Sunday, June 30, 2013

Yes (UK: Sally Potter, 2004)

Yes (UK: Sally Potter, 2004: 100 mins)

"Angelism and Rage: Sally Potter Links." Film Studies for Free (September 21, 2009)

Mayer, Sophie. "The Films of Sally Potter." Electric Sheep Magazine (October 1, 2009)

McKim, Kristi. "Great Directors: Sally Potter." Senses of Cinema #40 (July 2006)

Oppenheimer, Jean. "Production Slate: Yes - A Cross Cultural Romance." American Cinematographer (July 2005)

"Please go in two by two! Sally Potter's Fabulous Ark." Film Studies for Free (November 4, 2008)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Critical Strands: On the Beach with Ulrich Seidl and Martin Parr

Critical Strands: On the Beach with Ulrich Seidl and Martin Parr
by retinalechoes

Some films you watch. Others you live. In Ulrich Seidl's films you suffer. You suffer and laugh, and laugh and suffer, until tears pour from your eyes, until out from laughter arises guilt. Guilt for having suffered. Guilt for having laughed. And only then, when you emerge from the guilt, wipe the film from your eyes, do you realize that the naïve 200-pound quinquagenarian Austrian sex-tourist on holiday in Kenya is none other then yourself, if not your sister or perhaps mother. Only then does the comfort of guilt morph into the vexation of shame as you understand that the buffoon you saw on the screen was wearing what turned out to be your face for a mask.

But don’t say you weren’t forewarned. The ballsy and shameless opening scene of Paradise: Love, should have given notice enough. After all, away from the scrutinizing eyes of society it becomes too easy to indulge in the visual pleasure of watching warped grimaces twisting in glee and shock across the faces of the spasmodic, the abnormal, the mongoloid. Hidden behind the comfort of our screen (for it is always our screen, and never just yours or mine) it becomes all too simple to relish images of the rejected visages of the mentally retarded contorting themselves in farcical masks as their bumper cars smash into each other, watching Teresa, our fat Austrian heroine, watch them. Our white-winged socially-implanted moral warden hanging over our right shoulder like a wee angel warns us against laughter, but in the liberty and obscurity of the cinematic chamber, we let loose with a laughter poised on the razor's edge between discomfort and hilarity. Paradise: Love’s opening scene is a warning, a provocation, a contract of the film to come, and it reads: “I will force you to laugh at things not only which you do not want to laugh at, but which you know you should not.” But laugh we do, and in so doing become accomplices to the film. Seidl’s humor is not the innocent cathartic guffaw of slapstick, nor the healing chortle of satire. It is a blow aimed to crack open a chink in the armor of our self-righteousness to make way for the stiletto of shame to slide in more easily.

By naming our tender, pale, gullible heroine Teresa after the famed Mother Superior of Christian fame, Seidl sticks a knife in the back of the charitable West’s self-congratulatory sentiments for the aid it provides the (usually somewhat darker-skinned) third-world. (Do we hear the rational arguments of capitalist economics buzzing in the background? Business for the locals? Improvements to infrastructure? Exchange of goods?) The tourist, a missionary of modernity, never meets the third-world inhabitants on equal terms, never enters their world, but rather travels to other lands with the goal of extracting as many resources as possible, be it gold, souls or sex. The images of Teresa’s travels to this land of alterity in Paradise: Love are no reflections of a “mirror being carried along a high road,” but rather visions which barely pierce the thick and muggy waters of the aquarium in which her head is enclosed: Omnia mea mecum porto - when the European travels she takes her whole world with her wrapped around her head, aquarium, water and fish too. Teresa’s ‘omnia’, the civilized rectangular glassed cage is exemplified by the space of the European room (and the cinematic frame?). As Teresa prepares for her trip, she appears in one chamber after another in her Austrian apartment, preparing food, folding laundry, packing bags and the rectangle in which she moves is the one the camera will bring with her (and us) on holiday to Kenya, with its centralized perspective and weight, and its ordered compositions, signs of the European’s efficiency and rationality.

But no matter, for the tourist’s mission is not to see unseen landscapes but rather to ignore the distinctiveness of the travel destination so as to better wrench maximum ‘fun’ from the exotic (what else would make tourism the largest industry worldwide?). So, even when Teresa and her Austrian compatriots travel thousands of kilometers to reach a new panorama, the only landscape they can perceive is the one they brought with them, with its ordered lines, sparkling clean toilet bowls, and secure walled-off pleasures.

To Read the Rest

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jessica Lenten: Phenomenology and the Films of Andrea Arnold

Phenomenology and the films of Andrea Arnold
by Jessica Lenten

Amongst the varied line-up at Looking In Looking Out festival, the event that excited me most was a talk by Sophie Mayer and Dr. Lucy Bolton on the phenomenological impact of Andrea Arnold’s films. As the programme put it, they sought to analyse “how the raw and intense interactions her films stage between human and animal, between human, landscape and weather, and between the viewers’ and characters’ sensory perceptions turn our experience of cinema inside out.” This talk appealed to me so much because my own discovery of a phenomenological approach to cinema has very much turned my relationship with film ‘inside out’. Phenomenology is a largely derived from the work of French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty and brought into contact with film by film theorists such as Vivian Sobchack and Laura U. Marks. Merleau-Ponty (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception) theorised that perception is a whole body experience: “My body is the fabric into which all objects are woven, and it is, at least in relation to the perceived world, the general instrument of my comprehension.” Extending this concept to film, theorists like Sobchack and Marks argue that the relationship a viewer has to a piece of cinema is responsive and embodied. As Marks puts it: “film signifies through its materiality, through a contact between perceiver and perceived.”

Though Mayer and Bolton did not engage directly with the works of these theorists, their discussion was fascinating. Bolton asserted that phenomenology is the concept that our experiences of the world are bound to our bodies. She stressed that the physicality of ‘being in the world’ is crucial to our understanding of the world and is central to an experience of one of Andrea Arnold’s films. She opened by quoting Arnold’s comment to The Guardian in October last year: “My films don’t give you an easy ride. I can see that. The sense I get is that people have quite a physical experience with them. They feel afterwards that they’ve really been through something.” From here, Bolton and Mayer proceeded to analyse Arnold’s images and their affective impact.

Mayer delved into the structures of power that are created and depicted in Arnold’s films, the way binaries of class, race, gender, culture and nature are both utilised and problematized. Her feminist perspective and discussion of filmmaking ethics was refreshing and enlightening. But I want to focus specifically on the phenomenological film analysis offered by Lucy Bolton and then to also offer some of my own.

Bolton focused specifically on Arnold’s 2009 feature Fish Tank, talking persuasively about the visceral impact of the film, with a particular emphasis on the creation of the main character Mia (Katie Jarvis). Bolton presented the idea that for the duration of the film we are simply ‘spending time with Mia’. She elaborated:

This approach is really a phenomenological one, by this I mean that [the film is] attempting to articulate how Mia lives her life, or lives out her positioning in social, familial, societal structures and to look at the opportunities and the constraints that she faces. This phenomenological approach is the idea of physical bodies acting or experiencing specific social and cultural contexts; being bodies in situations. The term for this is the ‘lived body’.

Bolton analysed the opening scenes of the film, what they tell us about Mia and, most importantly, how a sense of her lived experience is created and presented to the viewer. As she walks with “determined aggressive footsteps” (Bolton) the camera creates her energy, shares her energy and lets the film viewer absorb that energy. Bolton argued that though we might not have a psychological or moral engagement with Mia, we are thrust into her embodied world, forced to share it. We do not just observe Mia’s life, to some extent we experience it.

