Tuesday 20 March 2012

Video Essays and Scholarly Remix: Film Scholarship’s Emergent Forms - Audiovisual Film Studies, Pt 2

Catherine Grant will discuss the above companion piece to her video essay Touching the Film Object? at a workshop on "Video Essays: Film Scholarship’s Emergent Form" at the 2012 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, 5pm on March 22, 2012 in Boston.
     Her fellow workshop participants will include Christian Keathley (Middlebury College), Girish Shambu (Canisius College), Benjamin Sampson (UCLA), Richard Misek (University of Kent), Craig Cieslikowski (University of Florida) and Matthias Stork (UCLA).  
In her book Death 24x a Second, Laura Mulvey considered how the intersection of cinema with various digital technologies has changed film studies in recent decades.  Most obviously, DVDs allow film scholars unprecedented access to high-quality copies of our objects of study, and the internet has supplemented this with a wealth of online critical and archival material.  As a result, these various digital tools have significantly enhanced film scholars’ research and teaching.  But this intersection of cinema and digital technologies has brought not just accessibility, but the potential for dramatic transformation in the study of film.  Mulvey wrote, “New ways of consuming old movies on electronic and digital technologies,” she wrote, “should bring about a ‘reinvention’ of textual analysis and a new wave of cinephilia."
One place where this ‘reinvention’ of analysis and revived cinephilia can be seen is in the emergence recently of a new scholarly form -- the video essay.  Practitioners of this form are exploring the ways in which digital technologies afford a new way of conducting and presenting film research -- for the full range of digital technologies enables film scholars to write using the very materials that constitute their object of study: moving images and sounds.  Examples of this video essay work can be readily viewed online, especially at the Moving Image Source website, and at the vimeo site Audiovisualcy .  But most of the work in this new form is being produced by scholars outside academia (with some key exceptions), in part because the strictures of written academic discourse pose a challenge for this nascent form of multi-media scholarship.
This workshop -- which will include presentations by film scholars who are also video essay producers -- will consider the challenges faced in legitimizing the video essay as a valid form of academic scholarship.  The participants will address such issues as: How does the use of images and sounds in the presentation of scholarship demand a rethinking of the rhetorical strategies employed by the film scholar?  How does aesthetics play a role in an academic discourse that aims to produce knowledge and emotional response?  How would teaching courses on video essays help legitimize the form, and how might such instruction be undertaken?  How might emerging scholars situate themselves as leaders of this emerging academic mode? [SCMS workshop proposal drafted by Christian Keathley, author of the must-read essay 'La caméra-stylo: Notes on Video Criticism and Cinephilia', in Alex Clayton and Andrew Klevan (eds.), The Language and Style of Film Criticism. London: Routledge, 2011]
[H]apticity -- a grasp of what can be sensed of an object in close contact with it -- seems to me now to be very helpful in conceiving what can take place in the process of creating videographic film studies. It can also help us more fully to understand videographic studies as objects to be experienced themselves.

In the old days, the only people who really got to
touch films were those who worked on them, particularly film editors. As Annette Michelson (1990) and others have argued, the democratization of the 'heady delights' of editing (Michelson, 1990: 22) was brought about by the introduction of video technology in the 1970s and 80s. Now, with the relatively wide availability of digital technology, we can even more easily share 'the euphoria one feels at the editing table [...] a sharpening cognitive focus and [...] a ludic sovereignty, grounded in that deep gratification of a fantasy of infantile omnipotence " [Michelson, 1990: 23].

But, are there other ways in which 'touching film' is just a fantasy? In videographic film studies, do videographers actually touch or handle the real
matter of the film? Or are we only ever able to touch upon the film experience? Our film experiences? Do video essays only make objects of, or objectify, our film experiences, our insuperable memories of them, our own cinematic projections?

These questions may not flag up significantly new limitations. Film critical video essays do seem to work, it seems to me, in the same 'intersubjective' zone as that of written film criticism. As Andrew Klevan and Alex Clayton argue of this zone, 'we are immersed in the film as the critic sees it, hence brought to share a deeply involved perspective' (2011: 9).

