Cambridge and Oxford


The Lonely Wife.

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 The Lonely Wife (Charulata, 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.