Monday, April 16, 2012

Filmmaker-Teachers



Perhaps it’s my vocation that makes me interested in this question, but I’m wondering: In the history of film culture, are there accounts of filmmakers who were also great teachers and mentors?

At the SCMS conference last month, I heard a fascinating paper by Eric Rentschler on “The German Prehistory of the Berlin School.” In it he identified several key influences upon the School, among which was the Berlin Film Academy (dffb), where both teachers and students shared a common cinephilic culture, kept alive and energized by regular group screenings.

Important and influential faculty at dffb included filmmakers like Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky. Rentschler noted that the “technological lyricism” of their films had a profound impact on the films of students such as Christian Petzold. (“Technological lyricism” is Christoph Hochhäusler’s term for the aesthetic allure of capitalist landscapes and environments in Petzold’s films. See Marco Abel’s essay on the DVD of Yella for more.)

Rentschler added:

Another lesson Petzold learned from Farocki has to do with the importance of body language. In German film, argues Petzold, there has always been too much “facial expression, eyebrow play, and theatrical language.” (His commentary brings to mind Michael Klier’s astute critique of acting styles in the New German Cinema, the 2001 short film Gesten und Gesichter/Gestures and Faces.) [Petzold recalls that] while working on his dffb diploma film (Pilotinnen/Pilots, 1995), his mentor Farocki was completing the film essay Ausdruck der Hände/The Expression of Hands (1997). As a result, Petzold found himself very interested in the creative capacity of human hands and acutely aware of how much physicality is lost in most German films, where the dialogue and actor’s visage dominate so strongly that they, quite literally, efface the rest of the human body. German actors do not need to visit New York for lessons in method acting, Farocki quipped; rather, they should go to Switzerland and have their face muscles surgically altered.

In Marco Abel’s Cineaste interview with Christian Petzold, “The Cinema of Identification Gets on my Nerves,” there is an interesting bit that speaks to the challenge faced by every student: how to absorb the lessons and examples of a teacher and, at the same time, discover how to navigate an original path that will require the student to depart from the initially inspirational model of the teacher.

Cineaste: You were taught by filmmakers who cannot be said to make narrative cinema, yet your films qualify as narrative cinema. Was following Farocki and Bitomsky into the avant-garde or documentary tradition never really an option for you?

Petzold: Only briefly. During my time of crisis I made two shorts, which were more or less 'essay' films. But I quickly realized that I could not work that way. In this kind of filmmaking the editing bay is like a desk; you essentially collect material to work on it later, in isolation. The loneliness of Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Marie Straub, Farocki, and Bitomsky—which in many ways is self-imposed by them—that was not the kind of work environment I desired. I cannot work this way. I did this for five years as a literary scholar; I did not start making films to emulate this experience. But it should be noted that both Farocki and Bitomsky love narrative film. If you look closely at their films you see that theirs are films that actually desire narrative cinema, while perhaps simultaneously being about the impossibility or crisis of narrative cinema. But I did not want to pursue their path. I still learned more about the art of narrative from them than from people who are so-called storytellers, but do not interrogate themselves.


* * *

British film director Alexander Mackendrick (The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers, The Sweet Smell of Success) retired from the industry in the late 60s and spent almost 25 years as a faculty member teaching filmmaking at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts). The book On Film-Making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director collects his writings — mostly handouts he prepared for his students — and it makes for great, insightful reading. (For more on his teaching strategies, see this page.)

Martin Scorsese writes about Mackendrick’s credo as a teacher:

“Process, not product” was his mantra to his students. The creative process — not the creative method, or the creative system […] I’m not implying that he was an anti-intellectual Hollywood pro — all you have to do is leaf through this book, with its references to Ibsen and Sophocles and Beckett and Levi-Strauss, to dispel that notion. This book takes on everything from Dramatic Irony to Mental Geography, the relationship between the director and his actors to the structural soundness of Last Year at Marienbad. But on almost every page, Mackendrick lets the reader know that all of it, from the lessons about crossing the axis and the condensation of screen time to the techniques for cultivating ideas […] is worth nothing without practice.