Yet, in videographical criticism, is there not a different intersubjective relation, a more
transitional one, to the physicality or materiality of the objective elements of films that the video essays reproduce? Like written essays, video essays may well '"stir our recall"' (Klevan and Clayton, 2011: 9) of a film moment or sequence, but they usually do this by confronting us with a replay of the actual sequence, too. How might this difference count?

If nothing else, this confrontation with, or, to put it more gently, this inevitable re-immersion in the film experience, ought to make videographic critics pursue
humility in their analytical observations with an even greater focus, make them especially 'willing to alter [their analyses] according to what [they come into] contact with [...] give up ideas when they stop touching the other’s surface' (Marks, 2004: 80).

A further, built-in, random element in non-linear digital video editing -- the fact that this process frequently confronts the editor with graphic matter from the film (e.g. thumbnails) that s/he may not specifically have chosen to dwell on -- may also encourage a particularly humble, usefully (at times)
non-instrumental form of looking that Swalwell (2002) detects in Marks' notion of hapticity.
As Marks writes, 'Whether criticism is haptic, in touch with its object, is a matter of the point at which the words lift off' (2004: 80). Haptic criticism must be what happens, then, when the words don't lift off the surface of the film object, if they (or any of the other film-analytical elements conveyed through montage or other non-linear editing techniques and tools) remain on the surface of the film object, as they often do in videographic film studies. In addition to this, video essays on films may often be an especially 'superficial' form of criticism, frequently using slow motion or zoom-in effects to allow those experiencing them to close in on the grain or detail of the film image.
With so many words, or other filmanalytical strategies, simultaneously available to be sensed on the surface of the image and, in terms of sound strategies (such as voiceovers or other added elements), seeming to emanate from it, videographical film studies may be curiously haptic objects, then. It is useful to remember that the art historical concept of haptic visuality emerged from the scholarly and artistic traditions of formalism, which made procedures such as defamiliarization central to their practice. Defamiliarization -- the uncanny distancing effect of an altered perspective on (such as a hyper-proximity to) an otherwise familiar object -- may be one of the greatest benefits of the particular hapticity of videographical film criticism. [Catherine Grant, 'Touching the Film Object', Filmanalytical, August 29, 2011: citing Laura U. Marks, 'Haptic Visuality: Touching with the Eyes', Framework" the Finnish Art Review, No. 2, 2004 (large pdf - scroll down to p. 79); Andrew Klevan and Alex Clayton, 'Introduction', in Clayton and Klevan (eds.), The Language and Style of Film Criticism. London: Routledge, 2011; and Michelson,  Annette, 'The Kinetic Icon in the work of Mourning: Prolegomena for the Analysis of a Textual System,' October 52 (Spring 1990)]
One of the elements that Film Studies For Free appreciates most about online audiovisual film studies (film studies in digital video forms) are the phenomenological possibilities they offer viewers for the experiencing of moving image and sound juxtapositions in real time. We can synchronously feel, as well as know about, the comparisons they make. In other words, unlike written texts, they don't have to remove themselves from film-specific forms of meaning production to have their knowledge effects on us. [Catherine Grant, 'Garden of forking paths? Hitchcock's BLACKMAILs - a real-time comparison', Film Studies For Free, March 12, 2012]
What interests me most in academic study is the exploration of what Gérard Genette called "transtextuality", that is to say, "everything that brings the text into relation (manifest or hidden) with other texts" (Genette, Palimpsestes, 1992: 81). Sometimes this interest alights on matters of cultural influence and film authorship (see here, for example), but often it focuses itself on the issue of the recognition of cinematic interconnectedness.

Now, in an age of digital and multimedia scholarship, how better to explore filmic connections of different kinds than to use the format of the video
mashup? [This video essay on Peeping Tom and Code Unknown] is, then, the first in a series of "scholarly mashups" [...] examining the obvious and obscure connections between particular films in ways that are both striking and, hopefully, more precisely illuminating with regard to their form as films, than comparisons performed purely in non-audiovisual formats might be. [Catherine Grant, 'True likeness: Peeping Tom and Code inconnu/Code Unknown', Filmanalytical, June 26, 2010]

Here is the second entry in a mini-series of posts here at Film Studies For Free on the practical possibilities for, and the critical debates about, audiovisual film studies research and 'publication'.

