Monday 21 February 2011

Studies of Film Noirishness, with Love

50+ new links added on February 27, 2011
The above is a short video primer by Catherine Grant. It offers an audiovisual introduction to issues of gender, sexuality and movement in relation to Rita Hayworth's performance as Gilda in Charles Vidor's 1946 film.

Film Studies For Free is delighted to present its own contribution to the remarkable fundraising effort for the Film Noir Foundation that has been taking place in the last week, namely the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blog-a-thon, organised by film critics Farran Smith Nehme (Self-Styled Siren) and Marilyn Ferdinand (of Ferdy on Film).

Awed by the contributions so far, FSFF proffers (above) a little video-primer on its favourite noir - Gilda - together with a reposting of Matt Zoller Seitz's fabulous audiovisual essay on The Prowler (also above), and a whole host of direct links (below) to openly accessible scholarly reading and viewing on Film Noir, and on all varieties of Neo-Noir, too - taken altogether, some of the most essential of film studies topics.

The Film Noir Foundation works to preserve and restore movies in its chosen mode from many eras and from many countries. The film nominated to be restored with monies raised this year is a fine and important noir called The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me) directed by Cy Endfield (1914–1995).

One of the resources FSFF links to is an excellent interview with Endfield, conducted in 1989 by Brian Neve, in which he discusses that film in the context of his career as a whole and the historical events which formed the background to his work. Here's what Endfield concludes about The Sound of Fury.
I consider that my talent for making pictures was best expressed in two pictures, Zulu and The Sound of Fury. I think the one big talent I have is to make big pictures. There is a sense of structure about something of dimension that I have found lacking even in pictures that were supposed to be big. [...] The Sound of Fury was made mostly from my blood circulation and nervous system. 
FSFF knows that feeling only too well! It can't wait to see the restored film. So, please, if you love Film Noir, join this blog's author in donating some of your hard-earned dough (or even some of your ill-begotten gains...) on this occasion. Just click here. Thank you!
                    Note: The first video essay (by Catherine Grant) embedded at the top of this post was made according to principles of Fair Use/Fair Dealing, primarily with scholarly and critical aims, and was published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License in February 2011. If you found this video or FSFF's Film Noir entry useful or enjoyable, please consider supporting with a donation the valuable work of the Film Noir Foundation. Thank you.

                      Wednesday 16 February 2011

                      Framing Fascination: Studies of Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW

                      [The above video shows an open installation that took place at London College of Communication on the 5th of October 2010. The setup was composed of two screens facing each other. The first screen was a frame (a symbolic window) with a transparent surface through which you could see the action unfolding on the second screen (the rear building’s apartments). For more information about this project, see here]
                      Often, as in Rear Window (1954), eavesdropping or spying is represented itself as a form of voyeuristic fascination that colors the mystery with the aura of something that is taboo and implicates the spectator in the same prurient fascination as the character. By placing within the scene a character who takes an illicit fascination in a mystery, the mystery is thereby lent an aura of perversity, over and above the perverse connotations that it may already carry. But the significance of the voyeuristic scenario is not limited to the perverse coloration it lends to subjective suspense. [Richard Allen, 'Hitchcock and Narrative Suspense Theory and Practice' in Allen, Richard, Malcolm Turvey (eds), Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida: Essays in Honor of Annette Michelson (Amsterdam University Press, 2004),  p. 178]

                      In Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), the audience looks ‘through’ a character’s eyes into a window which is also a cinema screen. The frame functions psychologically in many ways. It puts us in the position of being a voyeur and seeing through the eyes of a voyeur. Yet we are also external to this viewing: there is a switchback effect here of distance and involvement, of continually stepping back from watching people and watching through their eyes, feeling what they are feeling, but being aware also of a skilfully constructed fiction. In the same way, the frame of the screen is complemented by the frame of the rear window, but the frame of the cinema screen is also the frame of the lens, our eyes (the extent of our peripheral vision), the character’s eyes and Hitchcock’s eyes. These are all stages of the frame, their plurality alluded to in the image itself, in the plurality of its frames. [Gregory Minisalle, 'Beyond Internalism and Externalism: Husserl and Sartre’s Image Consciousness in Hitchcock and Buñuel', Film-Philosophy, 14:1, 2010, 190]
                      Film Studies For Free brings you one of its "studies of a single film" today: an entry dedicated to gathering direct links to high-quality studies of Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 film Rear Window, and other items of related interest. Rather like L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries in that film, you don't even need to get out of your chair to enjoy them.

                      Monday 14 February 2011

                      Film Festival Studies Redux

                      Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul enjoys some festival fun as he receives the 2010 Palme D'Or for his film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives at the Cannes Film Festival

                      Film Studies For Free has been catching up with some great resources lately. One set which should really not pass its readers by is In Media Res's recent collection of work on 'Diversity of Film Festivals in East Asia' curated by Dina Iordanova and Ruby Cheung. All items are linked to directly below.