Bolton was particularly interested in the relationship between Mia and Connor (Michael Fassbender) and used a clip of an ambiguously physical scene between them, when Connor carries Mia on his back. This moment struck me as particularly taciturn for the viewer; as Mia jumps onto Connor’s back the film slows ever so slightly, their physical proximity is emphasised by a tight framing and the sound of their breathing is exaggerated on the soundtrack. All of these formal choices draw the viewer closer to the image and into an almost physical engagement with the bodies on-screen. This scene also recalls some scenes in Wuthering Heights (2011), (or visa versa) which I will return to later. Many of the elements that Bolton observed about the structure and the form of Fish Tank are also evident in Wuthering Heights. For instance both films play frequent attention to small animals and other superfluous ‘natural’ elements in close up – from a hamster in Fish Tank to a bird skeleton in Wuthering Heights. These inserts texture the films with little bodies, less complicated lived experiences, and images of death which create a patchwork of the life around us in ordinary situations. Bolton’s analysis was extremely engaging, but I would have liked to hear more from her about the body of the viewer. After all, though Mia’s specific body was inhabited and performed by Jarvis and captured on film, in some senses it doesn’t exist. But my body – and those of the viewers who sat around me watching clips of Fish Tank at Conway Hall, and who sat around me in the cinema watching Wuthering Heights – very much exist. I am interested in what these films might have meant, or might have felt like, for those bodies. So following on from where Bolton left off at LiLo festival, I want to examine some of this sense of embodiment in Arnold’s Wuthering Heights.

To Read the Rest

American Cinematographer Podcast: Cinematographers John Tolll and Frank Griebe on Cloud Atlas

Cinematographers John Tolll, ASC and Frank Griebe: Cloud Atlas
American Cinematographer Podcast

American Cinematographer's Iain Stasukevich speaks with cinematographers John Toll, ASC and Frank Griebe about the Wachowski sibling's feature, Cloud Atlas; and how they collaborated on the project, from establishing the look of the film, to managing a tight and complicated production schedule, as well as staying abreast of each other's work while shooting with two directing teams in a multinational shoot.

To Listen to the MP3

The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (United Kingdom: Adam Curtis, 2004)

The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (United Kingdom: Adam Curtis, 2004: 180 mins)

"Adam Curtis (Filmmaker/Journalist)." Dialogic (Ongoing archive of resources: November 27, 2012)

Atkinson, Michael. "Archival Trouble: The fiction-free science fiction of Adam Curtis." Moving Image Source (February 16, 2012)

Ball, Norman. "The Power of Auteurs and the Last Man Standing: Adam Curtis' Documentary Nightmares." Bright Lights Film Journal #78 (November 2012)

Hoberman, J. "The Phantom Menace: Unclear and present danger -- Three-part polemic constructs novel narrative of neo-con game." The Village Voice (November 29, 2005)

To Watch The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear online

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Passion of the Christ (USA: Mel Gibson, 2004)

The Passion of the Christ (USA: Mel Gibson, 2004: 127 mins)

Aslan, Reza. "Zealot." Radio West (October 18, 2013)

Deacy, Chris. "A Time to Kill?: Theological Perspectives on Violence and Film." Theology and Film: Challenging the Sacred/Secular Divide. ed. Christopher Deacy & Gaye Williams Oritz. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008: 123-142. [Professor has copy]

Hauka, David. "'Christ That Hurts': Rewriting the Jesus Narrative -- Violence and the Language of Action Cinema in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ Cinephile #2 (March 2006)

Phillips, Kendall R. "Religion: Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ." Controversial Cinema: The Films That Outraged America. Westport, CT: Preager, 2008: 127-152.[in BCTC Library PN1995,9 S284P452008}

Koresky, Michael. "Consider the Source: The Passion of the Christ." Reverse Shot (Spring 2004)

Reichert, Jeff. Jesus Christ: Superman (or Every Man for Himself and Armond Against All)>" Reverse Shot (Spring 2004)

Walsh, David. "Why has The Passion of the Christ evoked such a popular response in America?" World Socialist Web Site (March 5, 2004)

Walter, Brian. "Love In The Time of Calvary: Romance and Family Values in Crucifixion Films." Cineaction #88 (2012)

Moolaadé (Senegal/France/Burkina Faso/Cameroon/Morocco/Tunisia: Ousmane Sembene, 2004)

Moolaadé (Senegal/France/Burkina Faso/Cameroon/Morocco/Tunisia: Ousmane Sembene, 2004: 124 mins)

Bartlet, Olivier. "Adventures and Misadventures of African Cinema." Cinemas of the South (2006)

Borden, Amy. "At the global market: Ousmane Sembène’s Moolaadé and the economics of women’s rights." Jump Cut #53 (Summer 2011)

Bug Girl. Is My Vuvulzela Too Big?" Skepchick (June 20, 2010)

Coventry, Martha. "Making the Cut: It's a Girl! ... Or is it? When in doubt, why are surgeons calling the shots?" Ms. (Oct/Nov 2000)

Diop, Baba. "Ousmane Sembene: The Elder of Elders." Cinemas of the South (February 15, 2009)

Dotson-Newman, Nzinga. "Family Pressure on Young Girls for Genitalia Mutilation Continues in Kenya." Project Censored (2012)

Finney, Nikki. "The Greatest Show On Earth." (Read the poem/read an analysis of the poem/and listen to Nikki read it)

Halpern, Sue. "Breaking a Conspiracy of Silence." The New York Times Book Review 56.18 (November 19, 2009)

Marzana, Nicola. "The Art of Hunger: Re-Defining Third Cinema." 16:9 (November 2009)

Pride, Ray. "Woman is the Future of Man: Ousmane Sembene on Moolaade." Cinema Scope #21 (2004)

Santur, Hassan Ghedi. "On Being a Muslim in the West." Ideas (June 1, 2011)

Turkewitz, Julie. "Effects of Ancient Custom Present New Challenge to U.S. Doctors: Genital Cutting Cases Seen More as Immigration Rises." The New York Times (February 6, 2015)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I Heart Huckabees (USA/Germany: David O' Russell, 2004)

I Heart Huckabees (USA/Germany: David O' Russell, 2004: 107 minutes)

Garrett, Daniel. "Laughter and Philosophy: David Owen Russell’s I ♥ Huckabees." Offscreen (January 31, 2005)

Johnson, Mackenzie. "What Makes David O. Russell so David O. Russell." Film Stage (October 17, 2016)

Kennedy, A.L. "Sartre and the Individual." A History of Ideas (April 15, 2015) ["Writer AL Kennedy on Existentialist ideas about the individual. Jean Paul Sartre argued that, for humans, 'existence preceded essence'. This means that there is no blueprint or template from which to work - humans are free to make themselves up as they go along. Being an individual comes from the way you negotiate this freedom and the choices you make in the face of it."]

Kirby, Matt. "I Heart Huckabees: Premodern Help for Postmodern Times." Metaphilm (November 12, 2004)

Lee, Kevin B.. "The Wahlberg Effect." Keyframe (September 26, 2016)

MacDowell, James. "The 'Quirky' New Wave." Alternate Takes (July 21, 2005)

Ng, Edwin. "The (Zen) Buddhist Heart of I ♥ Huckabees." Journal of Religion & Film 14.1 (April 2010)

Shaw, Daniel. Film and Philosophy: Taking Movies Seriously. NY: Wallflower, 2008. [In BCTC Library]

Tait, R. Colin. "'Jesus is never mad at us if we live with him in our hearts': The Dialectical View of America in David O' Russell's I Heart Huckabees." Cinephile (March 2006)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Film School: Who Killed the Electric Car

FilmSchool (KUCI)

An interview with Chris Paine director of Who Killed the Electric Car? — a documentary that investigates the birth and death of the electric car, as well as the role of renewable energy and sustainable living in the future.

To Listen to the Episode