Sunday, 20 November 2016

A GIRL LIKE I: Unruly Women, Masquerade and Mimicry


A Girl Like I -- A companion video to Matches -- by Catherine Grant


AN UNRULY DUET.


Film extracts from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953)

With thanks to Kathleen Rowe for her wonderful 1995 book The Unruly Woman: Gender and the Genres of Laughter, from which the below quotation was taken:
[Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’] faithfulness to the structure of gender inversion is most evident in the dominance of the female couple, at a time when a female star could rarely carry a film alone. Hawks’s interest in “female buddies” is similar to that shown in his earlier His Girl Friday (1940), a revision of The Front Page (1931) in which he turns the male buddies into a heterosexual couple by making one of them, Hildy, a woman. The buddy mystique clings to Dorothy [Jane Russell] and Lorelei [Marilyn Monroe] who have been described as strutting their wares like a couple of gunslingers [by Molly Haskell]. They know what their weapons are, they know how good they are, and they’re loyal to each other, above all. Dorothy is Lorelei’s straight woman and sidekick, her shadow and chaperone. Her unruliness both completes and sets off Lorelei’s, representing the more familiar version of the romantic heroine, a bit world-weary but still a believer in love. The real love story, however, is between Lorelei and Dorothy. Not only does the film reserve its most spectacular visual effects for them, it also begins and ends with the two women dressed alike, performing together.
Such a bond between women is dangerous, and the degree of its threat most vividly indicated by Dorothy’s disruptive masquerade of Lorelei in the French court. Courtrooms offer ideal sites for unruly challenges to patriarchy and the authority of the law, and this one is no exception. The darkness of the surroundings, meant to convey tradition, and the old male judges in wigs and black robes heighten the impact of Dorothy’s blonde wig and silver spangles. In this scene, Dorothy’s multiple masquerade—of Lorelei playing the dumb blonde—shows the easy identification between the two women. “Life is sometimes hard for a girl like I, especially when she happens to be pretty, like I, and have blonde hair,” Dorothy whispers in a voice mimicking Lorelei’s. Mr Pritchard, one of the old lawyers, is suspicious, but like Hopsy and the other “mugs” of the earlier comedies, he cannot see past the surface—the wig, the exposed leg, the simpering voice. A close-up of her face under the wig, however, shows Dorothy as a drag queen, suggesting that the dumb blonde is only a more exaggerated masquerade of a femininity constructed to please, and appease men. In a reprise of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” Dorothy stages her own version of the song by abruptly throwing off her fur coat to expose her body dressed in a skimpy black costume with silver fringes on her breasts and hips. She performs the number with the bumps and grinds of burlesque, and a voice that growls rather than purrs like Lorelei’s. The performance draws on the camp elements of Mae West that linger about Dorothy, with her blunt interest in men for sex, her manipulation of her Olympic musclemen, and the masculinity suggested by Russell’s broad shoulders and deep voice. Mr. Esmond later expresses the danger of that image during his conversation with Gus and the real Lorelei. He describes the woman he saw in the courtroom as “That monster, Lorelei,” and the fact that there now appears to be more than one opens up the frightening possibility to him of an all-engulfing swarm of them—“How do you think I feel, with thousands of Loreleis coming at me from everywhere?”
Dorothy’s performance sends the courtroom into turmoil. When the judge restores order, however, it is a new order that has been brought about by Dorothy and that accommodates the desires of both women. In one blow she has cleared the way for the double wedding that concludes the film. Rather than doubly affirming the heterosexual couple, however, the ceremony is filmed to subvert it. Dorothy and Lorelei walk down the aisle together, dressed identically as they were in the opening scene, and singing a reprise of their song. Briefly, the two bridegrooms are shown standing by their sides, but then the camera moves closer in on Lorelei and Dorothy, excluding the bridegrooms and framing the two brides together in a celebration of the female couple.