                      Here's a little excerpt from Iordanova and Cheung's curators' note:
                      Like their counterparts in the West, film festivals in East Asia have proliferated [...]. While the oldest festival in the region, the Asia-Pacific Film Festival, has been running since 1954, many younger ones have come into being in the 1990s and 2000s; at least four new festivals came into being in 2010, and a new festival in China’s capital will have its inaugural edition later in 2011. Are these festivals just mimicking the West? Red carpet glamour is not solely confined to the most important A-list film festivals in the West, its symbolism has been taken up by high profile festivals like those in Pusan and Shanghai [...]. Their booming film markets that take place in parallel here bring together filmmakers, buyers and sellers from around the world to establish networks and carry out intra-Asia transactions that successfully bracket out Hollywood. The West is only just beginning to wake up to the importance of these film festivals to global film distribution.

                      Not only are there some fascinating considerations of these issues in prose but, as is In Media Res's wont,  there are some fantastic video resources, too - valuable work, indeed.

                      For more on festivals, do please check out an earlier FSFF post on Film Festival Studies and have a read of the following assorted, high quality studies:
                      And for some more inspiring viewing watch

                      On Godard and Philosophy

                      Trailer for Deux de la Vague/Two in the Wave, an in-depth analysis of the relationship between French New Wave pioneers François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, as seen through rare archival footage, interviews, and film excerpts — written by former Cahiers du Cinéma editor Antoine de Baecque and directed by Emmanuel Laurent. Read more about this film here.

                      Thanks to the very wonderful Girish Shambu, Film Studies For Free was lucky enough to hear of a special issue of the Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy on Jean-Luc Godard. The table of contents, with direct links to all items, is given below.

                      For more reading (and viewing) on Godard, do please check out FSFF's last post on this filmmaker in December 2010.

                      Sunday 6 February 2011

                      "An incarnation of the modern": In Memory of Miriam Bratu Hansen, 1949-2011

                      Last updated: May 13, 2012
                      The cover of Miriam Hansen's last book. Published posthumously. [Image added on May 13, 2012]
                      Hollywood cinema was perceived, not just in the United States but in modernizing capitals all over the world, as an incarnation of the modern. [...]
                      American movies of the classical period offered something like the first global vernacular. If this vernacular had a transnational and translatable resonance it was not just because of its optimal mobilization of biologically hard-wired structures and universal narrative templates, but because this vernacular played a key role in mediating competing cultural discourses on modernity and modernization; because it articulated, brought into optical consciousness (to vary Benjamin), and disseminated a particular historical experience. [Miriam Hansen, “Fallen Women, Rising Stars, New Horizons: Shanghai Silent Film as Vernacular Modernism,” Film Quarterly 54.1 (Fall 2000): 10-22, 30]
                      [Miriam] Hansen’s argument [about “vernacular modernisms”] is that early “classical” or studio cinemas are inextricably intertwined with the experience of modernization and modernity. While this argument, as she claims, is in and of itself not incredibly radical, her argument provides significant [additions to] three areas of film scholarship: it enlarges the discussion of modernism to [include] other media affected by the process of modernization, it intervenes in the binary between psychoanalytic and cognitive approaches to classical Hollywood cinema, and it [...] speaks to the question of Hollywood cinema’s early global hegemony during the 1920s-40s. In this last discussion, Hansen speaks of Hollywood’s flexibility in appropriating an amalgamation of diverse domestic interests in its inauguration of mass audience. [Kirsten Strayer, Ruins and Riots: Transnational Currents in Mexican Cinema, PhD Thesis, University of Pittsburgh 2009, p. 49]
                      Miriam Hansen differentiates between the use of the terms “audience” and “spectator” not just as a theoretical or methodological distinction operative within viewer-oriented studies (as do Kuhn, Mayne, Staiger and others who posit the former as a “real” social collective and the latter as a hypothetical or ideal construct of the text); instead, Hansen argues that the emergence of the “spectator” (and concomitant suppression of the “audience” as such) is historically specific, marking a paradigm shift between early and later cinema (around 1909). [Melanie Nash, 'Introduction', Cinémas : revue d'études cinématographiques / Cinémas: Journal of Film Studies, vol. 14, n° 1, 2003, p. 7-19; citing Miriam Hansen, Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1991 (pp. 23-24), p. 18]
                      The unprecedented acceleration of technological innovation and circulation have created conditions in which consciousness is more than ever inadequate to the state of technological development, its power to destroy and enslave human bodies, hearts, and minds. At the same time, new media such as video and the digital media have expanded the formal and material arsenal for imaginative practices and have opened up new modes of publicness that already enact a different, and potentially alternative, engagement with technology.
                          This antinomic situation eludes the perspective of strictly media theory, especially in its ontological and teleological bent (for example, Paul Virilio, Friedrich Kittler, Norbert Bolz), to say nothing of popular pundits' techno-pessimism. It requires understanding the practices, both productive and receptive, of technology in increasingly overlapping yet fractured, unequal yet unpredictable public spheres. It urges us to resume Benjamin's concern for the conditions of apperception, sensorial affect, and cognition, experience and memory—in short, for a political ecology of the senses.
                          For us—teachers, scholars, intellectuals—to engage on both sides of this antinomy, we need theory, and we need aesthetics. The current reinvention of the aesthetic in the humanities would do well to heed Benjamin's lesson. The question of the fate of art in the age of technological reproducibility still maps a heuristic—and historical—horizon that no serious effort to refocus the study of literature and other traditional arts can afford to ignore. At the very least, awareness of that horizon should guard the renewed attention to formal and stylistic questions against illusory attempts to revive artistic autonomy, as an enclave protected against technical mediation and commodification. [Miriam Hansen, 'Why Media Aesthetics', Critical Inquiry, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2004-5]
                      When Film Studies For Free posted the above embedded video a week ago, in an entry on online film studies lectures at the University of Chicago, it couldn't have imagined the almost immediate and extremely sad circumstances in which it would be reposted. But word has come, via Tom Gunning and other film scholars, that Miriam Hansen, one of the true paradigm-shifters of our discipline, one of its most gifted historians and theorists, has passed away.

