Masculine/Feminine

15.12.2008

Joss Whedon — about whom two books are forthcoming, David Lavery’s Joss: A Creative Portrait of the Maker of the Whedonverses and Matthew Pateman’s Joss Whedon — in a recent interview: “I describe television as feminine and movies as masculine”. Godard is around.

Cambridge and Oxford

13.12.2008


Charulata.


Last week I went to the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford for the first time. It was a coincidence. I wanted to visit them for a long time, but did not want to do it as a tourist — I was waiting for pretexts.

My experiences were quite different. I went to Cambridge to attend the presentation of a paper by my one-time doctoral supervisor at Kent, blogger extraordinaire, and good friend, Catherine Grant. I was there specifically for her talk and therefore saw very little of the city. The event was pleasant and the people from Cambridge and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities were affable and interested in the discussion. “The Experience of Auteurism in Contemporary Film Culture” covered some material that I already knew and that comes from her forthcoming book Directing Cinema: The New Auteurism, published by Manchester University Press. I have not read it yet but I think that it will be a significant contribution to the study of auteurism in film since it reflects the changes introduced by the contemporary culture of consumption and distribution, from DVDs to the Internet. I found one idea particularly interesting: the definition of auteurism, not as a fact whose generalisation is always problematic, but as a belief of some spectators. This is terribly illuminating — and it points towards the kind of displacement, in the psychoanalytic sense, that we see in contemporary film culture, especially as embodied by fans and collectors. It was a productive academic event and it was wonderful being with Katie.

I was in Oxford for a whole day and I had the opportunity to see more of the university. I went to Cambridge to attend an event and to Oxford to participate in one, which made all the difference. I had been invited by Andrew Klevan, a former and unforgettable teacher, to participate in a film research seminar creatively called “The Magnifying Class” that he organises once a term to analyse “sequences moment-by-moment on a big screen”. This time the group turned its magnifying power to Charulata (The Lonely Wife, 1966), directed by Satyajit Ray. It was a fruitful three-hour round table about the intricacies of a rich film. I had the chance to catch up with Andrew in a relaxed manner. It was also a delight re-encountering Alex and Steven, two other members of the group.

Oliveira’s Century

11.12.2008


Douro, Faina Fluvial.


Cristóvão Colombo: O Enigma.


(This post probably should have been written in Portuguese. Or not.)

Manoel de Oliveira, the oldest filmmaker in activity, the most prominent Portuguese film director, celebrates 100 years of age today.

A few words on him and his films. There he is with his wife in Cristóvão Colombo: O Enigma (Christopher Columbus: The Enigma, 2007), his latest feature film. If there is something that he preserved and developed throughout his career, ever since his first documentary Douro, Faina Fluvial (Labor on the Douro River, 1931), it is the ability of film to document and, at the same time, present multiple points of view that shape what we see. Oliveira’s cinema is not founded on the transparency of the record, but it is also not contrived. It is a cinema permanently under construction that defies what is thought of as evident, presenting us with words, images, sounds, music, gestures, rituals, which ask for tentative consideration instead of immediate recognition. We can call it a pedagogy of uncertainty.

Kinetic Carrie

04.12.2008



Carrie.


An excerpt from my essay “The Mosaic-Screen: Exploration and Definition” that is about to be published in Refractory, a refereed journal of the University of Melbourne:

In a famous scene from Carrie (1976), the young girl (Sissy Spacek) suffers the ultimate humiliation of being soaked in pig’s blood before his colleagues and teachers at the high school prom. De Palma brings the split-screen into play to express Carrie’s telekinetic power — fuelled by her rage — and its sheer dominance. Spatial relations are maintained as the screen is split in two: Carrie is on the right, directing three gazes toward the left that result in the shutting of all exit doors, as shown on the left. Her image then moves to the left to preserve the spatial coordinates of the scene on screen: she is about to look to the right to switch off the white lights and immerse the room in red light. The split-screen, a form salient in its artificiality, becomes thus more concrete, co-ordinating the motion within the scene to match the movement of Carrie’s image. The consistency of spatial relationships could have been maintained by an immediate swap of images. Instead, the atypical movement of the image to the left expresses her dominating power to move and rearrange anything at a distance.

