Friday 29 January 2016

The Film-Play's the Thing: RIP Jacques Rivette 1928-2016

The best place to go today: 

"Every Rivette film has its Eisenstein/Lang/Hitchcock side—an impulse to design and plot, dominate and control—and its Renoir/Hawks/Rossellini side: an impulse to 'let things go', open one's self up to the play and power of other personalities, and watch what happens". [Jonathan Rosenbaum]

Film Studies For Free was very sad to hear of the death of Jacques Rivette at the age of 87. In warm memory of and tribute to his work, it has gathered together in one place (below) quite a few links to video- and written essays by others (and by him) on his films, mostly ones that it has shared before.

But as the remarkable (somewhat frozen in time) website Order of the Exile has been honouring and exploring his work since 2007, that is most definitely the best to go for remembrance and reflection. Then there is also the wonderful, customary tribute being maintained by David Hudson at Keyframe | Fandor.

Film about Rivette:

Excerpts from Claire Denis's 1988 film for television Jacques Rivette, Le veilleur/The Watchman in which of Serge Daney interviews Rivette on his early interest in filmmaking, his days with Cahiers du cinéma, and his first meetings with Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Eric Rohmer.

Video essays about Rivette's films:

An audiovisual essay by Joel Bocko and Covadonga G. Lahera. Part 5 (the latest) in an ongoing series (more are embedded below). Commissioned by Chris Luscri to mark the ongoing set of screenings, activities and new criticism centred around the new 2K restoration of Rivette's 1971 magnum opus OUT 1 - NOLI ME TANGERE.

Paratheatre: Plays Without Stages by Cristina Alvarez López and Adrian Martin. See text at MUBI here

Also watch:

Other links:
* Thanks to Girish Shambu for flagging up these essential links (added a few hours after the original post was published).

Thursday 28 January 2016

New FILM CRITICISM, FILM-PHILOSOPHY, 12 new film and media open access eBooks, Mulvey and Dyer interviews, and lots of other links!

"[A] dense yet concise study (and experience) of the intricate poetic-cinematic patterning of Andrea Arnold’s 2009 film Fish Tank..." , published as part of the article: “Beyond tautology? Audiovisual Film Criticism”, FILM CRITICISM, Vol. 40, No.1, 2016. For a full list of Grant's online publications on audiovisual film studies to date, click here.

Film Studies For Free's latest entry is replete with openly accessible scholarly goodies. So what's new? Lots of things!

First off, two major journals in our field have moved to new (public) houses! Film Criticism celebrates its fortieth anniversary issue with a move to an open access format, under the expert new editorship of Joseph Tompkins, who, to mark this welcome shift, commissioned lots of scholars to meditate on the ever mutating space of film criticism. Meanwhile, Film-Philosophy, a very long-standing, always fully open access academic journal dedicated to the engagement between film studies and philosophy, is now published by Edinburgh University Press and remains completely open access. A good job by its excellent editor David Sorfa. The new issues of both journals are set out and linked to below, followed by a lovingly compiled list of nine new open access ebooks sourced at Oapen, and a whole host of further delectable items of openly accessible film (and TV) scholarly interest (including three further OA ebooks).

Embedded immediately below, though, are two of the latest instalments in the Fieldnotes series of interviews, with Laura Mulvey and Richard Dyer. Fieldnotes is a Society for Cinema and Media Studies project to conduct, circulate and archive interviews with pioneers of film and media studies. In addition to recognizing the contributions of key scholars, the project also aims to foster knowledge of and interest in the diverse and dynamic developments that have shaped -- and continue to shape -- our expanding field. Fieldnotes is currently led by Haidee Wasson, with the help of a committee comprised of Patrice Petro and Barbara Klinger. It is sponsored both by SCMS and by ARTHEMIS, a Concordia University based research team investigating the history and epistemology of moving image studies.

The full list of Fieldnotes interviewees, to date, is given below - all interviews are accessible here
Francesco Cassetti interviewed by Luca Caminati; John Caughie interviewed by Haidee Wasson; Mary Ann Doane interviewed by Patrice Petro; Richard Dyer interviewed by Barbara Klinger; Thomas Elsaesser interviewed by Patrice Petro; Lucy Fischer interviewed by Paula Massud; Tom Gunning interviewed by Scott Curtis; Gertrud Koch interviewed by Robin Curtis; Scott MacDonald interviewed by Joan Hawkins; Laura Mulvey interviewed by Catherine Grant; James Naremore interviewed by Jake Smith; Ted Perry interviewed by Christian Keathley; Janet Staiger interviewed by Charles Acland; Linda Williams interviewed by Tom Waugh.

