Showing posts from May, 2008

Deep Valley

1947 seemed marked by two complementary gender tropes. On one side was a masculinity crisis figured by the maladjusting veteran, prone to violence, depression, or anti-social behavior. (C.f. The Long Night, or Son of Rusty.) On the other side was femininity under masculine seige to the point of frigidity. (C.f. Possessed, or 1948's Snake Pit). Each flowed from deep-seeded though narratively resolvable psychological troubles.

Deep Valley (WB, Jean Negulesco) presents both characters. Libby (Ida Lupino) is a young woman who, having witnessed her father hit her mother years back, remains emotionally stunted, tethered to an invalid mother, and afflicted with a stutter. Barry (Dane Clark) is a misunderstood convict who has had authority issues since his battle years. Barry escapes from the work gang and stumbles across Libby's hideaway forest shed. The two fall in love. Ideologically, meanwhile, the film pointedly questions the death penalty and abuse of justice, suggesting both how…

Quantitative Snapshot

Harry Tuttle does the work of compiling a few sources of global statistics on cinema production and exhibition. Lots of fodder for thinking about national cinema and political economy both.

Compilation and Mashup Montage

Chuck Tryon has a noteworthy post up titled "A You-Tube Theory of Montage," assessing some of the art-world uses of YouTube for compilation films. His conclusions hinge on how the artists deploy (or don't deploy) YouTube's medium specificity, but I have a more basic, literal question: does You Tube employ a different type of montage?

After all, in my film analysis classes, I've been trying to articulate, specify, and even categorize the ways that edits convey intellectual relationships between images. And to begin with, the compilation (found footage) film often relies on intellectual connection of a second order: here, montage's meaning less likely states an intellectual relationship between images than an intellectual dimension to representation itself (or the implied author's position). Two examples from Report (Bruce Conner 67) illustrate the difference. In the first,

the word "wish" (in a whimsical sans-serif font connoting both children'…

CFP: Revisiting Film Melodrama

Interdisciplinary and Transnational Aspects, Stylistic Issues, and Contemporary Extensions

27-30 November 2008
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Belgian Film Archive

Languages: Bilingual in French and English

Though addressed in Anglo-Saxon studies since the 1970s with diversified approaches ranging from auteurist perspectives, readings as a feminist sub-genre to diachronic studies, francophone research on the melodrama genre has been very fragmentary and predominantly thematic. The study of melodrama’s stylistic construction has not been taken up, several isolated initiatives notwithstanding. This situation to some extent reflects preconceived notions of the genre, but also the absence of a coherent definition.

Misunderstood, minimalized and dismissed since its cinema débuts, the term became pejoratively applied to a “melodramatic mode” that limited the genre to those films that manipulated the emotions of the public. There also is a problem with the multiple and so…

Whither Queer Cinema?

StinkyLulu has a running discussion on the state of independent queer cinema, and asks: "One: what's the most tedious trend in gay film? Two: what work does independent queer cinema have left to do? In short, what do you hate and what do you most yet hope to see?"

The first question is easiest for me to answer, at least with respect to the ideal-type gay indie flick: the simultaneous hyper moralist take on sexual libertinism, urban gay culture, body culture, and "the bar scene" with a shameless soft-core use of those very things to sell the film. My particular take on the genre aside, it's remarkable how this ideology is not all that different from Klute (which I just showed in intro) or, changing a few things, of classical Hollywood. To my eye, this is the best argument for a demand-side approach to ideological analysis.

Thinking more broadly, the Screen conference last summer saw a reinvigorated interrogation of queer cinema - what it meant, how to define t…

The Film History Survey

As one semester winds down, I'm getting ready my syllabus for a summer course, in this instance, a history of narrative film. It's tough of course to condense the history of all narrative film to 6 weeks. While every course requires some consideration of a disciplinary field, something about the history survey brings up the nature of the discipline most acutely. After all, the survey is predicated on selection and narrativization. I see at least a few principles at odds: canonical selection vs. counter-canons vs. the "typical"; cinema as a global enterprise vs. cinema as hegemonic enterprise; narrative as schematic vs. narrative as dispute; the emphasis on formal developments and movements vs. industrial and social factors explaining cinema's development; nationally-specific contextualization vs. wide sampling of national contexts. My answer, certainly one among many, has been to seek an 9imperfect) balance by giving some contour of an aesthetically defined canon…

PCMS: Elena Gorfinkel

May Philadelphia Cinema and Media Seminar

Elena Gorfinkel, Bryn Mawr College
"'Dated Sexuality:' Anna Biller’s VIVA (2006) and the Retrospective Life
of Sixties Sexploitation Cinema"

Friday, 9 May 2008

American sexploitation cinema of the 1960s and early 1970s has gained a second life in the past two decades through a boom in video and DVD distribution and re-release, and consequently a new, generationally distinct audience, who plumb the depths of the films for their political and aesthetic transgressions. This presentation proposes that what appeals to cult audiences in the present about the “impoverished” tableaus of sexploitation films, a genre that unfurls melodramatic male fantasies about women’s erotic agency in the 1960s, is precisely the shunted melancholia of obsolescence. This is an obsolescence that inheres not only in the strivings of the films’ politically retrograde plots, but also in their erotic content, in the material evidence of their mise-…