Today the focus is on two of film scholarship's emergent forms, much loved by FSFF: video essays on, or scholarly remixes about, film. The above quotations draw attention to the range of issues these forms  raise for film studies: from the changes they involve in the processes of film studies research to the questions they pose about its publication forms and knowledge effects, as well as the possible roles for creativity and affect in our discipline.

The occasion for this latest meditation is an upcoming workshop discussion at the annual conference of the U.S. Society for Cinema and Media Studies. But  there are also a whole raft of online developments in, and other important, recent, publications on, this genre that FSFF wanted to flag up. Those are listed below.

Beneath all the links you will find embedded versions of some of the online video essays by FSFF's very talented, fellow workshop panellists and respondents in Boston. (You can find all of FSFF's audiovisual essays here).

If you are able to come to the workshop, hurray! Do please say hello to us all at the end! If you can't come but would like us to discuss any questions you have about video essays, do post those in the comments below. Thanks.

FSFF will take a little blogging break during and after the SCMS conference, but will tirelessly tweet during the conference, reporting on panels attended and other events. So do please follow @filmstudiesff if you'd like those updates.

Otherwise, see you back here sometime in early April.

Christian Keathley, Pass the Salt



 Film Studies For Free brings you the ever happy tidings of the new issue of Senses of Cinema.

It's a fascinating collection of work, and very wide-ranging: from part one of an interview with, and an article by, Jean-Louis Comolli, film theorist and Cahiers du cinéma editor in possibly its most political period (1966-1978) through Murray Pomerance on Hitchcock to a number of articles on the Oscar-laden French film The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011).

Links to all the great contents are given below.

Senses of Cinema, Issue 62 Contents


Feature Articles
Great Directors
Festival Reports
Book Reviews
Cteq Annotations

Saturday 17 March 2012

The Veridical Artist: Jean Epstein Studies

Updated May 18, 214

"With the notion of photogénie was born the idea of cinema art."
[Jean Epstein, quoted in Ian Christie, "French Avant-Garde Film in the Twenties," in Film as Film (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1979), 38

  Sequences from La Chute de la maison Usher/The Fall of the House of Usher (Jean Epstein, 1928)

