Sunday, April 26, 2009

Group #8

In Elsaesser’s essay regarding double occupancy, he says that double occupancy “wants to be the intermediate terms between cultural identity and cultural diversity, recalling that there is indeed a stake: politics and power, subjectivity and faith, recognition and rejection, that is, conflict, contest” (Elsaesser 110). How do you think these concepts, as well as the theme of homogenization that Elsaesser discusses in his essay, are reflected in the post-national films we watched this week? Are these ideas portrayed in a positive or negative light, and what does that in turn contribute to the film?

In “The Edge of Heaven” the tensions between nations in the European Union and nations not in the European Union is brought to light in the relationship between Lotte’s mother and Ayten. How does the film portray these tensions, and what solution or situation does it offer up? How does this relate to Elsaesser’s arguments about the European Union and its effect on the film industry and director’s motives?

In Elsaesser’s essay “ImpersoNations”, he discusses the concept of “self-othering” and self-reflexive irony that becomes apparent in post-national cinema and multinational culture. To what extent does “Irma Vep” feature these processes, taking into account the bizarre final sequence, and the relationships between Maggie and filmmakers? Do you think this act of self-reflection and self-mockery is unique to this genre, or is it found in other types of cinema?

How does post-national European cinema deviate from such genres as American Independent cinema (specifically “Do The Right Thing”, which features many similar concepts to European double-occupancy), third cinema, or counter-cinema? In response to section discussions last week, what do we do with all these genres, and what information does categorization into genres give the viewer? What is the benefit in creating a genre and how does it affect the course of cinema in history?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Group Post #7 --- Mike, Leslie, Bryan

The avant-garde, as suggested by its name, is a type of cinema that is always pushing ahead of established boundaries. Despite this, the description “avant-garde” continually refers to a set of, what some might say, easily identifiable films. What do you make of the decision to continue grouping films under this heading, even though they have come out over a span of eight decades, under the influence of many different artistic movements? Further, what does Peter Wollen’s attempt to divide the avant-garde into (only) two additional categories say about the film theory approach to avant-garde cinema?

In the Murray Smith article, David James’ view of the avant-garde is cited as a typical one, wherein it is a “‘reactive’ or ‘critical’ phenomenon, continually challenging and undermining both the established values of mainstream society and the norms of orthodox aesthetic practice.” If that, the avant-garde, is second cinema, and Hollywood-style is first cinema, then how does Third cinema fit into the categorization scheme, especially in terms of Apparatuses 1 and 2? How is this affected by, as Smith says, the fact that “The concept of the avant-garde is intimately related to those of modernity and modernism?”

Penley and Bergstrom’s article discusses the implications of viewing avant-garde cinema as the attempt at an exploration of consciousness. Specifically in terms of the films we saw last week, how does this interpretation play out? Keeping that in mind, are the rather unattractive elements of those films (the eye slicing, the sheer duration of Beauty No. 2, etc.) particularly reminiscent of Wollen’s virtues of counter-cinema in his earlier article? How does Catherine Russell’s “ethnographic impulse” differ from or change the way we understand films in relation to the “exploration of consciousness” model?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Group Post #6: Adam, Matt

Hamid Naficy discusses the interstitial mode of production. Where does this stand in relation to other modes of production? How does the interstitial mode of production manifest itself in the style and content of its films? Filmmakers working in this mode faced some of the same challenges that independent filmmakers in the United States faced in the late 1980s and 1990s. In what ways are emergent national cinemas similar or dissimilar to the independent film movement?

The films we watched from emerging national cinemas tended to have simple or minimal narratives. Many of the characters and places can be seen as allegories for larger concepts. To what extent are the filmmakers of these movements more concerned with portraying general situations that their people went through, as opposed to telling a specific story about specific characters? Much of the content in the films coming out of emergent cinemas is subversive. Do these cinemas, like Godard’s counter-cinema, also subvert mainstream techniques?

In the article entitled “The National”, Paul Willemen argues that by isolating individual cultures within a certain area through “multicultural” tendencies, “the host culture conspires with the conservative upholders of an imagined ‘ethnicity’ to draw lines around those ‘other’ cultural practices, ghettoizing them.” Is this the case within Sembene’s The Camp at Thiaroye? Or does this film represent a break from this position of otherness? Is the film solely defined by its relation to French colonialism? Does the fact that this film was produced by three separate nations (Senegal, Algeria, and Tunisia) all under French rule continue to ghettoize these peoples as cultural others or is there a collective strength represented here against colonialism in this collaboration?

In Rey Chow’ article, Fredric Jameson is quoted as writing that, “all third world texts are necessarily to be read as national allegories.” Does this hold true in terms of the films that we watched this week? In what way can these films be read as national allegories? Is it possible for these films to be interpreted in other ways outside of this scope? Is it possible for any “third world cinema” to be understood as simply a film within itself as opposed to having some deeper national connection? Why aren’t western films to be seen as national allegories?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Group #5: Alex, Daniela, Coral

In “Independent Features: Hopes and Dreams”, Chuck Kleinhans talks about the aspirations of young filmmakers and the positive and negative aspects of independent cinema. How has the industry changed since 1995 (when the essay was written), and how have some of the issues he discussed changed? Do you think getting into independent cinema now is easier than it was then with the growing accessibility of digital equipment and the technological advancement of similar technology? How is the idea of being able to distribute films digitally and bypass (very expensive) film copying of movies? Do you think greater competition in independent cinema will be good or bad? Will it lead to greater experimentation, or perhaps bog down the industry with too many amateur films (possibly making independent cinema and un-navigable sea for studios)?

Are independent films becoming viewed by studios more in terms of their commercial potential (being able to make a lot of money on a small budget) by distributing studios rather than their artistic merit? Was independent cinema in the ealy 90’s/late 80’s more aware of cultural issues (as the four films we watched all are), compared to recent independent successes like Little Miss Sunshine, which is a more straightforward (albeit enjoyable) comedy? With films like this finding their way to Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, how have attitudes changed towards independent cinema?

 In Thursday’s section, we discussed the opening credit sequence to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. The sequence is unconventional in that it is tied to the rest of film not so much in terms of plot, but rather in terms of tone and style. In what ways does Lee manifest some the film’s themes/tone/style (one being confrontation) in the sequence, and how does it prepare the audience for the rest of the film? What effect does Lee’s use of a colorful/childish font for the credits have?

In Geoff Andrew’s essay on Todd Haynes and Amy Taubin’s on Gus Van Sant, the issue is brought up of these homosexual directors not wanting to fall into the “ghetto” of homosexual cinema, and not having their worked viewed in relation their sexual orientation. In the films we have seen by them, do they make an effort to objectively separate their films from their sexuality, and if so, how do they do this? To what extent does an audience’s knowledge/reception of a director’s sexual orientation influence their perception of a film (perhaps comparing these films to Brokeback Mountain, a “gay” film made by Ang Lee, a heterosexual director)?

When considering the film “sex, lies and videotapes”, what do you think is more important when categorizing it as an independent film: the industry part of it, since it was made on a low budget and had more freedom in the creative process? Or would you consider certain parts of the cinematography or just film creation in general containing parts of the “independent aesthetic”? Many people consider this aesthetic to be what is “edgy,” so are there parts of this film that fit into this description? sex, lies and videotapes is known for being influential, what do you think is influential about it, and are there movies that seem to be directly influenced by this film?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Your films and artwork

Hi everyone,

Several of you in section have mentioned to me that you are aspiring filmmakers, and that you have made films in the past, or are currently working on a film project that you'd be interested in sharing with the class.

If there is interest among the others, we could schedule some time when we could get together and watch these as a group... I'd certainly love to see your stuff, film or other artwork, whether complete or in-progress, and maybe the makers would be interested in getting feedback from the rest of the group? Either way I think it would be fun to see what everyone is working on.

Do write back...I am free after our section ends on Thursdays, so if that time works for the rest of you, we could stay after section on one of the upcoming Thursdays and pool together for pizza.


Group Post #4 - Nik, Sam, and Michela

Contempt is a movie with a dynamic sexuality, and a movie with a strong inclination to narcissistic display. Do you agree that the scene with Camille and Paul celebrates desirability by utilizing the "visual dimensions" that Bersani and Dutoit discuss in their article "Forming Couples: Godard's Contempt"? Does the fact that Camille's whole body never occupies the screen disrupt the classical cinema's conventions about female sexuality? If not, what effect does this use of negative space create with respect to the sexuality in the film?

In their article "Moving Pictures," Silverman and Farocki discuss the concept of "high art" in the recreation of Rembrandt's Nightwatch as interpreted by Jerzy in his film-within-a-film. How does this painting translate into "filmic terms," and do you agree with Silverman when he says that the mobile camera "releases figures from their frozen poses" and thus invades the high art? In addition, how does the purity of the art that Jerzy is recreating contrast with the raw sexual passion inherent in the lives of the actors and filmmakers (and mainly Jerzy) off set? On a different note, what did you think about the way Godard purposefully offset the diegetic sound of conversations and the visuals of people speaking, creating a disunity between auditory and visual and disorienting the viewer?

In "The Gaze and the Limit", Restivo asserts that L'Eclisse "posits a gaze that exists on the 'far side' of the visual field presented." How does this change the way we perceive the film as a whole, and specifically the relationship between Piero and Vittoria? He also asserts that the "eruption of the gaze is in some way related to the disruptions of stable subject positions within the world" of the film. How does this translate to the diegetic portion of the film (such as when Piero and Vittoria make out in the brokerage) and the final sequence of the film, in which the diegetic structure and focus of the gaze are completely disrupted through the disappearence of the film characters? How does this figure in with our definitions of "traumatic" and "sublime"?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Group #3 - Stephen, Adam, Will

This past week we studied documentaries, and their relationships, similarities, and differences to other film forms. Here are a few questions we came up with to help you think more about this subject:

What makes a film a documentary?

How and why does a documentary rely on conceptions of "reality," and how do they achieve this status?

What point is Kiarostami trying to make at the end of Close-Up with the whole "bad sound" scene (as they're trying to record Makhmalbaf and Sabzian)? Does this heighten the reality of the scene? Is it just an artistic show? Also, what effect does the music later in the scene add?

What does Dabashi mean when he says that "Kiarostami has opened the way to radical dismantling of the structural violence of 'meaning,' upon which is predicated such metaphysical surrogates as 'history,' "tradition,' 'identity,' and 'piety.'" (67) Do you agree with this statement? If so, how does Close-Up achieve this?

What does it mean when actors play themselves in a film? Does it make it more "real" or believable? Are they still even acting, or recreating?

In relation to The Thin Blue Line, do the stylized "recreations" cheapen the source material and factualness of the film, or do they help add to it? How also do the interviews affect us the viewer and the film at large?

What is the obsession with epistephilia that documentaries have? Does this differ from narrative films?

Is it truly impossible for a documentary (or any film) to show the objective truth and appeal to authenticity?

Does the fact that most of Battle of Algiers is obviously staged and made within the realm of classical film style impede its appeal to authenticity and realism, even though most of the sets used were authentic and many of the actors were actual participants in the revolution? Is this any more or less true than with Close-Up or The Thin Blue Line?

What does Nichols mean when he says that “Something is at stake. Namely, our very subjectivity within the social arena.” (194) Why do documentaries have this effect? How does this differ, or does it, from narrative film?