Film Studies for Free?

01.12.2008

My former PhD supervisor, Catherine Grant, has been doing all of us an invaluable service — all of us, that is, scholars and academics in film studies. Film Studies for Free is a blog that “comments on and links to online open-access film studies resources of note”. Katie explains that it

actively espouses the ethos of Open Access to digital scholarly material. It aims to promote good quality, online, film and moving-image studies resources by commenting on them, and by linking to them.

These resources will include freely-accessible, published scholarship or research in various forms: from film and media weblogs, through online peer-reviewed journals and film/video archives, to other forms of web-based scholarly writing, as well as online works of film/moving-image research by practice.

Check the amount of links to classical and new texts that she has made available and you rapidly conclude that this is not really for free. It takes the hard work of someone like Katie, someone attentive to the recent shift in the distribution of scholarly writings, to produce and maintain such a space. Thank you very much — and a personal thanks for my inclusion in the Online and Open-Access Film and Moving-Image Studies Writing of Note.

By the way, the author of Film Studies for Free is presenting a seminar tomorrow at the University of Cambridge titled “The Experience of Auteurism in Contemporary Film Culture”, in the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, 17 Mill Lane, at 5pm. I shall be there.

Kind Words

21.11.2008


Cat Power’s “Maybe Not”.


It is always rewarding when someone mentions your research work. It is even more gratifying when colleagues state that something in one of your papers is noteworthy.

In the latest issue of Scope, Neelam Sidhar Wright and Stella Sims (University of Sussex) report on Cultural Borrowings. The conference took place at the University of Nottingham in March. I was part of a panel on found footage and my paper was titled “Borrowed Sounds, Appropriated Images: Music Video and Found Footage” — you can preview or download it from my writings archive. Here are Neelam and Stella’s kind words on my presentation:

Sergio Dias Branco’s (University of Kent) paper similarly explored new meanings and inventive playfulness through reproduced stock footage, this time vis-à-vis studying borrowed sounds and archival images in music videos. Most notable was his analysis of Cat Power’s video “Maybe Not” (2005), consisting of a montage of clips of people falling off buildings, appropriated from several classic and contemporary film sequences.

Attention to Godard

06.10.2008


Prenom: Carmen.


I was in Lisbon for a day and still I found the time to purchase two of my favourite Godards. Passion (1982) and Prenom: Carmen (First Name: Carmen, 1983) have recently been released on DVD in pristine copies with introductions by Colin MacCabe.

As I re-watched the two films at night, it became clear that, contrary to what some people say, Godard’s films do not demand a patient spectator. Passion and Prenom: Carmen ask for an attentive viewer, one who knows that this attention is not different from the kind of awareness that we should devote to ordinary and precious things, to striking images and words that we may want to remember and revisit. Seeing instead of simply looking, listening instead of merely hearing, is vital, not dull.

Cowboys in Space

03.10.2008


Serenity (2005).


I am giving an invited talk tomorrow at the Faculty of Fine Arts - University of Lisbon on Joss Whedon’s inter-genre work. My presentation is titled “Cowboys no Espaço: Convergências de Géneros em Firefly e Serenity” (“Cowboys in Space: Convergences of Genres in Firefly and Serenity”) and is part of an annual event called Fantastic Forum that is taking place for the third time. The programme is available here (in Portuguese).

Paul Newman (1925-2008)

29.09.2008


The Hustler.


I am much too young to write that I grew up with Paul Newman, but I certainly grew as a cinephile every time I watched him on screen. Newman as Eddie Felson took over the space of the scene, elegantly occupying the frame — waiting, instead of demanding, our attention. He invited us, attentive audience, to attend to his confident yet tentative gestures of life. Maybe I grew up with him after all, years later after the release of The Hustler (1961).

Emergent Encounters in Film Theory

26.09.2008

Emergent Encounters in Film Theory: Intersections Between Psychoanalysis and Philosophy is an international film studies conference to be held at King’s College London on 21 March 2009. It is organized by Davina Quinlivan, Markos Hadjioannou, Ruth McPhee, and Louis Bayman. Parveen Adams, fellow of the London Consortium, and Steven Shaviro (Wayne State University) are the confirmed keynote speakers.