Sequence from Le Tempestaire/The Storm Tamer (Jean Epstein, 1947) 
In the early twentieth century scientists recognized cinematic slow motion, along with its opposite, time-lapse photography, as providing major tools for observation and demonstration. Enabling through cinema the extension and compression of the flow of time respectively, these techniques revealed aspects of the world that human vision could not otherwise see, and yet they did not distort the world into an aesthetic image. Rather they opened up a new visual dimension. Epstein’s manipulation of time in cinema revealed a different rhythm to the universe, a ballet of matter. Thus, the intuition of Roderick Usher, the protagonist of Poe’s story, that matter itself may have a sentient and animate dimension was visualized in Epstein film’s La Chute de la maison Usher through the use of slow motion. The constant vibration of the material world, whether the flowing of fabric caught in the breeze or the cascade of dust falling from a suddenly struck bell does not simply provide a visual metaphor for the haunted house of Usher. Rather, they capture a universal vibration shared by the soul of things and the structures of the psyche, invoking the senses of both vision and sound (and even touch) placed before us on the screen. In his penultimate masterpiece from 1947, Le Tempestaire, Epstein not only used slow motion to display the currents of ocean surf as he had in his earlier silent films made in Brittany, but innovatively introduced the timbre and resonance of slowed down recorded sound, enfolding us as auditors not simply in defamiliarized sonority, but allowing us to dwell within an extended soundscape filled with the uncanny echoes of nature. [Tom Gunning, 'Preface', to Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, edited by Sarah Keller and Jason N. Paul (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012)]
As Jean Epstein went on to say, the camera is the veridical artist. But the role of this veridical artist can be understood in two ways, as can the relation between its artistic power and its veridicality. On the one hand, the camera is the artist, because it produces a kind of writing, and more precisely because it has an impersonal power in it—the light—which writes. The sensory milieu, then, is one in which light and movement constitute a new writing. Yet, on the other hand, it is a veridical artist insofar as it does not write anything, insofar as all it yields is a document, pieces of information, just as machines yields them to men who work on machines and are instrumentalized by them, to men who must learn from them a new way of being but also domesticate them for their own use. [Jacques Rancière, 'What Medium Can Mean', Translated by Steven Corcoran, Parrhesia, 11, 2011: 35-43]
Epstein, at the beginning of his career, claimed that cinema has nothing to do with logic or any other kind of intellectual reasoning. He relegated films to the realm of the so-called emotional reflex, fundamentally irrational in its premises. At the same time, however, he elaborated his own notion of photogénie as an almost mystical increase in the meaning of a cinematic image. A photogenic image, according to him, is not simply one transformed by the camera lens, but it is also purified and abstracted. Thus, a photogenic image belongs to the world of the intellect as well as the world of physical phenomena:
This is why the cinema is psychic. It offers us a quintessence, a product twice distilled. My eye presents me with an idea of a form; the film stock also contains an idea of a form, an idea established independently of my awareness, an idea without awareness, a latent, secret but marvelous idea; and from the screen I get an idea, my eye’s idea extracted from the camera; in other words, so flexible is this algebra, an idea that is the square root of an idea.
This abstracting of an image allows Epstein to explore the subject of cinematic logic that will come to occupy a dominant place in his later film theorizing [...]. In his books starting from 1946 (L’intelligence d’une machine), Epstein claims that cinema is not beyond logic but develops its own logic, whose laws are still obscure and mysterious. Epstein calls this logic ‘la pensée méchanique’ – mechanical thought. This thought is not human, but is produced by the cinematic machine itself. [...] According to Epstein, cinema produces thinking because it generates forms of time and space. [Mikhail Iampolski, 'The Logic of an Illusion Notes on the Genealogy of Intellectual Cinema', in Allen, Richard, Malcolm Turvey (eds), Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida: Essays in Honor of Annette Michelson (Amsterdam University Press, 2004), pp. 44-45]
Filmmaker and theoretician Jean Epstein profoundly influenced film practice, criticism and reception in France during the 1920s and well beyond. His work not only forms the crux of the debates of his time, but also remains key to understanding later developments in film practice and theory. Epstein's film criticism is among the most wide-ranging, provocative and poetic writing about cinema and his often breathtaking films offer insights into cinema and the experience of modernity.
      This collection - the first comprehensive study in English of Epstein's far-reaching influence - arrives as several of the concerns most central to Epstein's work are being reexamined, including theories of perception, realism, and the relationship between cinema and other arts. The volume also includes new translations from every major theoretical work Epstein published, presenting the widest possible historical and contextual range of Epstein's work, from his beginnings as a biology student and literary critic to his late film projects and posthumously published writings. [Blurb for Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, edited by Sarah Keller and Jason N. Paul (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012)]
Film Studies For Free today celebrates the publication of a wonderful, and hugely important, new book on a wonderful, and hugely important, old figure in film history: Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations edited by Sarah Keller and Jason N. Paul.

Epstein has been a very neglected figure in anglophone film scholarship. Unduly so, as Tom Gunning writes (in his preface to Keller and Paul's collection),
To my mind Jean Epstein is not only the most original and the most poetic silent filmmaker in France, surpassing impressive figures like Abel Gance, Jacques Feyder, Marcel L’Herbier and even Louis Feuillade; I also consider him one of the finest film theorists of the silent era, worthy to be placed alongside the Soviet theorists (Eisenstein, Vertov and Kuleshov) and the equal of the extraordinary German-language cinema theorist, Béla Balázs. [Gunning, 'Preface'; hyperlinks added by FSFF]

The book, available for purchase in print, has also been made openly accessible online thanks to its publisher Amsterdam University Press's laudable partnership with the online OAPEN library (Open Access Publishing in European Networks). The volume is part of the AUP series Film Theory in Media History, published in cooperation with the Permanent Seminar for the History of Film Theories (read FSFF's post on the Permanent Seminar), and edited by Prof. Dr. Vinzenz Hediger (Frankfurt), Dr. Trond Lundemo (Stockholm), and Prof. Dr. Oliver Fahle (Bochum).

This series
explores the epistemological and theoretical foundations of the study of film through texts by classical authors as well as anthologies and monographs on key issues and developments in film theory. Adopting a historical perspective, but with a firm eye to the further development of the field, the series provides a platform for ground-breaking new research into film theory and media history and features high-profile editorial projects that offer resources for teaching and scholarship. Combining the book form with open access online publishing the series reaches the broadest possible audience of scholars, students, and other readers with a passion for film and theory.

