Monday, 31 March 2014

Society for Cinema and Media Studies Post-Conference Round Up: [IN]TRANSITION,Transnational Cinemas, MOVIE eBooks, and much more!

Homepage of [in]Transition, 1.1, 2014

Film Studies For Free is just back from attending the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. This year it took place in the distinctly cinematic, and especially fun, city of Seattle in Washington State, USA.

The big event, from this blog's point of view, was the launch of [in]Transition, a new open access periodical, co-edited by FSFF's author with Christian Keathley and Drew Morton. [in]Transition – a collaboration between MediaCommons and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ official publication Cinema Journal – is the first peer-reviewed academic journal of videographic film and moving image studies. [in]Transition has a highly distinguished editorial board and is more than ably project managed for MediaCommons by Jason Mittell and for Cinema Journal by Chris Becker, CJ's online editor (big thanks also go to the very visionary Will Brooker [CJ editor], Avi Santo, Monica McCormick and the rest of the heroic MediaCommons team). 

You can read more about the project here, and about videographic film studies and its lineage more generally in the Resources page here. Please visit the website and be very encouraged to comment on the curated videos (on Marilyn Monroe, neorealism, F for Fake and the films of Ingmar Bergman) published in issue 1. One of the main goals of this journal is to generate debate and understanding about audiovisual moving image studies, and we would love to be able to count on the insights and questions of our viewers/readers in this project. So please visit the journal website and see whether you'd like to contribute to the Open Peer Commentary.

You can also watch video recordings (linked to below) of the historic SCMS conference workshop on Visualizing Media Studies, on March 20th, which launched [in]Transition, with contributions by Chris Becker, Drew Morton, Catherine Grant, Christian Keathley, Matthias Stork, Benjamin Sampson, Jason Mittell, and a very lively and interested audience. This session was livestreamed and then archived for online viewing among a series of other SCMS panels and workshops. These are all linked to below, along with lots of other items of interest and news from the conference.
 
SCMS Workshop Livestreaming:
Transnational Cinemas Links:
On March 24, 2014, Film Studies For Free interviewed Dr Austin Fisher, Senior Lecturer in Media Arts at the University of Bedfordshire, UK, author of Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema and editor of the forthcoming volume Spaghetti Westerns at the Crossroads: Studies in Relocation, Transition and Appropriation (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), among other publications
     The interview took place in Seattle, USA, after the close of the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, where Austin was contributing to a number of workshops and panels as co-chair (with Iain Robert Smith) of the SCMS Scholarly Interest Group in Transnational Cinemas. Austin talks about this topic in the interview and connects it to his longstanding interest in Italian cinema and the spaghetti western. He was also in the US as an invited speaker (with Sir Christopher Frayling) at an event at Texas Tech, in Lubbock, Texas, to celebrate 50 years since the release of A Fistful of Dollars.
     Austin is also author of a video essay on The Searchers, and in the interview he talks about the experience of making this work, a topic of particular interest at the SCMS conference where [in]Transition was launched.

MOVIE eBooks!!
  • At a wonderful SCMS workshop on 'Film Scholarship and the Online Journal' (proposed by V.F. Perkins and chaired by Girish Shambu), John Gibbs announced the launch of a range of open access eBooks by MOVIE: A Journal of Film Criticism. The first three volumes (in EPUB and Mobi formats) are as follows:
    • Movies and Tone by Douglas Pye
    • The Police Series by Jonathan Bignell 
    • Reading Buffy by Deborah Thomas 
Discussions of/Reflections on SCMS:
Other material presented or referred to at SCMS (please let FSFF know of more to add to this list):
Other news and links: 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

On Cinematic Découpage

Opening paragraph from Timothy Barnard's new book Découpage (Montreal: caboose, 2014)
découpage
French term, untranslatable into English, for an EDITING “plan” of a (sometimes finished) film which is like a visual version of a “screenplay,” but not necessarily a “storyboard” or “shooting script” because these can’t include a precise conception of movement within and between shots. Most notably used by film theorist Noël Burch and director Robert Bresson. 


