In the new issue of Film Quarterly, editor B. Ruby Rich argues that cinema and television “are lagging behind those offscreen realities known as world events or, in online parlance, IRW (In Real World). And yes, this is a film journal, so let that be my point. Where are the films? The television programs? Many are worthy, some are brilliant, but too many are beside the point. This is not a time for business as usual but rather a time of urgency that demands retooled rhetorics and rethought story lines, that demands films and documentaries and episodic television to help viewers make the imaginative leap into a different future, one that can be fought for precisely because it can be imagined.”
The Winter 2017 issue features a dossier, “Dimensions in Black: Perspectives on Black Film and Media,” most of which isn’t online. But the introduction by Racquel Gates and Michael Boyce Gillespie is, and they point out that the dossier “is devoted to new directions, not dead ends. Mere recognition (Academy attention, film festival prestige, box office success, television ratings) has not and cannot fully account for the significance of a film—or the film’s consequential relationship to the larger questions of aesthetics, culture, and history that always already shadow the idea of black film. An Oscar win does not signify that a film beat the system, but rather, that it succeeded within that system. Such success does not preclude the very real disruptive pleasures and politics of films that do win institutional prestige and accolades, but it suggests that such prestige and awards should never be taken strictly as signs of ‘progress.’”
Also online from the dossier is Kristen J. Warner’s essay, “In the Time of Plastic Representation,” in which she asks, “What marks a representation as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’? . . . Let me be clear: while I do not share the popular expectation for mediated imagery to matter, its overdetermining of black images as the marker of societal progress or regression makes any image acceptable on its face, obliterating context and sidelining any consideration of depth. Thus have images in the era of representation matters become hollowed, malleable signs with artificial origins. Their artificiality connects to a condition that could be termed ‘plastic representation.’ . . . Plastic is an ever-shifting artificial material whose purpose is shaped by its essence. There is no great depth in plastic, nor is there anything organic.”
Regina Longo talks with Tessa Dwyer about her book, Speaking in Subtitles: Revaluing Screen Translation: “The fact that screen media can and always have traveled across multiple borders (national, regional, inter-generational, etc.) forces the issue of language. Yet too often the supposed primacy of the visual is invoked, presenting a sort of visual Esperanto to suggest cinema is beyond translation, with the purity of the visual speaking universally, over and above the local, in a way that language never can. I think this is a misnomer.”
More New Issues
“In Issue 13 of The Cine-Files, we turn our attention once again to teaching,” write co-editors Tracy Cox-Stanton and Kristi McKim. “The short essays featured here, while candid and informal, nevertheless convey great depth of understanding and attention to the specific materials of a film (the cinematography, performances, uses of editing, etc.), the ideas those materials embody, and the way those materials and ideas work together to impact and enrich an audience.” The dossier at a glance:
- Joshua Glick on King Vidor’s The Crowd (1928)
- Liz Greene on David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980)
- Matthew Bernstein on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954)
- Maria Pramaggiore on Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman (1996)
- Caufield Schnug on Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)
- Christian Keathley on Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
- Davina Quinlivan on Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Innocence (2004)
- Maggie Hennefeld on Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be (1942)
- Patricia White on Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)
- Steve Spence on Matthieu Kassovitz’s La haine (1995)
- Tyler Schroeder on Germany in Autumn, the 1978 omnibus film with contributions from, among others, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Edgar Reitz and Volker Schlöndorff
- Virginia Bonner on Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames (1983)
“From the early days of film studies, costumes have been analyzed as an important element of the mise-en-scène and stardom, as they help shape identities and define subjectivities, crafting the stars,” write the editors of NECSUS. “There is no question that costumes help create meaning, no less today than in the heyday of classical cinema.” #Dress is a special section in the Autumn 2017 issue, setting the mood, inadvertently or not, for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.
Also, along with Julian Hanich’s interview with Vivian Sobchack, “one of the most influential American film theorists of the last twenty-five years,” and essays on Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (2013), Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015), and Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012), there are reviews of festivals, exhibitions, and books and a section on audiovisual essays guest edited by Volker Pantenburg.
“In each issue of Peephole Journal, we ask contributors to pick one shot from a film, TV series or other form of screen media and write 1,000 words about it,” note editors Whitney Monaghan, Belinda Glynn and Kate Warren. “For this issue, we asked for essays on animation, which is a difficult topic because many animations don't actually have shots.” Here we find Angus Attwood on Travis Knight’s Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), Ellen Muller on The Simpsons, and more.
There’s a new, thick issue of Participations, the Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, including this from Ashton Toone, Amanda Nell Edgar, and Kelly Ford: “Based on interviews with thirty-five audience members, this essay argues that audiences used Beyoncé’s hour-long visual album, Lemonade, as a Two-Way Mirror to understand racial and gendered identities through the lenses of social movements, identity politics, and relationality.”
From the Archives
Movie City News flags two articles that American Cinematographer has posted from its archives, both from the January 1983 issue and both focusing on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). The conversation with Steven Spielberg is an extensive exploration of his process of collaborating not only with cinematographers Allen Daviau—profiled by Lloyd Kent—and special effects supervisor Dennis Muren but also with just about everyone on set. “We had so many first-timers on E.T.,” says Spielberg. “We had a majority of women working key positions on the crew and in administrating, from Melissa Mathison, who wrote the script, to Kathy Kennedy, who co-produced it with me, to Katy Emde, who was the first assistant director, to Deborah Scott, who did the costumes—there were so many women in positions often, in the past, filled by men. It felt very womb-like going to the set every day.”
At JSTOR Daily, Peter Feuerherd introduces two essays from the archives, Larry Ceplair’s “The Film Industry's Battle against Left-Wing Influences, from the Russian Revolution to the Blacklist,” which ran in Film History in 2008, and Jon Lewis’s “‘We Do Not Ask You to Condone This’: How the Blacklist Saved Hollywood” from the Winter 2000 issue of Cinema Journal.
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