Journal of Film and Video
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|Other titles||Journal of film and video (Online)|
|Material type||Document, Periodical, Internet resource|
|Document type||Internet Resource, Computer File, Journal / Magazine / Newspaper|
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Publications in this journal
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ABSTRACT: This essay studies examples of early video art from a new historical perspective focusing on the co-evolution of live media and present-time consciousness from 1960s onwards. Pioneers’ videotapes and installations appear as the first segments of a non-linear sequence of electronic art practices coping with the postmodern crisis of temporality. Early video art provides specific ‘solutions’ (George Kubler) to this crisis capturing present time duration in electronic form and presenting it to spectators in an intentionally emptied and mundane manner. This politics of presencing is seen as producing new relation to the present time duration through ‘chronophobia’ (Pamela Lee) or ‘profound boredom’ (Martin Heidegger). Formal accounts of Bruce Nauman and Dan Graham’s artistic strategies proceed by detail, so that the attention of the reader can be fixed on the process of phenomenological experience. By bringing to the fore an underlying inauthentic mode of temporality, boredom opens a space of attunement to more authentic experience of time and presencing—a dynamics examined by Heidegger in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: world, finitude, solitude (1929).
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ABSTRACT: The debate concerning the impact of the introduction of digital technologies into the filmmaking process and the emergence of digital cinema has been raging for well over a decade. “Evolutionists,” as exemplified by John Belton’s 2002 article “Digital Cinema: A False Revolution,” view new technology and associated methodologies as a natural progression consistent with other technical advancements in cinema (100). “Revolutionists,” including Ganz and Khatib, argue that these technologies have not only irrevocably altered filmmaking practice but have fundamentally changed the nature of cinematic storytelling (and thus the viewer experience) as well (Ganz and Khatib 21). What is interesting to note in both Belton’s article and Ganz and Khatib’s article is that there is a presupposition that the relevant technological evolution had plateaued at the time of writing such that the question of the impact of digital technologies on cinema could effectively be answered. Yet it can be argued that the most significant advancements in filmmaking technology have occurred since these articles were written. Recently released camera systems such as the Red One and Arri Alexa are claimed to have created a brave new world of data-centric production. A recent interview in Variety with Michael Cioni, owner of Light Iron Digital, a postproduction facility catering specifically to data-centric production, sums this up: “You can’t make film smaller. You can’t make 35mm be 8K resolution no matter what you do. You can’t have a [film] camera be four pounds. You can’t fit a 400-foot magazine in a smaller space. It can’t improve at the rate Moore’s Law says we can predict technical improvements [in digital systems]” (qtd. in Cohen). No longer does a camera department require light-tight temperature-controlled spaces to load camera magazines or store reels of film. Workstations with multiple RAID arrays and linear tape backup systems have taken their place. Dailies, so called because of the time it took to develop the film and create one-light prints to check the quality and aesthetics of a day’s shoot, now take mere minutes to create, no longer requiring the specialist skills of a photochemical lab. But for all of this change, has the process of filmmaking been fundamentally altered? Is this truly a new era in which the cinematographer has become more of a data-capture specialist than a visual artist? Or do these advances in camera systems simply represent the latest chapter in the evolution of filmmaking as Belton originally argued? This article sets out to explore these questions by looking at the craft of cinematography for current mainstream production and how it has been affected by technological innovation.1 Cinematography is an art-form but at the same time it’s a craft, and it is definitely a combination of the two . . . You have to light, you have to compose and you have to create movement. Those are the three elements of cinematography. Roizman’s definition arguably represents the most common view of cinematography. Cinematographers work with a director to develop a visual means of interpreting the story. In narrative film, this process typically includes the breaking down of scripts first by acts, then by scenes, and finally by dramatic beats. At each stage, primary and secondary themes are interpreted in terms of tone and desired audience response. From this, details of setting and basic production design begin to emerge, leading to a definition of a visual style. For the director, this serves as the backbone of the production bible, providing a framework for more detailed dramatic analysis. For the cinematographer, it represents the beginning of a blueprint to enable physical production to realize the look of the piece. As the process continues, some form of visualization usually takes place. Working methodologies can differ significantly from project to project and director to director, with the cinematographer’s control over visuals ranging anywhere from being a slave to dictated camera positions (such as Hitchcock’s reputedly definitive storyboarding or the tight requirements of visual effects–based work) to holding nearly free reign over position, composition, and even blocking (as in Woody Allen projects...
