Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Visit to Hendrix College



Just in case you'd like to adjust your bookmarks: this will be the new location of the blog.

Even though I've lived in the US for over 20 years, last week marked my first real visit to the American South. Hendrix College, a small, progressive liberal-arts institution in Conway, Arkansas, invited me to spend three days with their faculty and students. As part of the series "Word and Image," I gave a public lecture titled "Film Blogging, Cinephilia and Internet Film Culture." A highlight of my trip was spending time with the faculty who teach film at Hendrix, Kristi McKim and Dorian Stuber. I also screened and conducted a discussion on Ritwik Ghatak's The Cloud-Capped Star (1960), and taught a class on "essay films" in Kristi's "Nonfiction Film" course. Finally, it was a special treat to meet and share meals and conversation with many young and cinema-passionate students. In all: a wonderful, energizing experience.

As part of my lecture presentation, I introduced the audience to the film-blogosphere and took them to over 20 websites, explaining briefly each one's unique strengths and value. The sites and writers included (in no particular order): David Hudson's Auteurs Daily; Jonathan Rosenbaum; Catherine Grant; David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson; Dave Kehr; Steven Shaviro; Michael Sicinski; Long Pauses; Kevin Lee; Jeffrey Sconce; Zach Campbell; Ignatiy Vishnevetsky; Dan Sallitt; Richard Brody; Jim Emerson; Self-Styled Siren; Mubarak Ali; Kinoslang; Matthew Flanagan; Ry Knight; Chris Cagle; and several others. I'm recording them here in hyperlinked form especially for those who might've been in the lecture audience and might like to make note of and explore these sites further.

This reminds me that it's been a long while since I put up a post here asking for your favorite recent blog/website discoveries (please interpret "recent" loosely to cover the last couple of years!). Any websites or blogs or Twitter pages that you find valuable that are not so widely known or are absent from the blogroll to the left? Perhaps we can share our discoveries and recommendations here and turn the comments section into a repertory of online reading tips on film (or otherwise). Thanks!

pic: Ritwik Ghatak's The Cloud-Capped Star.

43 Comments:

Blogger Just Another Film Buff said...

Hi Girish,

I see you had a great time. I'm sure the students would have had too. And top notch sites that you have compiled for teh presentation.

I've been discovering a lot of blogs recently, most of them from your own blog roll! One of the sites that I discovered elsewhere is Chris Marker's Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory. It posts links on, articles and even films by Marker.

Cheers!

May 01, 2010 10:45 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi Srikanth ~ Speaking of sites devoted to directors, Order of the Exile, devoted to Jacques Rivette, is also a great one. I wonder if there are other such exemplary filmmaker-centered sites...

May 02, 2010 8:09 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Adrian Martin in the new FILMKRANT:

"In Thomas Elsaesser's pathbreaking book New German Cinema: A History, Werner Schroeter is referred to as 'Germany's greatest marginal filmmaker'. The pronouncement was striking, even a little unsettling to me when I read it in 1987: how could this figure be so important and yet so little known, so little seen or discussed? Indeed, Schroeter found a place in a certain Pantheon of Invisibles taking shape in my brain at the time: other dark stars to whom I felt mysteriously attracted included Philippe Garrel and Carmelo Bene. And none of them, I must say, ever disappointed me when I was finally able to engineer some fleeting encounter with their work. Is cinephilia, as Nicole Brenez once suggested, really the anticipatory pursuit and veneration of an image we enjoy from afar, of which we only gain a glimpse from a tantalising still photo, or just a sentence in an article?"

May 02, 2010 9:31 AM  
Blogger Just Another Film Buff said...

Aha, that certainly speaks for me. Rarely is the case that I chance upon a filmmaker without a pre-conceived notion about him/her. And that perhaps affects evaluation a bit too (That's why I feel it is really tricky to talk about debutant filmmakers!). I guess the autuer-driven approach must take a part of the blame(?) too.

May 02, 2010 10:57 AM  
Blogger Adrian Mendizabal said...

hi mr. girish,

I highly recommend blogs like
HarryTutle's UNSPOKEN CINEMA
and SCREENVILLE. Also Rex baylon's FILM EXPRESSION. Ciao! Goodluck on your adventures!

May 02, 2010 11:41 AM  
Blogger Felix said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 02, 2010 1:17 PM  
Blogger Felix said...

The blogger Waggish occasionally does sharp takes on cinema, like Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, Jean Eustache's Mes petites amoureuses, Hiroshi Teshigahara and Kobo Abe, Miklós Jancsó and Nagisa Oshima.

May 02, 2010 1:18 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Adrian, I know Harry's blogs but not the one by Rex Babylon. Felix, I read Waggish regularly in my RSS reader but just realized that I've neglected to put his blog on my blogroll. Thanks to both of you.

May 02, 2010 3:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

My apologies: I just realized that I showed and spoke of blogs in my lecture -- like the valuable ones by Michael Guillen, Glenn Kenny and Brian Darr -- that I forgot to link to in my post above.

May 02, 2010 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Dan Sullivan said...

UW-Madison professor J.J. Murphy writes a very worthwhile blog on contemporary American indie cinema. Murphy teaches courses on film production, screenwriting and the history of indie cinema. In addition to being an accomplished experimental filmmaker and a remarkably cool dude, he's a hell of a writer; though I haven't read it yet, his former and current students (friends of mine) rave about his book Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work.

May 02, 2010 5:42 PM  
Blogger WCS Minor Circuit said...

A blogger by the name of The Wily Filipino has a pretty good site, Film, Eyeballs, Brain. His writing on Lino Brocka and Nagisa Oshima are definitely worth a look.

May 03, 2010 1:04 AM  
Blogger Just Another Film Buff said...

Also eclectic is Indian film critic Jugu Abraham's blog Movies That Make You Think.

May 03, 2010 4:23 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Honored to have mentioned amidst such a distinguished list.

Let me second the recommendation for Film, Eyeballs, Brain, which I discovered about a year ago. Glad to have finally met "the Wily Filipino" myself the other day after a film festival screening.

Another Bay Area-centric cinephile blog, but one written with such pleasurable language and fearless opinions that I think it's worth trumpeting to more widespread audience, is the Film On Film Foundation blog, with contributions from Carl Martin, Brecht Andersch, and Kyle Griffin.

May 03, 2010 2:02 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Dan, WCS, Srikanth and Brian ~ Thanks for those suggestions! I knew of JJ Murphy's blog but not the others.

May 05, 2010 10:47 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Watched for the first time (and enjoyed) John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) last night. I loved the way it sculpts space--very precisely and deliberately--through ingenious lighting, getting maximum mileage from its minimal sets by lighting only small (but powerfully evocative) portions of the frame. And when we first see a glimmer of daylight after a full hour has gone by, it's an indelible moment.

I remember loving some of these same qualities in ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. I've only seen a few of Carpenter's films, the well-known ones; I should take time to check out the others.

May 05, 2010 10:50 AM  
Blogger girish said...

RIP the great French cinematographer William Lubtchansky, who worked with Godard, Varda, Rivette, Truffaut, Straub/Huillet, Garrel and others.

May 06, 2010 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Girish. There are not so many Carpenter movies (and all of them on DVD) so as not to make the effort, which may prove worthwile. I don't promise masterpieces, but great fun, and a story-telling ability the American cinema seems to have lost. And he creates images which are beautilful (even when horrifying) and meaningful. I would not like to have missed "They Live" and "The
Fog".

Miguel Marías

May 06, 2010 3:44 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Girish,

Let me add to Miguel's recommendations three lesser-known Carpenters that I think are amongst his best: Elvis, his two-part TV movie biopic, which marked his first collaboration with Kurt Russell (and which I think, and will stand by thinking, can be called the first Taiwanese New Wave movie, in terms of form); Cigarette Burns, also for TV; and Ghosts of Mars, which is his last theatrically-released film to date and is essentially a Hawksian Western (right down to being shot in New Mexico).

May 06, 2010 8:40 PM  
Blogger Felix said...

Another notable online film writer would David Walsh of World Socialist Web. He's got really high standards. Here's a fun passage from his latest article!

"How are film writers, directors and producers responding to the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, as well as the first signs of popular unrest? Very weakly. References to economic dislocation and various global trends can be found, but the worsening of the conditions facing hundreds of millions hardly comes in for mention. This is unlikely to stun anyone who has been following world moviemaking in recent decades.

To what extent the filmmakers simply lag behind events, to what extent they are overwhelmed, to what extent socially indifferent…it remains difficult to determine. We will see how things unfold.

Artists, despite their reputation, are among the most conservative creatures on the planet, in certain ways. The artist (in part by necessity) tends to take life in its present form as a given, absorbs it deeply, develops all manner of impressions and intuitions on the basis of it, and treats 'it as uncritically as he does the solar system' (Trotsky). Only a cataclysm can undermine this 'passive conservatism.'"

May 07, 2010 11:26 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Felix,

If I remember correctly, this blog-comments-section's own Adrian Martin claims to be able to predict how David Walsh will review any given film, based on the rigidity of his stances. Which does not detract from the fact that Walsh is almost always right in his observations, even when he is wrong in his judgements.

May 07, 2010 11:48 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for the recommendations, all! Miguel, THE FOG was not on my list, so I've added it. Ignatiy, your linking the Elvis biopic to the Taiwanese New Wave has me immediately intrigued. Last year I had the chance to see Yang's TAIPEI STORY for the first time, and was stunned by it. There's a ripe idea for a retrospective: The Taiwanese New Wave its origins, which might include early Hou, Yang, Assayas' HHH, films that marked them (like Herzog for Yang), and films by Taiwanese New Wave filmmakers hardly known in the West.

May 07, 2010 12:40 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Last spring, Doc Films here in Chicago showed a brief but very good Taiwanese New Wave series which included, along with the expected Hou and Yang, a film by Chen Kun-Ho (written by Hou, if memory serves; Google search fails me, since Doc's old schedules aren't archived) and a film from 1969 called THE BRIDE & I, which I don't know much about (I wasn't able to catch it).

If you can get a hold of it, IN OUR TIME (which I know is available on English-subtitled DVDs in parts of Asia) is a very early one as well -- it's an omnibus film from 1982, including Yang's first work as a director and contributions by three others who aren't as well known: Te-chen Tao, Yi Chang and I-Chen Ko (I don't know much about these three; their contributions to IN OUR TIME are the only films of theirs I've managed to see -- however, in the case of Te-chen Tao, that appears to be the director's only work).

May 07, 2010 1:01 PM  
Blogger David said...

"and which I think, and will stand by thinking, can be called the first Taiwanese New Wave movie, in terms of form"

Wild Boys of the Road!

May 07, 2010 3:10 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Well, Phelps, your Wellman beats my Carpenter by nearly a half-century. I will grab it from the video store tonight and report back.

This brings us to the topic of secret genealogies. For example: Griffith's Abraham Lincoln is the first Straub / Huillet movie, and his The Struggle is the first John Cassavetes movie.

May 07, 2010 3:21 PM  
Blogger David said...

No real reason for firsts or genealogies when there are endless echoes (if, sometimes, by virtue of imagination). The minute+ opening shot (or entirety) of Griffith's The Country Doctor seems a lot closer to Straub to me than Abraham Lincoln (by virtue of the canned sync-sound?), but a Jean Durand short from 1912 I saw once, Le Railway de la mort, seems even closer. It's the recuperation of a type of early silent naturalist film that probably counts more than any individual title.

But Wellman's best instincts in those early 30s WB films (one favorite device used over and over: a pan across or tracking shot into one of his self-contained dens of sins followed by a montage of the denizens getting sloppier and more grotesque in every shot) toward the hourly hassles of living and staying alive–keeping blinds down, getting into dances, eating at a soup kitchen–seem very close to Hou and especially Yang to me.

Clearly I need to see Elvis.

May 07, 2010 4:23 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Someone has uploaded the whole thing to YouTube, but it's a bad VHS rip (it's now available on a very nice DVD) and it's shorter cut, which reduces the length of a lot of the scenes. This chunk is fairly intact, though.

May 07, 2010 4:51 PM  
Blogger girish said...

David, I know sequences from the Wellman film only from Scorsese's "personal journey" documentary--shall have to rent it right away. Ignatiy, you've got me curious: what makes THE STRUGGLE (which I haven't seen) proto-Cassavetian?

May 07, 2010 7:20 PM  
Blogger girish said...

David, it's good to see links to 10 or so recent pieces of yours at the L Magazine all in one place. I've been reading about INDIA SONG this week, in the new collection OUTSIDER: FILMS ON INDIA 1950-1990 ed. Shanay Jhaveri; the Duras essay is by Adrian M. Other pieces in the book include: Jonathan Rosenbaum on Rossellini's INDIA MATRI BHUMI; Tom Gunning on Lang's THE INDIAN TOMB; and James Quandt on Alain Corneau's NOCTURNE INDIEN.

Also: have you seen Thomas Elsaesser and Marte Hagener's new book, Film Theory: An Introduction to the Senses? The introduction thanks a particular Yale class for ideas--perhaps the class you were in.

May 07, 2010 7:40 PM  
Blogger girish said...

That should be Film Theory: An Introduction THROUGH the Senses.

May 07, 2010 7:41 PM  
Blogger David said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 08, 2010 1:29 AM  
Blogger David said...

Thanks Girish. Still figuring out how to format capsules and blurbs.

WB 30s films tend to be fantastic at using socio-political issues as a springboard to portmanteau romances, full of Broadway/Hollywood contrivances the conmen characters tend to contrive themselves. But what's really awesome about Wellman, in his best stuff, is how he preserves particular social details–there's a great appreciation of how characters respond to the physical space and circumstance around them, no matter how cynical, grotesque, and unlikely–as evidence of modern, nicely inscribed, circles of Hell. Every film in TCM's Wellman set is wonderful (Midnight Mary is exactly the sort of MGM gangster genre movie Wellman could temper at WB, but what he pulls off with Loretta Young is beautiful in its chintzy way), but Wild Boys, Heroes for Sale (a history of 10 years in 70 minutes, and basically a modern Candide), and the first 30 minutes of Other Men's Women all have that sense of real people trying just to hang out in nowhere places despite encroaching social developments on the most local level–that seems a straight echo of Yang, Hou...

It goes on. Wellman's also a master of caricature: the sitting line of sweating ex-statesman in a straw hotel on a third-world island all unfolding their legs, one by one, as women come down the stairs in Safe in Hell...

Yes, Girish, thanks very much for the tip–that was my class, and I had no idea about the book. I'll have to find a way to get a copy.

May 08, 2010 1:31 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

David,

I watched Wild Boys of the Road, and I can see what you mean (though I'll still stand by my Elvis)! Heroes for Sale will be today's Wellman, then (busy cinephilic schedule for a Saturday).

Oddly enough, the scene where the boy shrugs off selling his car when telling his Dad is just like a scene in Elvis (deleted, I think, from the cut on YouTube -- like most of the domestic scenes which don't "further the plot" as the people who put together the shorter version of the movie must've said to themselves) where Elvis's dad tells him that he should pursue being a musician and Elvis, realizing how much it must take for his father to say something like that (to support him in his foolhardy dream, even though their family is struggling with money), tearfully tells him that he will, and then adds without prompting that he'll also get a day job because he understands how much work and time it's gonna take for him to become a musician and he doesn't want to be a burden on the family, and his father responds, much in the same way as the Dad in Wild Boys of the Road says how proud he is of his son right now, that that'd be "a good idea."

Girish,

The characterizations (lovable human monsters), the subject and its handling (alcoholism as it drags down a family trying to help its one alcoholic member), the genre netherworld (the movie careens from comedy to family drama to, in the last reel, expressionist horror) and, most importantly, the way the sound and image -- or the microphone and camera placement -- conspire to capture performances. The movie sometimes feels like A Woman Under the Influence, plus Killing of a Chinese Bookie played as if it were Love Streams, at quadruple speed.

May 08, 2010 7:12 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

Girish, belated thanks for being included in your presentation. Such an esteemed group. I'm honored to be among them.

May 10, 2010 9:25 AM  
Blogger Jacob W. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 10, 2010 2:28 PM  
Blogger Jacob W. said...

One journal that I haven't seen mentioned that is very much worth visiting is Mike Everleth's Bad Lit

May 10, 2010 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I just updated my link to you. Anyways, a site worth checking out periodically is Southeast Asian Cinema. Truly off the beaten path.

May 11, 2010 10:10 AM  
Blogger Bat Mite! said...

Girish,

Godzilla Haiku,
http://godzillahaiku.tumblr.com/

Vivek

May 12, 2010 7:49 AM  
Blogger Jaime said...

Girish - hey, always enjoy reading your blog, and interacting with you on Facebook. I hope your quest with the cinema of Jerry Lewis is proving fruitful.

Regarding the blog roll, while I have done a bad job keeping up with those august names in terms of output, I have been working on building Unexamined Essentials (a reconsideration of the concept of "essential films" and the film canon, but mostly a helpful directory to let people know what films to see, outside of the ones most frequently heralded) into something that I am proud to show anyone. Zach and Dave Kehr, among others, have been very kind in linking it to their sites, and the indispensable Noel Vera has been my peerless correspondent regarding the great Filipino cinema - I submit it for your approval, as well!

http://unexaminedessentials.com

May 14, 2010 9:25 AM  
Blogger The Siren said...

Your shout-out does me honor, Girish, many thanks. Just off the top of my head--never a safe place, because things slip through the holes--I would say Glenn Kenny is essential, and I am a big fan of David Cairns, Kim Morgan, Kimberly Lindbergs, Peter Nelhaus, Dennis Cozzalio, Vadim Rizov, Dan Callahan (although he doesn't blog, he's got online pieces all the time), Tony Dayoub, John McElwee, Ferdy on Films and TLRHB. And any time James Wolcott, Sheila O'Malley or Lance Mannion turn to film writing, that is a good day. And Six Martinis and the Seventh Art--could not live without that one.

May 14, 2010 9:50 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Speaking of invaluable web resources... It's been a while since I've had the sneaky pleasure of beating Adrian to announcing the new issue of Rouge. Can we look forward to having our minds blown anytime soon?

May 15, 2010 6:18 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Nathan - YES !!

May 18, 2010 6:16 AM  
Anonymous Andy said...

I created a Google Custom Search Engine to search the blogs, journals, and other online publications I turn to when doing movie-related research. Links to the 171 websites it includes as of today (I'm constantly tinkering with it) can be found here:

Film Blogs, Etc.

May 18, 2010 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Andy said...

Also, while neither constitutes a new discovery, The Rumpus and Movieline have both expanded and improved their film coverage recently. The former now hosts Nicholas Rombes's "10/40/70" project, and the latter is the new home of Stephanie Zacharek and Michael Atkinson.

May 18, 2010 11:28 AM  

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