Here is the call for papers:

Interdisciplinary approaches to the theoretical discussion of the cinematic medium have often engaged with philosophical or psychoanalytic perspectives. While philosophy and psychoanalysis are by no means opposed schools of thought, the potential to develop new ways of understanding film remains an opportunity to be explored. In seeking out further lines of enquiry, the study of intersections between cinema/philosophy/psychoanalysis, seems most pertinent to our generation of “film thinking”, to invoke Daniel Frampton’s concept of the “film mind”, whose future still stands, to some extent, in the shadow of psychoanalysis. Recent philosophical models of thought offered by film theorists such as Frampton and D. N. Rodowick embrace a new ontological grasp of the cinema, but what then are the implications of this shift for psychoanalysis? The question, therefore, remains whether philosophy and psychoanalysis are indeed irreconcilable, or if the specific philosophical turn sets up boundaries that unjustly seal off the possibility of dialogue between the two methodologies.

We invite proposals of 200 words for papers of 20 minutes on areas including: films as philosophical and/or psychoanalytical form of representation; questions of realism and illusion, from documentary cinema to the fantasy genre; ethical responses to, and within, cinema; the family, sociality, fraternity and sorority; changes and developments within spectatorship; the impact of, and approaches to, new technologies; responses and approaches to film aesthetics/film art; corporeal subjectivity, embodiment and the senses; temporality, memory and amnesia in the cinema; depictions of criminality, revenge and guilt.

Please send abstracts by 14 November 2008 to encounters@kcl.ac.uk.

Good Manners

24.09.2008



The X Files, “D.P.O.”.


In November 2006, Alain Resnais was interviewed by Positif apropos Cœurs (Private Fears in Public Places, 2006). He confessed that he was influenced by Wong Kar-wai, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Arnaud Desplechin, and David Lynch, and above all [sic] he hoped there was something of the influence of Kim Manners. “He directed some 50 episodes of The X Files [1993-2002], and the virtuosity of his shot-breakdown technique and of his mise-en-scène, and the way in which he treated actors’ performances, all of it impressed me. He’s the best of the best. I’m not an expert in television series, but in Millennium [1996-99], The Shield [2002-08], The Sopranos [1999-2007], 24 [2001-], and others, I find the cinematic syntax more rich and inventive than in the majority of cinema”, he added.

There is a taste of the kind of provocation that reigned in Cahiers du cinèma in the years before the emergence of the French New Wave. Resnais knows, of course, that his voice — that of the director of Hiroshima mon amour (1959) — carries weight, even authority. I am sure some readers asked themselves: who is this Manners (whom Resnais pairs with Kar-wai, Hsiao-hsien, Desplechin, and Lynch)? And “classic” cinephiles surely thought: if he is this good, what is he doing on television?

I would not say that the episodes that he directed for The X Files are completely distinctive. Kim Manners deepens the expressiveness of the style of the series. This is what the best directors on television do; they are able to fulfil the potential of great series. In The X Files, images tend to be deep, shots recurrently use long lenses, framing provides new ways of looking at things. The world is turned into a very strange place at first sight, but the purpose seems to be to disclose this strangeness as a rediscovery of the mysteries of the world — all through an orderly point of view. This is why the series (and the films) have always privileged knowledge over closure.

For the first shot of “D.P.O.” (3.03), the camera descends into an empty car. There is a video arcade in front of the vehicle. The lights are on. We deduce that the owner of the automobile is inside, playing a video game. The episode tells the story of a teenager who has gained great electrical powers after surviving being struck by a lightning — an experience that he has been repeating. The movement of the camera from the sky to the ground mirrors the trajectory of a lightning. That is, the careful framing and the expressive camera movement convey the essential elements of the story in just one shot. You have to admire such economy and richness.

Farewell and Welcome

19.09.2008

Catherine Grant (PhD Leeds) and Alex Clayton (MA/PhD Kent) have left the University of Kent and are now at the University of Sussex and Bristol, respectively. It is sad to see two friends leave, but I am sure that our professional lives will cross paths in the future. For now, emails and visits are the best way to keep in touch.

Warm greetings to Brazilian Cecília Sayad (MA/PhD NYU), German Mattias Frey (PhD Harvard), and South Korean Jinhee Choi (MA/PhD Wisconsin-Madison), who are the new lecturers of the Department of Film Studies at Kent. New people, fresh ideasthis is a promising academic year.

Postscript

18.09.2008

More or less a month ago, I wrote a post about the idea of including videos on this blog. I have expressed my apprehensiveness about this idea because videos rapidly become unavailable online. It seems that I was right: the video that I posted, Chuck Jones’s Feed the Kitty (1952), has vanished. As I acknowledged at the time, links and contents are moved or deleted everyday on the Internet — but these are usually complementary or referencing materials. Videos would serve a different purpose. I was thinking of them as subjects of discussion, something that the reader would need to watch and to know.

Manny Farber (1917-2008)

20.08.2008

It was Peter Stanfield who introduced me to Manny Farber in his module on MA film noir. Farber was a singular film critic, an expressive writer with a keen eye and a talent to capture the formal and emotional tensions that the best movies create.

He was a defender of the virtues of powerful and economic termite art, which he saw as the opposite of pretentious and bloated white elephant art — “Termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss art goes always forward eating its own boundaries, and, like as not, leaves nothing in its path other than the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity.”[1] Negative Space contains these perceptive words on the great Raoul Walsh, an artist who produced such an art:

The great traffic cop of movies, keeping things moving, hustling actors around an intersection-like screen that’s generally empty in the center, Walsh’s style is based on traveling over routes which are sometimes accomplished by bodily movement, the passage that a gaze takes, suggested or actually shown, and the movement of a line of dialogue, the route indicated by a gesture.

[...] Birthed in films as a Griffith actor and the director of Fairbanks films, his no-shortcut style is steeped in the silent film necessity for excessive, frantic visual explication, taking nothing for granted.

[...] If hardwares sold a house paint called Gusto, the number one customer would be Walsh: six decades in film using a jabbing, forthright crispness to occasionally vitalize the crudest hack fiction.[2]

______________________

[1] Manny Farber, Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies, expanded edn. (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1998), p. 124.
[2] Ibid., pp. 276-90.

Objecto e Olhar (2)

18.08.2008


Agostino d’Ippona (1972).


Um complemento. Algumas palavras de Stanley Cavell — de The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film (O Mundo Visto: Reflexões sobre a Ontologia do Cinema), livro que estou a traduzir para português:

É por vezes alegado que a exigência de uma “posição” do artista é uma exigência arcaica, uma sobra de uma visão romântica e moralista da arte. Porque não pode o artista simplesmente proporcionar-nos prazer ou meramente mostrar-nos como as coisas são? [...] As obras que me proporcionam prazer ou conhecimento de como as coisas são proporcionam-me igualmente um sentimento da posição do artista sobre esta revelação — uma posição, suponhamos, de completa convicção, de compaixão, de deleite ou divertimento irónico, ou saudade ou escárnio ou raiva ou perda. O facto é que um artista, porque é um ser humano, tem uma posição e tem razões para chamar eventos à nossa atenção. O que lhe dá direito à nossa atenção é precisamente a sua responsabilidade para com esta situação.

______________________

“Objecto e Olhar”: (1)

Gulbenkian

17.08.2008

  
Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon, Portugal) and Gulbenkian Theatre & Cinema (University of Kent, Canterbury, UK).

Michael’s Grapplings

16.08.2008

I am glad that Michael Grant decided to create a blog after seeing mine and Katie's Anagnorisis and Directing Cinema. It is already on my list of links.

Two years ago, when I began teaching film and television at the University of Kent, Michael was an invaluable source of helpful information and friendly advice. Like Katie — and let me seize this opportunity to thank her for the kind words about me and my work — he has always treated me as a colleague, as a fellow teacher, even though I am still a PhD student. This made me realise that the separation between teachers (or researchers) and students is more administrative than real. Dedicated scholars never stop being students.