FSFF is very excited by the prospect of subsequent open access publications in this series. Below, it has reproduced the table of remarkable contents of the AUP volume. As it always likes to add scholarly value in its entries, below the table of contents, there are direct links to further wonderful Open Access resources on Epstein.

Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, edited by Sarah Keller and Jason N. Paul (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012)

Table of Contents
  • 'Preface' by Tom Gunning
  • 'Introduction' by Sarah Keller
  • 'Epstein’s Photogénie as Corporeal Vision: Inner Sensation, Queer Embodiment, and Ethics' by Christophe Wall-Romana
  • 'Novelty and Poiesis in the Early Writings of Jean Epstein' by Stuart Liebman
  • 'The Cinema of the Kaleidoscope' by Katie Kirtland
  • 'Distance Is [Im]material: Epstein Versus Etna' by Jennifer Wild
  • '“The Supremacy of the Mathematical Poem”: Jean Epstein’s Conceptions of Rhythm' by Laurent Guido
  • 'The “Microscope of Time”: Slow Motion in Jean Epstein’s Writings' by Ludovic Cortade
  • 'A Different Nature' by Rachel Moore
  • 'Cinema Seen from the Seas: Epstein and the Oceanic' by James Schneider 'A Temporal Perspective: Jean Epstein’s Writings on Technology and Subjectivity' by Trond Lundemo
  • 'Ultra-Modern: Jean Epstein, or Cinema “Serving the Forces of Transgression and Revolt”' by Nicole Brenez
  • 'Thoughts on Photogénie Plastique' by Érik Bullot
  • 'Introduction: Epstein’s Writings'
  • La Poésie d’aujourd’hui, un nouvel état d’intelligence (1921); Introduction / Sarah Keller; Cinema and Modern Literature
  • Bonjour Cinéma (1921) Introduction / Sarah Keller; Continuous Screenings
  • La Lyrosophie (1922) Introduction / Katie Kirtland Excerpts from La Lyrosophie
  • Le Cinématographe vu de l’Etna (1926) Introduction / Stuart Liebman; The Cinema Seen from Etna; On Certain Characteristics of Photogénie; Langue d’Or; The Photogenic Element; For a New Avant-Garde; Amour de Charlot; Amour de Sessue;
  • L’Intelligence d’une machine (1946) Introduction / Trond Lundemo Excerpts from L’Intelligence d’une machine; Le Cinéma du diable (1947) Introduction / Ludovic Cortade Indictment To a Second Reality, a Second Reason
Later Works
  • Introduction to Esprit de cinéma and Alcool et Cinéma / Christophe Wall-Romana
    Esprit de cinéma; The Logic of Images; Rapidity and Fatigue of the Homo spectatoris; Ciné-analysis, or Poetry in an Industrial Quantity; Dramaturgy in Space; Dramaturgy in Time; Visual Fabric; Pure Cinema and Sound Film; Seeing and Hearing Thought; The Counterpoint of Sound; The Close-up of Sound; The Delirium of a Machine
Late Articles
  • The Slow Motion of Sound; The Fluid World of the Screen; Alcool et cinéma; Logic of Fluidity; Logic of Variable Time
  • 'Afterword: Reclaiming Jean Epstein' by Richard Abel
    Filmography; Select Bibliography; Notes on Contributors; Index of Names; Index of Films and Major Writings by Jean Epstein; Index of Films

