LOLA

25.08.2011

Adrian Martin and Girish Shambu are the editors of a new online journal of film criticism called LOLA. The first issue may be found here and it includes articles by Nicole Brenez, Andrew Klevan, Adrian Martin, Luc Moullet, and other authors. Good news for those of us who write (and are looking for) film criticism that is not journalistic—one year after the resurrection of Movie, in a joint venture between the Universities of Warwick, Reading, and Oxford.

Raoul Ruiz (1941-2011)

21.08.2011



L’Hypothèse du tableau volé (The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting, 1979).

The cinema is a mechanical mirror that has a memory.

—Raoul Ruiz

Delight

16.08.2011

One of the ways that the topic of pleasure has entered academic research on film and television is, as John Corner points out, “an appreciation of popular culture (at times, a celebration) for its expressive qualities and its relation to ordinary living and ordinary pleasures”.[1] Pleasure is a reaction or effect, which may be connected with knowledge and expectation, genre and reception, and that “is, for instance, very clearly the product of the use of images and talk, it is often generated from forms of narrative”.[2]

John Fiske draws on the distinction made by Roland Barthes between plaisir and jouissance.[3] As Corner explains, plaisir is a confirmatory pleasure that results from an engagement with aesthetic elements, requiring a specific type of attention and disposition that is communal. Jouissance has been translated as bliss.[4] It is a sensual pleasure that is individual instead of social, it becomes “a kind of utopian category, a category of escape, its experience providing opportunity for a temporary, personal transcendence of everyday necessity which gestures toward a better way of living and being”.[5]

Perhaps there is a third type of pleasure: delight. It is a pleasure that is individual as much as communal (that is, it is personal), illuminating the relationship between me and you, your and my pleasure. It is the pleasure of being charmed and enlightened as one takes in the shared and magnetic mystery of moving images.

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[1] John Corner, Critical Ideas in Television Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 94.
[2] Ibid., p. 93.
[3] John Fiske, Television Culture: Popular Pleasures and Politics (London: Methuen, 1987), p. 230.
[4] See Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text [1973], trans. Richard MIller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1975).
[5] Corner, Critical Ideas in Television Studies, p. 101.

Cut to Black

11.08.2011





The Sopranos, “Made in America”.

“Made in America” (6.21), the final episode of The Sopranos (1999-2007), aired on 10 June 2007. Its closing scene immediately generated controversy due to its alleged ambiguity and lack of closure. The decision to abruptly cut to black and to silence, and sustain it for ten seconds before the credits, left many viewers puzzled.

It is urgent to revisit this closing scene and the debate that surrounded it, focusing on its reception and interpretation. Television series raise a particular type of expectation regarding their conclusion—not just a different kind of anticipation, built over the years, but also one that is made more intense. Such expectation explains the frustration of some spectators. Other audience members were instead intrigued by the ending and wrote articles about its possible meanings—for example, arguing that the black screen symbolises Tony’s (James Gandolfini) death. Yet David Chase, the creator of the programme, said: “There are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode.” We must ponder on these words. Not because Chase’s view should be granted privilege, but because much of the discussion about “Made in America” remained pointless given that it concentrated on what is deliberately not shown.

As such, the discussion often blacked out precise aesthetic patterns—for instance, the importance of silence in the expressive realism of The Sopranos—and their connections with narrative structure—for example, the significance of moments within the incomplete threads of the series. The sudden cut to silent black is peremptory, but this formal punctuation does not have to stand for the death of the protagonist or any other thing. The scene reinforces the central tension between the hazards of criminal life and the joys of family life. The ending of many episodes is elliptical, this last one is just more unsettling, heightening the strain that the wait for Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) prolongs and that the song that Tony chooses, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”, punctuates. It is a full stop.