Michael was a tenured academic for some forty years in English and then Film. He has been in the Department of Film Studies at Kent since its inception. He now researches and writes on philosophy, aesthetics, film, horror, and literature. And he is a poet as well.

Here is the description of his blog:

Michael Grant’s grapplings with paradox and impossibility in philosophy, language, and the cinema. With reference, potentially, to the works of Maurice Blanchot, T. S. Eliot, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jacques Lacan, Stanley Cavell, David Cronenberg, Lucio Fulci, and Dario Argento, inter alia.

The Truth Is Out There

14.08.2008


The X Files (1993-2002), “The Blessing Way” (3.01).


ALBERT HOSTEEN (voice-over): There’s an ancient Indian saying that something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it. My people have come to trust memory over history. Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable while history only serves those who seek to control it.

A Marienbad Joke

13.08.2008


L’Année dernière à Marienbad.


Alain Resnais tells a French joke about L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year in Marienbad, 1961) in last year’s interview to The Guardian,

An assassin is arrested by the police for a murder. They know he is guilty. “But I have an alibi”, he protests. “I was at the movies when the crime took place.” The detective asks, “What did you see?” “Last Year in Marienbad.” “Tell me the story”, says the detective. The killer can’t. Naturally, he is condemned.

Including Videos

12.08.2008


Feed the Kitty.


I was always reluctant to include videos on this blog. They may vanish from the Internet and, in that case, all the readers and visitors see is a message stating that “this video is no longer available”. I know: sometimes I include links to other pages or sites that may also vanish. Internet contents and locations change rapidly — that is why electronic references in essays usually indicate access dates.

I guess the true reason for which I have never included videos here is that I did not want to accept the ephemeral aspect of blogging. Yet I have to accept it. Videos can open new possibilities for this space. (I already have some ideas.)

For now, watch Chuck Jones’s Feed the Kitty (1952), a short animated film with an irresistible female kitty that reminds me of one of my two cats.

Bernie Mac (1957-2005)

09.08.2008


Mr. 3000 (2004).


“I’m a certified immortal! And there ain’t nothin’ y’all sons of bitches can do about it!”, bragged Bernie Mac as Stan Ross in this delightful film. I need to see him say it again.

Alexandra in Her Place

08.08.2008



Alexandra (2007).


Alexandra is out place in the military camp where she comes to visit her grandson. But her love is needed there, if only to recall this soldier of his own genuine kindness and deep affection.

Objecto e Olhar (1)

07.08.2008


Buongiorno, notte.


Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains.


Ainda não vi The Dark Knight (O Cavaleiro das Trevas, 2008), mas a questão que o Daniel coloca é fundamental e não só a propósito do filme realizado por Christopher Nolan: com que justeza, com que seriedade se trata aquilo que se filma?

Há algum tempo li um pequeno texto sobre o telefilme Agostino d’Ippona (1972) no qual Inácio Araújo escreve que “Rossellini cala para que o santo fale. Limita-se a mostrar. É o que fazem os grandes cineastas”. Estas palavras são um equívoco, ignorando como ignoram a ética e a estética do trabalho de Rossellini em favor de uma impressão do real. Limitar-se a mostrar é radicalmente diferente de dar a ver — e quando o cineasta italiano falou em não manipular a realidade, o objecto, não estava a referir-se ao apagamento do seu ponto de vista, o olhar. Talvez isto seja exactamente o que Inácio quis dizer — mas as suas palavras trairam essa intenção.

Voltando à questão do Daniel. Trata-se da segunda parte de uma pergunta que os cineastas devem fazer e que os espectadores devem depois revisitar: o que filmar e como filmá-lo? As respostas revelam sempre o ponto onde a ética e a estética se cruzam para fazer nascer a arte das imagens em movimento, popular ou erudita. Lembrei-me disto ao ver dois filmes distintos e sérios, Buongiorno, notte (Bom Dia, Noite, 2003) e Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains (2007), uma ficção e um documentário.

