Monday, May 11, 2015

LOLA 5, etc.

Adrian Martin and I were delighted to roll out the fifth issue of LOLA over a period of several weeks in the winter and spring. We would like to take this opportunity to give thanks to all our authors, and to our indispensable webmaster Bill Mousoulis.

Let me round up the full issue here with excerpts from all the pieces. The theme of the issue is "Shows".

-- Joe McElhaney, "Survival Tactics: German Filmmakers in Hollywood, 1940-1960": "To have a strongly Germanic style in 1940s America was to be in possession of gifts that were, given the historical context, the site of highly ambivalent relations. The publication of Siegfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler in 1947, with its hermeneutic of an unconscious fascism lurking within the cinema that enchanted so many American filmmakers in the 1920s, may be seen as part of the general climate of doubt among certain German cultural figures about their own cinema ..."

-- Dorian Stuber and Marianne Tettlebaum, "To Be or Not to Be (A Jew)": "[We] know that Greenberg is Jewish because of something he says – or, rather, something he does not say. In other words, we know that he is Jewish because the film goes to such lengths not to say that he is. The key moment takes place during a rehearsal. When the pompous actor Rawitch (Lionel Atwill, having a hell of a time) huffs and puffs in his plummy tones about how he must wait and wait while minor actors seek to increase their roles, Greenberg says, ‘Mr Rawitch, what you are I wouldn’t eat’. Rawitch replies, ‘How dare you call me a ham’."

-- Lesley Stern, "Putting on a Show, or The Ghostliness of Gesture": "Gestures are performed individually, but they are not possessed by individuals. They acquire force and significance through repetition and variation. They are never simply signs — of a singular emotion, or identity, nor an expression of the soul (or to put this less quaintly, of individual subjectivity), but a charting of relations, imagined as well as real, interdiegetic as well as between films and audiences, stars and fans, characters and actors."

-- Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin, "All Things Shining: An Encounter with Mike Hoolboom": In Hoolboom's words: "Traditional movies convene audiences in order to create a communal response; we come together not only to see the same thing, but to see it in the same way. The corporate movie experience sutures together different people as if we were parts of a single body. The fringe artist has different hopes. The ideology of the fringe insists that only when we come together can we figure out who we are as individuals. When we express our individuality, when we are able to locate our signature, our singularity – only then can we produce a chorus of voices, a collective."

-- Alison Butler, "‘You Think You’ve Been There’: A Conversation with James Benning about Easy Rider (2012)": In Benning's words: "I used the same organising strategy for Easy Rider as I used for my remake of Faces (John Cassavetes, 1968): that is, I made each of my films the same length as the original films with the same amount (and length) of scenes, respectively. For Faces I copied close-ups from Cassavetes’ film and replaced each scene with these close-ups matching the amount of screen time each actor had for each scene. In Easy Rider I replaced each scene with just one shot made at the original location. So rather than glean material from the original film (like I did in Faces) I made my own shots for Easy Rider. Many times I filmed things that were merely passed-by in the original film, things that had been relegated to the background. By doing this I focus more strongly on place and less on the narrative."

-- Cristina Álvarez López, "Three Women: Bastards": "A shot of shoes piled on the floor, sinister objects without body. This image of surplus, excess, disgusting sameness, can however illuminate, in an unexpected way, the singular relation that the female characters have with their accessories. (‘Shoes are very important in the film’, Denis admits.)"

-- Sarah Keller, "Cinephobia: To Wonder, To Worry": "So, what are the kinds of cinephobia that appear in accounts of experiences with cinema? To begin, let us consider four categories. Anxieties about what cinema represents, what it is, and what it can do have been present from the beginning ... Not all of these fit comfortably together, and it is more than possible that no overarching theory of cinephobia could contain them all (or even most of them) ... However, recognising the presence of anxiety in so many disparate nodes of cinema experience leads me to believe that something essential about the medium depends on it."