* * *

The Harvard Film Archive recently announced a fascinating retrospective titled “The Films and Legacy of António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro.” Reis was an influential Portuguese filmmaker-teacher who co-directed, with his wife Margarida Cordeiro, a psychologist, four poetic-ethnographic works that are held in high regard. Here’s an excerpt from the program notes:

Admired by the likes of Joris Ivens, Jean Rouch and Jean-Marie Straub, the films of Reis and Cordeiro invented a poetically liberated and hypnotically cinematographic film language, a style and sensibility that set the course of Portugal’s lasting tradition of radical cinema, exerting a formative influence, for example, upon João Cesar Monteiro. Yet equally important was Reis’ career and legacy as a long-time senior professor of film production and aesthetics at Lisbon’s Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema. As a tribute to Reis’ inspiration of the most important talents in contemporary Portuguese cinema, this retrospective includes a selection of works by Reis’ students including Pedro Costa, João Pedro Rodrigues and Joaquim Saphino.


* * *

I wonder: Are there accounts in film culture of filmmakers who were also good teachers and mentors? Do any former students have experiences to share about being in classes taught by filmmakers? Also: We would have to include in this discussion directors who were teachers or mentors outside a classroom setting, on film projects. Any thoughts — or stories? I'd love to hear them.


* * *

Some links:

-- There's a Jerry Lewis dossier in the new issue of La Furia Umana, with pieces by many notable critics and cinephiles. Also: Zach Campbell, who is part of the dossier, reviews, at MUBI, the new edition of the Bresson book edited by James Quandt. Finally: in a MUBI post, David Phelps pairs images from Godard and Jerry Lewis.

-- At Catherine Grant's place: Studies of cinematic pastiche; a round-up of the new issue of Vertigo, which focuses on Godard; and a collection of Godard links.

-- "How to account for the intensity of feeling this film inspires?" asks Dennis Lim on Bresson's The Devil, Probably in Artforum.

-- (via David Hudson) Iris Veysey's "Costume and Identity in Hitchcock's Vertigo"; and at Cine Europa: a story on Ingmar Bergman's huge VHS collection, which included The Blues Brothers and other unlikely titles.

-- An interview with Terence Davies I found unsettling: "Being Gay Has Ruined My Life," in The Irish Times. Please also see: Michael Guillen's interview with Davies, "Memory as Mise-en-scène"; and Michael Sicinski on The Deep Blue Sea at Cinema Scope.

-- Andy Rector posts an account of a John Ford interview with Colin Young in Film Quarterly (1959). Via Andy: an interview with Jacques Ranciere about (and around) his recent book Les écarts du cinéma. Also: A post at Diagonal Thoughts about this book.

-- Rowena Santos Aquino's introduction to the Czechoslovak New Wave at Next Projection.

-- At e-flux, Irmgard Emmelhainz on Godard's 1969-1974 period of militant filmmaking.

-- Since I put up my last post 2 weeks ago, a discussion has sprung up in the comments section [scroll down] on topics such as "philosophy" vs. "theory" and the recent "philosophical turn" in cinema/media studies.

pic: Aleander Mackendrick

44 Comments:

Blogger girish said...

Ah, just remembered that Ritwik Ghatak was the head of the FTII (Film & Television Training Institute) in Pune, India, for a while...

April 16, 2012 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I didn't formally have Martin Scorsese as a teacher at NYU, but at the time I was a Freshman, Who's that Knocking at my Door had just been released. I did get to know him a little bit, watching films from his collection and working as a production assistant on the documentary Street Scenes. What I learned was to open myself up to all of narrative cinema, not just the stuff that had critical or academic seals of approval.

I also had some very lively discussions with Lewis jacobs, although it wasn't until last january that I finally saw his one shot at narrative film, /Sweet Love, Bitter.

Outside of the classroom, some discussions and exchange of letters with Stan Brakhage.

April 16, 2012 2:34 PM  
Blogger Rahul Banerjee said...

Subhash Ghai the Indian film maker and his "Whistling Woods" film school are also in the news for all the wrong reasons in India! It appears he was allotted government land free for some underhand consideration and the Supreme Court has now ordered him to return the land.

April 16, 2012 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Steve Elworth said...

The recent anthology on the great Ken Jacobs does deal with his very long teaching career at Millenium and then at SUNY Binghamton including his problematic relationship with Nick Ray. There is a great essay there by his colleague, Larry Gottheim, another film maker/professor. Hollis Frampton and Paul Sharits taught at SUNY Buffalo. Ernie Gehr taught at Cal Arts as Lew Klahr and Janie Geieser still do. Stan Brakhage taught for years at Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Colarado. Among Von Sternberg's students at USC were Curtis Harington and Gregory Markopolous. And they are more that i have forgotten for now.

