Tuesday 30 August 2011

Links on videographical film criticism, editing, 'intensified continuity', 'chaos cinema', 'hapticity' and (post) cinematic affect

A FILMANALYTICAL video collage, made by Catherine Grant
TOUCHING THE FILM OBJECT? offers a brief audiovisual exploration of issues of sensuous proximity, contiguity or contact in experiencing or studying films - what theorist Laura U. Marks called 'hapticity'. It quotes from Marks' essay 'Haptic Visuality: Touching with the Eyes' [in FRAMEWORK: the Finnish Art Review, No. 2, 2004, pp. 79-82], as well as from Ingmar Bergman's 1966 film PERSONA (cinematography by Sven Nykvist). The music is excerpted from Robert Lippok and Beatrice Martini's BRANCHES, available at the Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. You can read an accompanying written essay about this video and videographic film studies here.
A ragbag of links, today, at Film Studies For Free. But this blog wanted to flag up some recently published, and curiously related, audiovisual items of possible interest, together with some associated written resources.

First up, is the video above, the latest of FSFF's videographic film studies experiments. Compared with FSFF's other videos, this film-theoretical one turned out to be a close kin of two earlier video 'primers' (on Gilda, film noir, gender and performance and on Elizabeth Taylor, framing and child stardom/performance). As befits primers, rather than
aiming to generate completely new insights, [these 'rich text objects' attempt], within the time-space of the average YouTube fan clip, to assemble and combine quotations from existing film scholarship on [their topics] with sequences from the film in question in order to provide a meaningful, scholarly and affective, immersive experience. [FSFF, April 7, 2011]
If you are beginning to be invested in, or just mildly curious about, the possibilities of videographic film criticism and film theory, then do read 'Touching the Film Object? Notes on the 'Haptic' in Videographical Film Studies' by Catherine Grant at FSFF's sister blog Filmanalytical, and also check out further links and thoughts here.

Next up, a pointer to an exciting, film-theory related, theme week at the great website In Media Res on Steven Shaviro's Post-Cinematic Affect, running between August 29 - Sept. 2, 2011.

There are a couple of interesting entries up already, with very lively comments streams. Further links will be added below as the posts go live. In the meantime, you can read a lengthy excerpt from Shaviro's book on Post-Cinematic Affect here. And do visit his blog where you will find lots more material from this work.
Finally, FSFF wanted to make sure that its own readers were alerted to a very lively debate on 'intensified continuity' and 'chaos cinema' in relation to the action film (broadly defined) that has sprung up online as a result of the publication of a two part video essay on those topics at the wonderful new (video-essay-rich) website PressPlay, curated by film critic and video essayist extraordinaire Matt Zoller Seitz. The 'Chaos Cinema' essay, embedded below, is by a young film scholar Matthias Stork and is well worth a look.

Below the videos, FSFF has linked to related online, scholarly and journalistic items treating substantially similar issues as 'Chaos Cinema', published before his essay, as well as to ones produced directly in response to Stork's work.


The video essay Chaos Cinema, administered by Indiewire's journalistic blog PRESS PLAY, examines the extreme aesthetic principles of 21st century action films. These films operate on techniques that, while derived from classical cinema, threaten to shatter the established continuity formula. Chaos reigns in image and sound. Part 1 contrasts traditional action films with chaotic ones and takes a close look at the "sound" track, especially its use in car chases.
Part 2 takes a look at the chaotic style in dialogue scenes, musicals, "shaky-cam" extravaganzas and mourns the rich history of early cinema.

Monday 29 August 2011

'Unseen Film' Dossier from SCREEN MACHINE

Framegrab from Christian Marclay's The Clock a 24-hour compilation of time-related scenes from movies that debuted at London's White Cube gallery in 2010. Read Daniel Fairfax's great essay on this film
[...] In these five essays we explore the notion of the unseen film, and how questions of not seeing, seeing nothing (as in Dorian Stuber’s essay), writing without seeing (as in the essays by myself, Daniel Fairfax and Goda Trakumaite) or the unseen films that seen films produce (as in the essay by Josefina Garcia Pullés) allow us to pose new questions both of the cinema and of its others, the latter encapsulated in [Joseph] McBride’s scorned “something else”: the others of cinema, the thoughts it provokes, creates, distorts or obfuscates, whose pursuit may finally be of greater value than 'seeing’ [...]. - [Conall Cash, introducing the Screen Machine Dossier on Unseen Films]
A really quick little post from Film Studies For Free today to bring you tidings of some brilliantly stimulating new reading at the Melbourne-based periodical website Screen Machine - the 'Unseen Films' Dossier which FSFF heard of thanks to Brad Nguyen. Enjoy!

