All entries for April 2007

April 25, 2007

iTunes Marketing and the Future

iTunes: the cornerstone of Apple's business strategy?

Apple's last quarter profits up by a massive 88%

This isn't a Shuffle its Quicktime :-)

Apple sold more than 10.5 million iPods in the first three months of 2007, helping the US technology firm to record an 88% increase in profits. (BBC Technnology Story: Wednesday, 25 April 2007





ipod_shuffle.jpg

From computer manufacturer to vertically integrated consumer media company

The figures above certainly confirm the argument developed below that Apple is situating itself as a vertically integrated company placing itself in a strategic position in the rapidly growing downloading music market. Furthermore, through its strong brand name, it is positioning itself on the strategic heights so that it can take advantage of what is likely to be a hugely popular cash generator in the near future. This is the downloaded video market whether this is via computer, iTV or iPhone. The Apple new media hardware  products being linked through the powerful iTunes downloading site which also acts as a client side media organiser.  This will allow the iTunes customer to be able to access what they want, when they want it and where they want it. 

This notion of vertical integration is a contemporary variant of the original model in which everything from raw materials through manufacturing and distribution to sales in the High Street is owned and controlled by a single company. It is a model which has had variants in the past with companies such as Marks and Spencer successfully outsourcing the manufacturing whilst designing and planning in house. At the same time they built a powerful presence on the High Street.

In the world of media there have been interesting styles based upon vertical integration. Sky TV has centered itself upon control of distribution via satellite linked to its own receivers and interactive Skyboxes which inform the company what viewers generic tastes are and trying to push genre accordingly. The current dispute with Virgin Media in the UK bears witness to the powerful position they exert through controlling key elements in the distribution chain. Apple too are creating themselves a similar position within the marketplace which they have largely been responsible for creating.  Being able to lock their software so that other distributors cannot use it gives them a powerful position in any developing market place. Whilst they are unlikely to achieve 'total domination' for the forseeable future they are significantly ahead of any rivals who have failed to get into that market position. 



iTunes Marketing




A little aside:

Well apart from the fact that for all the flack that Bill Gates gets the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing some prety good stuff in Africa. They are even developing a cut down version of Vista for developing countries to help them get on the ladder to a networked society. Feeding your iPod could well be feeding Steve Jobs' pockets, anybody know the name of his charitable foundation?



iTunes as a Loss Leader or iTunes as Brand Builder?

For Apple, music has been a loss leader to promote the sale of its iPod MP3 players (Emiko Terazono Financial Times,  April 8 2007 18:42)

Apple has managed to sell over 100 million iPods which isn't bad when you consider that is equivalent to  about 1 and half iPods for everybody in UK. Part of the growth if the iPod phenomenon has been the growth of iTunes. Terazona is right about aspects of a business being separated out and 'making a loss'. But Jobs' game is a much bigger one than just setting any trends in the market he is adeptly reading customer desires and turning them into products.

By allowing anybody to download iTunes for nothing jobs is building his brand and when people do want to buy through downloading they are likely to be the first place that people will go if they already have installed iTunes as their default music player and library system. 

Let's take the UK for example: it is probably further down the road of digitising the old analogue broadcasting system.  Once analogue TV is turned off then mobile companies will compete for a lot of bandwidth. The big game in town will be having bandwidth finally available to make mass downloading on line over a mobile device of video streaming. The iPhone and its successors will be well placed to win a high market share of this future dynamic market with iTunes as the hub which allows the whole system to interface. 

iTunes legal downloads: bad value?

The reality for the record companies and Apple is that iTunes offers incredibly bad value. Currently at 79 pence (UK) per 'tune' for something which is seriously degraded in quality terms and can only be transferred to a very limited number of other devices is pathetic. Anbody with any sense would go and buy the CD copy it and sell it on or swap it for other ones with friends. That's great publicity for the musicians.  The advantage is that the sound quality is considerably higher which is very important for those who might want to listen on a high quality audio system. If you are buying music for the long-term then you would certainly not wish to pay 79 pence per track. 

The recent deal with EMI is showing the future for downloaded music. For another 20 pence per 'tune' it will now be possible to download much higher quality sound files although still not as good as a CD.  The other thing is that the restriction for the cheaper music which will only play on 5 machines has been removed, it is Digital Rights Management free.

iPod to iPhone

Arguably the iPod has saved Apple Computer and given it some credibility as a consumer brand as well as amongst the designer elites.  The extra turnover created by massive iPod sales has enable Apple computers to reinvest in their products. However with the MP3 market now massively comptitive Apple need to keep ahead of the pack. Although iTunes is a 'loss leader' it is better to think of it as integral to the success of iPod. It is certainly the most user friendly 'music player software' although players such as Realplayer are now very good. 

The development of the iPhone promises to provide many of the winning features of the iPod with many other advanced technologies to produce a market beating 'all in one device'. The heavy investment by Apple has been shown by the fact that they are holding up the next upgrade to their Apple computer operating systems Leopard. There seem little doubt that Apple is playing a high stakes games. Should the phone not work as well as is claimed the current hype could well backfire. There is also no doubt that Sony-Ericson, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola will be working round the clock to release their own competitive products. 

Is the future  mobile video devices? 

iPhone Official

The larger iPods are good for playing video as they have a large storage capacity. Enter the iPhone. Currently the iPhone when launched is expected to have flash memory of 4 & 8 Gb. But we can soon expect this to be dwarfed by the new flash memory launched by Sandisc which can give 32 Gb of memory in a 2.5 inch drive which is ideal for travelling around as it is far more stable than a hard drive. This would give adequate memory to play large video files.   

MGM Lion on iPod

Downloading movies, or being able to access the viewable trailers online like The Queen  (see below) could be good way of passing some downtime on a transport system.  This is where the iPhone linked into iTunes could be an attractive proposition enabling potential customers to think about what to download fully when at home.  The advantage of a 3.5 inch screen which can be turned through 90 degrees to make a widescreen is a winning combination (see below) especially if it can be synched to iTunes.

iPhone widescreen

There is an excellent array of photographs of Steve Jobs prelaunch press briefing on the Engadget pages.

There seems little doubt that this handheld video device is going to be the one to beat in the near future. (Providing that is, it delivers what it says on the box. There are plenty of people who remember Apple's first Newton. Well, nice try Apple but....

Frears The Queen

It seems as though the future of Apple is as some sort of multi-media institution

Like Sony

At the moment it isn't clear how Apple will respond to these and other challenges.

The key to understanding the company is to realise that it is not a software company like Microsoft.

Apple makes the computers and portable music players it sells, it doesn't just provide the programs to run on them.

Until relatively recently, it was more like IBM or DEC or the other old-time computing companies, but now that the downloading business is so important to its plans, I think that Apple is more like Sony than anyone else. After all, Sony makes all sorts of hardware, from consumer electronics to computers, and it has its own content business, making films and distributing music.Sony also finds it hard to deal with the conflict between the desires of its hardware people to make really cool systems that can play any content and give people freedom, and a content division that wants to limit and control what people can do. (Bill Thompson, Friday, 31 March 2006)

Bill Thompson makes a useful point yet there is a strong difference between Apple and Sony and which I think gives Apple a developing business model which is closer to Rupert Murdoch's than Sony's. Sony is a company fighting on many fronts in the consumer electronics marketplace and also the professional end when it comes to TV recording equipment.

The key to Apple's success is successful design, be it product design or software design. It is able to market itself as being user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing and doing what it says on the box. The brand is considered highly desirable.  Unlike Sony it has now positioned itself as a key player in content distribution through iTunes. First it was music but it will increasingly be video based products. this puts it much closer to Sky who dream up designs for the Sky-box but outsource the manufacturing. The product itself is the delivery vehicle to the end consumer locking them into premium products.  

Wikipedia has identified Apple as a company practising a form of vertical integration in the way it manages the business.  

Apple Inc.

Apple is one of the few vertically integrated businesses in the information technology sector. The company designs the computer hardware, accessories, operating system and much of the software itself. Production, however, has been transferred to specialized suppliers such as Foxconn, which also manufactures computer hardware for other companies. This arrangement is similar to that of most high-tech companies today. Although no longer participating in the actual manufacturing process, Apple has recently established a chain of high-profile upscale retail outlets, establishing a type of forward vertical integration which ensures that it retains some measure of control over its product image and marketing strategy.

What iTunes business strategy appears to be is moving into a world in which it acts as a distributor of media content through iTunes. It owns some of the content through its relationship to Walt Disney and it makes a variety of different hardware media / computing products which work well together. 

For Steve Jobs, who recently became the largest individual shareholder in Disney after it bought Pixar Animation Studios, a solution would seem to present itself. He could bring together the two separate areas of his working life, and unify Disney and Apple.