                      Miriam Hansen was Ferdinand Schevill Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she also taught in the Department of English and the Committee on Cinema and Media Studies. Her publications include a book on Ezra Pound’s early poetics (1979) and Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film (1991). She was completing a study entitled The Other Frankfurt School: Kracauer, Benjamin, and Adorno on Cinema, Mass Culture, and Modernity. Her next project was to be a book on the notion of cinema as vernacular modernism.

                      Inspired by her lifelong study of the Frankfurt School, Hansen's work rethought cinema as a part of the public and counterpublic spheres, situating it within a larger discourse of popular culture, and thus opening up the essential study of such 'periphery texts' as fan magazines, gossip columns, movie reviews, and so on. But her development of the concept of vernacular modernism also completely set the scene for the field of world or transnational cinema studies; and her historical work on cinematic spectatorship and her highly original addressing of the sensual experiences of film and new media are likewise in the process of revolutionizing their field of study (as W.J. T. Mitchell argues in relation to 'Miriam Hansen’s urging that cinema and other media be regarded as a vernacular modernism in which new theoretical propositions might be articulated while the senses are being reeducated').

                      It is hard to think, then, of anyone who has made a more significant contribution to Film Studies (and, latterly, new media studies), in the context of the Humanities as a whole, than she did.

                      Film Studies For Free hopes that Hansen knew just how grateful we are for her research -- how changed we are by it -- as well as for her inspiring work as a teacher. Here is a link to a warm and touching tribute by one of Hansen's former students.

                      Links to some of Hansen's work, as well as to some of the work it inspired, are given below. Further links, including ones to online tributes to her, will be added here as they come to FSFF's notice.

                      Online Tributes to Miriam Hansen:

                      Work by Miriam Hansen online:
                      Other Scholars on aspects of Hansen's work:

                        Friday 4 February 2011

                        For the Love of Film (Noir)

                        This time last year, Film Studies For Free was thrilled to support the For the Love of Film Preservation fund-raising blogathon organised by peerless, online, film critics Farran Smith Nehme (Self-Styled Siren) and Marilyn Ferdinand (of Ferdy on Film).

                        The grand total of money raised for film preservation last year was more than $30,000 in contributions and matching funds; those funds saved films through the National Film Preservation Foundation.

                        This year, the chosen theme for the blogathon is Film Noir, so you can expect many fine entries on that topic to be appearing all over the film internets in the immediate aftermath of Valentine's Day.

                        Donations will go to the Film Noir Foundation, which works to preserve and restore movies in this mode from many eras and from many countries. The film to be restored this year is a fine and important noir called The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me) directed by Cy Endfield, possibly more well-known (if not better remembered) for Zulu (1964).

                        As Marilyn Ferdinand writes:
                        A nitrate print of [Endfield's] film will be restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, using a reference print from Martin Scorsese’s personal collection to guide them and fill in any blanks. Paramount Pictures has agreed to help fund the restoration, but FNF is going to have to come up with significant funds to get the job done. That’s where we come in.

                        Do check out the wonderful promotional trailer for the event created by Greg Ferrara of Cinemastyles, who also made the e-poster above. The blogathon Facebook page is here. Also, please make sure to visit the all-important donation link.

                        And do watch out for a further, snazzy entry on film noir by FSFF, in upcoming weeks, as its own original contribution to the whole shebang...