Wednesday 24 August 2011

University of Sussex Film and Moving Image Studies Research Online

A (bordering on) recursive Film Studies For Free screengrab

It is Film Studies For Free's 3rd birthday today. So, time for a little self-indulgent reflection and celebration...

A lot has changed in the last year, most notably that this blog has had to vie with a Film Studies For Pay job for its author's attention... Entries have indeed slowed a little. But, despite this, FSFF's readership has continued to grow rather astonishingly, with 'unique visits' exceeding 300,000, and 'page views' just about to reach half a million. Thank you, dear readers!

While there will be big developments at this blog in the coming year -- some of those linked to an exciting new, MA in Film Studies course its author will teach on Curating Film Culture next Spring -- its essential mission and qualities won't change: viva Open Access!

Onwards and upwards, but please remember you can follow FSFF in its various incarnations at Twitter, at Facebook, and at Vimeo, and you can keep up with its videographic film studies curations at Audiovisualcy (also on Twitter and Facebook).

Film Studies at the University of Sussex has been such a welcoming, fruitful and stimulating workplace for this blog's author. So, today's entry gratefully gathers links to openly accessible, online, film and moving image studies research and scholarship produced by the very wonderful staff and doctoral students/graduates at that rather venerable (50 years old, itself, next month) and pretty cool institution (as well as by FSFF's own scrivener).

Friday 19 August 2011

Double Vision: Links in Memory of Raúl Ruiz, a Filmmaking Legend

Updated Sunday August 21, 2011
The late Raúl Ruiz in conversation with Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli at the University of Aberdeen in 2007. One of the most prolific directors of the last 50 years, having written over 100 plays before starting in the cinema, Ruiz films have been characterized as ironic, surrealistic and deeply experimental.

Here is my own theoretical fiction: in the waking dream that is our receiving the film, there is a counterpart; we start projecting another film on the film. I have said to project and that seems apt. Images that leave me and are superimposed on the film itself, such that the double film - as in the double vision of Breton traditions - becomes protean, filled with palpitations, as if breathing. [Raúl Ruiz, 'The Face of the Sea (In Place of an Epilogue)', Poetics of Cinema 2]
Every time that a general theory or a fiction is elaborated I have the impression that ... there is a painting stolen, a part of the story or puzzle missing. The final explanation is no more than a conventional means of tying together all the paintings. It’s like the horizon: once you reach it, there is still the horizon.  [Raúl Ruiz in L’Hypothèse du Tableau Volé/The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (Ruiz, 1979)]
... Raul Ruiz's comments on filmmaking outside metropolitan centres are revealing. He tells us how, when he was studying theater and film in Santiago with the aid of American textbooks, he was surprised to find "that the films we loved the most were badly made" - because they were not made according to the set of assumptions about action and behaviour in Central Conflict Theory." This led him to strategise that "every film is always the bearer of another, a secret film" and that "the strong points [of the inexplicit film] are found in the weak points of the apparent one." This argument seems to be not just about how fascination presents itself in film; it also suggests that fascination (Ruiz calls it "the gift of double vision that we all possess") is not just an aesthetic project: It is, above all, a social and political project. [MA Abbas, 'Dialectic of Deception', Public Culture, 1999, v. 11 n. 2, p. 347-363, p. 360 citing Ruiz, A Poetics of Cinema, trans. by Brian Holmes, (Paris: Editions Di Voir, 1995); p. 11, 111, and 109 respectively:]
Film Studies For Free is very sad to pass on news of the death of Chilean film director Raúl Ruiz in Paris after a long illness. 