April 16, 2012 3:14 PM  
Blogger roroldam said...

Thorold Dickinson should figure high on any list. Here is a paragraph from the UCL website: 'Thorold Dickinson (1903-1984) established the first full university film studies course at the Slade School of Fine Art. Dickinson was a respected figure of British cinema from the late 1930s up to the 1950s, but in an extraordinary second career he helped to found UCL’s film department at the Slade School 1967 becoming Britain’s first Professor of Film Studies.'
best
Roland-François Lack (UCL)

April 16, 2012 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Kimberly Lindbergs said...

One of my favorite parts of the new Jerry Lewis documentary (Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis) are the moments that his ex-students (like Steven Spielberg) discuss his teaching methods. Lewis taught a graduate course in film at USC during the '60s and his book "The Total Film-Maker" inspired directors like Martin Scorsese (who was also interviewed for the documentary).

I didn't know much about Lewis' teaching experience beforehand so it was really interesting to find out how much he had inspired other filmmakers. Currently some videos of Lewis teaching in 1967 are available on Youtube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ6nlpZFzKo

April 16, 2012 5:22 PM  
Blogger Max said...

The chapters concerning the film departments at the San Francisco Art Institute, SF State, and other Bay Area schools in the RADICAL LIGHT book are informative. I think Scott MacDonald's A CRITICAL CINEMA interviews are really enlightening on this point of inter-generational linkages via teacher-student relationships.

I tried to give the subject some thought in this small article on George Kuchar and Ray's WE CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN: http://www.sfbg.com/2011/12/27/zero-conduct

April 16, 2012 7:33 PM  
Blogger Marc Raymond said...

There is a piece about Scorsese as a film teacher from Allan Arkush in the Nov 1983 issue of FILM COMMENT that is worth checking out. I also have an article in FILM HISTORY from June 2010 that discusses the history of STREET SCENES 1970 and some of the problems that can arise from filmmaker/student collaborations.

An interesting filmmaker on this topic is Hong Sang-soo, who has taught for many years in Korea to help support himself as a filmmaker. He currently has been shooting during his months off (July-August and January-February in Korea), thus the distinction between his "summer" and "winter" films. Not surprisingly, there are many examples of filmmaker-student relationships in his movies, especially his more recent work.

April 16, 2012 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

I have often heard enthusiastic talk of Thom Andersen's influence on, and collaboration with, his filmmaking students. James Benning, too. In Australia, avant-garde filmmaker Arthur Cantrill was a very good and giving teacher (1970s onwards), partly because he spent hours showing dozens of short 16mm films each week to the 'prac' students !

April 16, 2012 11:24 PM  
Anonymous Jim Flannery said...

Trinh T. Minh-ha was a major influential presence at SF State in the late 80s/early 90s, teaching the core theory seminars in the undergrad and grad production programs, along with critique sections ... in the case of my undergrad cohort, that was 12 hours spread across the two semesters of the junior year. For some of us, she basically was the program.

April 17, 2012 12:15 AM  
Blogger jd said...

I would definitely second the interest of thinking of George Kuchar in this regard. Peggy Ahwesh and other experimental filmmakers working at Bard have done a lot for several generations of practitioners.

April 17, 2012 3:43 AM  
Anonymous Omar Ahmed said...

Ghatak is also the one that immediately comes to the foreground for me. The struggle to finance film projects in the 1960s led to Ghatak taking up the role of film professor and vice-principal at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). It was in this relatively short period as a teacher that Ghatak seems to have had the most direct influence on the next generation of Indian filmmakers, including Mani Kaul, John Abraham and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. In his book Cinema and I, Ghatak said, ‘Kumar Shahani is my best student. When he comes out with his films, it will be staggering’. This seems to suggest the influence Ghatak must have had as a teacher on some of his film students.

April 17, 2012 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Omar Ahmed said...

In many ways Ghatak's belief that cinema could be a conduit for political ideas is evident in many of the films directed by key figures in Indian art cinema during the late 60s, 70s and onwards. Interesting then how he might have used his teaching stint as a platform for implementing some of his radical thinking - he must have been an inspirational figure to many of his students.

April 17, 2012 9:27 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, all, for these great examples and stories.

April 18, 2012 12:58 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

A friend relates that back in the 1980s Stan Brakhage got a form letter from the Ontario College of Art in Toronto (now tellingly renamed the Ontario College of Art and Design) telling him that he was not qualified to teach the advertised film course he had applied to teach. Brakhage did teach at home in Colorado, but I can't attest to the experience, perhaps someone else can. Anyway, Brakhage's rejection in Toronto gave yours truly heart when he was passed over by the same school a few years later to teach a course he was uniquely qualified for in favour of someone who declared to the search committee: "I don't know anything about the subject, but I'll learn on the job".

April 18, 2012 3:33 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Let me quote a couple of comments from my Facebook page on the subject (made in the last couple of days). I'm confident Brian and Corey won't mind...

Brian said: "There's a great chapter by Steve Anker in the book Radical Light: Alternative Film & Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-2000, on this topic. It's illustrated with a 1971 Artforum ad for the SF Art Institute, listing among the faculty: Larry Jordan, James broughton, Lenny Lipton, Gunvor Nelson, Ben Van Meter, John Viera, George Kuchar & Michael Stewart. The chapter has many fascinating stories and details, including the amazing catalog description of a 1975 seminar taught by Walter Murch: "Plink bzzz ka-pow squish, bonk blam ding clunk? Rat-a-tat . . . blooie!""

Corey said: "I attended a number of Brakhage's lectures (which were for a class) at the Art Institute of Chicago -- he was a dazzling lecturer."

April 18, 2012 5:28 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

What if one were to reformulate the question slightly: filmmakers who can talk about their work. They aren't very thick on the ground. Straub, for example, is completely incapable; you're wasting your time. You'd think maybe he saves himself up for someone like Godard, but the latter, who is always lamenting that he has no one to talk with about film, remarks "même avec Straub on ne peut pas [parler cinéma]" (Cahiers 472). Huillet didn't even try; she refused and, true to the principle, wouldn't say why...

For as long as I can remember I've thought: not only do most filmmakers have nothing of interest to say about their work, but you shouldn't even ask. Don't confuse the work with the life. I think I still believe that, but am less ready to defend it. But there's something related to Girish's question, I think, which might be interesting to explore: filmmakers who write. Autobiographies, or conceivably biographies in which they are interviewed at some length. Now, the biography is generally one of the most dreadful of literary genres, and the filmmaker autobiography is usually limited to Hollywood types, aklong with a few successful French and Italian directors, and certainly in the case of Hollywood they're ghostwritten and/or full of apocryphal or unreliable tales.

But lately I've become convinced, without looking at very many very closely (just finished Raoul Walsh's), that there is stuff lurking in there. The whole credo of finding things in the unlikeliest places, in which I unequivocally put my faith, could be confirmed with this body of literature to which, to my knowledge, few scholars pay much attention.

April 18, 2012 7:20 PM  
Blogger girish said...

This has me thinking: the two most prominent and voluminous series of books of director interviews in English -- put out by Faber & Faber and University of Mississippi Press -- are valuable but also highly variable.

Kieslowski and Cronenberg in the former series are among my favorites.

In terms of director autobiographies, everybody loves Renoir's and Bunuel's (I do too). But I'd love to hear suggestions of other worthy autobiographies (even if they are patchy).

I've been meaning to get started on von Sternberg's.

April 18, 2012 9:19 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Beware, "My Last Sigh" is a completely bowdlerised version of the original. In English you're actually better off with the "Objects of Desire" interview book with José de Colina and Tomás Pérez Turrent, ably translated by the late Paul Lenti.

But I think we should be reading the most obscure autobiographies, not Buñuel and Renoir. I mean, who reads Raoul Walsh's? (Well, Godard for one; he loves this sort of stuff.) Any suggestions for a really obscure one, anyone?

April 18, 2012 10:25 PM  
Blogger David said...

Girish, thank you for the Emmelhainz link (and of course the Lewis PR): somebody should translate her piece on FILM SOCIALISME and the Palestine question, doesn't get better.

Love the Walsh biography (every chapter seems to end with pitter-patter of rain on the roof as another girl curls up with him on the couch); my favorite of very few I've seen is William Wellman's A SHORT TIME FOR INSANITY, narrated as an opium dream from his hospital bed and replete with fantasized bowel logs.

Here's the opening as he responds to a news report about himself in WWI 50 years later:

"Sounds rather intriguing, doesn't it? Kinda romantic. A great introduction for the hero in a movie—movies, that big nest of hits and flops, with so many little broken dreams wiggling out from it, from which come the few hitters and many floppers; some to their big Bel Air swimming-pooled estates, some to their poolless homes, some to their rooms, their bars, their dames. All will be back tomorrow, the hitters fighting to stay on top, the floppers fighting to get on top. And through it all occasionally stumbles a bum, with a crown on his head."

For teachers, there are many stories about Ken Jacobs (who once taught Scorsese): others reading probably can tell better, but among other exercises he would show Ulmer's THE BLACK CAT once through, then play it again without the image. A pedagogical favorite of Raúl Ruiz too, I think...

April 19, 2012 12:50 AM  
Blogger girish said...

You're very welcome, David. And thank you for posting the link to her PhD thesis on Facebook.

Caboose, I wasn't suggesting everybody should be reading Buñuel and Renoir. Just trying to oppose these best known memoirs against others that are less read for one reason or another.

April 19, 2012 5:24 AM  
Blogger girish said...

The Cannes lineup has just been announced.

In Competition:

Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.

Jacques Audiard's De Rouille et d'Os.

Leos Carax's Holy Motors.

David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis.

Lee Daniels's The Paperboy.

Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly.

Matteo Garrone's Reality.

Michael Haneke's Amour.

John Hillcoat's Lawless.

Sergei Loznitsa's In the Fog.

Hong Sang-soo's In Another Country.

Im Sang-soo's Taste of Money.

Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love.

Ken Loach's The Angel's Share.

Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills.

Yousry Nasrallah's Baad el Mawkeaa (Apres la Bataille).

Jeff Nichol's Mud.

Alain Renais's Vous n'avez encore rien vu.

Carlos Reygadas's Post Tenebras Lux.

Walter Salles's On the Road.

Ulrich Seidl's Paradies: Liebe.

Thomas Vinterberg's Jagten (The Hunt).

April 19, 2012 6:33 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Girish, when I said something like "we shouldn't be reading Renoir and Buñuel" I didn't mean it literally; it was, what would one call it, a rhetorical posture. But do look at Objects of Desire.

April 19, 2012 6:36 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Caboose, I adore OBJECTS OF DESIRE. Buñuel is one of my favorite filmmakers, and my copy of OBJECTS (one of the funniest of all cinema books!) is marked up with my comments and exclamations to the point of illegibility. I love this book. All of which compounds my regret that I don't have the Spanish to read his memoir.

When I met him a few weeks ago, Victor Perkins told me that he's been learning German for several years -- with the express purpose of reading Max Ophuls' autobiography! He travels from UK to Saarbrucken to go to 'German school' and take classes there. Perhaps there's hope for those of us who want to learn new languages in their adulthood.

I learned 6 Indian languages as a kid because my parents moved every other year to a new state, but I've not taken on a single new language as an adult.

April 19, 2012 6:53 AM  
Blogger girish said...

P.S. 22 films in competition at Cannes and not one by a woman.

April 19, 2012 8:28 AM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Welcome to Cannes.

Yes, it's strange that in large parts of the developing world, with generally fewer educational opportunities etc., people often learn several languages, but in North America it's unusual to have more than some rudimentary knowledge of Spanish (in the U.S.) or French (in Canada). Visitors to Canada go to Toronto and say with bewilderment "but I thought it was a bilingual country?" It's not a bilingual country, it's a divided country. And in India the Urdu taxi drivers speak six languages.

Given the state of film subtitling and film book translating, this is relevant to the life of every cinephile.

April 19, 2012 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Steve Elworth said...

For film maker autobiographies, let us not forget the two volumes by Michael Powell.

April 19, 2012 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Christian Keathley said...

If you want an unlikely place to look, caboose, how about Jean Negulesco's autobiography, wonderfully titled, "Things I Did and Things I Think I Did."

April 19, 2012 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Yusef Sayed said...