Godard’s Voices

01.08.2008


Histoire(s) du cinéma.


Godard’s voice is monotone. In some cases, understanding its place or role leads to an acceptance of it (but perhaps not to an appreciation of it). JLG/JLG: autoportrait de décembre (JLG/JLG: Self-Portrait in December, 1995) is a self-portrait and therefore his voice is in the film as his image is. Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-98) combines his voice with the sounds of machines — in this monumental work, there is something mechanical about the inexpressiveness of his voice that matches the displayed ability of film and video technology to self-reflect. But in Notre musique (2004) there is a sequence of a lecture in which Godard comments on a group of photographs and here his voice is not intimate or mechanical: it just lacks vividness.

Uses of Philosophy

22.07.2008


Alias.


I recently read Dyrk Ashton’s essay “Reflections of Deleuze: An Alias-ed Critique of Truth”, a chapter of Investigating “Alias”: Secrets and Spies, edited by Stacey Abbott and Simon Brown (London: I.B. Tauris, 2007). Ashton uses Gilles Deleuze’s ideas, especially his remarks on reflections and the relativisation of truth, to analyse Alias (2001-6). This allows him to interpret the numerous aliases, many doubles, multiple images, and insistent distrust present in the series as illustrating Deleuze’s ideas. This is symptomatic of a common way of using philosophy (and theory) as something that can be simply exemplified by films and television series. The ideas are as serviceable as the works.

Last week, I finished writing a paper on The Addiction (1995) in which I employ a lot of philosophical references. However, this is a different case and a different use. The references are mentioned in the film or are clearly invited by it. As I argue, they play an essential role in any serious reading of this movie directed by Abel Ferrara. Reading The Addiction demands an engagement with philosophy.

There are other fruitful uses of philosophy. We may use certain concepts developed by philosophers because they clarify what we are studying in a film. See, for instance, how Catherine Grant has been using Henri Bergson’s notion of attentive recognition. In the first post, she declares after having discussed La amiga (1988) that “attentive recognition is, then, in this case, potentially a participatory notion of spectatorship. It requires of the spectator an act of memory, an act of imagination and an act of identification or empathy with a fictional character to ‘work’”. In another post, Grant extends her analysis to Vertigo (1958). This is not a mere application of a concept. Her perceptive analyses invariably result in a rethinking and redefinition of Bergson’s notion that illuminates how different films create moments of recognition and discovery.

O Moderno Paradoxal

21.07.2008


O Passado e o Presente (1971).


A exposição retrospectiva sobre a obra fílmica de Manoel de Oliveira já abriu em Serralves a 12 de Julho. Lá estarei. Vai decorrer até 2 de Novembro e tem diversos eventos a decorrer em paralelo. Um deles é um seminário que vai ter lugar em Outubro, intitulado “Manoel de Oliveira: O Moderno Paradoxal”. Exactamente: o paradoxal cinema de Oliveira revela o primitivo como moderno. A luminosidade e a escuridão memoriais das origens do cinema habitam-no para revelarem coisas a (re)descobrir. É o passado e o presente.

Recalling the Rain

17.07.2008


Partie de campagne.


This an excerpt from a conversation between Andrew Klevan and Stanley Cavell. It is worth reading the whole text attentively, but this moment is particularly telling of the way both approach film and films. The fact that the rain in Partie de campagne (A Day in the Country, 1936) was not planned does not mean that it is to be read as insignificant in the context of the film. They encourage us to attend to the film, to how the filmmaker integrates elements and gives them significance.

These remarks also resonate with me because Andrew, now at the University of Oxford, was my teacher (the most passionate and compelling teacher that I ever encountered, in fact). Partie de campagne was one of the films that we discussed in his Film Analysis course. So this exchange of words recalls to me not only Renoir’s great film, but the seminar about it as well:

ANDREW KLEVAN: I wonder why so many of the serious things we feel about films are mysteriously diverted when we speak or write about them. Why are our thoughts and words about film deflected? Anecdotes seem to be one of the many instances of diversion. I was just thinking of that anecdote about the Renoir film Partie de campagne...

STANLEY CAVELL: ...Yes. “It rained that day.”