Film critic Dave Kehr points to the report in Le Monde in which Ruiz's producer, François Margolin, informed the French newspaper that the director "was in the midst of finishing the editing of a film he has shot on his childhood in Chile ... And he was preparing another film in Portugal, on a famous Napoleonic battle.”  Perhaps we will get to see the first of these tantalising projects. FSFF very much hopes so.

Below is this blog's sincerely felt tribute to the brilliant Ruiz, one of the most memorable and talented of prolific filmmakers (and one of the most prolific of filmmakers against the odds): a list of links to online studies of the director's work, as well as to interviews with him, and writing by him. Further links will continue to be added here in the days and weeks to come.

Links to posthumous tributes to Ruiz, along with other material about his films, are being gathered by David Hudson at the Mubi Notebook.

Update (August 21, 2011): The list below was expanded with many additional entries, including, at the foot of the post, a number of documentaries about (and/or recordings of) Ruiz. Of particular note is the documentary Exiles: Raoul Ruiz Chilean Film Director (BBC, 1988, directed by Jill Evans), which contains many marvellous excerpts from Ruiz's films. 

Also see Jonathan Rosenbaum's marvellous tribute to Ruiz, 'Ruiz Hopping and Buried Treasures: Twelve Selected Global Sites'.

You can watch Ruiz's Three Crowns of a Sailor (1983, circa 117 mins) online at present for free, too!

And Girish Shambu has just posted "A Ghost at Noon",  a remarkable and very personal tribute to Ruiz by Adrian Martin (author or editor of many of the essays below).

Centre for Modern Thought, University of Aberdeen: Tuesday 13th June 2006, Mr Raoul Ruiz, the distinguished film director spoke to us in broad terms about his work in film (he has directed almost 100 films) and film theory (he is the author of a multi-volume book entitled "The Poetics of Cinema").

Thursday 18 August 2011

Laughing at Austerity Britain? Ealing Comedy Studies

The year 1949 was a pretty miserable time in Britain. Postwar austerity was at its height. Many city centres were still largely bomb sites. The cold war was getting chillier. The British film industry was in crisis after the Labour government had imposed a punitive tax on American films, which led to Hollywood studios withholding their product. Then suddenly, in the early summer, three pictures opened on consecutive weeks that together defined what we now know as "the Ealing comedy". The films got darker and Ealing Studios' reputation greater as the month wore on. [Philip French, 'Whisky Galore - Review', The Observer, July 31, 2011]
[Michael] Powell after A Matter of Life and Death gives us three intriguing variations on the trauma picture, in which, intertwined are the central landmarks of British life after 1945: the end of war, the end of empire and the birth of a new consumer age.
       Before that, however, we should note that Ealing comedy of the period inverts the trauma film completely.
       If Ealing Studios produced the keynote Dead of Night, it also produced a triple antithesis in the post-war years: anti-trauma comedy in the form of [Robert] Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and Alexander Mackendrick’s scintillating double act, Whisky Galore (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955). Indeed, the best of Ealing comedy is premised very precisely on this inversion, where what might well be traumatic turns out to be the exact opposite.
       Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets is biting social satire, in which the serial killer, Louis (Dennis Price), as outcast of the family and excluded by the vacuous rich, is more sympathetic than any of his eccentric aristo victims (all played by Alec Guinness). As they fall like ninepins one after the other, we can all have a good laugh and applaud Louis’ elegant cunning. A perfect picture, you could argue, for a new social democracy.
       The wartime Whisky Galore, set on the remote island of Todday (toddy?), also plays on inversion: this time on the fear of occupation – an anti-The Next of Kin (Thorold Dickinson, 1942) or Went the Day Well? In Mackendrick’s film, the fear of invasion is now past but the Scottish island is ‘occupied’ by an English Home Army captain, Waggert (Basil Radford), who has marshalled customs officials to try and prevent the looting of a wrecked cargo ship carrying whisky. It is a comic version of Anglo-Scots antagonism, with its famous montage sequence of the looted alcohol being hidden by the islanders in rain-butts, water tanks, hot-water bottles and under a baby’s cot before bemused officials arrive to discover absolutely nothing. The gradual social exclusion of Waggert from the island has an edge and a cruel streak that prevents any lapse into sentimentality.
       Sentimentality is equally absent from The Ladykillers, where Mackendrick completely inverts the trauma-effects of Gothic expressionism. A motley gang of train robbers posing as a musical ensemble takes lodgings near Kings Cross station to prepare the next heist. At the landlady’s door, the figure of Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness) casts a dark shadow – shades of the opening to The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927) – but thereafter the threat becomes internal as the eccentric old landlady ([Katie Johnson]), in her parody of a haunted house, has the gang tearing their hair out in annoyance and frustration at her blithe eccentricities. In Gothic melodrama, we expect villains to terrify, but here they are traumatised to the extent that, when found out, they are prepared to kill off each other rather than kill the ‘harmless’ old landlady. She who should be terrified is oblivious to the threat; those who should terrify show a collective failure of nerve and eliminate each other instead. Gothic melodrama morphs into dark comedy. And Ealing comedy runs happily on in a parallel world to David Lean and Michael Powell. [John Orr, 'The Trauma Film and British Romantic Cinema 1940-1960', Senses of Cinema, Issue 51, 2009 ]