Film Studies For Free is thrilled to present an entry on the concept of cinematic découpage to celebrate the online publication of the first half of the forthcoming volume on that topic in the Kino-Agora series (edited by Christian Keathley, author of some of the other works on découpage linked to below) published by the Canadian publisher caboose and written by Timothy Barnard. The full book will be published in Fall 2014. While you're visiting the caboose website, it's really worth having a good look around: this is one of the most generous of film publishers in offering free excerpts from its wonderful books.

FSFF will be back on Monday with a round up entry of open access goodies from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies annual conference on Seattle, at which [in]Transition, the new journal of videographic film and moving image studies was launched! So, if you have any items you'd like to share, please email them. Thanks!



The recording of a Film Studies research seminar given by Christian Keathley at the Centre for Visual Fields, University of Sussex, on December 4, 2013. For information about this video (and for an audio file version) please see here.

Keathley, Associate Professor of Film and Media Culture at Middlebury College, USA, is the author of CINEPHILIA AND HISTORY, OR THE WIND IN THE TREES (Indiana University Press, 2006), and is currently working on a second book, THE MYSTERY OF OTTO PREMINGER (under contract to Indiana University Press). Professor Keathley’s research interest also focuses on the presentation of academic scholarship in a multimedia format, including video essays (see his Vimeo account here). Keathley is editor of caboose's kino-agora book series.

For links to numerous examples of Keathley's scholarly work online, including items he mentions in this talk, please see this earlier Film Studies For Free entry.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Study of a Single Film: IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)



INTERSECTION, a videographic film study of In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000) 
By Catherine Grant, Chiara Grizaffi and Denise Liege

The above video explores the notion (and some of the motifs) of 'Intersection' in Wong Kar-wai's 2000 film In the Mood for Love. It works through a synchronous compilation of the images and soundtracks from the montage sequences in the film that use the same orchestration of a waltz originally composed by Shigeru Umebayashi for the film Yumeji (Suzuki Seijun, 1991). Watch the video, then read these linked to, intersecting quotations from written texts about Wong's film. Then repeat.


Film Studies For Free proudly presents its latest "Study of a Single Film" entry which, this time, showcases open access scholarly work on the subject of Wong Kar-wai's 2000 film In the Mood for Love.

It's a film that FSFF's author has been fortunate to have been teaching this semester, on a course which devotes its entire attention just to this one movie. As with the corresponding course last year (which treated Luis Buñuel's Los Olvidados), this period of intense study has resulted in a videographic study of In the Mood for Love on the film - embedded above - this year, one co-produced as part of a research collaboration with two graduate students Chiara Grizzaffi and Denise Liege.

Speaking of videographic film studies... is exactly what FSFF's author will be doing at a workshop at the upcoming Society for Cinema and Media Studies annual conference in Seattle, USA (download PDF of the program here). At this workshop an important announcement will be made: notably, the precise online location of a brand new open access journal to which the below official press release refers:

Announcing [in]Transition

Cinema Journal and MediaCommons will soon announce the launch of the first peer-reviewed academic journal of videographic film and moving image studies. The journal, [in]Transition, will unveil its inaugural issue at next week's annual Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Seattle, Washington. The journal will be formally launched and discussed (amongst other topics) at the “Visualizing Media Studies: The Expansion of Scholarly Publishing into Video Essays” workshop on Thursday, March 20th (Session E14).

[in]Transition will provide a forum for a range of digital scholarship (which includes such formats as the video essay and the visual essay) and will also create a context for understanding and evaluating videographic work as a new mode of scholarly writing for the disciplines of cinema and media studies and related fields. This goal will be achieved through editorial curating of exemplary videographic works, through critical analysis and appreciation, pre-publication peer review and Open Peer Commentary.

[in]Transition will be co-edited by Catherine Grant (University of Sussex), Christian Keathley (Middlebury College), and Drew Morton (Texas A and M University-Texarkana) and managed by Christine Becker (Cinema Journal) and Jason Mittell (MediaCommons).

