Sounding All the Alarms

Nadine Nortier in Robert Bresson’s Mouchette (1967)

Introducing the essays that make up the new issue of photogénie, one of three recent publications that seem to have been edited as alarms were sounding, Michaël Van Remoortere points out that all five of them take on “a particular kind of existential experience; growing up in a world you were thrown into without a choice.” In his own piece, he examines the “myth of freedom by dialectically opposing” the protagonists of two films by Robert Bresson, the young teen in Mouchette (1967) the drifter Charles in The Devil, Probably (1977).

Tijana Perović, who interviews Lynne Sachs for Ultra Dogme, writes about Sachs’s The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts (1991), a film “filled with precisely focused meditative anger.” Maximilien Luc Proctor observes that Gregory Markopoulos’s Christmas U.S.A. (1949), Stan Brakhage’s Desistfilm (1954), and Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s En rachâchant (1982) all “highlight the isolation inherent to being a younger person temporarily stuck in an adult world.” In her 2009 retelling of the fairy tale Bluebeard, Catherine Breillat uses an “analytical and stylistically polyamorous approach to blend this ancient and enduring mode with her other influences and depict the transition between childhood and adolescence,” writes Ruairí McCann. And in the first half of a two-part essay on Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge, a series of nine films broadcast by the European culture channel ARTE in 1994, Tobias Burms and Joseph Pomp write about the contributions from André Téchiné, Claire Denis, Chantal Akerman, and Olivier Assayas.

The pileup of current crises—the pandemic, resurgent authoritarianism, the growing chasm of economic inequality, climate change spiraling out of control—is front and center in the latest special issue of Comparative Cinema. Gathering essays on Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2014), Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014), and Xu Bing’s Dragonfly Eyes (2017) as well as the television series Black Mirror, Humans, Westworld, and The Handmaid’s Tale, editors Camil Ungureanu, Sonia Arribas, and Rebecca Anne Peters raise such questions as “what forms of narrative and representation are used today in cinema and television to account for the present crisis of techno-capitalism? How do technological developments shape (human) relations? How are current myths (apocalyptic, salvationist, etc.) interpreted and constructed through film, and what is the role of techno-scientific narratives? How do technological developments shape the use of power in contemporary societies?”

And finally for now, an appropriately quick note on “Short Attention Span Criticism,” a collection of pieces by members of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. SCMS+ is not a journal per se but an “experimental initiative,” a “curated digital space” that allows contributors to air their immediate concerns—here on the relationship between media and the pandemic—without shifting into full-on academic mode. “Their variously historical, social, technological, and aesthetic approaches help us see this global crisis in a new light,” write editors Cara Dickason, Rebecca Gordon, and Pamela Robertson Wojcik.

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