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.