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ABSTRACT: Almost since the inception of the Bond series, one of the most recognizable features of the films has been the opening sequences. From the now iconic images of a male figure (Bond) seen through the barrel of a gun to undulating female bodies, the pre-title/title sequences mark the screen in ways that are both familiar and enticing to viewers. The pre-title sequence of the Cold War classic From Russia with Love (1963), for example, the second film in the James Bond series and the first to deploy the pre-title/title formula, opens with a shot of Bond seen through a gun barrel that then gives way to the figure of 007 walking guardedly through a formal garden in the dead of night. A man sneaks up on Bond and strangles him to death with a thin wire. At this moment, exterior lights illuminate the garden to reveal a large mansion with many people standing around. The agent is congratulated for his rapid kill, and then a mask is peeled from the dead body to reveal that it is not Bond who has been slain—the exercise was simply a practice session for the agent. The scene then cuts to the title sequence, where credits are projected onto the shimmying bodies of women in belly dancer costumes.1 In almost every subsequent Bond film, the sequences function similarly, introducing the film’s hero and its broader gender politics as well as the security threat that Bond will thwart. In each new installment of the series, these high-impact, fast-moving pre-title/title sequences refer back to previous Bond films, forging intertextual linkages. At the same time, the pre-title/title sequences serve both diegetic and metonymic functions, re-presenting “real” international politics and global security threats within a normalizing male hegemony. Despite their obvious relevance to the Bond series viability, curiously little has been written on the pre-titles and titles.2 This article seeks to fill this gap, exploring the multiple functions of the sequences in three of the most recent Bond films, Die Another Day (2002), Casino Royale (2006), and Quantum of Solace (2008).3 These particular films are interesting because they mark the (at the time much-publicized) shift from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig in the role of James Bond and because they also signal the changing risks presented by a turbulent international security situation. Taken together, these films not only provide a window into the ways in which pre-title/title sequences anchor the Bond series, they also offer a template for understanding the power of genre in structuring filmic articulations of contemporary geopolitics and gender politics and discourses. After a brief discussion of title and pre-title sequences and the role of genre in the Bond films, we turn to an examination of geopolitics and diegetic contemporaneity as found in Die Another Day, Casino Royale, and Quantum of Solace. We then look more particularly at the pre-title/title sequences and their generic, diegetic, and metonymic functions, arguing that the sequences, like the films as a whole, telescope contemporary geopolitics and gender politics. In “Reading the Title Sequence,” Georg Stanitzek points to the complexity and multiple functions of title sequences. These functions are economic and legal (i.e., production and distribution credits), aesthetic (49), and spatial, facilitating the transition from “outside” to “inside” and thus allowing viewers to engage the film. This opening then is both integral and “semi-autonomous” (45) because of its structure and because of the extra-diegetic information that it provides. As Stanitzek writes, “the title sequences come into being as an eminent space of cinematic intermediality” (45). The title sequence of the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962), acts as Stanitzek’s article suggests, allowing the audience to leave the mundane everyday and enter the world of Bond. However, beginning with the second film in the series (From Russia with Love) the title sequence is preceded by an action sequence that is integral not only to the “threshold” experience of viewing but also to establishing the diegesis. Stanitzek argues that the title transition allows “division and integration” (45...
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ABSTRACT: The Lives of Others won most of the top European and international film prizes between 2006 and 2007, including seven Lolas and an Oscar, but it has also been heavily attacked by some critics both for its sympathetic portrait of a Stasi officer and for its misogynistic portrait of a faithless, drug-addicted actress (e.g., Porton; Foundas). The monstrous Gerd Wiesler, critics have argued, is magically transformed into “the Good Man” of Georg Dreyman’s novel after his sudden exposure to theater, poetry, and music, and the vulnerable Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) must be sacrificed to the film’s central love story, that between Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) and Dreyman (Sebastian Koch). In my view, much of this negative criticism implicitly acknowledges that Lives is tremendously successful at authentically recreating the East Berlin of the 1980s. The film captures the bleakness of the architecture, the cuisine, and the fashion in such unnerving detail that reviews insistently demand that the film deliver documentary accuracy. I too responded to the film’s authenticity and found its recreation of the East Berlin I had visited in 1983 uncanny and unsettling. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck took pains to film on location in the rare streets that had not been transformed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He refined the palette of the film to capture the sense of color in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), so that greens stand in for blues and orange-browns replace reds (von Donnersmarck, Interview on DVD). Visually, the film strives for the quality of documentary. But The Lives of Others is not a documentary. Although he researched his subject thoroughly for four years, von Donnersmarck’s understanding of character, his interest in relationships, and his belief in the transformative power of art do not come from history, but from an education in classic Western cinema. We do not fault Casablanca (1942) or Rome, Open City (1945) for being sentimental. We do not blame The Red Shoes (1948) or The Third Man (1949) for being overblown. Instead, we celebrate these films for the courage of their sentimentality and hyperbole. And von Donnersmarck’s first film is an homage to his cinematic heritage. The performance of Martina Gedeck cannot be divorced from the iconic performances of Ingrid Bergman, Alida Valli, Anna Magnani, Moira Shearer, and Julie Christie on which hers is based. And an awareness of Wiesler’s cinematic antecedents complicates any simple reading of him as a “good man.” These antecedents have been largely overshadowed by the ideological critiques of Lives. Anna Funder, the author of Stasiland, an extraordinary book about life in the GDR, fears that Lives is fostering a new form of Ostalgie. Groups of ex-Stasi are becoming increasingly belligerent. They write articles and books, and conduct lawsuits against people who speak out against them, including against the German publisher of Stasiland. . . . The system demanded such loyalty . . . that most ex-Stasi are still true believers. A story such as Wiesler’s plays into their hands as they fight for their reputation. Funder admires Lives: “I think the film deserves its public and critical acclaim. It is a superb film, a thing of beauty. But it could not have taken place (and never did) under the GDR dictatorship. . . . No Stasi man ever tried to save his victims, because it was impossible. We’d know if one had, because the files are so comprehensive” (“Tyranny”). Whereas Funder argues that von Donnersmarck is taking brutal fact and turning it into “fantasy narrative,” I argue exactly the opposite. Von Donnersmarck’s particular achievement is using his cinematic influences—almost all of which are fantasy narratives—and transforming these into a film that many critics have misread as an attempt at documentary reality. Yet an intertextual reading that accounts for these fantasy narratives can do much to shatter this misperception. In fact, the more aware we become of these intertexts, the more we will feel ourselves being pulled into the extra-diegetic world of von Donnersmarck’s cinematic influences. One of the only specifically named intertexts in the film is the work of Bertolt Brecht. But if Brecht championed the idea of Verfremdungseffekt (the...
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ABSTRACT: Recent writing on documentary film has begun to suggest the importance of attending to the signifying work of the nonfiction performer. Building on converging lines of scholarship that emphasize the constructedness of documentary texts and the performative nature of identity, scholars such as Thomas Waugh, Leger Grindon, Vinicius do Valle Navarro, and Stella Bruzzi have argued persuasively in favor of viewing performance as a central component of nonfiction discourse. Bruzzi, for instance, underlines that documentaries are founded on the creative interaction between a filmmaker and the reality on which she or he encroaches and that they thus must be seen as “performative acts whose truth comes into being only at the moment of filming” (New Documentary 7). In this respect, Bruzzi points out that all documentaries can be characterized as performances of “reality,” effectively modifying and extending the terms of Bill Nichols’s “performative mode” (92–106) and applying these terms to the whole of nonfiction production. This acknowledgement that nonfiction films are themselves performative, however, also opens the door for consideration of a second brand of documentary performance—namely, the communicative work of the individuals who appear within nonfiction films and television programs. Indeed, if documentaries, as performative texts, produce the “truths” that they document, the people who populate such texts contribute significantly to this truth-production process by virtue of the ways in which they enact themselves for the camera. Alongside and in combination with other formal elements such as editing and shot composition, documentary subjects exert a considerable impact on the meanings and effects of the texts in which they figure through gesture, posture, facial expression, word choice, intonation, and the like. To this extent, Bruzzi’s claim that “performance has always been at the heart of documentary filmmaking” (New Documentary 125) is in fact doubly true. This article seeks to substantiate Bruzzi’s argument by illustrating the way in which performance contributes significantly to one commonly described function of documentary films. In particular, by looking to enactments of masculinity in the CBS News See It Now (1951–57) episode titled “The Case of Milo Radulovich, AO589839” (1953), I will demonstrate that performance figures importantly in documentary texts’ ability to reinforce, inflect, and/or subvert hegemonic social norms. In the moments before the “The Case of Milo Radulovich, AO589839” was aired on 20 October 1953, Edward R. Murrow is said to have turned to producer Fred Friendly and warned, “[T]hings will never be the same around here after tonight” (Friendly 3–4). In line with this widely cited bit of television lore, the Radulovich episode of See It Now has often been positioned as a watershed text within the history of small-screen documentary. Shortly after the program went live on CBS, for instance, New York Times critic Jack Gould dubbed it “a long step forward in television journalism” (X13). A. William Bluem later agreed, positioning the Radulovich broadcast as “a turning point in television history” (qtd. in Rosteck, “Synecdoche” 230). The program—a sympathetic investigation of an Air Force lieutenant dismissed from the service on the grounds of his family’s potential Communist sympathies—has been credited with forcing the Air Force to reinstate the dismissed flyer, solidifying new standards in broadcast journalism, speeding the demise of McCarthyism, and demonstrating the public service potential of the television medium for the first time. As Dinah Lynn Zeiger points out, however, “[s]uch effusive praise is a double-edged sword: for while it honors the integrity of the producers and the network for revealing the plight of one man, it also creates an echo chamber, obscuring other equally significant messages contained in the visual and verbal narrative” (281). Rarely acknowledged amid what Eric Barnouw calls the “many paeans of praise” (177) directed toward the text, for instance, is the way in which the program showcases and emphasizes gendered performances that repeat, inflect, and ultimately solidify one version of masculinity frequently positioned as normative in 1950s American culture. In this respect, the text is decidedly less groundbreaking or progressive than its legend suggests. In fact, “The Case of Milo Radulovich” indicates strikingly the way in which documentary performers—like their everyday and fictional film counterparts—might serve to...
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ABSTRACT: We’re rolling now, so . . . I suppose the thing about an interlinear to this picture should be about Michelangelo Antonioni. In this period they had what they called the “art film.” We first became aware of Antonioni with a picture called L’avventura. And this picture, The Passenger, was probably the biggest adventure in filming that I ever had in my life. With the preceding words, Jack Nicholson begins his commentary track for the 2006 DVD release of Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger (1975). The words are enough to create a powerful tinge of cinephilic excitement. Here is the most iconic male star to emerge from 1970s Hollywood sitting down without an interviewer to narrate a film from one of the most enigmatic directors of the twentieth century. Since he rarely does interviews, the relaxed attitude of the famous man with the famous voice at first startled me since it is unaccompanied by the dramatic layers of performance that I have come to expect from the actor. Instead, with casual ease, Nicholson simply muses on a then thirty-year-old film—with (seemingly) no notes and no recent viewing to refresh his memory. (Whether these two impressions are true matters little since, as the viewer, it feels like an impromptu viewing by Nicholson.) As his first words imply, this commentary does not consist of an actor simply relaying behind-the-scenes stories about the filming. Instead, this peculiar narration oscillates between fleeting memories of the production and an appreciative cinephilic commentary that unabashedly celebrates Antonioni as one of Nicholson’s filmmaking heroes. As suggested by Nicholson’s characterization of the “art film,” the commentary also often takes on an educational tone, with the famous voice informing the viewer of the legendary auteur’s thematic and aesthetic preoccupations. Despite these promises, in many regards, listening to the track can be characterized as a frustrating experience, especially when Nicholson allows for long lulls in his commentary. Also, for fans of the actor, he does not give many concrete insights into his performance choices. Instead, he stays true to his originally stated intention of celebrating Antonioni, often veering into pseudo-philosophical readings of the visuals and the narrative as indicative of the interpretive ambiguities characteristic of the director. If one is looking for a detailed exposé on how it was to work with one of the biggest names in midcentury art cinema, this commentary would not be the best choice. Yet despite these shortcomings, there is something remarkably pleasurable about listening to the track. This enjoyment is partly based in the illusion of sitting down next to a megastar such as “Jack” and hearing his insights—playing out a movie geek’s dream of visiting the actor’s home and listening to him ramble on about his long career. But beyond this cinephilic fantasy, which is fleeting at best, there is something more profound involved in hearing the famous voice over the visual poetry of Antonioni, something innately tied to the enigmatic images we see unfold onscreen. Of course, the original film without the commentary track is already a worthy object of fascination—a complex filmic interplay between different perceptions of reality and identity that ranks among the auteur’s greatest works. Similar to Antonioni’s other “art film” classics—such as L’avventura (1960), L’eclisse (1962), and Blow-Up (1966)—The Passenger defines itself by narrative and thematic ambiguities, at least compared to the formal definitions of classical cinema. In the film, documentary reporter David Locke (Nicholson, in easily the most passive performance of his career), for reasons never fully explained, trades his identity with that of another man who resembles him and who died in an adjacent hotel room in a small African village. Taking the dead man’s passport and appointment book, Locke—now as David Robertson—follows his new identity’s schedule only to discover Robertson was a gunrunner for African soldiers. While attempting to stay ahead of his wife’s (Jenny Runarce) own investigation into Robertson, Locke meets a young woman (Maria Schneider) who encourages him to follow the dead man’s scheduled appointments throughout Europe. Ultimately, without ever fully...