KLEVAN: Actually that is not necessarily an unhelpful anecdote if it leads one, as it led me, to be even more astonished at how Renoir made use of the rain (on the water) in the film. Indeed, we are more alert to the complexity of its integration.

CAVELL: Exactly, but instead I have heard the anecdote used as reductive, by saying “Oh he didn’t intend to film the scene in rain. He was just lucky.” In that case one might say that wonderful filmmakers are perpetually lucky. How can that be?[1]

______________________

[1] “What Becomes of Thinking on Film?: Stanley Cavell in Conversation with Andrew Klevan”, in Film as Philosophy: Essays on Cinema After Wittgenstein and Cavell, ed. Rupert Read and Jerry Goodenough (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2005), p. 176.

39 Years Later

12.07.2008


Notre musique (2004).


I await the end of cinema with optimism.

JEAN-LUC GODARD, 1965

The Same

11.07.2008

“For me, as a philosopher of art, a Kurosawa film and Friends (1994-2004) are the same.” Dominic McIver Lopes (University of British Columbia) said these words a while ago when he was at Kent. I wrote them on my notebook at the time with the feeling that I had heard a sentence that encapsulates my own understanding. I abide by the same principle.

As a philosopher of art, Lopes was defending his choice of popular art as an object of inquiry and a source of examples. This does not mean that there are no differences between, say, Ikiru (1952) and Friends. It just means that, in abstract terms, their similarities as instances of the art of the moving image are more relevant — and more persuasive.

Bordwell sobre Žižek

10.07.2008

Slavoj Žižek (diz-se Jijek) já tem algumas obras traduzidas em português. A sua visita à Cinemateca Portuguesa relembrou-me que a discussão da sua contribuição para o estudo do cinema está a passar ao lado de Portugal. Talvez porque ainda seja cedo. Talvez porque Žižek seja apresentado como simplesmente “fenomenal” — como alguém cujo trabalho não vale a pena ser discutido ou questionado, mas deve ser apenas admirado. Pode ser que a moda passe.

Penso que as suas ideias mais interessantes nada têm a ver com cinema — por exemplo, as suas reflexões sobre a impregnação da ideologia. Mas as suas conclusões são muitas vezes inconclusivas e o seu talento argumentativo é intermitente — ele avança invarialvelmente através da “revelação” de paradoxos e desenvolve os seus pontos de um modo sinuoso. Basta compará-lo com Stanley Cavell — um pensador que também reflecte sobre o cinema que é mais denso, mas também mais frutuoso.

Como lacaniano, Žižek tem criticado abordagens empíricas ao entendimento do cinema. David Bordwell, académico central nesta tendência de procurar validações no estudo estílistico e histórico dos filmes, já lhe respondeu muitas vezes. Eis um ensaio acerca de The Fright of Real Tears: Krzystof Kieslowski Between Theory and Post-Theory (Londres: BFI, 2001) — e não só. É um bom texto, ainda que a espaços demasiado azedo, para iniciar uma abordagem crítica dos escritos e ditos do esloveno: “Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything”.

Lost and Found

07.07.2008


Metropolis.


The original cut of Metropolis (1927) has been finally found, 80 years later. Some stills from the 16mm print:






Apropos

06.07.2008

Chris Marker on American television series in 2003:

My necessity for fiction is fed by that which is by far its more accomplished source: the great American series […]. There, there is an understanding, a sense of narration, of summary, of ellipse, a science of framing and editing, a dramaturgy and a play of actors that do not have equivalent elsewhere, and especially not in Hollywood.

Worlds Apart

03.07.2008

The part-time teachers’ office of the Film Studies Department of the University of Kent is a place where I spend a lot of my time. It is where I am right now. There are varied posters and cuttings on the wall: Volver (2006), Sex and the City (2008), Pulp Fiction (1994), À bout de souffle (Breathless, 1960), et al. On the top shelf, I see books by: André Bazin, David Bordwell, Stanley Cavell, Gilles Deleuze, Sigmund Freud, Frederic Jameson, Christian Metz, V. F. Perkins, Slavoj Žižek, et al. All side by side.

Grande Televisão

01.07.2008


Deadwood (2004-6), “Deadwood” (1.01).


Para o José, com um abraço (cinéfilo).

“Didn’t Really Know That Much”

29.06.2008







Bruce Springsteen’s “Lonesome Day” (2003).


In Springsteen’s words:

Hell’s brewin’ dark sun’s on the rise
This storm’ll blow through by and by
House is on fire, Viper’s in the grass
A little revenge and this too shall pass
This too shall pass, I’m gonna pray
Right now all I got’s this lonesome day

An Antidote to Redacted

27.06.2008



Battle for Haditha (2007).

A Tree Named Oliveira

12.06.2008


Non ou A Vã Glória de Mandar (1990).


Oliveira: a man like a tree, planted a long time ago, a tree like the one in the beginning of the film, one of the greatest shots in the history of cinema.

SERGE DANEY

“I’m a Great Rectifier. That’s What I Do.”

11.06.2008

An inventive image that exhibits self-derision as narcissism and narcissism as self-derision — like the series.

Carpenter on Spielberg

06.06.2008

But the word “auteur” has just been fucked over, it’s been skull-fucked for all these reasons. It doesn’t really mean what people think. Some of the best directors were ones that worked effortlessly in the Hollywood system. Effortlessly. I would say that Spielberg is an auteur. If you look at his work, you can see his point-of-view. There’s a man behind this, and that’s not anonymous.

Human Landscapes

05.06.2008




Quel loro incontri (These Encounters of Theirs, 2006).

Self-Reflexivity in Three Films Noir

28.05.2008


Laura (1944).


Christophe Gelly (Université Blaise Pascal), current visiting fellow at the University of Kent, is presenting a research paper today. It is called “Self-reflexivity in Three Films Noirs: Laura, Double Indemnity, and Sunset Blvd.” and approaches the narrative and visual structures of these films as reflecting their own status as enunciated works.

Abstract and further information here.

Sydney Pollack (1934-2008)

27.05.2008


Eyes Wide Shut (1999).


Sydney Pollack as actor, with Tom Cruise.

The Layering of Intention

26.05.2008

My friend Alex Clayton is presenting a paper titled “The Layering of Intention: A New Theory of Comic Performance” tomorrow at the University of Oxford. Alex is the author of The Body in Hollywood Slapstick (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007).

The presentation is part of a programme aptly called Thinking Film: A Forum Contemplating Philosophy, Theory, Ideas, Concepts organised by Andrew Klevan, one of my MA teachers, now at Oxford. (Someday, I have to write about him, about how he is still my teacher, about how he will always be.) Here is the abstract:

In thinking about what it is that makes a performance comic (as distinct from, say, straightforwardly dramatic or accidentally amusing), one necessarily comes up against the notion that comic performance contains and reveals an intention to amuse, something I would like to call the comic “twinkle” (like a “twinkle” in the performer's eye, difficult to pinpoint but impossible to ignore). How is it that comic intention can be made visible — that is, how is it brought to emerge as an intention within a specific generic and tonal context? This matter can only be resolved through close scrutiny and sustained reflection upon particular comic moments. In the process we find that intention is often complicated by a strategy of “doubled performance” wherein an actor plays a character who is herself performing (in order, say, to impress, or to seduce). Working through varied examples from the history of screen comedy, this paper proposes a new theory of comedy which identifies the layering of intentions and personae as a key dimension of the comic effect. The theory is set forward to develop our understanding and appreciation of comic performance, aiming to contribute to a language of analysis. It should also allow us to recognise how comedy so often works to satirize the performative dimensions of social life.

Questions and discussions to follow. More information here.

A New Day

14.05.2008


Groundhog Day (1993).


A small film that lives off its wits and tells a deeply wonderful story of love. It creates a version of the question I ask here — of what will endure. Its version is to ask how, surrounded by conventions we do not exactly believe in, we sometimes find it in ourselves to enter into what Emerson thought as a new day.

STANLEY CAVELL

Between Us

10.04.2008




Cœurs (Private Fears in Public Places, 2006).