FSFF will also bring you that news as hot off the press as it can, probably just after the conference. So do please stay tuned! It hopes to see some of you at the workshop, too, as well as at its author's other conference panel appearance (on "Transnational Film Remakes" with Iain Robert Smith and Michael Lawrence).

But, in the meantime, please enjoy perusing the below links to scholarly material about Wong's wonderful film.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Toute la mémoire du monde: In Memoriam, Alain Resnais (June 3, 1922 - March 1, 2014)

Screenshot from Les Statues meurent aussi (Alain Resnais/Chris Marker, 1953)
 "I never had any special appetite for filmmaking, but you have to make a living
and it is miraculous to earn a living working in film." - Alain Resnais

News has just come in of the death of Alain Resnais at the age of 91. The below tribute will evolve and expand over the next days and weeks. But Film Studies For Free has begun it with a sense of shock and huge sadness. David Hudson is also collecting tributes and links at Keyframe Daily.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Flâneur on Film: On films by Richard Linklater and others by Rob Stone

Links added on February 25, 2014
A short film that searches for Jesse and Celine in Vienna on Bloomsday, 16 June 2013. As their absence reveals the city, so this pilgrimage to places they have been becomes lost in time, and an homage to three films of flânerie: Before Sunrise, Sans soleil and En la ciudad de Sylvia.

It's been a rather slow start to the year here at Film Studies For Free, with lots of other (exciting) projects diverting attention from this little URL to date (more about those soon).

But FSFF is back with a wonderful (and generous) guest entry by Rob Stone, Professor of Film, Chair of European Film and Director of B-Film: The Birmingham Centre for Film Studies. Rob is the author of Spanish Cinema (Longman, 2001), The Wounded Throat: Flamenco in the Works of Federico García Lorca and Carlos Saura (Edwin Mellen, 2004), Julio Medem (Manchester University Press, 2007), Walk, Don't Run: The Cinema of Richard Linklater (Wallflower/ Columbia University Press, 2013) and the forthcoming Basque Cinema: A Cultural and Political History (IB Tauris, 2015). He also co-edited The Unsilvered Screen: Surrealism on Film (Wallflower, 2007), Screening Songs in Hispanic and Lusophone Cinema (Manchester University Press, 2012) and A Companion to Luis Buñuel (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).

The entry begins (at the top) with Rob's fascinating video homage to Linklater's Before Sunrise (and Sans soleil/Sunless and En la ciudad de Sylvia), it continues, below, with his thoughtful and informative written text about cinematic wanderings (including his own), and it ends (at the foot of the post) with FSFF's characteristic list of links to related online items connected to the films of Richard Linklater and flânerie on film.

BETWEEN SUNRISE AND SUNLESS
By Rob Stone

'Between Sunrise and Sunless' came out of my recently published book, The Cinema of Richard Linklater: Walk, Don’t Run (Columbia University Press, 2013), which explores several key themes across that American director's films, including those associated with the figure of the flâneur: the sense of a single ongoing present moment, and the pursuit of elusive, meaningful connections, of closing the spaces in between people. It also came from an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project entitled Screening European Heritage, run in collaboration with Professor Paul Cooke of the University of Leeds, UK, in which the notions of film tourism and the cinematic pilgrimage became an emergent theme.
     Pilgrimage, which is targetted, might be expected to oppose the wanderings of flânerie, but this brief homage to the films directed by Linklater, which tend to feature a great deal of walking and talking, provides a combination of both. The flâneur was celebrated by the poet Charles Baudelaire in the nineteenth century as a pedestrian whose wanderings enabled novel understandings of the evolving metropolis. The daytime flâneur rejected quantitative measurements of functional space and sought instead to realise new meanings for the streets. In this the flâneur had much in common with the Surrealists led by André Breton, who had sought dreamlike encounters in the streets at night, as well as the activists of the Situationist International, whose philosophy of psychogeography made the dérive or drift into a symbolic trespassing on official spaces, a pointed trampling of any prohibitive demarcations and a freeform remapping of the city for revolutionary pursuits.

     In his essay on the redemption of physical reality, Siegfried Kracauer asserts that
the street in the extended sense of the word is not only the arena of fleeting impressions and chance encounters but a place where the flow of life is bound to assert itself. Again one will have to think mainly of the city street with its ever-moving crowds. The kaleidoscopic sights mingle with unidentified shapes and fragmentary visual complexes and cancel each other out, thereby preventing the onlooker from following up any of the innumerable suggestions they offer. What appeals to him are not so much sharp-contoured individuals engaged in this or that definable pursuit as loose throngs of sketchy, completely indeterminate figures. Each has a story, yet the story is not given. Instead, an incessant flow casts its spell over the flâneur  or even creates him. The flâneur is intoxicated with life in the street – life eternally dissolving the patterns which it is about to form. [1960: 72]
Kracauer clearly defers here to the Bergsonian notion of time as something that is a durational state of mind and this idea of a moment that is unique and eternal supports the commitment and fuels the ebullient intuition of the flâneur, for whom times and places are not static or immutable but ever-becoming, incomplete and evolving. This eternal renewal can be confusing. The pursuit of the wandering Madeleine (Kim Novak) by Scottie (James Stewart) around San Francisco in Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) results in him getting lost in time, memory and myth. Moreover, the idea that ‘the flâneur is a multilayered palimpsest’ (Jenks 1995: 148) is confirmed in En la ciudad de Sylvia (In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, 2007), in which the Dreamer (Xavier Lafitte) pursues a young woman around Strasbourg in a vain quest to shore up the self-serving myth of an ideal woman whose perfection might reflect his own narcissism. Baudelaire describes the flâneur as ‘distilling the eternal from the transitory’ (1972) in his traversal of the city, but the contrast between the crumbling egos of Scottie and the Dreamer and their concrete environments is debilitating, with both films subverting the chauvinist notion of the figure as ‘a utopian representation of a carefree (male) individual in the midst of the urban maelstrom’ (Tester 1994: 67).
     The flâneur on film is rarely as carefree as his literary counterpart. Rather, films such as Vertigo and En la ciudad de Sylvia follow neurotic males in their attempts to relocate their psyches at the centre of an order of things that is so defiantly of their own making that their flânerie corresponds to a kind of ‘time-space psychosis’ (Tester, 1994: 77). The labyrinth of streets they traverse is also, of course, an apt metaphor for how the mind stores memories and retrieves them by the association of ideas, which is represented by the movement of the flâneur, for whom bridges, tunnels, alleyways and squares reveal new and unending synaptic connections. The flâneur should be Baudelaire’s ‘perfect idler [and] passionate observer’ (1972); however, the cinematic sense of time and place he or she creates can become so distorted that it provokes the disintegration of coherent experience. No-one is as confounded as Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) in La Notte (The Night, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961), the unloved wife who wanders Milan during the day ‘observing the harsh, uncoordinated fragments of life’ (Thomson, 1998: 529). Her aimlessness results from the erasure of her own identity in marriage, which is ultimately revealed as an open wound of searing pain rather than indifference. Moreau strains against the architectural rigidity of the film, in which characters freeze in doorways and dissolve in their reflections. Baudelaire supposes that the flâneur sets ‘up house in the middle of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite’ (1972), while Walter Benjamin declares that the flâneur ‘derives pleasure from his location within the crowd, but simultaneously regards it with contempt’ (1983: 35). Neither realise that to be without a crowd entirely leaves a flâneur like Lidia annulled.
     Despite or because of the dangers of losing oneself in place, time, morbid introspection and memory, flânerie goes global in Sans soleil (Sunless, Chris Marker, 1983), wherein the elusive auteur admits ‘to have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining.’ This is a peripatetic quest for understanding that searches through time in old footage as much as it explores the world that turns around the itinerant filmmaker. In Japan, Paris, Guinea-Bissau, Iceland and San Francisco, where the filmmaker attempts a pilgrimage to the flânerie of Vertigo, Sans soleil presents itself as evidence that ‘new social relations demand a new space, and vice-versa’ (Lefebvre 1991: 59). Repeatedly reterritorialising urban spaces as arenas of new and even revolutionary thought, Marker pauses on his travels through time and space only briefly to express affinity with the drunken Korean flâneur who ‘takes his revenge on society by directing traffic at the crossroads.’
     Flânerie has informed many films about those who transcend the potential banality of their existence via the affinities they find in ephemeral associations. It can serve as an assertion of subjectivity, often opposing the hegemonic idea of a city with a view of it from the perspective of an Other. The female flâneur is a potent figure in Weimar culture, for example, while Frances (Greta Gerwig) dancing through Chinatown in Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2013) offers a refreshing replacement for the myth of the Manhattanite hipster male. Flânerie can resemble a political stance too, when characters such as those encountered in the west Austin of Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1991), for example, get to embody its interwoven enactment and philosophy, professing resistance to all kinds of social, political, generic and narrative imperatives by simply hanging out. Flânerie and psychogeography are similarly explored in The London Perambulator (John Rogers, 2009), London (Patrick Keiller, 1994)  and the Portsmouth of Flaneurs (Alex Sergeant, 2012). Flânerie is also behind the morally ambivalent and seemingly indifferent wanderers of the post-war West German state in Alice in the Cities (Alice in den Städten, Wim Wenders, 1974).
     The flâneur’s accumulation of experiences and influences often results in an indistinct outcast figure, one who walks to a different rhythm, defined and maintained by an absence of clear origins and a lack of explicit direction. Consequently, the flâneur can be disruptive where a sense of rootlessness and rejection of settlement renders the figure as threatening Other. This outsiderness can inspire empathy, which Walter Benjamin describes in his essay on Baudelaire as ‘the nature of the intoxication to which the flâneur abandons himself in the crowd’ (2006: 85); but the flâneur mostly drifts in a kind of pilgrimage to aimlessness, which is parodied in the frustrated efforts of the faithful to reach their illusory, sacred yet profaned objective in La Voie lactée (The Milky Way, Luis Buñuel, 1969). The association of urban drift and psychogeography with idleness in Slacker and other films directed by Linklater has also been dismissed as laziness, yet the oppositional movement of the slackers who also feature in Dazed and Confused (1993), SubUrbia (1996), The Newton Boys (1998), Waking Life (2001), and The School of Rock (2003) is quietly revolutionary. Refusing to follow rules or lines in Republican America leads them to formulate a structural and dialogic strategy that favours intertextuality as much as criss-crossing cities and even oceans, ending up in Vienna, for example, in Before Sunrise (1995), Paris in Before Sunset (2004) and Messinia in Before Midnight (2013).
     The short film Between Sunrise and Sunless is an attempt to combine elements of flânerie with an interest in film tourism, even pilgrimage. It was shot in Vienna on 16 June 2013, which is James Joyce’s Bloomsday, the most ordinary day of the year, and exactly eighteen years on from the events of Before Sunrise. The book on Linklater had just been published and it was time to put some of its ideas into practice in the manner of several film scholars in the UK, such as Catherine Grant and William Brown, who are breaking ground by producing and integrating short and even full-length films, video essays and online media into their teaching and research. The original idea was to record a cinematic pilgrimage, to understand how a film affects a place and investigate how that place is affected by the film. This kind of film tourism is a world apart from the Universal Tour in Los Angeles or the Harry Potter Experience in London, where everything is practiced, limited and laid on. Neither is it the same as taking the official, organised and guided Vertigo Tour’ in San Francisco, The Godfather Tour’ in Sicily, The Da Vinci Code Tour’ from Edinburgh, The Sopranos Tour’ in New York or ‘The Lord of the Rings Tour’ in Wellington, although each hold significant pleasures. Instead, there is much to be said for the uniquely personal, certainly metaphysical and even occasionally transcendental experiences of chasing down replicants in Los Angeles a few shrinking years before Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1981) will actually take place or visiting the towers, canals and alcoves actually in Bruges of In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008). There was also an element of affective criticism that followed (and was perhaps validated by) Robin Wood, who wrote in Sexual Politics and Narrative Film: Hollywood and Beyond (Columbia University Press, 1998) that he felt compelled to preface his analysis of Before Sunrise with the admission that ‘here was a film for which I felt not only interest or admiration but love’ (1998: 318). Was it possible to follow the example of Wood, who not only shared his passion but made it an essential component of his craft?
     Between Sunrise and Sunless was shot on a Canon Legria HF M52 and edited with Final Cut Pro on a MacBook Pro. The music is taken (following donation) from a website offering royalty-free music called Incompetech run by Kevin MacLeod, who composes all of it himself.  Simply mapping Vienna was a curious endeavour aided by websites containing information from other fans of the film on its locations. At times, the flânerie of Before Sunrise was revealed as a cheat: the cemetery of the nameless, for example, is a long way out of town, requiring a bus and taxi for which there was no time. In addition, the actual route taken by Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) through the city, if followed chronologically, is absurdly haphazard. So the filming trajectory was plotted for practical purposes, which resulted in a mostly circular route and one essential excursion across the river by metro to the fairground. Still, Vienna was filmed as found on a gloriously warm day in ten hours that concluded with a viewing of Before Midnight in the Votivkino cinema, which also appears in the short film.
     The accumulated footage and photographs were initially going to be used to simply juxtapose images of the city now with those of the film then; but memories of Sans soleil graciously presented themselves at the editing stage as the ideal model for the investigation of time and place elaborated in the voiceover, while threaded glimpses of a woman in white refer to the pursuit of the muse in En la ciudad de Sylvia. This short film’s quest is elusive, even deluded, but ultimately and eternally redirected by optimism. It looks for real places and ends up searching for unreal times. Nevertheless, it continues. Between Sunrise and Sunless also provided a lesson in how the Internet functions and how important and necessary can be websites and blogs like Film Studies for Free and Mediático. It was picked up by Colombia University Press for its blog and website, then praised by a CNN film critic who had presumably seen it there. It has since popped up on several websites and was recently recommended on the Twitter feed of Sight and Sound. However, by far the best and most surprising result has been the ensuing correspondence from many fans of Before Sunrise and its sequels, who saw it and got in touch, thereby suggesting that this whole idea of closing the spaces in between people was not impossible after all.

Rob Stone

With thanks to Catherine Grant [who provided the hyperlinks above], Paul Cooke, James Clifford Kent and Jeff Stollenwerck


References

Baudelaire, Charles (1972) ‘The Painter of Modern Life’, in Selected Writings on Art and
Literature, trans. P.E. Charvet, London: Viking, 395–422.
Online: http://www.idehist.uu.se/distans/ilmh/pm/baudelaire-painter.htm [accessed 10 October 2010].

Benjamin, Walter  (1983) Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism,
trans. Harry Zohn, London: Verso.

Benjamin, Walter (2006) The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire. Harvard University Press.

Jenks, Chris (1995) ‘Watching your Step: The History and Practice of the Flâneur’, in
Visual Culture, New York: Routledge, 142–60.

Kracauer, Siegfried (1960) Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality, Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Lefebvre, Henri (1991) The Production of Space, London: Blackwell.

Stone, R. (2012) ‘En la ciudad de Sylvia and the durée of a derivé’ in Delgado, M. and R. Fiddian (eds), Spanish Cinema 1973-2010: Auteurism, Politics, Landscape and Memory, Manchester: Manchester University Press. In press.

Stone, Rob (2013) Walk, Don’t Run: The Cinema of Richard Linklater, New York: Columbia University Press.

Stone, R. and P. Cooke (2013) ‘Transatlantic Drift: Hobos, Slackers, Flâneurs, Idiots and Edukators’ in Nagib, L. and A. Jersley (eds), Impure Cinema: Intermedial and Intercultural Approaches to Film, London/New York: I.B. Tauris.

Tester, Keith (1994), The Flâneur, New York: Routledge.

Thomson, David (1998) A Biographical Dictionary of Film, London: André Deutsch. 
Linklater Links:
Flânerie Forwardings: