many fans and admirers, but also in the musings of quite a few Film Studies scholars. In particular relation to the latter, he helped to inspire -- FSFF is sure -- many worthwhile studies of (post-)modern gender and sexuality, 'looking relations', and acting in film.

In fond memory of his work for the screen, a few links to openly-accessible items of some of that scholarship are given below:

Yvonne Tasker, Spectacular Bodies: Gender, Genre, and the Action Cinema (London: Routledge, 1993)

Christina Lane, Feminist Hollwyood: From Born in Flames to Point Break (Wayne State University Press, 2000)

John Izod, Myth, Mind, and the Screen: Understanding the Heroes of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)