Monday, October 14, 2013


Adrian Martin and I have now completed the release of the fourth issue of LOLA. The theme of the issue is "Walks," and it includes a Brian De Palma dossier.

Here are links to all the pieces, with a little excerpt from each:

-- Victor Bruno, "Glittering Flares: Breaking the Darkness in Out of the Past": "[A] lens flare is a bridge between the spectator and the film [...] In Out of the Past (1947), there is a moment in which, consciously or not, Jacques Tourneur built this bridge."

-- Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin, "To the Passion": "Passion is not (as we are hearing a lot at the moment) a wilfully ‘ridiculous’ film (it is especially depressing to hear this said as praise!) or a self-consciously trashy one [...] De Palma has gotten to a position in his career that is a little reminiscent of Samuel Fuller in his early-to-mid 1960s prime ..."

-- Alain Bergala, "Time Denied: An Apotheosis of the Imaginary": "The major difference between Scottie in Vertigo and Michael in Obsession is that Michael is in a deeper sleep than Scottie. He wants to believe in the reality of his waking dream with a deep and naïve conviction. The whole film is an obstinate refusal to wake up, to leave the bliss of the imaginary. He rushes like a bull towards the first illusion that is offered to him – this woman who is the reincarnation of his dead wife."

-- Adrian Martin, "A Walk Through Carlito's Way": "Every De Palma-loving cinephile’s sense of this scene as a set-piece, detachable from the film as a whole (while relating to it on many formal, expressive and thematic levels), is reinforced by its special place in the narrative – as an introductory incident that perfectly sums up, in microcosm, the trajectory of the hero’s unfortunate destiny (he keeps getting dragged back into crime), while itself being only a weak catalyst for anything much that follows."

-- Helen Grace, "Responsive Eyes and Crossing Lines: Forty Years of Looking and Reading": "At the time of the Dressed to Kill protests, I was living in a squat in Villa Rd, Brixton, and the street had become a centre of anti-De Palma actions, in which all the women squatters were being encouraged to become involved, in order to demonstrate their feminist credentials. Radicalism was measured in these key performance indicators of one’s commitment [...] Before committing ourselves to terroristic activities, a friend and I decided we should go to see Dressed to Kill ..."

-- Amelie Hastie, "Cinema of Compassion": "I love an image that makes me conscious of my own breath, whether it comes in a gasp, a steady rhythm, or a moment in which my breath literally stops. Our own breathing with the image is part of film’s (chimerical) animation of the life before us. Indeed, its quality of movement – and therefore its demonstration of life itself – animates even the inanimate, as we take in the images on the screen."

-- Sam Roggen, "You See It Or You Don’t: CinemaScope, Panoramic Perception and the Cinephiliac Moment": "What worried early Scope directors the most with regard to these radically altered conditions was how to direct spectatorial attention in scenes composed of long shots in the wide frame – and, particularly, how to highlight the details in that frame that were of vital importance for an understanding of the narrative [...] But directors could also audaciously choose not to stress essential parts of the composition. Observant viewers could then discover these crucial, but only subtly incorporated, details autonomously."

-- Veronika Ferdman, "Getting to Know the Big Wide World": "If I had to spend eternity inside a single scene from a movie, it would probably be this one – because, during these few minutes, we get a flood of hope and love, a montage of smiles and embraces exchanged by the newlyweds, enveloped by the blue dusk of the setting summer sun. The light in Eastern Europe is thinner and not as heavy as in the United States– the colours less saturated, but no less lovely."

-- Burke Hilsabeck, "Accidental Specificity: Modernism from Clement Greenberg to Frank Tashlin": "If modernist painting (in Greenberg’s account) works to pare itself toward a flatness made essential by the canvas support, popular film (in the Tashlinian-Lewisian imagination) is the site of a vast plurality; it does not simply refuse flatness as much as serve as the container of an infinite depth. (The scene articulates the sense that, onscreen, objects both flat and round have interiors.) In Tashlin’s hands, this is not the mimicked depth of pre-modern painting, but a constructed depth that takes on the quality of absurdity."

-- Yvette Bíró, "The Grandmaster: A Tour de Force": "The inner order of existence is never transparent. It accumulates not one layer of time but countless layers that collide and clash with each other. In Wong’s vision, each moment brings about a new form. The anomalous outcomes of actions are surprising, but never contingent. This density and swinging nature of the chaos-sphere is grounded, as modern physics describes it, in the ‘fragility of initial conditions’; this is what determines its erratic behaviour."

-- Darren Tofts, "Clone This DVD!": "The term post-production has a double inflection that refers, in the first instance, to after-effects, such as compositing, colour-grading and sound-mixing. But of more dramatic relevance here, it also refers to a more substantive, Thomas Kuhn-like paradigm shift that has a name – such as the Copernican Revolution or the Renaissance. Remix is the name we can give to this shift, a term akin to new historicism or postmodernism: cultural paradigms that articulate what comes after the philosophy of originality, presence, will and individualism."

-- Zach Campbell, "How We Got the Mob": "[It] will not do to treat Step Up either as a low-genre, masscult whipping boy, or to elevate – in a ‘poptimist’ polemic – the series’ pleasures above all else. The purpose of my undertaking here is not to disrupt the myriad pleasures Step Up might provide, but to look askance – critically, philosophically, politically – at their conditions."

-- Rowena Santos Aquino, "To Live (with) Cinema: Documenting Cinephilia and the Archival Impulse": "[The] emphasis in discussions of cinephilia still remains on the textual – the written word, whether in print, tweets or emails – to both define and guide discussions on cinephilia. The archival impulse gives us another perspective. The creation of an archive begins with emotional resonance, which is not the opposite of intellectual or educational engagement. The archival impulse is not just about the technical and technological aspect of acquiring, preserving and restoring films. It is also about an affective, physical experience ..."

-- Girish Shambu, "Crisis Cinema: Toronto International Film Festival 2013": "Until now in Breillat’s filmography, there has been an equation between sexuality and the human body. ‘The vulva is like the black hole of the universe’, wrote Breillat thirteen years ago, in the program notes accompanying the Toronto screening of her debut film Une vraie jeune fille (1975), which was banned in France for twenty-five years. Her new film evokes the older one in its obsessive focus on the human body."

-- Carlos Losilla, "Unspeakable Images": "Recently, the image has taken over what we used to call talking or writing about cinema: now images endlessly appear, they are projected, people compose essays with images … The role once played, years ago, by the gaze has now been translated to another fetish – and with this consequent transformation, it sometimes risks becoming a mere formula."

* * *

Links to recent reads:

-- Time to update our bookmarks: Jonathan Rosenbaum has a new website.

-- Good news: Claire Denis' great, ultra-rare U.S. Go Home (1994) is now on YouTube with English subs.

-- Adolph Reed, Jr., "Django Unchained, or, The Help: How “Cultural Politics” Is Worse Than No Politics at All, and Why". Via Corey Creekmur. At

-- Adrian Martin, "14 Uneasy Pieces of Teenage Life". At Flaunt.

-- An interview with Laura Mulvey on the making of her and Peter Wollen's avant-garde, feminist film Riddles of the Sphinx (1977). At BFI.

-- Nico Baumbach on Alain Badiou's recent collection Cinema. At the Los Angeles Review of Books.

-- Ted Fendt translates a talk by renowned French cinematographer Caroline Champetier. At MUBI Notebook.

-- Catherine Grant, "Lives on Film: Auto/Biographical Fiction and Documentary Film Studies". At Film Studies for Free.

-- Dan Sallitt, "It Takes an Arrondissement: Jacques Becker's Antoine et Antoinette". At MUBI Notebook.

-- Jean Renoir, "The Grandeur of the Primitives" (1948). At Ted Fendt's blog Howling Wretches.

-- Brad Stevens on Jess Franco at BFI.

-- An interview with Philippe Garrel on his new film Jealousy. At Revista Lumière.

-- The new issue of CineAction has a downloadable essay on Sharon Lockhart and Steve McQueen.

-- Boris Groys, "Becoming Revolutionary: On Kazimir Malevich". At e-flux journal.

-- A selected list of Tom Gunning's writings. A reminder to myself to hunt down the pieces I don't have ...

pic: Carlito's Way (Brian De Palma, 1993).


Blogger Nathan said...

Lovely write-up on TIFF Girish, especially for the first part. But for those among us currently entering the dark job market you describe in the opening paragraphs, please don't end your next essay with "It reminds us that the passage from adolescence into sober, ‘mature’ adulthood is already a kind of death. " We're dying already, no need to be reminded of it! :)

October 14, 2013 9:07 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Haha! Touché, Nathan!

October 14, 2013 9:09 AM  
Blogger Michael Guillen said...

Great write-up on TIFF, Girish. Your phrasing and intellectual grasp is immaculate. Such an engaging read over my morning coffee.

October 14, 2013 10:38 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Michael. That's so kind and generous of you.

October 14, 2013 10:42 AM  
Anonymous David T. Johnson said...

What a terrific group of links here, Girish! I can't wait to continue reading the fabulous new issue of Lola. By the way, you may already have them, but I found both “Moving away from the Index: Cinema and the Impression of Reality” and “What’s the Point of an Index? Or Faking Photographs” to be really stimulating essays by Gunning.

October 14, 2013 7:17 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks so much, Dave!

I just acquired those two essays by Gunning, and look forward to reading them.

October 14, 2013 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Hamish said...

Hi Girish (and Adrian, Fredrik, and everyone else not of my official acquaintance)! Hamish Ford here....

I noted you listed Denis' LES SALAUDS in the 'A' category of your festival round up. I saw an advance screening of it at the Amsterdam Film-Philosophy conference in July, and it was greeted with a very 'mixed' response indeed. Care to expand on what was special about the film for you, perhaps in light of your prior relations to Denis‘ work? For my part, I was rather ambivalent in July, but defended the film's sending, which many felt either unnecessary or just revolting and exploitative. While it risks all manner of things - and is sort of the cinematic apotheosis of, or answer to, all those more sexually obsessed crime dramas on TV - I feel without it the viewer's hands remain too 'clean' as it were, after partaking of this murky tale... I think I would need to see the film again re a more coherent overall take. I recall thinking, though, that it flirted very much with a series of cliches familiar from recent French cinema and the murkier side of Hollywood, most obviously the new-noir miasma, with the 'junky ally' sequence a kind of nadir in this regard.

Cheers to you all!


October 19, 2013 8:45 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hello there, Hamish! I wrote a little about BASTARDS in my TIFF essay in the LOLA issue, so you'll get a sense of my take there.

I like your notion of 'not keeping the viewer's hands too clean'.

I also really liked the way BASTARDS works as a dark inversion of 35 SHOTS OF RUM, both films about family and father-daughter relationships.

October 19, 2013 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Hamish Ford said...

Thanks, Girish - don't know how I missed that one! And obviously I meant the film's 'ending' (not 'sending')... You might have been surprised to hear how many bad reactions to the film there were in July.

cheers! H

October 19, 2013 9:06 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Very interesting to hear of the film's response at the Film-Philosophy conference, Hamish. Most of my fellow critic friends in Toronto seemed to think quite highly of it, even if no one thought it to be among her very best work ...

October 19, 2013 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Hamish said...

Right, found your essay now Girish - nice stuff, and riff on the film, ditto the Breillat.


October 19, 2013 11:16 PM  

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