Ealing Studios, the oldest continuously working film studio in the world, is marking its 80th anniversary, according to a couple of enjoyable videos at the Channel 4 and BBC websites. A remarkable achievement, indeed, thinks Film Studies For Free, one of the finest in the history of British cinema.

Founded in economically austere and politically troubled times, the studios escaped relatively unscathed from the recent riots in London (Ealing was a particularly tragically affected area). They seem set to continue to produce their distinctly transnational brand of cinematic goods for the UK film industry well into the future. 

The current anniversary of the establishment of the sound stages at Ealing, and a number of other connected anniversaries coming up (e.g. 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Scottish-American director Alexander Mackendrick’s birth, one of Britain’s greatest, and most undervalued, filmmakers) have felicitously 'coincided' with the latest cinematic and DVD release of three of the greatest products of those studios: the Ealing comedies Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951), and Whisky Galore (Mackendrick, 1949).

FSFF loves a mildly subversive chuckle from time to time, and is particularly partial, thus, to a good Ealing comedy. So, in fond celebration of that wonderful cycle of movies, below is its little list of links to online studies of those films, as well as to other items of related, scholarly interest.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

New online film journal LOLA launches with an issue on "Histories" !!

Framegrab from Ohayo/Good Morning (Yasujiro Ozu, 1959), an image of the 'in-between' as analysed by Andrew Klevan in the inaugural issue of LOLA.
A big day! Film Studies For Free is delighted to relay the news that Girish Shambu has just published at his blog: LOLA, a new online film journal edited by Adrian Martin and Shambu, has just launched.

Below, FSFF also reproduces the wonderful table of contents which include some very hotly anticipated items, among many other must-read essays... So that's what FSFF is heading off to do now: it must read them!

For once, the links below don't take you straight to the item, but, instead, to the entry at girish's where you can find the full links as well as a brief summary of each article.

Congratulations, and many thanks, Adrian and Girish. Let all film scholars and cinephiles bless the birth of LOLA and all who sail in her!

Monday 15 August 2011


Bodies Politic/Body Politics
"Your body is a microcosm of all existence." – On Michelle LeBrun's Death: A Love Story: Bodies Politic/Body Politics: The Political and the Personal in Contemporary Film Essays by Matt Brennan
Film Studies For Free continues to catch up with August's bumper crop of new online journal issues. Over the weekend, it has been thoroughly enjoying the lively and eclectic brilliance of Bright Lights Film Journal's latest offering of very savvy, and sometimes sassy, articles.

They may not be 'peer reviewed' in the strict scholarly sense, but film studies academics and cinephiles will miss these at their peril.

The entire table of contents for Issue 73 is thus reproduced below. And don't miss Bright Lights After Dark, BLFJ's fabulous film blog for further, essential, movie musings. 

Bright Lights Film Journal, August 2011 | Issue 73

From the Editor
Short Features
  • They Live, by Jonathan Lethem. Reviewed by Chad Trevitte