-- Victor Bruno, "The Emperor is Calm: Eduardo Coutinho and Theodorico, Emperor of the Interior (1978)": "The image is important to Coutinho because it captures the signs, colours, country and culture; it is in the image that dance and gestures unfold. But the sound is where the signs and codes are unveiled – or rather, veiled, changed and destroyed."

-- Hoi Lun Law, "Two or Three Things I Know about the Filmic Object": "The spectacle of the object (and the energy it radiates) is a fascination of early writings on film. Jean Epstein, for example, attributes the ‘purest expression of cinema’ to its rendering of photogénie, the ‘photogenic’ aspect of things, a quality of ‘personality’ and ‘mobility’. He champions cinema’s power of animism, its ability to bestow the gift of life on things, such as we find in ‘charms and amulets’. Objects in film possess a mystical, morphing quality. They are unassuming yet unfamiliar, sublime and unfailingly alive."

-- Davina Quinlivan, "Hopefulness, Healing and its Contestation in Film": "Film theory offers up numerous analyses of cinema’s conception of traumatic subject matter whose disturbing images linger on in the mind of the viewer, affective and uncompromising in their brutal truths. Hopefulness is not often something discussed in the field of Film Studies ... But the notion of hope as the restoration of goodness, as the awakening of being, rediscovered – and its uniquely filmic articulation – is what is at stake here."

-- Louis Armand, "Slaves of Reason: Perversion Among the Robots": "Like the Turing test, the Voight-Kampff test [in Blade Runner] begins with a human hypothesis, and not a very persuasive one: that empathy is an innate characteristic that distinguishes humans from non-humans, and is expressed in specific, quantifiable ways. Of course we know this isn’t the case, but the value of such failed hypotheses is that they expose the fundamentally narcissistic character of a process that secretly operates in reverse from its avowed purpose, since its real aim is to affirm the humanity or intelligence of the examiner while arbitrarily placing that of the subject in doubt. In the case of the Turing Test, it reduces intelligence to a second guess disguised as reasoned judgement; in the case of Voight-Kampff, it reduces humanity to a stereotype."

-- David T. Johnson, "Coming Up for Air: Migrations of Meaning in Upstream Color": "Roland Barthes once speculated that a potentially useful position for a writer to adopt is that of someone observing the flight patterns of birds. Because the birds themselves may appear from any direction and depart, equally, toward any point on the horizon, the only sensible posture is to remain fixed and observe their motions through a predetermined shape in the sky, whether a scientist or (as in Barthes’ figure) a ‘soothsayer’."

-- Yvette Bíró, "Acquittal or Judgment? Claude Lanzmann: The Last of the Unjust": "Images and words are witness to the cemetery of human lives and deaths, accompanied by [Lanzmann's] personal comments and emotion-filled descriptions. The film becomes a weird composition, a ‘two-part invention’ in which the factual and the dramatic-lyrical meet, sometimes contradicting each other. Unlike in his classic, Shoah (1985) – in which he deliberately eliminated any archival footage – here, long and detailed visual records are part of a ‘new Shoah’."

-- Richard Porton, "Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark": "Why is it so difficult for many commentators, particularly other film critics, to discuss Kael in a nuanced fashion? Why do her acolytes swoon over her – mentioning occasional misgivings with the greatest reluctance – while her adversaries dismiss her as little more than a petulant, overrated hack?"

-- David Davidson, "Two Ways of Looking: The Cahiers/Positif Dialectic": "[Stéphane] Delorme distinguishes between naturalism, realism and formalism in Bazin’s thought. According to Delorme, realism presents itself as an anti-formalism (since formalism looks only at itself) and against naturalism (a poverty of realism that lacks imagination). Delorme also highlights how, for Bazin, realism has more to do with events then action, and that there is a privilege towards ‘facts’, which are the image’s visual details."

-- William D. Routt, "Anime Listening Drawing": "I am sorry to be using ‘universe’, an even bigger word than ‘world’ ... to suggest points of difference between what this essay is about and what ‘world cinema’ is about. It sounds as though I am claiming anime is more than world cinema, when all I am suggesting is that world cinema is less than anime. World cinema is Only One Thing, whereas anime universe is just one of an infinite number of universes dotting resonant strings."

* * *

Recent reads:

-- The latest entry in Film Studies for Free's invaluable series "Study of a Single Film" is on Godard's Alphaville (1965).

-- A collection of posts titled "3D in the 21st Century" at MUBI, a critical supplement to BAMcinématek's retrospective of the same title. Writers include Zach Campbell, Blake Williams, Danny Kasman and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.

-- Jonathan Rosenbaum on Jerry Lewis: "The Lewis Contradiction". Also, Kevin B. Lee's post, "Rosenbaum on Welles at 100".

-- Adrian Martin at Filmkrant: "There is no film genre that arouses generational differences more than horror. Each generation assumes that their taste in horror is wider and better than the preceding generation's taste — and furthermore, that the taste of the subsequent generation of fans has become degenerate and decadent."

-- Catherine Grant has put up a great post in memory of the recently deceased film scholar Sam Rohdie. Included are recollections by Adrian, Lesley Stern, William D. Routt, Deane Williams.

-- Very happy to see that my friend Dan Sallitt will be the subject of a film series at George Eastman House in June. They will screen his three feature films plus a handful he chose: Eric Rohmer's My Night at Maud's, Anthony Mann's Men in War, and Paul Negoescu's A Month in Thailand. Dan will appear in person to introduce The Unspeakable Act, his most recent feature, on June 12. Here is a good interview with him, at BAM blog.

-- Nick Pinkerton interviews Larry Clark: part one; and part two. More Pinkerton interviews: James B. Harris; and George Armitage.

-- "Nadja à Paris," an essay co-written by Nadja Tesich (lead actor of Eric Rohmer's 1964 short film of the same title) and Lucy McKeon. More on Nadja Tesich here (via David Hudson).

-- Kevin B. Lee on "what the best video essays do."

-- "Techniques of the Observer": a conversation between Hito Steyerl and Laura Poitras at Artforum.

-- The new issue of Journal of the Moving Image, published at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, is now online. It has articles by Gertrud Koch, Thomas Elsaesser, Meaghan Morris, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and Manas Ray.

-- The latest issue of the journal Theory & Event (open-access) is devoted to Lars von Trier.

-- The new, television issue of cléo.

-- Nicholas Rombes has written a novel ("The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing") that is getting strong reviews.

-- Jill Dolan, "The Feminist Spectator as Agitator". Via Catherine Grant.

-- Jeet Heer: "The Aesthetic Failure of 'Charlie Hebdo'".

-- At Diagonal Thoughts, an interview with Pedro Costa titled "In Remembrance of Shadows Forgotten".

-- "Living with Contingency": Quintín on Martin Rejtman in the new Film Comment.

-- New cinema website discovery: Sabzian, run by a group of Belgian cinephiles, in Dutch, English and French.

-- I'm enjoying reading McKenzie Wark's new book, "Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene". Here is a brief but interesting speech ("The Civilization is Over. And Everybody Knows It.") that Wark gave at the book launch. And here is a reader [pdf] that is meant to accompany the book.

-- A valuable resource: "A Baltimore Syllabus," a collection of articles and videos to help us make sense of and raise consciousness about the situation in Baltimore.

-- Agata Pyzik in n+1: "In Praise of Vulgar Feminism: On Kim Gordon and Courtney Love".

-- A lovely interview with the poet Charles Simic about being a "noticer" of the everyday.

-- Nicole Aschoff: "Oprah is appealing precisely because her stories hide the role of political, economic, and social structures. In doing so, they make the American Dream seem attainable. If we just fix ourselves, we can achieve our goals."

pic: Easy Rider (James Benning, 2012)


Blogger Filmbrain said...

Hello Girish!

Looooooong time no speak! A quick comment and a question. First off, wanted to thank you and Adrain for LOLA. Each issue has been a great read, and I can't wait to dive into this latest one.

My question is this -- is there a way to get an entire issue as a single file? I read mostly on my ebook these days, and though I've used Pocket to great success, it would be great if the entire issue could be downloaded as an ebook.

Hope all is well with you. I'm still in Germany, now working as a film producer, currently working on an international feature doc about psychiatric drugs and the pharmaceutical industry.

Hope our paths cross again some day...


May 11, 2015 12:10 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Great to hear from you, Andrew!

Your idea is a new one: we hadn't thought of this before! I look forward to discussing it with Adrian and our webmaster, Bill Mousoulis. Thanks for suggesting it!

The topic of your new documentary is fascinating and timely: best wishes with the project!

Hope to see you in person--perhaps at a film festival?--before too long!

May 11, 2015 12:29 PM  
Blogger nicholas rombes said...

Hi Girish--

Thanks for the shout out about the novel! I enjoy and learn from LOLA, and use it to great effect in my classes.


May 12, 2015 4:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi Nick!

I wish you great success with the novel! It sounds great; and I've already sent away for it.

Hope you've been well.

May 12, 2015 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

A bit late on this, but I've come across to new (for me) alternatives to cinephile - cinephage and paracinephiles in the book Spanish Horror Film by Antonio Lazaro-Reboll. Some excerpts - (Jeffrey) Sconce emphasizes the role that paracinephiles play in their opposition to film theory and criticism within academia, for they introduce 'a dispute over how to approach cinema as much as a conflict over what cinema to approach; more broadly, their opposition indicates that the differing reading strategies of fans and critics serve to expose and challenge the limits of film theory and historiography.
Also, quoting Spanish film journalist Pedro Calleja: All cinephages have a cinephile inside, but not all cinephiles have a cinephage inside. . . . A cinephage is a cinephile without prejudices. Somebody, as filmmaker John Waters once put it, with an exquisite bad taste.

May 20, 2015 10:30 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Peter: I am curious to read this book!

I've read the Sconce essay (it's called "Trashing the Academy"--and it's very interesting).

From what I know, the "cinephage" is one who consumes all cinema--indiscriminately. But I don't know if Calleja's example of John Waters is the best one here: Waters has admirably broad taste, yes, but I also think of his "exquisite" taste as being quite knowing and discriminating, even if it is so in a way that is generally iconoclastic or counter-hegemonic. (Like, for example, sometimes going against the art-cinema-heavy taste of the festival-attending cinephile.) I don't see Waters as a "cinephage"--just as a carefully self-styled cinephile with a distinct and unique sensibility.

Melissa Anderson (who writes for Artforum and Village Voice) has a piece here in which she discusses the "cinephage".

Thanks again for tipping me off to this book, Peter!

May 21, 2015 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I read Anderson's piece. I think some of the arguments go back to Andrew Sarris, if not further back, in his overview of the auteur theory, mentioning Baby Face Nelson and Psycho. One of the interesting developments for myself is that I have been receiving unsolicited DVDs for review from some of the smaller companies and finding some interesting discoveries. Sometimes, the high point of writing about film is to write about a film you might never have thought of seeing. Also, it seems to be my inclination to travel into less travelled cinematic paths.

May 21, 2015 11:02 AM  
Blogger girish said...

"Sometimes, the high point of writing about film is to write about a film you might never have thought of seeing."

True, Peter! One downside of my "reading addiction" (both criticism of contemporary films thanks to social media and scholar/critic writing on older movies) is that I *rarely* see a movie about which I haven't read at least something in advance. I long to see more movies about which I don't know a darned thing going in ... I think this would be a healthy (even if apparently "risky") practice for a cinephile to cultivate ...

May 21, 2015 11:07 AM  

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