Further Open Access Epstein Studies

Monday 12 March 2012

Garden of forking paths? Hitchcock's BLACKMAILs - a real-time comparison

Having begun production as a silent film, the studio, British International Pictures, decided to convert [Blackmail (directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1929)] to sound during shooting. A silent version was released [probably only in Britain] for theaters not equipped for sound (at 6740 feet), with the sound version (7136 feet) released at the same time.[*] The silent version still exists in the British Film Institute collection.[**] [Blackmail Wikipedia entry, last accessed March 12, 2012]
Critic and historian Charles Barr, in his 1976 article "Blackmail: Silent and Sound", in which he closely compares the two versions, notes that the silent version shows Hitchcock striving to escape a 'theatrical' style in which the action is generally viewed face on, with the camera occupying the position of the 'fourth wall'. In a theatre, this represents the position of the proscenium arch, which marks the boundary between a conventional stage and the audience.
     In the silent version, Hitchcock experimented with changing the position of the camera within a scene, and tried to avoid 'face-on' set-ups, that is, where the camera is placed at ninety degrees to the action. Because of the limitations of sound at this early stage - for example the need to position the microphone where it can pick up all of the actors in the scene but cannot be seen - Hitchcock was obliged to adopt a less experimental approach in the framing of the sound version. [Mark Duguid, 'Hitchcock's Style', BFI Screenonline]
Although 1929 was rather late for a "first" sound film, the delay enabled Hitchcock to produce an advanced meditation on the possible uses of sound. The text incorporates silent footage (lifted whole from the original silent version, made immediately prior to the sound version), which allows for a series of comparisons/contrasts between sound and silents/silence. The conceit of this early sound film is an attempt to keep a man silent (paying off a blackmailer). The heroine spends over a third of the film virtually speechless. When she finally speaks, her boyfriend urges her to keep quiet. The dialogue is laughably banal, yet the right word can cut like a knife. The opening scene, an exciting silent chase, is immediately contrasted with a poorly dubbed, confusingly cut dialogue scene that seems as if it will never end. But before we glibly assume silents were "better" movies, sound becomes a moral force, while silence is linked with corruption and moral lassitude.
     The text's position on "sound plus image" versus "image alone" is carefully paralleled with the depiction of Alice. Thematically, she veers from one extreme to the other. She is introduced as a chatterbox. After a violent assault, she becomes almost catatonic. Finally, she accepts speech as a moral imperative, achieving maturity and the audience's respect before slipping back under patriarchal control and enforced silence. Alice White becomes Hitchcock's personification of the course the sound film must take. [Amy Lawrence, Echo and Narcissus: Women's Voices in Classical Hollywood Cinema (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), p. 119]
Hitchcock first makes us aware that he is distorting the sound track subjectively when he exaggerates the loudness of bird chirpings to stress Alice's agitation on the morning after the murder. When the mother enters Alice's bedroom to wake her, she uncovers the cage of Alice's canary. Once the mother leaves the room, the bird's chirping is loudly insistent while the girl takes off the clothes she wore the night before and puts on fresh ones. The chirps are loudest, unnaturally so, when she is looking at herself in the mirror, the most "interior" action she performs while dressing. The sound reminds us of the tiny, birdlike jerkings that the girl made immediately after stabbing the artist. Just after the knife sequence there is another subjective distortion of sound, when a customer rings a bell as he enters the store. We are in the breakfast parlor, and yet the bell resonates much more loudly than it does elsewhere in the film. The camera is on a close-up of Alice's face to indicate that it is her point of view, once again, from which we hear.
     In a sense the use of bird noises in the bedroom scene should be distinguished from the other techniques mentioned here. Whereas aural restriction and distortion of loudness are related to character point of view, the choice specifically of bird sounds has a particular meaning for Hitchcock independent of the film. This sequence marks the beginning of an ongoing association of murder and bird noises in Hitchcock's mind that accrues meaning from film to film, from Blackmail and Murder through Sabotage (1936), Young and Innocent (1937), and Psycho, and culminates in The Birds. [Elizabeth Weiss, 'Chapter 2: First Experiments with Sound: Blackmail and Murder' in The Silent Scream - Alfred Hitchcock's Soundtrack (Rutherford, Fairleigh: Dickinson University Press, 1982) p. 46]

One of the elements that Film Studies For Free appreciates most about online audiovisual film studies (film studies in digital video forms) are the phenomenological possibilities they offer viewers for the experiencing of moving image and sound juxtapositions in real time. We can synchronously feel, as well as know about, the comparisons they make. In other words, unlike written texts, they don't have to remove themselves from film-specific forms of meaning production to have their knowledge effects on us.

Embedded above is FSFF's homemade example of this kind of simple, more or less medium-specific, eloquence: a real-time video juxtaposition, made for the purposes of scholarly comparison, of corresponding sequences from the silent and sound versions of Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929). It is a work intended to supplement the contribution of an earlier blog entry here, entitled Thrilling the Ears: Sound in Hitchcock's cinema in which the two sequences were separately embedded.

But it is also intended to publicise FSFF's support, as ever, for the very relevant For the Love of Film Preservation Blogathon which will take place this year between May 13-18, 2012 . The blogathon has a Hitchcock theme and will support an important film preservation and dissemination project focusing on an early 'Hitchcock film': The White Shadow (1923).

You can read more about the blogathon below, and much more about it at the linked-to websites. But suffice to say this may not be the last Hitchcockian video study here at Film Studies For Free this Spring!
It's time to reveal our fundraising project for 2012: Online streaming and recording of the new score for THE WHITE SHADOW, directed by Graham Cutts and everything else done by Alfred Hitchcock. It's all about access this year, folks. [For the Love of Film Preservation Blogathon Facebook page, February 1, 2012]
The good people at National Film Preservation Foundation are committed to making many of the films they have rescued available for cost-free viewing by streaming them on their website. But online hosting ain’t cheap. NFPF estimates that it will cost $15,000 to stream The White Shadow for four months and record the score. It is the mission of this year’s For the Love of Film Blogathon to raise that money so that anyone with access to a computer can watch this amazing early film that offered Hitchcock a chance to learn his craft, with a score that does it justice. [Marilyn Ferdinand introducing the cause supported by this year's For the Love of Film [Hitchcock] Blogathon at her website Ferdy on Films]

Friday 9 March 2012

New SCOPE: Reboots, Zombies, Cannibals, Giallo, Battlestar Galactica

Screencap of a windswept Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan's 2005 regeneration of the Batman film franchise. Read about the reboot in William Proctor's Scope article. And for Film Studies For Free's very own, popular Christopher Nolan Studies links list, try here.

Film Studies For Free rushedly points you to some great weekend reading: a new issue of SCOPE is out. Please check out the very worthwhile items linked to directly below. That is all. Thank you.

SCOPE: Issue 22 February 2012

Book Reviews
Film and Television Reviews
Conference Reports

Thursday 8 March 2012

"Dangerous" Cinematic Women Studies

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.
The femme fatale is a product of the male imaginary, which emerges in literature and the visual arts under contingent socio-political conditions as a challenge to coherent and stable identities. [...]
     The emergence of the femme fatale motif in literature, art and cinema generally coincides with periods of social or political instability and is not specific to a culture, society or era, but exhibits countless masks as she may manifest herself in diverse historical or geo-political contexts, and through a variety of artistic and literary forms. She embodies traces of a myriad of powerful, as well as menacing, historical, biblical and mythical female figures, such as Cleopatra, Salome, or the Sirens; yet this wicked and barren creature is always imbued with an alluring beauty and rapacious sexuality that is potentially deadly to man. The femme fatale figure is a recurrent patriarchal construct, a projection of all that exists beyond that which is normal, familiar, or safe. As Rebecca Stott observes, she is a multiple sign, or ‘the Other around whom the qualities of all Other collect in the male imagination’ (1992: 39). As such, her appearances are always symptomatic of a society in crisis.
[Eva Bru-Domínguez, 'The Body as a Conflation of Discourses: The femme fatale in Mercè Rodoreda’s Mirall trencat' (1974)', Journal of Catalan Studies 2009]
[I]s it possible that the tangled webs of violence, sexuality, pathology, and intrigue at the core of certain film noir offer moments of reversal and exception which challenge women's role as eternal victim? How is an anti-feminist backlash or male anxiety around women's power projected into these paranoid film scenarios? To what extent can such disruptions be contained through conventional "happy family" closure - or through the violent death of the (anti-)heroine whose glittering image lingers as the credits rolls? Working against the inescapable grain of the "repressive rule" of female victimhood, I choose here to seize on the exceptional figure of the "fatale femme." While the exception may help define the rule, she also keeps alive the possibility, the inevitability, of transformation in gendered relations of power. [Julianne Pidduck, The "fatal femme" in contemporary Hollywood film noir: reframing gender, violence, and power, Masters Thesis, Concordia University, 1993: 6-7]
Rather than promoting images of women that emphasize their spirit and unknowable power, and rather than promoting images of women that rely on their bodies, finally, we need to illustrate the contexts that inform women’s experience. I want to suggest some of the reasons why we’ve grown accustomed to identifying film noir’s “femme fatale” without examining these contexts that inform her presence in film noir, by doing just that: examining the settings—social, psychological, political, physical, and geographical—that define her experience, which is, I want strongly to suggest, a far better thing to define than “woman” herself.
     This study seeks to modify the tone of feminist discussions about film noir’s women by reorienting our attention to the narrative, social contexts, and mise-en-scene that show the relationship between women’s powers and the limits placed on them by social rules. Both the view of the “femme fatale” as misogynist projection and the view of the “femme fatale” as opaque yet transgressive female force emphasize her status as object or symbol (as object of scorn or as the mysterious and opaque “other” that threatens to destroy the male subject). My aim is to adjust our focus on film noir and gender so that we illuminate these women’s narratives rather than mystifying women as objects or images.
[Julie Grossman, Rethinking the Femme Fatale in Film Noir: Ready for Her Close-Up (London: Palgrave/BFI, 2009): 5. Book info.]
Film Studies For Free wishes its reader a very happy International Women's Day with a varied curatorial selection of online scholarly work touching on possibly the most studied 'object' in all of feminist film theory: the 'dangerous' woman, sometimes fatal, sometimes a fatality...