Film Criticism, 40.1, 2016. 
Now OPEN ACCESS and online at: (will shortly be accessible also at its existing URL:

Film-Philosophy, Vol. 20, No. 1, February, 2016:
Special Section: Film-Philosophy and a World of Cinemas

9 Open Access eBOOKS sourced at Oapen! (3 more OA ebooks in the list after this!)

Assorted links

Monday 11 January 2016

For the Starman Who Fell to Earth - In Memory of David Bowie (January 8, 1947-January 10, 2016)

Last updated January 27th, 2016
Screenshot from the music video for David Bowie's "Blackstar" (2016, directed by Johan Renck)

Film Studies For Free was shocked and saddened by the sudden news, today, of the death of David Bowie at the age of 69.

Hence, this FSFF tribute entry, prepared largely courtesy of Drew Morton (@thecinemadoctor) who specially wrote a text to accompany his great compilation video (both below) about Bowie as a film actor.  Thanks so much to Drew. 

Another unmissable tribute is David Hudson's for Keyframe Daily | Fandor, linked to here. There could also hardly be a better, concise eulogy than this public one at Facebook by Tim Lucas.

And there are some more online, scholarly Bowie links, assembled by FSFF, immediately below/

RIP Starman.

Online articles and videos of scholarly note

By Drew Morton

A short compilation produced by Drew Morton (Texas A&M University-Texarkana) focusing on David Bowie's filmography. Features clips from THE PRESTIGE, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, LABYRINTH, INTO THE NIGHT, ZOOLANDER, THE HUNGER, and many more.

I have a feeling that many of us are going to be emotionally processing the death of pop star and cultural icon David Bowie for quite some time. Part of this is no doubt because he had turned 69 years old and released his 27th album - BLACKSTAR - just three days ago. However, I would also posit that a great deal of the shock - this unbelievable unreality - lies in Bowie’s persona: an outsider, an alien, an eccentric who could not possibly be from this world. 
While this 'impossible' quality no doubt stems from his ever evolving musical persona - from the gender bending rockstar of ZIGGY STARDUST and DIAMOND DOGS to the Aryan Thin White Duke of STATION TO STATION - it was also underscored and amplified by Bowie’s screen presence. While he tells us in the lyrics to his new single “Blackstar” that he’s “not a film star,” the influential rocker appeared in nearly twenty films and brought his unique brand of abnormal to such notable historical figures as Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s THE PRESTIGE and Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s BASQUIAT. Bowie’s performance as both characters is incredibly quiet, as if his presence on screen is so large that he needs to compensate for it. Yet, when the worlds of the films veered towards fantasy or surreal horror, Bowie was there to give it his all. 
His performance as Jareth the Goblin King in LABYRINTH has become a cult favorite, partially thanks to the iconic tights that showoff his physique (and everything you can include under that umbrella - and I do mean everything) but also thanks to his especially chilling performance in a children’s film. LABYRINTH is also unique because it is one of the few Bowie films in which he performs musically at length (the musical ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS would be another example). Thus, the bulk of Bowie’s appearances rely on the strangeness of his presence rather than the talents he was typically famous for. 
Take, for instance, his performances as Philip Jeffries in David Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME and John Blaylock in Tony Scott’s THE HUNGER. In the former, Bowie is featured in one scene in which he plays an FBI agent displaced in time and space. When he returns to warn his fellow colleagues that “we live inside a dream,” Lynch amplifies his disconnect with cross-fades to loud television static and shots of Bowie desperately trying to explain himself before he disappears again. In the latter, Bowie begins the film with a persona not terribly far removed from his early 80s rocker as he frequents a punk dance club with his girlfriend (played by Catherine Deneuve - which makes this probably the most attractive on screen couple ever). It soon becomes apparent that they are both vampires and have been together for centuries. Yet, Bowie’s character is aging at an accelerated rate, which means the film asks him to play a character in his thirties that ages into his seventies over the course of an afternoon. Because it’s Bowie, this unreality feels all the more real. 
Of course, there are many other Bowie performances to distill. His starring role in MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE to his role as a hit man in John Landis’s INTO THE NIGHT are two others that come to mind. Yet, his first role, that of the alien Thomas Jerome Newton in Nicolas Roeg’s THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, took his star persona literally and made great use of it through his calculated gestures and androgynous features. It also serves as a partial prequel to the second single on Bowie’s latest - and now final album - “Lazarus,” which are as fitting last words for Bowie himself: “This way or no way/You know, I’ll be free/Just like that bluebird/Now ain’t that just like me.”
© Drew Morton, 2016

Also see: 

Monday 4 January 2016

New LOLA, [in]TRANSITION, MOVIE, Film-Philosophy, Senses of Cinema plus a video essay on Todd Haynes' CAROL, and more!

An obvious side-by-side comparison by Catherine Grant, using images from BRIEF ENCOUNTER (David Lean, 1945) and CAROL (Todd Haynes, 2015), and the sound from the official trailer for CAROL, featuring the song ‘My Foolish Heart’ (music by Victor Young/lyrics by Ned Washington, sung by Margaret Whiting, 1950). For another recent video essay on BRIEF ENCOUNTER please visit For further video essays on films by Todd Haynes, see (on SAFE):; and on FAR FROM HEAVEN:

Film Studies For Free wishes its readers a very happy new year! It celebrates the beginning of the year with an auspicious round up of publications that went online either in the last few days of 2015, or in the first days of 2016.


LOLA, 6. 2015, on "Distances," edited by Adrian Martin and Girish Shambu 

This issue of LOLA will be rolled out in two stages. Soon to come: articles on The Smell of Us, Eden, Youth (Shoval), recent Spanish cinema, film criticism, and Alexandre Astruc/Bernard Stiegler …

[in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies, 2.4, 2015
A special peer-reviewed issue co-edited by Christian Keathley and Jason Mittell, featuring five of the videos that emerged from the June 2015 workshop Scholarship in Sound & Image, hosted at Middleburg College, U.S.A., and generously funded by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities.

New issue of MOVIE: A Journal of Film Criticism, 6, 2015

Moments of Texture

The Best Years of Our Lives: A Dossier

Book Reviews

Also at MOVIE, new entries in its series of open access ebooks - monographs which originally appeared in the series Close-Up (Wallflower Press, 2006-09). These are free to download, and are available in epub and mobi formats.
Filmmakers' Choices - John Gibbs
Filmmakers’ Choices explores different areas of decision-making within filmmaking, focusing on each in the analysis of a film. The discussion of Talk to Her(Pedro Almodóvar, 2002) examines the detailed construction of point of view; the account of Lured (Douglas Sirk, 1947) reflects on narrative structure and the creative possibilities of coincidence. Other films under investigation include Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992), The Reckless Moment (Max Ophuls, 1949) and Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992).
Movies and Tone - Douglas Pye 
The concept of tone gestures towards some of the most crucial issues for film analysis – the relationships of a movie to its material, its traditions and its spectator – and yet tone has had a very limited place in film theory and criticism. This study asks how tonal qualities within a film can be identified, exploring the decisions which lead to our grasp of tone as a dimension of meaning that is both informing and subject to moment-by-moment modulation. Discussion centres on The Deer Hunter, Desperately Seeking Susan, Strangers on a Train, Distant Voices, Still Lives and Some Came Running. 
The Police Series - Jonathan Bignell 
This study focuses on television style in the US police series. Chapters closely analyse the mise-en-scène of programmes in the 1980-2003 period including Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, NYPD Blue, Homicide: Life on the Street and CSI. Through the detailed investigation of changing aesthetics in the police series, Bignell addresses critical issues around style and ideology, ‘quality’, genre, programme brands and authorship in US television. 
Reading Buffy - Deborah Thomas 
In this book Joss Whedon’s acclaimed television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is seen not just to create a richly detailed and satisfying fictional world, but to be an abundant source of complex meanings. Several aspects of Buffy are examined: its visual intelligence, the playful sophistication of its narrative strategies, and the interest the series takes in its relationship with its many fans. 

Further new articles now online at Film-Philosophy, Vol 19 (2015)

Issue 77 of Senses of Cinema

Including: a dossier entitled CHANTAL AKERMAN: LA PASSION DE L’INTIME / AN INTIMATE PASSION; a dossier entitled  THE LEGACY OF PIER PAOLO PASOLINI; a dossier entitled AUSTRALIAN FILM HISTORY; and the following feature articles:

TONI D'ANGELA / No theory, just movies: le dehors



prima linea

l'occhio che uccide

flaming creatures

  • In Artforum, a wonderfully informative articles by Babette Mangolte, Chantal Akerman's cinematographer and collaborator, and by Kathy Halbreich, associate director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
  • Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman... Is a True Action Movie, a video essay by Adam Cook
  • RIP Vilmos Zsigmond, legendarily brilliant cinematographer (including for McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, Deliverance, The Sugarland Express and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He also worked on Obsession, Blow Out, The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Black Dahlia, The Deer Hunter, Heaven's Gate, and many more films besides). Here is a 70 minute long masterclass with Zsigmond at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival: