Thursday, 5 December 2013

Just the Facts – A New Realist Cinema? New Issue of PHOTOGÉNIE

Frame grab from Che (Steven Soderbergh, 2008). Read about this film in Tom Paulus's essay Historians of the Real? Che and Carlos as Political Cinema in the latest issue of Photogénie
[In the pages of De Filmkrant Adrian Martin] bemoans an ideological naiveté on both the filmmaker and the critic’s part when a return to realism is perceived as a way of breaking new ground, and genre conventions, by implication, are again seen as ideologically suspect. Jones replies that adherence to ‘meandering fact’ is, in these cases, purely functional, depending on the story at hand; as such, ‘realism’ must be seen as no more than a suitable response to ‘meditations on time’ like Fincher’s Zodiac (pictured above) or Assayas’s Carlos, films that are structured around “the lulls and disappointments and setbacks and frustrations instead of the peaks of an actual police investigation or an actual terrorist operation.” Still, Martin is not so far off the mark in identifying a trend (possibly kick-started by Zodiac’s critical reception), although the seeds of that trend lie with the films and culture Jameson was discussing, films like All the President’s Men, certainly an acknowledged influence on Fincher. In their strict adherence to historical fact movies like Zodiac, Carlos, Che – to name the most important disseminators of the trend – and more recently Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty or even Steven Spielberg’s ‘anecdotal’ Lincoln – seem to have been created as if to reprove Jameson’s dictum about docudrama that, “[n]ot even the most concrete visuality in detail and reconstruction, nor the historical accuracy and ‘truth’ of the re-enactment,” can remove these films from the realm of the imaginary. Although most of these films feature a ‘mediating consciousness’, a privileged witness character, who reshapes collective historical drama as personal psychological trauma, their dramaturgy is still largely constructed around the anecdotal, the ‘raw’ material of history. Martin notes that these movies are full of repetitious talk-sessions and ‘nothing-much-happening,’ a temps mort aesthetic that brings to mind both nouvelle vague and talky incarnations of slow cinema, the resemblance to the latter heightened by their lengthy running times.
    The aim of this issue is to look at these movies and the perceived return of realism from a variety of angles [...] [Tom Paulus introduces the new issue of Photogénie on realist cinema]
December is often one of the sweetest months for new issues of ejournals and this year is no exception. So Film Studies For Free is (slowly) catching up with some good ones. One of the very best sets of reading may be found in the new collection of work from Photogénie on realist cinema. FSFF particularly liked Adrian Martin's deconstruction of documentary purism and Tom Paulus on historians of the real, but each of the articles is excellent. The contents are linked to below.

You should subscribe to the wonderful Photogénie blog, too!

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