From Kathleen Rowe, The Unruly Woman: Gender and the Genres of Laughter (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995/2011), pp. 182-3. 
Also see Laura Mulvey’s 2013 remixed version of her (primarily) visual analysis of a fragment of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in particular of the song and dance duet, “Two Little Girls from Little Rock,” performed by Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. At [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies, 1.1, 2014: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/intransition/2014/03/04/intransition-editors-introduction

Friday, 3 June 2016

THE PERSISTENCE OF VISION



A VIDEO TRIBUTE TO THE WORK OF FILM SCHOLAR ELIZABETH COWIE.

A pioneer in psychoanalytic and feminist approaches to cinema studies and author of two important books in our field (Representing the Woman: Cinema and Psychoanalysis, 1997, and Recording Reality, Desiring the Real, 2011), Professor Elizabeth Cowie recently retired from the post she had held in Film Studies at the University of Kent since 1982. I was very fortunate to work alongside her in that department between 1998 and 2008. I enjoyed and learned so much from that experience that I wanted, personally, to mark this moment of transition in her work with a tribute to it, one especially fuelled by the hope that she will have even more time and space in which to watch and write about movies and the visual arts in future.

To make this tribute I asked a few people to whom Elizabeth also means a lot, either as a colleague or as an advisor in the distant or recent past, to pick a favourite short passage from her work, and to record themselves reading it. They sent me the recordings and I crafted a video around them. Thanks to them, and of course to Elizabeth, for the inspiration.

ANDREW KLEVAN chose to read from Elizabeth Cowie’s ‘Figuring the Fetish’, Representing the Woman: Cinema and Psychoanalysis (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997), pp. 267-8, His reading is accompanied by a remix of Morocco (Josef von Sternberg, 1930).

CHRISTINE EVANS chose to read from Elizabeth Cowie’s ‘Fantasia’, Representing the Woman,  p. 163. Her reading is accompanied by a remix of The Reckless Moment (Max Ophüls, 1949).

CORAL HOUTMAN also chose to read from ‘Fantasia’, Representing the Woman, p. 149. Her reading is accompanied by a remix of Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942).

SARAH WOOD chose to read from Elizabeth Cowie’s ‘Documenting the Real’, Recording Reality, Desiring the Real (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), pp. 121-2. Her reading is accompanied by a remix of Let There Be Light (John Huston, 1946).

MUSIC transformed from Cylinder 9 by CHRIS ZABRISKIE as shared at the Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Chris_Zabriskie/2014010103336111/Chris_Zabriskie_-_Cylinders_-_09_-_Cylinder_Nine

VIDEO by CATHERINE GRANT, 2016

FOR STUDY PURPOSES ONLY

Sunday, 3 April 2016

SIDE-BY-SIDE | UP-AND-DOWN: Comparative Videographic Approaches to Transnational Cinema Studies [#SCMS16]



VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Techniques of parallel comparison have always been central to literary translation studies. But what of the cinematic “translation” - the film remake?

[Screenshot from Jonathan Evan's article, "Film Remakes: The Black Sheep of Translation", Translation Studies, 7:3, 2014, 300-314]

Given that “Translation is a process that involves looking for similarities between languages and cultures”— (Lawrence Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (London" Routledge, 2008): 264) how might the kinds of parallel comparison techniques emerging as a result of the use of easily available and operable video technology help us in examining questions of audiovisual transnational translatabilty? [LINK to YouTube video cited: "How to Split Screen on Final Cut Pro X" by Red Black Productions (2014)]? Let’s take a look at the work of a master to find out [LINK to ::kogonada, "What is Neorealism?", Sight and Sound, May 2013]


I’m just a novice video editor in comparison with kogonada, but less than a year after his video was published, I think I was very much insipred by it in deciding to explore videographically the opening of a Uruguayan low budget horror film and its US remake



Some of kogonada and my findings about transnational cinematic differences were, funnily enough, strikingly similar. But I would argue that this has as much to do with the fact that we were both comparing film openings. [Citations in the video: Peter Bradshaw and Xan Brooks, "Get Them by the Throat", The Guardian, July 17, 2007 ; and Thierry Kuntzel, "The Film Work 2", Camera Obscura 2 (2 5), 1980].

I also used split screens to explore different parts of the films I was studying and through those comparisons I found that the differences did not turn on sequence or shot duration or expositional detail


My principal interest in reflecting on this audiovisual research in this video concerns the utility of the multiple screen comparison. I’m so fascinated by how, as I've reflected before, these techniques frame similar kinds of phenomenological possibility.




[quotations from: Catherine Grant, "Deja Viewing...", MEDIASCAPE Winter 2013: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Winter2013_DejaViewing.html]




They can’t help us with every scholarly question we might have, but such sensuous methodologies seem to me to be eminently suited to the epistemology and hermeneutics of cinematic intertextuality, and are of particular interest in expanding the range of what we can look at in relation to film aesthetics — and in particular - our experience of these - transtaional cinema studies too.

CREDITS

VIDEO PRESENTATION by CATHERINE GRANT, 2016

For the SOCIETY FOR CINEMA & MEDIA STUDIES ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2016 WORKSHOP: F20: VIDEO ESSAYS IN TRANSNATIONAL CINEMA STUDIES
Chair: Tracy Cox-Stanton (Savannah College of Art and Design) Workshop Participants:
Nicolas Poppe (Middlebury College)
Michael Talbott (Castleton University)
Austin Fisher (Bournemouth University)
Catherine Grant (University of Sussex - in absentia))
Jeffrey Middents (American University)

MUSIC: APRIL by KAI ENGEL, 2016. Licensed under an Attribution 4.0 International License and shared at the Free Music Archive: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Kai_Engel/Chapter_Two__Mild/Kai_Engel_-_Chapter_Two_-_Mild_-_05_April


THE VIDEO NARRATION ALSO CITED FROM:
  • Catherine Grant, ‘Déjà-Viewing? Videographic Experiments in Intertextual Film Studies’, Mediascape: Journal of Cinema and Media, Winter 2013. Online at: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Winter2013_DejaViewing.html
  • Christian Keathley, Cinephilia and History, or The Wind in the Trees (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006) 

ALSO SEE on LA CASA MUDA:
  • David Martin-Jones and María Soledad Montañez, “What is the “Silent House”? Interpreting the international appeal of Tokio Films’ Uruguayan horror La casa muda/The Silent House (2010),” Forthcoming. 
  • Victoria Ruetalo, “La casa muda (2010): Miedo Real en Tiempo Real” in Rosana Díaz and Patricia Tomé (eds), Horrofìlmico. Aproximaciones al cine de terror en Latinoamérica y el Caribe (2012) 

FOR STUDY PURPOSES ONLY



Wednesday, 27 January 2016

UN/CONTAINED: A Video Essay on Andrea Arnold's FISH TANK (2009)



The above video presents "a dense yet concise study (and experience) of the intricate poetic-cinematic patterning of Andrea Arnold’s 2009 film Fish Tank as it is disclosed in a few fleeting shots from the film that I explore in relation to psychoanalyst-theorist Wilfred Bion's understanding of the “Container-Contained” (a theorization of the idea that we need the minds and bodies of others to contain our deep existential fears, from the very moment of our birth onwards, in order to properly develop our own emotional and cognitive capacities)." [Catherine Grant]

The above video essay of mine on  has just been published as part of my article:

This video originally formed part of my presentation at the 7th Annual Contemporary Directors Symposium: On Andrea Arnold at BFI Southbank, London, 13th MAY 2014 - NFT3: 1.00pm-5.00pm.

From the Oscar-winning short WASP (2003) to the innovative adaptation WUTHERING HEIGHTS (2011), Andrea Arnold’s films have established her as one of our most uncompromising and important directors. The Contemporary Directors Symposium [returned] to the BFI Southbank for an afternoon of presentations and discussion exploring Arnold’s films, including WASP, RED ROAD (2006), FISH TANK (2009) and WUTHERING HEIGHTS.

Speakers included:
Catherine Grant (University of Sussex)
Amber Jacobs (Birkbeck College, University of London)
Michael Lawrence (University of Sussex)
Jonny Murray (Edinburgh College of Art)
Sue Thornham (University of Sussex)

A full list of my 2012-1016 publications on audiovisual film studies [videos and texts], with links to all the material, is being maintained here: http://filmanalytical.blogspot.com/2016/01/interplay-audiovisual-or-videographic.html

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Interplay: Audiovisual Or Videographic Film Studies Research Publications by Catherine Grant, 2012-2015

Last updated with new publications on January 27, 2016

As I head off to give yet another presentation on audiovisual forms of film studies research, I realised that as well as making around 130 videos since 2009—many of them public here—I have also published quite a lot on these topics, and to date all of those publications are online.

So, below, I have pasted in the full list of those published reflections with clickable links to them, to accompany my latest published video essay, which just appeared in the most recent issue of the wonderful journal Lola

Thanks so much to all those fellow film scholars who nurtured, edited, reviewed and published the below essays of mine.


PUBLICATIONS BY CATHERINE GRANT ON AUDIOVISUAL OR VIDEOGRAPHIC FILM STUDIES RESEARCH 2012-2015/16

  1. Film and Moving Image Studies Re-Born Digital?’ Some Participant Observations’, Frames, 1, 2012. Online at: http://framescinemajournal.com/article/re-born-digital
  2. Bonus Tracks: The making of ‘Touching the film object’ and ‘Skipping ROPE (through Hitchcock’s joins)Frames, 1, 2012. Online at: http://framescinemajournal.com/article/bonus-tracks
  3. Déjà-Viewing? Videographic Experiments in Intertextual Film Studies’, Mediascape: Journal of Cinema and Media, Winter 2013. Online at: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Winter2013_DejaViewing.html 
  4.  The Audiovisual Essay: My Favorite Things’, [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies - a Cinema Journal/MediaCommons Collaboration, 1.3. September 2014 on The Audiovisual Essay: Practice and Theory. Online at: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/intransition/2014/08/26/audiovisual-essay-my-favorite-things
  5. How long is a piece of string? On the Practice, Scope and Value of Videographic Film Studies and Criticism’, The Audiovisual Essay: Practice and Theory of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies, September, 2014. Online at: http://reframe.sussex.ac.uk/audiovisualessay/frankfurt-papers/catherine-grant/
  6. (with Christian Keathley), ‘The Use of an Illusion: Childhood cinephilia, object relations, and videographic film studies’, Photogénie, 0, June 2014. Co-authored introduction/individually authored texts and videos. Online at:  http://www.photogenie.be/photogenie_blog/article/use-illusion
  7.  The Shudder of a Cinephiliac Idea? Videographic Film Studies Practice as Material Thinking’, ANIKI: Portuguese Journal of the Moving Image, 1.1, 2014, Online at: http://aim.org.pt/ojs/index.php/revista/article/view/59/html
  8. The Marriages of Laurel Dallas. Or, The Maternal Melodrama of the Unknown Feminist Film Spectator’, Mediascape: UCLA’s Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Fall 2014. [Video and text]. ISSN 1558478X Online at: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Fall2014_MarriagesMelodrama.html
  9. The Remix That Knew Too Much? On Rebecca, Retrospectatorship and the Making of Rites of Passage’, The Cine-Files: A Scholarly Journal of Cinema Studies, Fall 2014. [Video and text]. ISSN 2156-9096. Online at: http://www.thecine-files.com/grant/
  10. Film studies in the groove? Rhythmising perception in Carnal Locomotive’ [video and text], NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies, Spring 2015.  Online at: http://www.necsus-ejms.org/film-studies-in-the-groove-rhythmising-perception-in-carnal-locomotive/
  11. TURNING UP THE VOLUME? The Emergent Focus on Film Sound, Music and Listening in Audiovisual Essays, The Cine-Files: A Scholarly Journal of Cinema Studies (Spring 2015) 8. Special issue on Film Sound. Online at: http://www.thecine-files.com/turning-up-the-volume/  
  12. ‘INTERPLAY: (Re)Finding and (Re)Framing Cinematic Experience, Film Space, and the Child’s World’ [Video and Text], LOLA Journal, 6, 2015. Online at:  http://www.lolajournal.com/6/interplay.html
  13. NEWLY ADDED: 'Beyond tautology? Audiovisual Film Criticism' [video and text], Film Criticism, Vol. 40, No.1, 2016. Online at: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.13761232.0040.113

Translations:


Into Spanish: 
(with Christian Keathley), ‘El uso de una ilusión: Cinefilia infantil, relaciones de objeto y estudios videográficos sobre cine’, Transit. Cine y otros desvíos, September 9, 2014. Translation by Cristina Álvarez López of ‘The Use of an Illusion: Childhood cinephilia, object relations, and videographic film studies’, Photogénie, 0, June 2014). Online at: http://cinentransit.com/cinefilia-infantil-relaciones-de-objeto-y-estudios-videograficos-sobre-cine/.
‘Las bodas de Laurel Dallas. O el melodrama materno de una espectadora feminista desconocida’, Transit. Cine y otros desvíos, January, 2015. Online at: http://cinentransit.com/las-bodas-de-laurel-dallas/. Translation by Cristina Alvarez López of the peer-reviewed video and article: Grant, C., ‘The Marriages of Laurel Dallas. Or, The Maternal Melodrama of the Unknown Feminist Film Spectator’, Mediascape: UCLA’s Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Fall 2014. [Video and text]. ISSN 1558478X Online at: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Fall2014_MarriagesMelodrama.html
Into Italian:
Deja-viewing. FilmIdee (6) 2013. Italian translation of Grant, C., Deja viewing?: videographic experiments in intertextual film studies. Mediascape : UCLA's Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Winter 2013. Online at: http://www.filmidee.it/archive/35/article/435/article.aspx

Also see:

Monday, 25 May 2015

THEORY OF RELATIVITY, THE MARRIAGES OF LAUREL DALLAS, WOMEN'S WASHROOM, and RITES OF PASSAGE

Four of my recent video essays with accompanying texts

1. THEORY OF RELATIVITY



THEORY OF RELATIVITY is an experimental video about 'digitextuality' (or digital intertextuality) and cinephiliac relativity. It was inspired, in part, by "Time and Time Again: Temporality, Narrativity, and Spectatorship in Christian Marclay’s THE CLOCK," an article for the May 2015 issue of CINEMA JOURNAL by film scholar Julie Levinson. It was also made as a reserve entry for issue 2.2, Spring 2015, of [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies.

It asks, laterally, what can time-based compilation video projects do with clocks that get stuck, or go haywire, or with forces beyond the temporal, such as ones of attraction like gravity and cinephilia? As the author of the scientific Theory of Relativity Albert Einstein also found, although we usually think of lengths and times as absolute, these do turn out to be observer-dependent.

THEORY OF RELATIVITY meditates on a section from a Hollywood film sequence that Christian Marclay used to mark the important moment of midnight in his monumental 2010 art installation THE CLOCK (see https://youtu.be/iZe55tTAbw4). And it subsequently takes in the part of the sequence he didn't use (spoilt for choice with midnight moments in the cinema, perhaps). The video further (simultaneously) explores, through remix, a less well known American experimental film about time that was arguably deeply inspired by the film from which Marclay's midnight sequence was taken. The remixed film sequences illustrate, perhaps rather too succinctly for Marclay's compilation, the idea of a 24 hour clock, as also heralded by Alberto Cavalcanti's 1926 experimental film RIEN QUE LE HEURES/NOTHING BUT TIME, released on DVD in the same year as Marclay's THE CLOCK.

[In case anyone should think that a link between these two excerpted films might be considered spurious or, at least, lacking in interest, there is a further, bizarre, real life connection between them, and their two actor-directors, as this video shows: https://youtu.be/1oqtI517qpI]

Also see: Thom Andersen's great essay on THE CLOCK: http://cinema-scope.com/features/random-notes-on-a-projection/
    


The above video is published as an integral part of my multimedia essay "The Marriages of Laurel Dallas: Or, The Maternal Melodrama of the Unknown Feminist Film Spectator", MEDIASCAPE, Fall 2014. Online at: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Fall2014_MarriagesMelodrama.html (this essay has been translated into Spanish by Cristina Álvarez López and published here, also: http://cinentransit.com/las-bodas-de-laurel-dallas/)

It is a videographic comparison of the final scenes of two cinematic adaptations of Olive Higgins Prouty's 1922 novel STELLA DALLAS: the 1925 version directed by Henry King, starring Belle Bennett as Stella Dallas, Lois Moran as Laurel Dallas, Alice Joyce as Helen Morrison and Ronald Colman as Stephen Dallas; and King Vidor's 1937 version starring Barbara Stanwyck as Stella (Martin) Dallas, John Boles as Stephen Dallas, Anne Shirley as Laurel Dallas and Barbara O'Neil as Helen Morrison.

The video adapts music from the track 'Sweet Tender' by Jared C. Balogh, shared at the Free Music Archive under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License: http://reemusicarchive.org/music/Balogh/Lunar_Elegance/SWEET_TENDER.

The video was first screened at the Maternal Melodrama Symposium, University of Kent, June 3, 2014: http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/melodramaresearchgroup/2014/05/07/schedule-for-maternal-melodrama-symposium-on-3rd-of-june/.

FURTHER READING:
Williams, Linda. "'Something Else besides a Mother': 'Stella Dallas' and the Maternal Melodrama," Cinema Journal Vol. 24, No. 1 (Autumn, 1984), pp. 2–27 in JSTOR
Stevenson, Diane. "Three Versions of Stella Dallas" for Jeffrey Crouse (editor), Film International, Issue 54, Volume, 9. Number 6 (2011), pp. 30–40.



"In the earlier film version of STELLA DALLAS [Henry King, 1925], the overwrought Stella takes refuge in the ladies’ waiting room at the train station directly after her visit to Helen [the woman to whom she has just entrusted her daughter]. She’s watched very closely by a woman whose flashy dress indicates her similarity to Stella in class status, if not in her dubious profession. The stranger offers the apparently inconsolable Stella a cigarette, and Stella puts it in her mouth and lights it end to end with the cigarette in the other woman’s mouth. A fade to black gives the gesture—which resembles a kiss—an elliptical significance, though nothing else is made of this scene. The shot echoes with Stella’s connection to Helen in the previous scene. But the silent version of STELLA DALLAS suggests that such sympathy, and women’s motives, need not be reduced to shared maternal feeling. The washroom “pick-up” scene doesn’t occur in the [original 1922 source novel STELLA DALLAS by Olive Higgins Prouty].

QUOTATION: Patricia White, UNINVITED: CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD CINEMA AND LESBIAN REPRESENTABILITY (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999), pp. 107-8.

MUSIC: “Phantasm” by Kai Engel (licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Kai_Engel/Calls_and_Echoes/07_-_Phantasm).

VIDEO: Catherine Grant, January 2015

ALSO SEE:
C. Grant, ‘The Marriages of Laurel Dallas. Or, The Maternal Melodrama of the Unknown Feminist Film Spectator’, MEDIASCAPE: UCLA’s Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Fall 2014. [Video and text]. ISSN 1558478X Online at: http://www.ft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Fall2014_MarriagesMelodrama.html

C. Grant, ‘The Remix That Knew Too Much? On Rebecca, Retrospectatorship and the Making of Rites of Passage’, THE CINE-FILES: A Scholarly Journal of Cinema Studies, Fall 2014. [Video and text]. ISSN 2156-9096. Online at: http://www.thecine-files.com/grant/


     


See "The Remix That Knew Too Much? On REBECCA, Retrospectatorship and the Making Of RITES OF PASSAGE", THE CINE-FILES, 7, Fall 2014. Online at: http://www.thecine-files.com/grant/

A video essay on the liminal moments of the protagonist of REBECCA (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940), played by Joan Fontaine. This is a low resolution, educational, remix compilation, featuring sampled music originally composed for the film by Franz Waxman.

This work was completed in memory of Joan Fontaine (22 October 1917 − 15 December 2013).

See also the entry on Gothic Melodrama Studies in Fontaine's memory at FILM STUDIES FOR FREE: http://filmstudiesforfree.blogspot.com/2013/12/voluptuous-masochism-gothic-melodrama.html

Thanks go to Patricia White for the inspiration of her work on this film and on the gothic women's picture more generally (see, for example, her book UNINVITED: CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD CINEMA AND LESBIAN REPRESENTABILITY (Indiana University Press, 1999)]. Read Annamarie Jagose's interview with White for further information: http://www.genders.org/g32/g32_jagose.html (GENDERS, 32, 2000).

Monday, 30 June 2014

Uncanny Fusion: Journey to Mixed-up Files


A true story.

The above autobiographical video UNCANNY FUSION forms part of a piece "of truly subjective, creative film criticism about the spectatorial experience." My accompanying text (from which a short excerpt is given below), was prefaced by a theoretical introduction co-written, in part, with Christian Keathley who also made a video and wrote an autobiographical refection for this work. This work has just been published as 'The Use of an Illusion: Childhood cinephilia, object relations and videographic film studies' at PHOTOGÉNIE 0, 2014: http://www.photogenie.be/photogenie_blog/article/use-illusion.

After several years of prolifically making video essays about films, of enjoying playing with their particular modes of disclosure and ‘unconcealment’ (as I reflected in a 2014 article), I began to be drawn to using video practice to work through some verbally quite inexplicable (or, at least, difficult to explicate) but recurrent spectatorial experiences.  I started to mine the potential connections between personally charged cinematic moments to test out Mikhail Iampolski’s understanding of how, through the insertion of a ‘“source” of a cinematic figure into a film as its subtext, the intertext can also function as a generative mechanism’ (246).  While Iampolski wasn’t writing about literal forms of ‘insertion’, how better to explore such filmic connections generatively than to remix them using the practices of audiovisual montage?  My earliest experiments, and this impulse, are described in my 2013 essay “Déjà-Viewing? Videographic Experiments in Intertextual Film Studies.”
     I didn’t fully explore in that text why I set out to do this, although I did mention an aspect of my adoption story for the first time in published work. But I was at least partly inspired by an encounter with the written work of Winnicottian psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas, specifically with his book The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known, which is mentioned by Kuhn in her Screen article “Thresholds: Film as Film and the Aesthetic Experience.”  The ‘unthought known’ of Bollas’s title – a deeply resonant concept for me as soon as I came across it, rather like Sprengnether’s notion of the ‘buried metaphors’ by which we live – refers toheretofore inarticulate elements of psychic life’ (210).  Ian Hunt concisely describes this concept as referring to ‘the ways in which individuals may organize their lives around an event or a traumatic pattern of experiencing that, although at some deep level known, can only with difficulty be claimed for conscious thought’. For Bollas, the unthought known can be intuited, inter alia, in the déjà-vu experiences of  ‘aesthetic moments’, occasions during which ‘an individual feels a deep subjective rapport with an object [...] and experiences an uncanny fusion with [it, with the sense] of being reminded of something never cognitively apprehended but existentially known’ (16).  As Ian Woodward and David Ellison write, this kind of experience
is a type of ‘spell’ that holds person and object in symmetry and solitude. In this experience of deep rapport, the person is provided with a feeling of fitting with an object. Bollas notes that this type of experience is often non-verbal, given its location in early childhood experiences [of parenting or ‘environmental’ idioms], and he argues that such experiences are difficult for even adult subjects to articulate precisely because they are reminders of past instances of integration and transformation between subject and object through the qualities of objects. (48)
The sense of uncanny recognition I experienced when I learnt that the unthought known might trigger powerful psycho-somatic aesthetic experiences was what set me off on the path that led to the [above] videographic study.  This video not only attempted to relate the (true) story of just such a (cinematic) aesthetic moment (one of a number that I have experienced in my life).  It actually provided the space and the form, across a production period lasting several years, in which I was able to articulate or, at least, to reproduce what, in the process of editing, I came to understand for the first time about this uncanny experience of connection.
Extract from Catherine Grant's autobiographical text in Catherine Grant and Christian Keathley, 'The Use of an Illusion: Childhood cinephilia, object relations and videographic film studies', PHOTOGÉNIE 0, 2014. Online at: http://www.photogenie.be/photogenie_blog/article/use-illusion.