Self-Reflexivity in Three Films Noir


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)


Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

Sydney Pollack as actor, with Tom Cruise.

The Layering of Intention


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


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.