Thursday, 20 December 2018

FATED TO BE MATED: An Architectural Promenade

Sawing Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in half
- A queer experiment in cinephilic re-spatialisation.

Spatialité (or spatialisation) refers to the ordering or arranging of space (by both the set and the camera) in order for it to be perceived in a specific form...
ALAIN MASSON, 'An Architectural Promenade', Rouge, 2005, fn. 1. 

The representation of objects in the actual (absolute) proportions proper to them is, of course, merely a tribute to orthodox formal logic. A subordination to an inviolable order of things [. . .]. Absolute realism is by no means the correct form of perception. It is simply the function of a certain form of social structure. 
SERGEI EISENSTEIN, Film Form: Essays in Film Theory. Ed. and Trans. Jay Leyda. (San Diego: Harcourt, 1949), 34–35

'Fated to be Mated' [a Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse dance number in Silk Stockings (Rouben Mamoulian, 1957)] choreographs the sexual relation quite differently, on a more egalitarian ground [...]. 
A great deal of side-by-side dancing keeps [Astaire and Charisse] together in the frame spatially, and this relation is then reinforced by the precision with which they synchronise their movement while facing the camera. As a consequence, when the many lifts, spins and bends of this rather athletic number physically differentiate the dancers’ positions, they do not connote Astaire’s male superiority so much as continue to keep reconfiguring the dances in relation to each other as two equally spectacular bodies moving through cinematic space they synchronize their movement while facing the camera 
STEVEN COHAN, '"Feminizing" the Song-and-Dance Man: Fred Astaire and the Spectacle of Masculinity in the Hollywood Musical' in Cohan and Hark (eds), Screening the Male: Exploring Masculinities in Hollywood Cinema (Routledge, 1993), 58-59.

FILM: Silk Stockings (Rouben Mamoulian, 1957) starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.

MUSIC: Pyramidia by Ja Prawn is licensed under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


Wednesday, 4 July 2018

My video essays on cinematic mirrors

Screenshot from MAGIC MIRROR MAZE by Catherine Grant

To celebrate my latest video essay on the topic of cinematic mirrors—a study of the homage to the hall of mirrors sequence in The Lady of Shanghai in Enter the Dragon—I have gathered below (in a Vimeo album) all of the short video essays I have made involving movie mirrors of one kind or another.

I made the latest video at the June 2018 National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Scholarship in Sound and Image: Workshop on Videographic Criticism, at Middlebury College, Vermont, USA, where I was once again a guest scholar resident. I am very grateful to the organisers (Profs Christian Keathley and Jason Mittell) as well as the other participants for the inspirational space of this event.

See also my written (and photo) essay on one of the videos:

'Notes on Mirror Visions in Modesty Blaise (Joseph Losey, 1966)', published in La Furia Umana, Paper #3, 2013/La Furia Umana, 17, 2013 (online here).

An excerpt from the essay's introduction is given below.
"Modesty Blaise (Joseph Losey, 1966) travels the cinematic distance between an opening shot of the seemingly contented sleeping face of its star Monica Vitti and an extreme close-up of her eponymous character’s over-stimulated, rapacious look directly at the camera in the film’s final frames. This is a deceptively simple journey, perhaps. But, while making it, what she and certainly we do with our eyes repeatedly involves mirrors, as is so often the case in Losey’s looking-glass cinema. What Losey and his cinematographer Jack Hildyard achieve with reflective surfaces in this pop and op art spy film, a ‘remediation’ of Peter O’Donnell’s much loved comic strip (1963-1986), however, has not been nearly as well received as the director’s earlier signature experiments with those forms, for example in The Servant (1963), or in Eve (1962), another of his ‘cosmopolitan’ films. In the latter work, locations in Venice afforded him the challenge of photographing, for the first time, ‘reflected surfaces: mirrors – one of his most cherished symbols – and water, in baths, fountains, canals and the sea’ [De Rham,Joseph Losey (London: André Deutsch, 1991), p. 133]. Are Modesty Blaise s multiple mirrorings a symptom of unrestrained and muddled fetishism, or, integral to what Durgnat takes as Losey’s film poetry? The following notes offer some specular reflections."
Continued at: