Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Film Studies Resources: August 9, 2022

Durgnaut, Raymond. A Long Hard Look at Psycho. British Film Institute, 2010. ["Upon its release in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho divided critical opinion, with several leading film critics condemning Hitchcock's apparent encouragement of the audience's identification with the gruesome murder that lies at the heart of the film. Such antipathy did little to harm Psycho's box-office returns, and it would go on to be acknowledged as one of the greatest film thrillers, with scenes and characters that are among the most iconic in all cinema. In his illuminating study of Psycho, Raymond Durgnat provides a minute analysis of its unfolding narrative, enabling us to consider what happens to the viewer as he or she watches the film, and to think afresh about questions of spectatorship, Hollywood narrative codes, psycho-analysis, editing and shot composition. In his introduction to the new edition, Henry K. Miller presents A Long Hard Look at 'Psycho' as the culmination of Durgnat's decades-long campaign to correct what he called film studies' 'Grand Error'. In the course of expounding Durgnat's root-and-branch challenge to our inherited shibboleths about Hollywood cinema in general and Hitchcock in particular, Miller also describes the eclectic intellectual tradition to which Durgnat claimed allegiance. This band of amis inconnus, among them William Empson, Edgar Morin and Manny Farber, had at its head Durgnat's mentor Thorold Dickinson. The book's story begins in the early 1960s, when Dickinson made the long hard look the basis of his pioneering film course at the Slade School of Fine Art, and Psycho became one of its first objects."]

Eggert, Brian. "Titane." Deep Focus Review (October 3, 2021) ["In the first images of Titane, the camera lingers on engine parts shot like sweaty appendages, dripping with perspiration and vibrating orgasmically with the motor’s hum. The metal shimmers with grease and droplets of oil, and its curves look almost fleshy in the way they bend and give way to the rolling shapes in the undercarriage. French director Julia Ducournau films these inhuman auto parts like erotica, exploring the connection between bodies and automobiles in ways not attempted since David Cronenberg’s controversial 1996 film, Crash, about the relationship between the little death and the death drive. The link between sexuality and cars has been there for a long while. After all, why do they call a mechanic’s workspace a body shop? Consciously or not, motorheads make these connections as well. Car magazines and calendars pair bikini-clad women with muscle cars and hot rods, coupling sex and automobiles in literal and figurative terms. Ducournau’s film considers how the male gaze creates this strange relationship of images and takes the next logical step. The result is something wildly original, brutally visceral, oddly funny and tender, and singular in its vision."]

Goh, Robbie B.H. Christopher Nolan: Filmmaker and Philosopher. Bloomsbury Academic, 2021. ["Christopher Nolan is the writer and director of Hollywood blockbusters like The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, and also of arthouse films like Memento and Inception. Underlying his staggering commercial success however, is a darker sensibility that questions the veracity of human knowledge, the allure of appearance over reality and the latent disorder in contemporary society. This appreciation of the sinister owes a huge debt to philosophy and especially modern thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Jacques Derrida. Taking a thematic approach to Nolan's oeuvre, Robbie Goh examines how the director's postmodern inclinations manifest themselves in non-linearity, causal agnosticism, the threat of social anarchy and the frequent use of the mise en abyme, while running counter to these are narratives of heroism, moral responsibility and the dignity of human choice. For Goh, Nolan is a 'reluctant postmodernist'. His films reflect the cynicism of the modern world, but with their representation of heroic moral triumphs, they also resist it."]

Like Stories of Old. "Multiverses, Nihilism, and How it Feels to be Alive Right Now." (Posted on Youtube: July 31, 2022) ["An analysis of the metaphorical meanings of multiverse stories, and what they reflect about the burdens of modern existence."]

Lowenstein, Adam. Horror Film and Otherness. Columbia University Press, 2022. ["What do horror films reveal about social difference in the everyday world? Criticism of the genre often relies on a dichotomy between monstrosity and normality, in which unearthly creatures and deranged killers are metaphors for society’s fear of the “others” that threaten the “normal.” The monstrous other might represent women, Jews, or Blacks, as well as Indigenous, queer, poor, elderly, or disabled people. The horror film’s depiction of such minorities can be sympathetic to their exclusion or complicit in their oppression, but ultimately, these images are understood to stand in for the others that the majority dreads and marginalizes. Adam Lowenstein offers a new account of horror and why it matters for understanding social otherness. He argues that horror films reveal how the category of the other is not fixed. Instead, the genre captures ongoing metamorphoses across “normal” self and “monstrous” other. This “transformative otherness” confronts viewers with the other’s experience—and challenges us to recognize that we are all vulnerable to becoming or being seen as the other. Instead of settling into comforting certainties regarding monstrosity and normality, horror exposes the ongoing struggle to acknowledge self and other as fundamentally intertwined. Horror Film and Otherness features new interpretations of landmark films by directors including Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Stephanie Rothman, Jennifer Kent, Marina de Van, and Jordan Peele. Through close analysis of their engagement with different forms of otherness, this book provides new perspectives on horror’s significance for culture, politics, and art."]

Nguyen, Mai and Pauline Greenhill. "Uncanny sounds and the politics of wonder in Christian Petzold’s Undine." NECSUS (Spring 2022) ["In the story of Undine, a water sprite leaves her aquatic origins to marry a human and acquires a soul in the process. The narrative ends tragically when her lover betrays her and she is obliged to kill him according to the laws of the elemental spirits. Related to figures such as the sirens of Greek mythology, the Lorelei of Clemens Brentano and Heinrich Heine, Melusine in French folklore, and selkie narratives of Celtic and Norse oral traditions, the first writings on this nymph can be traced back to Swiss physician and natural philosopher Paracelsus. Popularised as a literary fairy tale in 19th century Germany by the Prussian writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, Undine’s story has inspired numerous incarnations. For instance, it served as the source material for operas by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1812-1814) and others, a play by Jean Giraudoux (1938), and most famously Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale Den lille havfrue (‘The Little Mermaid,’ 1837). Films referencing ‘Undine’ date from the silent era and come from Austria, Canada, France, Ireland, and the US, as well as three from Germany: Rolf Thiele’s Undine 74 (1974), Eckhart Schmidt’s Undine (1992), and Christian Petzold’s Undine (2020) – our subject here. Movies based on or inspired by Andersen’s tale are of course much more common."]

Patell, Cyrus R.K. Lucasfilm: Filmmaking, Philosophy, and the Star Wars Universe. Bloomsbury Academic, 2021. ["From A New Hope to The Rise of Skywalker and beyond, this book offers the first complete assessment and philosophical exploration of the Star Wars universe. Lucasfilm examines the ways in which these iconic films were shaped by global cultural mythologies and world cinema, as well as philosophical ideas from the fields of aesthetics and political theory, and now serve as a platform for public philosophy. Cyrus R. K. Patell also looks at how this ever-expanding universe of cultural products and enterprises became a global brand and asks: can a corporate entity be considered a “filmmaker and philosopher”? More than any other film franchise, Lucasfilm's Star Wars has become part of the global cultural imagination. The new generation of Lucasfilm artists is full of passionate fans of the Star Wars universe, who have now been given the chance to build on George Lucas's oeuvre. Within these pages, Patell explores what it means for films and their creators to become part of cultural history in this unprecedented way."]

Resina, Joan Ramon. Luchino Visconti: Filmmaker and Philosopher. Bloomsbury Academic, 2022. ["Luchino Visconti (1906-1976) was one of Europe's most prestigious filmmakers, who rose to prominence as part of the Italian neo-realist movement, alongside contemporaries Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini. Famous for his elegant lifestyle, as friend of Jean Renoir and Coco Chanel amongst others, his vibrant technicolour dramas are also known for their decadence and stunning display of aesthetic mastery and sensory pleasure. Looking beyond this colourful façade, however, Resina explores the philosophical implications of decadence with a particular focus on three films from the late phase in Visconti's production, Damned (1969), Death in Venice (1971), and Ludwig (1972). From the incestuous relationship between decadence and power to decadence as an outcome of straining toward formal perfection, Resina uncovers the unity and philosophical cohesiveness of these films that deal with different subjects and historical periods. Reading these films and their decadence in light of the time of filming and Visconti's own sense of cultural doom, Resina further demonstrates the relevance of Visconti's philosophy today and how much they still have to say to our contemporary situation."]

Sinnerbrink, Robert. Terence Malick: Filmmaker and Philosopher. Bloomsbury Academic, 2019. ["Many critics have approached Terrence Malick's work from a philosophical perspective, arguing that his films express philosophy through cinema. With their remarkable images of nature, poetic voiceovers, and meditative reflections, Malick's cinema certainly invites philosophical engagement. In Terrence Malick: Filmmaker and Philosopher, Robert Sinnerbrink takes a different approach, exploring Malick's work as a case of cinematic ethics: films that evoke varieties of ethical experience, encompassing existential, metaphysical, and religious perspectives. Malick's films are not reducible to a particular moral position or philosophical doctrine; rather, they solicit ethically significant forms of experience, encompassing anxiety and doubt, wonder and awe, to questioning and acknowledgment, through aesthetic engagement and poetic reflection. Drawing on a range of thinkers and approaches from Heidegger and Cavell, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, to phenomenology and moral psychology Sinnerbrink explores how Malick's films respond to the problem of nihilism the loss of conviction or belief in prevailing forms of value and meaning and the possibility of ethical transformation through cinema: from self-transformation in our relations with others to cultural transformation via our attitudes towards towards nature and the world. Sinnerbrink shows how Malick's later films, from The Tree of Life to Voyage of Time, provide unique opportunities to explore cinematic ethics in relation to the crisis of belief, the phenomenology of love, and film's potential to invite moral transformation."]

Tsui, Curtis. "The Evolution of a 'Superpig': Designing Okja, from Start to Finish." The Current (July 14, 2022) ["A tale about a girl’s bond with her beloved “superpig”—an animal she must eventually rescue from the clutches of the evil corporation that genetically engineered her—Okja provided a new challenge: its shy titular creature needed to be a source of affection, not fear, inviting touching and cuddling while also maintaining a massive heft that would prove attractive to the greedy food industry. And because of the real-world setting of the film, which moves from the tranquility of the South Korean mountains to the commotion of New York City, Okja would need to seem plausibly realistic, yet also unlike anything existing in nature. The following images chart the evolution of the creature, as Bong and Jang tackled initial design concepts, incorporated feedback from collaborators, and continued to refine details until they arrived at the lovable superpig we see on-screen."]

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