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ABSTRACT: A press kit from 1954 trumpets the possibility of winning a weekend with Gloria Swanson, who at the time was starring in the television “anthology” program Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson: Glamour is for the girls . . . and what could any gal from eighteen to eighty find more glamorous than a new personality, a complete new wardrobe, and a week in New York City, as the guest of the Queen of Them All—GLORIA SWANSON! This is the grand prize in CBS Television Film Sales’ GLORIA SWANSON GLAMOUR CONTEST—now being conducted for all stations programming Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson. The preceding paragraph is but one small part of an elaborate instructional packet that included multiple advertising setups, mock-ups, and detailed instructions on how best to implement the contest. The packet also included several head shots of Swanson and replications of a sketch that served as the “brand” of the series. The sketch, obviously Swanson, depicts the star with long black gloves and large jewelry and emphasizes her trademark mole and open-mouthed half-smile. The kit provides a snapshot of one of the ways in which early television programming—and syndicated programming in particular—attempted to attract stations through promises of old Hollywood glamour and star power. At the same time, the kit advertises a program that even the most devoted television historians can only faintly recall. In this way, its existence highlights the ways in which Swanson’s glamour was, ultimately, unamenable to television—for Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson (1954–55), like her previous foray into television, The Gloria Swanson Hour (1948), was a failure. Both lasted but one season and have since retreated into the cobwebbed corners of television history. But as recent work in failure studies reminds us, studying debacles and disappointments that mark media history may teach us just as much as, if not more than, those media products that have succeeded. Working under this assumption, Gloria Swanson’s postwar television career is instructive, for although she may have failed as a television star, she enjoyed tremendous success elsewhere: in 1950, she starred in Sunset Boulevard, a critical and box office smash, before launching a blockbuster dress line, “Forever Young by Gloria Swanson,” that would endure for over thirty years. Such discrepancy of fortune may be traced to the specific valences of Swanson’s glamour and star image activated by each product. Her forays into television featured a facsimile of Swanson’s star image from the 1920s: classically glamorous, opulent, urban, and thoroughly unironic. Despite efforts, such as the press kit described here, to transfer her star aura to the confines of the small screen, the straight reproduction of her classic star image was dissonant with not only dominant discourses of postwar glamour, but also those associated with television in general. In contrast, Swanson’s role in Sunset Boulevard and the Forever Young dress line both renegotiated the Swanson image, shading its nostalgic value with distinctly postwar understandings of glamour, consumption, and stardom. Sunset Boulevard turned classic glamour, embodied in the form of Norma Desmond, into a tragic farce, whereas the dress line employed an entirely different tact, reframing Swanson’s glamour as enduring and readily available to the middle-aged, middle-class woman. Several scholars have examined the period of early television stardom, yet the work of Swanson has slipped through the cracks. Indeed, it would be difficult to even label Swanson a television “star.” Her small-screen failures were not unique; dozens of Hollywood stars attempted and failed to rejuvenate or restart their careers through television in the 1950s. Yet Swanson’s path through the disintegration of the studio and star systems is nevertheless worthy of scrutiny and study because her career trajectory reveals the complicated ways in which Hollywood and its stars attempted—sometimes successfully, but oftentimes not—to trade on the memory of classic identities by repackaging them in accessible, small-screen form. At the same time, the very lack of scholarship on Swanson’s extra-filmic career in the 1950s reveals the selectivity that afflicts media historiography, which too often privileges iconic roles and critical successes over abandoned television series and dress lines. Ultimately...
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