If you are a film goer you know her kind. She is attractive, alluring, enigmatic, enticing, teasing, siren-like. Totally tautological. You might come across her dancing in a cinematic cabaret or show, smoking in a private detective's office, gracing a film noir alleyway, or haunting a difficult to decipher flashback. Or turning up like a beautiful but bad penny, provoking your scopophilia (and/or your epistemophilia), just about anywhere in almost every period of international film history.

Just what is it about these cinematic women? There certainly isn't one answer to that question, but the studies linked to below might very well help you to begin to tackle it.

If there are any important online resources that FSFF has missed, please do list them in the comments thread.

Journal of European Television History and Culture

A new multi-media e-journal on the past and present of European television
Journal of European Television History and Culture is to be the first peer-reviewed, multi-media and open access e-journal in the field of European television history and culture. It will offer an international platform for outstanding academic research and archival reflection on television as an important part of our European cultural heritage. With its interdisciplinary profile, the journal is open to many disciplinary perspectives on European television – including television history, media studies, media sociology, cultural studies and television studies.
If only for pretty sound, nominal reasons, Film Studies For Free doesn't usually stray too far beyond the field of free film studies. Today is an exception, however, simply because of an exceptional, new, and also free to access, online publication.

The inaugural issue of the new Journal of European Television History and Culture is devoted to 'Making Sense of Digital Sources', a hugely important topic for all audiovisual forms and cultures. Its editors write,
In the past few years national broadcasting archives and audiovisual libraries have taken important steps in the digitisation of their sources. Consequently, some of their material has already become available online. But as access to television material online across national borders remains fractured and scattered, European funded projects such as Video Active (2006-2009) and EUscreen (2009-2012) try to tackle some of the main problems with transnational access:
  • the lack of interoperability between archival data-bases both at the level of metadata and semantics;
  • the non-existence of proven scenarios for the use of audiovisual material at a European level;
  • the complexity of rights issues and the lack of contextualisation of digitised sources.
     At the FIAT/IFTA conference in Paris in 2004, the European Television History Network (ETHN) was launched, aiming at promoting the need for a transnational perspective on the history and culture of television in Europe. The archival situation and the accessibility for researchers vary considerably in the different European countries. That is why ETHN acknowledged the necessity of cooperation between archives and academics on a European scale in order to bridge academic research and archival initiatives. The Journal of European Television History and Culture builds on these initiatives and is closely related to EUscreen of which the e-journal is an important feature.[from Andreas Fickers and Sonja de Leeuw. 'Editorial']
FSFF salutes EUScreen, ETHN, and especially, on this the occasion of its birth, the Journal of European Television History and Culture.

It can only hope that European (and, indeed, non-European) archival film culture and studies will learn much (and quickly) from the wonderful and increasingly joined up examples of its televisual counterparts.

Vol 1, No 1 (2012):Table of Contents