On the subject of film directors writing about film, I greatly enjoyed reading Sidney Lumet’s book on filmmaking, MAKING MOVIES when I finally got around to it. It is hardly obscure, but I can’t say I’ve read too many of these types of books. On my current reading pile, I have Nagisa Oshima’s CINEMA, CENSORSHIP, AND THE STATE which I am looking forward to a lot. And, of course, I am saving my pennies for the translations of Jean Epstein’s writings, which were recently published in the book published by Amsterdam University Press.

The turn in the conversation towards the subject of learning languages has also caught my interest, since I have been spending a lot of time of late learning French, with the purpose of being able to read French language film criticism – as well as other texts, of course.

I reached a critical point when I knew that I had no other choice but to begin in earnest. All those books I want to read are not going to be translated any time soon. So, I can relate to Perkins’s intention.

The key for me was finally finding a system of learning that I felt was intuitive and effective. It is not necessary to approach a new language in the stale manner of a typical curriculum (The ‘I have a dog. My dog is called______’ type of vocabulary/grammar exercises typical of my secondary school education). Being able to practice on film texts from the start, no matter how rudimentary my understanding might be, is helpful and sustains my enthusiasm. In fact, I have picked up a lot of vocabulary very quickly and there are plenty of cognates that make things easier at the beginning. I spent a couple of years learning basic spoken Japanese, which, sadly, I have only had the opportunity to put to use during one visit to Tokyo back in 2008. Alas, this does not assist with reading Japanese film texts. But I intend to get back to that in time.

I cannot help but admire the efforts of any individual who actively learns other languages. I am ashamed that I am not yet fluent in a language other than English. Working as a proofreader has definitely stimulated my recent efforts. (After working on a project, it’s nice to not have to look at the English language on the page for a while.) I would certainly recommend that you do take some steps towards learning another language as soon as possible Girish. I have no doubt that there are plenty of people who can help you all the way.

What it is most important for me to state, though, is that I finally developed the energy and discipline to begin learning French because of my interest in cinema. I’m sure that many others before me learned by practising with Cahiers du Cinema.

April 19, 2012 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Jim Flannery said...

Adding to the memoir subthread, James Broughton's Coming Unbuttoned, although the reviewers of the time tended to find it a bit insufferable. Lots of Bay Area A/G gossip, and a useful reminder (like Bowles') of what an essential tool familial privilege is in leading "the artist's life."

April 19, 2012 3:26 PM  
Anonymous charro said...

desistfilm - new film blog from Peru:

https://desistfilmblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/26/

April 19, 2012 4:04 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

Chris - I'm on it, many thanks.

Yusef - Save your money, download the Epstein book for free from the publisher's web site. Yes, strange but true. Too bad the book butchered the translation of Nicole Brenez's essay though. Absolutely butchered.

Girish - sorry if I hijacked your teaching post with my mumblings about autobiographies!

April 19, 2012 4:17 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Perfectly fine, Caboose. Both are interesting topics I'm happy to listen/converse about.

April 19, 2012 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Yusef Sayed said...

I forgot to single out the BUFFALO HEADS book, which it is almost impossible to neglect due to its size. Funnily enough, it sits on my shelf next to the RADICAL LIGHT book, which has already been mentioned.

The book focuses on the Department of Media Study at SUNY Buffalo 1973-1990. This is an absolutely stunning collection and fits perfectly within the topic here of filmmakers as teachers. The book is comprised of chapters on Gerald O’Grady, Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, Woody Vasulka, Steina, Tony Conrad, James Blue and Peter Weibel. The texts, images, and other archival materials are presented so beautifully and the book will keep you going for a long time. It includes lectures such as ‘A Cinematics Model for Film Studies in Higher Education’ by Paul Sharits and too many materials used in teaching and education (as well as personal writings and other essays) to mention here. There are also a few interviews conducted by James Blue, with Jean Rouch, Jean-Luc Godard and Roberto Rossellini.

I cannot recommend this enough. Mind you, your postman won’t appreciate having to deliver it to your door!

http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11304

April 20, 2012 3:11 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Yusef, I've lived in Buffalo for almost 25 years, and went to SUNY Buffalo for my PhD. I've got to get my hands on this book!

I remember reading an extended review-essay on it in Film Quarterly when the book was released.

Related: There's a terrific exhibit on at the Albright-Knox art gallery here in town on the "Buffalo avant-garde" of the 1970s: Sharits, Frampton, Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo (who went to university here at Buffalo State College), and others.

April 20, 2012 4:59 AM  
Anonymous Jim Flannery said...

OT: essay on the history of Italian dubbing in the current issue of Harper's, here. I don't *think* it's subscriber-only but I have a hard time sometimes telling whether the site's recognizing me or not.

April 20, 2012 4:41 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Two new Hong Sang-soo films come to New York, which provides an occasion for David Hudson to gather a nice little collection of links to writings on Hong's films.

April 22, 2012 4:30 PM  
Blogger girish said...

And a couple of dozen amazing photos from the archives of actors and directors on this Livejournal page.

April 22, 2012 5:46 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Jonathan Rosenbaum on Fritz Lang's M:

"M came at a privileged juncture in history — the period when silent movies were giving way to talkies, dividing the art of cinema into two distinct kinds of narrative flow: the flow of images, intertitles, and music that achieved a kind of apotheosis in the late 20s and early 30s in pictures such as Dovzhenko’s Earth, Lang’s Spione, Murnau’s Sunrise, Vidor’s The Crowd, Chaplin’s City Lights, Sternberg’s The Docks of New York, and Stroheim’s unfinished Queen Kelly; and the flow of dialogue, narration, music, and sound effects that carried images along like uprooted trees and houses in a flood. Like only a few other pictures in this exciting transitional period — Dreyer’s Vampyr, Ozu’s The Only Son, Sternberg’s Thunderbolt and The Blue Angel, and Dovzhenko’s Ivan are the first that come to mind — M draws mightily on both of these powerful strains, picking and choosing from the best of both. Building its story on visual rhymes that are carried by dialogue that periodically turns into offscreen narration, and fusing the two great traditions of silent film — montage/editing and camera movement/mise en scene — this astonishing movie represents an unsurpassed grand synthesis of storytelling."

April 23, 2012 6:35 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Jonathan's "Global Discoveries on DVD" column in the new Cinema Scope.

April 24, 2012 6:13 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Amos Vogel has died.

April 25, 2012 3:28 AM  
Anonymous Yusef Sayed said...

Amos Vogel’s book FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART will be continue to be read by each generation of fearless adventurers who wish to more thoroughly understand the history of cinema.

One commentator writes: ‘It was considered essential reading in its time…’ I say: it is essential reading for all time. In a blogpost a few years ago I selected a small number of essential film texts – and singled out the book, which if I remember correctly did not appear too many times among Sight and Sound’s film books poll, though of course it is surely a staple of many bookshelves:

‘For those attracted to films that seek to challenge the status quo, in terms of form and content; to upend traditional structures and haemorrhage the medium of cinema in a surrealist fashion; and that demand that we face the bare facts of life, death, sex, shit, piss and blood, then Amos Vogel's celebrated compendium of subversive cinema is a must. Presented in a concise manner, covering developments in underground cinema in response to changing cultures and politics throughout the world, Vogel's book also contains a great number of capsule reviews which is to film as the Nurse With Wound list is to music.’

The book, along with Nicole Brenez’s stunning text, ‘Hearing the Vogel Call’ written for Rouge, were the central inspirations for starting my own community film screenings to show overlooked, censored, and surreal works from across the history of film. And this is in a small town with no film culture, so it is here that I feel it is most necessary.

It is with much sadness that I received the news of Amos Vogel’s death this morning, but I know that all the underground screenings, the trading of rare and suppressed films – some giving the system a mighty shock, some difficult to watch, but always necessary – and the continual flowering of writing about film, about every aspect of film culture and the history of the eras in which films have been made will carry on. And thanks to the momentum generated by Vogel’s work the true history of film images may become clearer, to a greater number of people.

Paul Cronin’s The Sticking Place, which is linked within the article on Mubi really is a terrific resource for film fans (and concerns the work of Haskell Wexler and Peter Whitehead, among other subjects too) and the film of FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART can be viewed there.

April 25, 2012 5:44 AM  
Anonymous Yusef Sayed said...

Correction: Brenez's text is called 'The Vogel Call', not 'Hearing the Vogel Call'.

It can be read here:

http://www.rouge.com.au/3/vogel.html

April 25, 2012 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

For autobiographies not mentioned, Akira Kurosawa's Something Like an Autobiography is worth a look. Ken Annakin's So You Wanna be a Director? is fun to read, mostly because of the unlikely and roundabout path that ended with a career making movies.

April 26, 2012 12:27 AM  

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