Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Film canons

Recently Girish posted his concerns that film studies as a discipline resists explicit discussions of the film canon.
Now, no one would deny that implicit — or de facto — canons exist in film studies. Despite the great move in postmodern thinking that flattened all cultural objects to the same level, the reality is that certain films find greater favor than others for the purposes of teaching or scholarship. Why then doesn’t the discipline call attention to this fact by making it public and explicit — in a gesture of institutional self-examination — by means of a poll? Is it because of an underlying (and embarrassing) suspicion that the idea of a canon is too often associated with aesthetic preferences?
I think there are two key reasons for film studies to get actively involved in the canon formation effort. First, it would initiate public conversation by bringing two film cultures — journalistic and academic — into dialogue, conflict and exchange. Second, in today’s Internet and social media environment, such an effort — sponsored, for example, by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) — would receive widespread publicity, thus pulling a large number of voices into a visible and international debate. Both these reasons can only be healthy for the film community.
There are some theoretical and methodogical reasons that some scholars like me resist explicit canon-propagating activity (I've written on these before), but I will concede that most scholars have some operative film canon. For now, I have a couple of replies. First, I'm not sure that the sotto voce versions of the canon that film academics hold is all that different from the cinephile canon. We watch and teach Criterion films, too, and we follow the key film festival auteurs like Denis and Weerasethakul. To the extent that we're engaged in film culture beyond our specialization (remember, I watch a lot of Hollywood films from the 1940s), we're likely to be followers of film critical practice, not leaders in it. There are some notable exceptions.

Second, there is a record of implicit value in the field: the sum of publications. It's not a perfect match to the films that scholars rate as the best masterpieces, but published scholarship almost by definition records an academic canon - the films that scholars think are worthy as objects of study, for whatever reason.

Third, while generally a fan of methodological self-reflexivity, I'm not convinced that naming canonical favorites will shed light on the institution of film studies or bring theoretical clarity. I don't think it's a bad thing, mind you, I'm just not sure it will bring much benefit to the field.

That said, I'll take up the challenge and give my personal best-of list. I couldn't narrow it to 10 films!

Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda)
Crimson Kimono (Fuller)
Daisy Kenyon (Preminger)
Eclipse (Antonioni)
Il Posto (Olmi)
In the Year of the Pig (de Antonio)
La Cienaga (Martel)
Ménilmontant (Kirsanoff)
Muriel (Resnais)
Notorious (Hitchcock)
Parallax View (Pakula)
Story of Late Chrysanthemum (Mizoguchi)
Twice a Man (Markopoulos)
Underworld (von Sternberg)
Written on the Wind (Sirk)

Of these, all are pretty much standard canon fare, with the possible exception of The Parallax View and Daisy Kenyon  - incidentally, the are the only ones on my list that I've written about. The rest I teach with some regularity in my classes, except for Twice a Man, which is impossible to get a hold of.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Yale Conference, European Film 1929-30

All are invited to a film conference at Yale - Please circulate widely.

After the Crash: European Film ca. 1929-1930
September 14-15, 2012

Yale University
Auditorium, Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven, CT

All featured films screened on restored or archival 35mm prints (unless noted) with English subtitles.

In the history of Europe, 1930 was particularly marked by the impact of the Depression in the aftermath of the American stock market crash of 1929. This impact could be seen, for example, when Miguel Primo de Rivera, prime minister of Spain and head of a military dictatorship, was obliged to resign due to a financial crisis and by 1931 the king was forced to flee as republican and socialist parties won a big majority in local elections. In 1930 Germany also saw increased polarization in its political world as the communists, socialists and Nazis emerged as rivals in a struggle for power that culminated in the Nazi take-over of 1933. The Soviet Union, which was less directly affected by the Depression, saw a brutal collectivization campaign in this year and ominous show trials. The period around 1930 was also fateful for European film as sound film began to replace silent film at an accelerating pace. The conference will address the implications of this ongoing shift both in terms of its impact on filmmaking, production and distribution, and in terms of how the introduction of the talkies exacerbated the language barrier between and within European countries and became a severe problem in helping different cultures relate through film.

Friday, September 14 

3:00 PM Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday) (Kurt Siodmak, Germany, 74 mins. Blu-ray)
Preceded by Regen (Rain) (Mannus Franken and Joris Ivens, the Netherlands, 14 mins. DVD)

5:00 PM Komsomol (Patron of Electrification) (Esfir Shub, subtitles Michael Chanan, USSR, 55 mins. DVD)


8:15 PM Cottage on Dartmoor (Anthony Asquith, United Kingdom, 88 mins. 35 mm)

Saturday, September 15

9:00 AM Die Drei von der Tankstelle (Three from the Gas Station) (Wilhelm Theile, Germany, 99 mins. 35 mm)

11:00 AM PANEL

1:00 PM Prix de Beauté (The Price of Beauty)

2 :45 PM L’Age d’Or (The Golden Age) (Luis Buñuel , France, 60 mins. 35 mm)

4:15 PM David Golder (Julien Duvivier, France, 88 mins. 35 mm)


8:30 PM Ze soboty na nĕdeli (From Saturday to Sunday) (Gustav Machatỳ, Czechoslovakia, 69 min. 35 mm)
Preceded by Bezúčelná procházka (Aimless Walk) (Alexander Hammid, Czechoslovakia, 9 mins. 35 mm)

Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

CFP: Magic of Special Effects

André Gaudreault (GRAFICS - Université de Montréal)
Martin Lefebvre (Concordia University)
Viva Paci (Université du Québec à Montréal)

wish to invite you to participate to the conference The Magic of Special Effects. Cinema-Technology-Reception, to be held (next year) on November 5-10, 2013 at the Cinémathèque québécoise in Montreal. The conference will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cinémathèque’s foundation.

The call for papers is included in the image above. Submit your proposal before October 1, 2012 at the following address:

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

CFP: Bourdieu and Film/Media Studies

New Uses of Bourdieu in Film & Media Studies 
Call for Papers

A one day conference will be held on Friday 16th November in collaboration between Newcastle University's Research Centre in Film & Digital Media and the University of Sunderland's Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, with keynote speaker Professor Bridget Fowler of the University of Glasgow.

 Despite the profound influence of Pierre Bourdieu's work in the fields of sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies, it has been less extensively employed in research in the fields of film and media. Certainly for film, this is partially explained by a lack of direct comment by Bourdieu on the subject (the short essay "Culture is in danger" (2000) represents the most striking exception in this regard). Although Bourdieu has written more extensively on media, this has certainly not produced what one might call a Bourdieu school of media studies. The aim of the conference, therefore, is to explore new uses of Bourdieu in film and media research.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
* symbolic violence: making the invisible visible
* film space and social space
* the engaged intellectual in film and media
* film and artistic autonomy
* film/media as serving/resisting cultural, social and political reproduction
* film/media's potential to reinforce or to resist masculine domination
* taste, distinction and canon formation
* reflexivity in film and media

Proposals of 200 words along with a short biography should be sent by September 30 to and published on: 16th July 2012