Friday 22 July 2016

For all to see, and to see the sense of: In Memory of V. F. Perkins (1936-2016)

Last updated on December 31, 2016

[S]election by the camera [...] asserts significance. The image is displayed not only to relay information but to claim that it matters and to guide us towards the ways in which it matters...

[A] film’s form and method are incomprehensible outside of a recognition that its story takes place, and its images are both made and found, in a world...

Movies always take us into the middle of things because the film and its story begin, but the world does not...

V. F. Perkins, ‘Where is the world? The horizon of events in movie fiction’
in Gibbs and Pye (eds.), Style and Meaning... (MUP, 2005); 22-25. 

I suggest that a prime task of interpretation is to articulate in the medium of prose some aspects of what artists have made perfectly and precisely clear in the medium of film. The meanings I have discussed in the Caught fragment are neither stated nor in any special sense implied. They are filmed. Whatever else that means (which it is a purpose of criticism and theory to explore) it means that they are not hidden in or behind the movie, and that my interpretation is not an attempt to clarify what the picture has obscured. I have written about things that I believe to be in the film for all to see, and to see the sense of.

V.F. Perkins, 'Must We Say What We Mean?', Movie 34/35, Winter 1990

It is with very great sadness that Film Studies For Free brings you its latest entry: a commemoration of the life, film criticism, theory and scholarship of Victor Perkins who died a week ago today.

V. F. Perkins was a founding editor of the hugely influential film critical publication MOVIE. He was also the author of Film as Film (Penguin, 1972), one of the most inspiring of the foundational texts in film studies, and of two thrilling monographs on individual films for the BFI Film Classics series: The Magnificent Ambersons (1999); and La Règle du jeu (2012). After beginning to teach on cinema in a number of institutional settings from the 1960s (including at Bulmershe College of Education), he lectured on that subject at Warwick University (in the remarkable department he co-founded) from 1978 and was Honorary Professor in Film Studies.

Although Victor had been ill for several years, his passing was quite sudden and thus shocking to his family, friends and colleagues. He is, without doubt, someone who will be greatly missed by all those blessed by his personal and professional acquaintance (by all accounts, he was a truly wonderful colleague, teacher and research supervisor), as well as by the many, many thousands of people around the world who have loved and learned from his writing on the cinema.

FSFF's author had the very great pleasure of knowing Victor a little, and spent some very enjoyable (and inspiring) times with him over the last two decades. He was an enthusiastic supporter of this website and its ethos from FSFF's earliest days back in 2008, and was a most welcome correspondent on the topic of online film resources. He was a passionate advocate for, and practical supporter of, open-access publishing and multimedia film studies, as his key role in the relaunch as an online journal of MOVIE: A Journal of Film Criticism testifies. Victor always wondered if he'd go on to make video essays, a form in which he had a very keen interest. FSFF had always fervently hoped that he would....

There will undoubtedly be many tributes to his work from those who are much better qualified to write these than FSFF's author. So the aim of what follows is confined mostly to the significant task of updating existing entries at this website on Perkins' online work, and in collecting together links to online interviews with him, and writings about him.

But FSFF also offers up, below, four videos about Victor's work - three of these newly commissioned and produced in memoriam since Victor's death - by Christian Keathley, Hoi Lun Law and Catherine Grant (the fourth is by film scholar Patrick Keating). Update: Alex Clayton's tribute "Spin the Wheel" was added on July 27 and Ian Garwood's "Choice Moments" on July 30.

Furthermore, it warmly invites its readers to produce and submit their own online tribute videos and texts (please send links to these via the comments function below, or by email, and also please send on links to any relevant work or resources not yet listed below. Thank you). 

In the meantime, FSFF's author offers her deepest condolences to Victor's family (especially his daughter and son), and to his close friends and colleagues at this very sad time.

Tributes #forvictor #vfperkins

'A video tribute about delicate moments of (decorous) choice that reworks a much loved paragraph from the truly remarkable writing of film critic and scholar V.F. Perkins (1936-July 15, 2016). Warm thanks go to my friend Andrew Klevan who introduced me to Victor's reading of this sequence from Renoir's La Règle du jeu back in 1998'

Online writing by V.F. Perkins

The below embedded videos are the twelve constituent parts of a truly fascinating interview with V.F. Perkins which took place at the Kino 8 1/2 in Saarbrücken, Germany, and was filmed by Media Art and Design Studiengang. In the interview, Perkins engagingly discusses his approach to film studies and, in particular, talks about the trajectory of his foundational 1972 book Film as Film, and about his research on Jean Renoir's1939 film Le Régle du jeu about which he had written a 2012 book for the BFI Film Classics series (excerpt here).




Max Ophüls


Orson Welles

Online writing about V.F. Perkins