That way he would have the content and the platform, and he wouldn't be quite so reliant on the agreement of others to make it all work.

As one of the few people who truly understands both the computing world and the content world, he might even show Sony how to make a success of an integrated company. (My emphasis: Bill Thompson ibid)



Steve Jobs integrated media guru

Jobs as Guru



Conclusion

With the whole of the New Media market still very much in its early years any conclusions must be a highly provisional affair. The dynamics are still playing themselves out and there are still a number of key groups in this market all of which are very highly capitalised companies. Microsoft and Apple, News Corporation and  Sony  are all older companies and well established. It remains to be seen what powerful new companies such as Google can achieve. Currently there is still plenty of room for all of these companies to expand in their own chosen paths but increasingly these are likely to overlap and conflict. Right now Apple, moving away from its origins, looks set to become a very powerful media style company who provide the creative marketplace with serious computing and the domestic market with highly pleasing easy to use new media equipment providing access to vast libraies of cultural information. 


April 24, 2007

Successful Student Work

Follow-up to BlackBerry, iPhone or Sony UX1 from Kinoeye

Preface

This posting is for some of the student work which has been done in response to a brief research esay comparing some of the latest new media technologies that are current or due to be released in 2007.

Student Essay 1:

Emma Williamson - Comparison of the Blackberry Pearl, iPhone and Sony UX1.

The Blackberry, iPhone and Sony UX1 are very similar in their features and style (apart from the Sony UX1 which is more like a mini computer), but they all have those slight different functions, main priorities and appeal to different markets. All of these devices have functions such as camera, music, e-mail, internet and phone capabilities. However, they all have different key functions that make them unique and different to each other.

The Blackberry

blackberry_pearl.jpgFirstly, the Blackberry I believe has been brought out being marketed at businesses and business people. This is because it has features such as an organizer which allows you to keep an integrated address book (make phone calls and send e-mail instantly), a calendar to keep your appointments and meetings organized, a memo pad to jot down those important ideas and points from a meeting, and a tasks function which allows you to tick off your tasks as you do them whilst your on the move. Even though a lot of phones, PDAs, mini computers etc. come with internet access and e-mail account capabilities, the difference with this Blackberry is that you are able to manage 10 different e-mail accounts and log into the internet whilst on the move. For business people this is very good because they will want to be able to manage their e-mails and get in touch with people whenever and wherever they want, and the Blackberry allows them to do this. This device also has some interesting interface features such as a pearl-like trackball navigation system and a small ‘phone-like’ keypad, this uses less space on the interface therefore allowing a slightly larger screen. Also because the Blackberry Pearl is described as a smart phone (www.discoverblackberry.com) it is only phone-size and therefore easy to carry around for everyday business needs. The Blackberry also includes normal everyday functions such as text messaging, ringtone downloading, camera etc. There are some downsides to the Blackberry though, firstly it only has a 64MB integrated memory which will not be large enough of people to store their images and notes etc. that they want, this means that those who buy them will have to buy a compatible microSD card.

The iPhone 

iPhoneNext there is the iPhone. Obviously the first thing that stands out to everyone is the huge 3.5inch widescreen display with no keypad and touch screen capabilities, so you can easily navigate yourself round your new iPhone easily and effectively. Also the iPhone still allows you to sync your device straight to itunes using your pc or mac. Obviously the iPhone has revolutionary phone capabilities as well, using the touch screen keypad to write e-mails and text messages, contact your friends through phone calling and managing your voicemail like e-mail and choosing what to listen to. The iPhone is also compatible with Wi-Fi, whereas the Blackberry does not as of yet, however, there are plans for the future to add Wi-Fi to future Blackberry devices. You are able to browse the internet whenever you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot. You are able to get the iPhone in either a 4 or 8GB built in memory which would be fine for people who just want some music, but for those who need the iPhone for bigger and better things you cannot put in removable memory. The iPhone also comes with an integrated 2megapixel camera. I think that it is obvious the iPhone is most effective for leisure and most probably aimed at the younger market because of the music, film, TV, camera and photo capabilities.

The Sony UX1

Sony UX1Finally we have the Sony UX1, this device is effectively a handheld laptop. It has all the capabilities of a computer just in a smaller package; it comes with word processor capabilities, e-mail, internet, Wi-Fi connection etc. This device has the largest screen (4.5 inches) of the three but also comes with a computer like keypad/board, also it too has touch sensitive screen like the iPhone (two choices, you can choose what you prefer.) the Sony UX1 I believe is being aimed at business people again, and people who need the capabilities of a computer whilst on the move but do not have the space to be constantly carrying round a laptop. You may notice that the UX1 does not have actual phone capabilities but, over the internet you can make internet calls (via a microphone) and log into your favourite instant messaging service (like MSN) to have a chat with your friends on the move. Also the UX1 comes with two integrated cameras, a 0.3megapixel one on top and a 1.3megapixel camera on the back. The UX1 is considerably larger than the other devices but still only weighs a mere 500g, which makes it possible to maybe not carry it in your pocket but all you need is a small bag.

I believe that the intention of the designers and companies of these devices was not to be competing with each other for the best device but because they have so many of the same or similar functions they are, this is because the public want the best new technology. They are aimed at different audiences and markets but they still over lap and could appeal to different people still. The iPhone is definitely aimed at the younger market, for its main leisure capabilities, and the Blackberry and UX1 are both aimed at businesses but the UX1 could also appeal just to those who want a small computer but not a large laptop.

Student Essay 2 (but better):

Mike Crockett - Comparison of the Blackberry Pearl, iPhone and Sony UX1.

Coming soon. . . .


April 21, 2007

Digital Radio Mondiale Comes to Devon

Digital Radio Mondiale: Testing in Devon

Digital Radio mondiale is digital radio for Medium wave listeners.  

The first test of this is going ahead in Devon reports the BBC Press Office

This test will start on the 23rd April 2007.

Below the Morphy Richards DRM receiver. Currently this appears to be the only equipment capable of receiving the signal. Lack of receivers could stymie the initiative but the BBC a giving 100 testers a receiver to do the test with. Which is just as well really because as they say on their 'questions answered'  page :

There are a number manufacturers in the UK who are planning to produce digital medium-wave capable radios, although none is yet ready to buy in the shops. As they are not yet readily available, we're not able to say how much a digital medium-wave radio will cost.

DRM Radio

Whilst nobody seems to be selling the Morphy richards here at present although there is apparently a 'grey market' there is a USB alternative which can link to your laptop or PC. so if you live in Devon this could be a good opportunity. The USB Radio comes from WinRadio. At $600 they will be moving off the shelves fast I'm sure.  

Winradio USB DRM

What is DRM? 


DRM.  (Meaning 2) DRM or Digital Radio Mondiale is the world's only, open standard digital radio system for short-wave, AM/medium-wave and long-wave. It has been endorsed by the ITU, IEC and ETSI. DRM is the only universal, open standard digital AM radio system with near-FM quality sound available to markets worldwide. Unlike digital systems that require a new frequency allocation, DRM uses existing AM broadcast frequency bands. The DRM signal is designed to fit in with the existing AM broadcast band plan. Below a Morphy richards DRM Radio.

By comparison with new DAB systems the current technology can be cheaply adapted to transmit digitally on these frequencies. Reputedly the sound quality is very good indeed.

The DRM system uses existing AM broadcast frequencies to deliver near-FM quality digital sound.

It uses compression to squeeze clear digital sound into the narrow radio channels that currently carry crackly analogue signals.

The DRM technology has the potential to make digital radio available in places that Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio or even FM will probably never reach. (BBC Story)

BBC Your Questions answered page on DRM in response to the Devon test. This gives a good range of detail.

Recent Guardian story on Organgrinder's Blog here.




Putting British Digital Radio Broadcasting in Persepctive

Below press releases from Radioscape a digital radio developer



Why is the UK leading in DAB?

There are three things that need to come together for DAB to be successful.

  • First, the broadcast infrastructure has to be in place to reach the majority of the population.
  • Second, receivers need to be available at consumer price points - sub £100 was the breakthrough price for the UK.
  • Third, there has to be different and compelling content.

In many countries, DAB just duplicated existing radio stations so there was no compelling reason to buy a DAB receiver. However, in the UK the BBC pioneered the launch of several completely new DAB radio stations that makes it worthwhile for people to buy a new radio and provides momentum and a critical mass of potential listeners to support the launch of commercial DAB radio stations. As a result, there are hundreds of DAB stations across the UK - more than the number of FM stations.




Radioscape continued


What is DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) and does it compete with DAB?

