Friday, 22 July 2016

For all to see, and to see the sense of: In Memory of V. F. Perkins (1936-2016)

Updated on July 29, 2016

[S]election by the camera [...] asserts significance. The image is displayed not only to relay information but to claim that it matters and to guide us towards the ways in which it matters...

[A] film’s form and method are incomprehensible outside of a recognition that its story takes place, and its images are both made and found, in a world...

Movies always take us into the middle of things because the film and its story begin, but the world does not...

V. F. Perkins, ‘Where is the world? The horizon of events in movie fiction’
in Gibbs & Pye (eds.), Style and Meaning... (MUP, 2005); 22-25. 

I suggest that a prime task of interpretation is to articulate in the medium of prose some aspects of what artists have made perfectly and precisely clear in the medium of film. The meanings I have discussed in the Caught fragment are neither stated nor in any special sense implied. They are filmed. Whatever else that means (which it is a purpose of criticism and theory to explore) it means that they are not hidden in or behind the movie, and that my interpretation is not an attempt to clarify what the picture has obscured. I have written about things that I believe to be in the film for all to see, and to see the sense of.

V.F. Perkins, 'Must We Say What We Mean?', Movie 34/35, Winter 1990

It is with very great sadness that Film Studies For Free brings you its latest entry: a commemoration of the life, film criticism, theory and scholarship of Victor Perkins who died a week ago today.

V. F. Perkins was a founding editor of the hugely influential film critical publication MOVIE. He was also the author of Film as Film (Penguin, 1972), one of the most inspiring of the foundational texts in film studies, and of two thrilling monographs on individual films for the BFI Film Classics series: The Magnificent Ambersons (1999); and La Règle du jeu (2012). After beginning to teach on cinema in a number of institutional settings from the 1960s (including at Bulmershe College of Education), he lectured on that subject at Warwick University (in the remarkable department he co-founded) from 1978 and was Honorary Professor in Film Studies.

Although Victor had been ill for several years, his passing was quite sudden and thus shocking to his family, friends and colleagues. He is, without doubt, someone who will be greatly missed by all those blessed by his personal and professional acquaintance (by all accounts, he was a truly wonderful colleague, teacher and research supervisor), as well as by the many, many thousands of people around the world who have loved and learned from his writing on the cinema.

FSFF's author had the very great pleasure of knowing Victor a little, and spent some very enjoyable (and inspiring) times with him over the last two decades. He was an enthusiastic supporter of this website and its ethos from FSFF's earliest days back in 2008, and was a most welcome correspondent on the topic of online film resources. He was a passionate advocate for, and practical supporter of, open-access publishing and multimedia film studies, as his key role in the relaunch as an online journal of MOVIE: A Journal of Film Criticism testifies. Victor always wondered if he'd go on to make video essays, a form in which he had a very keen interest. FSFF had always fervently hoped that he would....

There will undoubtedly be many tributes to his work from those who are much better qualified to write these than FSFF's author. So the aim of what follows is confined mostly to the significant task of updating existing entries at this website on Perkins' online work, and in collecting together links to online interviews with him, and writings about him.

But FSFF also offers up, below, four videos about Victor's work - three of these newly commissioned and produced in memoriam since Victor's death - by Christian Keathley, Hoi Lun Law and Catherine Grant (the fourth is by film scholar Patrick Keating). Update: Alex Clayton's tribute "Spin the Wheel" was added on July 27.

Furthermore, it warmly invites its readers to produce and submit their own online tribute videos and texts (please send links to these via the comments function below, or by email, and also please send on links to any relevant work or resources not yet listed below. Thank you). 

In the meantime, FSFF's author offers her deepest condolences to Victor's family (especially his daughter and son), and to his close friends and colleagues at this very sad time.

Tributes #forvictor #vfperkins

'A video tribute about delicate moments of (decorous) choice that reworks a much loved paragraph from the truly remarkable writing of film critic and scholar V.F. Perkins (1936-July 15, 2016). Warm thanks go to my friend Andrew Klevan who introduced me to Victor's reading of this sequence from Renoir's La Règle du jeu back in 1998'

Online writing by V.F. Perkins

The below embedded videos are the twelve constituent parts of a truly fascinating interview with V.F. Perkins which took place at the Kino 8 1/2 in Saarbrücken, Germany, and was filmed by Media Art and Design Studiengang. In the interview, Perkins engagingly discusses his approach to film studies and, in particular, talks about the trajectory of his foundational 1972 book Film as Film, and about his research on Jean Renoir's1939 film Le Régle du jeu about which he had written a 2012 book for the BFI Film Classics series (excerpt here).




Max Ophüls


Orson Welles

Online writing about V.F. Perkins

Monday, 6 June 2016

The Persistence of Vision: Videos on the Work of Film Theorists and Scholars

A New Video Tribute to the Work of Film Scholar Elizabeth Cowie.

Film Studies For Free's author has just published her latest video tribute to a film theorist! The above, quite heartfelt work (with key contributions from Andrew Klevan, Christine Evans, Coral Houtman and Sarah Wood) celebrates the writing of Professor Emeritus Elizabeth Cowie, a pioneer in psychoanalytic and feminist approaches to cinema studies and author of two important books in our field (Representing the Woman: Cinema and Psychoanalysis, 1997, and Recording Reality, Desiring the Real, 2011). She has also published the below, wonderful essays online:
The publication of the above video prompted FSFF to assemble and embed its now numerous celebratory video works on the writings (and films) of individual (to date, mostly anglophone) film theorists and scholars. So, below, you can watch video works on writings by:
Pam Cook; Elizabeth Cowie; Alexander Doty; Richard Dyer; Amber Jacobs; Andrew Klevan; Annette Kuhn; Mathieu Macherey; Laura Marks; D.A. Miller; Laura Mulvey; Vivian Sobchack; Lesley Stern; Gaylyn Studlar; Dai Vaughan; and Patricia White. 

Pam Cook

Alexander Doty

Richard Dyer (and Elizabeth Cowie and Adrienne McLean)

Richard Dyer and Pam Cook

Amber Jacobs 

Read more about this video essay here.

Andrew Klevan

Read more about this video here.

Annette Kuhn

Mathieu Macherey

Mechanised Flights: Memories of HEIDI from Catherine Grant
Read more about this video here.

Laura Marks

Also see here.

D.A. Miller

Also see here.

Laura Mulvey

Vivian Sobchack

Published in NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies, Spring, 2015. Online at:, where you can also read the accompanying text: "Film studies in the groove? Rhythmising perception in Carnal Locomotive."

Lesley Stern


An experimental response to (or adaptive working through of) the following written essay:

This video by CATHERINE GRANT was presented at THE AUDIOVISUAL ESSAY Conference, Deutsches Filminstitut/Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main, November 23-4, 2013

Gaylyn Studlar

Dai Vaughan

Patricia White

"In the earlier film version of Stella Dallas [Henry King, 1925], the overwrought Stella takes refuge in the ladies’ waiting room at the train station directly after her visit to Helen [the woman to whom she has just entrusted her daughter]. She’s watched very closely by a woman whose flashy dress indicates her similarity to Stella in class status, if not in her dubious profession. The stranger offers the apparently inconsolable Stella a cigarette, and Stella puts it in her mouth and lights it end to end with the cigarette in the other woman’s mouth. A fade to black gives the gesture—which resembles a kiss—an elliptical significance, though nothing else is made of this scene. The shot echoes with Stella’s connection to Helen in the previous scene. But the silent version of Stella Dallas  suggests that such sympathy, and women’s motives, need not be reduced to shared maternal feeling. The washroom “pick-up” scene doesn’t occur in the [original 1922 source novel Stella Dallas  by Olive Higgins Prouty].
QUOTATION: Patricia White, Uninvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999), pp. 107-8.

Patricia White (and Tania Modleski)

Also see: See "The Remix That Knew Too Much? On REBECCA, Retrospectatorship and the Making Of RITES OF PASSAGE", THE CINE-FILES, 7, Fall 2014.

Various theorists (Stanley Cavell, Linda Williams, William Rothman, and Christian Viviani)

Read the related multimedia essay "The Marriages of Laurel Dallas: Or, The Maternal Melodrama of the Unknown Feminist Film Spectator", MEDIASCAPE, Fall 2014.  (this essay has been translated into Spanish by Cristina Álvarez López and published here)

Friday, 29 January 2016

The Film-Play's the Thing: RIP Jacques Rivette 1928-2016

The best place to go today: 

"Every Rivette film has its Eisenstein/Lang/Hitchcock side—an impulse to design and plot, dominate and control—and its Renoir/Hawks/Rossellini side: an impulse to 'let things go', open one's self up to the play and power of other personalities, and watch what happens". [Jonathan Rosenbaum]

Film Studies For Free was very sad to hear of the death of Jacques Rivette at the age of 87. In warm memory of and tribute to his work, it has gathered together in one place (below) quite a few links to video- and written essays by others (and by him) on his films, mostly ones that it has shared before.

But as the remarkable (somewhat frozen in time) website Order of the Exile has been honouring and exploring his work since 2007, that is most definitely the best to go for remembrance and reflection. Then there is also the wonderful, customary tribute being maintained by David Hudson at Keyframe | Fandor.

Film about Rivette:

Excerpts from Claire Denis's 1988 film for television Jacques Rivette, Le veilleur/The Watchman in which of Serge Daney interviews Rivette on his early interest in filmmaking, his days with Cahiers du cinéma, and his first meetings with Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Eric Rohmer.

Video essays about Rivette's films:

An audiovisual essay by Joel Bocko and Covadonga G. Lahera. Part 5 (the latest) in an ongoing series (more are embedded below). Commissioned by Chris Luscri to mark the ongoing set of screenings, activities and new criticism centred around the new 2K restoration of Rivette's 1971 magnum opus OUT 1 - NOLI ME TANGERE.

Paratheatre: Plays Without Stages by Cristina Alvarez López and Adrian Martin. See text at MUBI here

Also watch:

Other links:
* Thanks to Girish Shambu for flagging up these essential links (added a few hours after the original post was published).

Thursday, 28 January 2016

New FILM CRITICISM, FILM-PHILOSOPHY, 12 new film and media open access eBooks, Mulvey and Dyer interviews, and lots of other links!

"[A] dense yet concise study (and experience) of the intricate poetic-cinematic patterning of Andrea Arnold’s 2009 film Fish Tank..." , published as part of the article: “Beyond tautology? Audiovisual Film Criticism”, FILM CRITICISM, Vol. 40, No.1, 2016. For a full list of Grant's online publications on audiovisual film studies to date, click here.

Film Studies For Free's latest entry is replete with openly accessible scholarly goodies. So what's new? Lots of things!

First off, two major journals in our field have moved to new (public) houses! Film Criticism celebrates its fortieth anniversary issue with a move to an open access format, under the expert new editorship of Joseph Tompkins, who, to mark this welcome shift, commissioned lots of scholars to meditate on the ever mutating space of film criticism. Meanwhile, Film-Philosophy, a very long-standing, always fully open access academic journal dedicated to the engagement between film studies and philosophy, is now published by Edinburgh University Press and remains completely open access. A good job by its excellent editor David Sorfa. The new issues of both journals are set out and linked to below, followed by a lovingly compiled list of nine new open access ebooks sourced at Oapen, and a whole host of further delectable items of openly accessible film (and TV) scholarly interest (including three further OA ebooks).

Embedded immediately below, though, are two of the latest instalments in the Fieldnotes series of interviews, with Laura Mulvey and Richard Dyer. Fieldnotes is a Society for Cinema and Media Studies project to conduct, circulate and archive interviews with pioneers of film and media studies. In addition to recognizing the contributions of key scholars, the project also aims to foster knowledge of and interest in the diverse and dynamic developments that have shaped -- and continue to shape -- our expanding field. Fieldnotes is currently led by Haidee Wasson, with the help of a committee comprised of Patrice Petro and Barbara Klinger. It is sponsored both by SCMS and by ARTHEMIS, a Concordia University based research team investigating the history and epistemology of moving image studies.

The full list of Fieldnotes interviewees, to date, is given below - all interviews are accessible here
Francesco Cassetti interviewed by Luca Caminati; John Caughie interviewed by Haidee Wasson; Mary Ann Doane interviewed by Patrice Petro; Richard Dyer interviewed by Barbara Klinger; Thomas Elsaesser interviewed by Patrice Petro; Lucy Fischer interviewed by Paula Massud; Tom Gunning interviewed by Scott Curtis; Gertrud Koch interviewed by Robin Curtis; Scott MacDonald interviewed by Joan Hawkins; Laura Mulvey interviewed by Catherine Grant; James Naremore interviewed by Jake Smith; Ted Perry interviewed by Christian Keathley; Janet Staiger interviewed by Charles Acland; Linda Williams interviewed by Tom Waugh.

Film Criticism, 40.1, 2016. 
Now OPEN ACCESS and online at: (will shortly be accessible also at its existing URL:

Film-Philosophy, Vol. 20, No. 1, February, 2016:
Special Section: Film-Philosophy and a World of Cinemas

9 Open Access eBOOKS sourced at Oapen! (3 more OA ebooks in the list after this!)

Assorted links

Monday, 11 January 2016

For the Starman Who Fell to Earth - In Memory of David Bowie (January 8, 1947-January 10, 2016)

Last updated January 27th, 2016
Screenshot from the music video for David Bowie's "Blackstar" (2016, directed by Johan Renck)

Film Studies For Free was shocked and saddened by the sudden news, today, of the death of David Bowie at the age of 69.

Hence, this FSFF tribute entry, prepared largely courtesy of Drew Morton (@thecinemadoctor) who specially wrote a text to accompany his great compilation video (both below) about Bowie as a film actor.  Thanks so much to Drew. 

Another unmissable tribute is David Hudson's for Keyframe Daily | Fandor, linked to here. There could also hardly be a better, concise eulogy than this public one at Facebook by Tim Lucas.

And there are some more online, scholarly Bowie links, assembled by FSFF, immediately below/

RIP Starman.

Online articles and videos of scholarly note

By Drew Morton

A short compilation produced by Drew Morton (Texas A&M University-Texarkana) focusing on David Bowie's filmography. Features clips from THE PRESTIGE, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, LABYRINTH, INTO THE NIGHT, ZOOLANDER, THE HUNGER, and many more.

I have a feeling that many of us are going to be emotionally processing the death of pop star and cultural icon David Bowie for quite some time. Part of this is no doubt because he had turned 69 years old and released his 27th album - BLACKSTAR - just three days ago. However, I would also posit that a great deal of the shock - this unbelievable unreality - lies in Bowie’s persona: an outsider, an alien, an eccentric who could not possibly be from this world. 
While this 'impossible' quality no doubt stems from his ever evolving musical persona - from the gender bending rockstar of ZIGGY STARDUST and DIAMOND DOGS to the Aryan Thin White Duke of STATION TO STATION - it was also underscored and amplified by Bowie’s screen presence. While he tells us in the lyrics to his new single “Blackstar” that he’s “not a film star,” the influential rocker appeared in nearly twenty films and brought his unique brand of abnormal to such notable historical figures as Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s THE PRESTIGE and Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s BASQUIAT. Bowie’s performance as both characters is incredibly quiet, as if his presence on screen is so large that he needs to compensate for it. Yet, when the worlds of the films veered towards fantasy or surreal horror, Bowie was there to give it his all. 
His performance as Jareth the Goblin King in LABYRINTH has become a cult favorite, partially thanks to the iconic tights that showoff his physique (and everything you can include under that umbrella - and I do mean everything) but also thanks to his especially chilling performance in a children’s film. LABYRINTH is also unique because it is one of the few Bowie films in which he performs musically at length (the musical ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS would be another example). Thus, the bulk of Bowie’s appearances rely on the strangeness of his presence rather than the talents he was typically famous for. 
Take, for instance, his performances as Philip Jeffries in David Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME and John Blaylock in Tony Scott’s THE HUNGER. In the former, Bowie is featured in one scene in which he plays an FBI agent displaced in time and space. When he returns to warn his fellow colleagues that “we live inside a dream,” Lynch amplifies his disconnect with cross-fades to loud television static and shots of Bowie desperately trying to explain himself before he disappears again. In the latter, Bowie begins the film with a persona not terribly far removed from his early 80s rocker as he frequents a punk dance club with his girlfriend (played by Catherine Deneuve - which makes this probably the most attractive on screen couple ever). It soon becomes apparent that they are both vampires and have been together for centuries. Yet, Bowie’s character is aging at an accelerated rate, which means the film asks him to play a character in his thirties that ages into his seventies over the course of an afternoon. Because it’s Bowie, this unreality feels all the more real. 
Of course, there are many other Bowie performances to distill. His starring role in MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE to his role as a hit man in John Landis’s INTO THE NIGHT are two others that come to mind. Yet, his first role, that of the alien Thomas Jerome Newton in Nicolas Roeg’s THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, took his star persona literally and made great use of it through his calculated gestures and androgynous features. It also serves as a partial prequel to the second single on Bowie’s latest - and now final album - “Lazarus,” which are as fitting last words for Bowie himself: “This way or no way/You know, I’ll be free/Just like that bluebird/Now ain’t that just like me.”
© Drew Morton, 2016

Also see: