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.