DRM is the only global standard for the digitising of broadcasting in the AM (SW, MW and LW) frequency bands. Able to cover great distances and provide near “FM quality” audio using much lower transmission power and smaller amounts of spectrum, DRM is currently being widely adopted around the world to provide new and higher quality broadcasts for both national and international audiences. Over 20 Broadcasters are already broadcasting using DRM across the globe and include the BBC (World Service), Deutsche Welle, RTL Group, Radio Netherlands, and TDF. More information can be found at www.drm.org

DAB is ideal for short range broadcasts of a few dozen miles or kilometers so that a network of transmitters is required to cover a country. By contrast, one DRM transmitter can cover an entire continent and even go from one continent to another. Thus DAB is best suited to areas of high population density with DRM being able to cover these and areas of low population density. DAB is able to provide an enhanced user experience by being able to carry additional data such as EPG (Electronic Programme Guides), information related to the current programme and even video. DRM, however, can only carry a small amount of data.

The future for DAB and DRM is not as rivals but as complementary technologies. At IFA 2005, RadioScape was the first company in the world to show a multi-standard consumer receiver that could receiver DRM, DAB, MW, LW, SW and FM. This fully integrated solution enables the listener to select what he or she wants to listen to from a display of available radio stations and the receiver works out which technology to use. This is the content-driven future for Digital Radio, where the technology to deliver it is transparent to the user.




April 19, 2007

The Changing Future of TV

The Changing Nature of TV in an "On Demand" Era


What you want, when you want it, where you want it!

This round up of new technologies from the BBC website gives you an overview of how digital imaging technologies are developing and will change the nature of TV quite fundamentally. Below this piece shows  the planned implementation of the UK switchover to digital. There is a BBC case study of how several families now percieve the schedules of TV in the era of media PCs and personal video recorders linked to high speed broadband.

The Great Digital Switchover 

The most important change ever in British Broadcasting will start to take place in 2008. This process will set in place the communications infrastructure that will probably make the UK the country with themost comprehensive fully digital broadcasting infrasturcture in the World. Hopefully it will still ensure that underlying these dramatic changes the ethos of public service broadcasting is maintained against the onslaught of total commercialisation. Below is a map of the planned process. Presumably it is something more than a coincidence that the system is due to be finished in Olympics year.



The digital switchover from analogue starts next year (2008) and is due to be completed in 2012 (just in time for the Olympics!) 

Map of digital switchover in UK



Family Case Studies

Family 1: The One TV Household

We could get a digital video recorder, and maybe we will. I'd rather do that than have a fragmented family where we don't see each other because we're all watching different programmes in different rooms.

Family 2: Owning a Media PC

Now, we hardly ever watch live TV - when we do it's either the news or sporting events.

Family 3: Owning a PVR (Personal Video Recorder)

The coming technology is even better. Currently, a PVR can only record what a channel transmits.

Broadband will change the broadcasters' role. Producers will put their catalogues online, on a pay-per-download basis, allowing intelligent broadband-connected PVRs all over the planet to browse and directly source material that matches our tastes.

Get the full story here

Changing Content Provision for New Technological Vehicles: Ricky Gervais on his internet work. This includes a video link to Gervais


Whitehaven: Reactions from Residents about being first fully digital town in the country

The Guardian had their reporter on the spot in October when the BBC 2 analogue service was switched off here are some of the comments:

Andrew Davies, who runs a guest house in the Cumbrian coastal town, said the process of becoming the first place in Britain to have its analogue TV signal switched off had been ill-thought-out and expensive.

It cost Mr Davies - who runs the eight-bedroom Glenfield guest house with his wife Margaret - around £1,000 to convert his business to digital. Initial estimates had put the cost as high as £5,000.

"We did not want or need digital TV," said Mr Davies. "It is a financial burden that has been put upon us without any consultation whatsoever.

"I am very cynical about why they chose to do this first in Whitehaven. Perhaps they thought we were a small town with a poor infrastructure who would not make a big fuss if it went wrong. If it was Kingston-upon-Thames there would have been riots on the streets."

Webliography

TV on demand from the BBC

Will Digital Destroy the TV License?

BBC Changes Mark a Digital Future 


April 18, 2007

Laura Mulvey and The Male Gaze

Laura Mulvey and The Male Gaze in Cinema

Preface

This entry is primarily targeted at those doing A Level Media / film Studies and those doing film theory for the first time.

Introduction

Many A Level students are now introduced to Laura Mulvey's theories of the 'Male Gaze' especially if they have opted to do an option on Women and Film. Mulvey's ideas were first expressed in an article written in Screen in 1975. It was then a highly theoretical cinema journal. The article which became a seminal one is called "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (Some extracts here).

The levels of difficulty for those setting out in the world of thinking should not be underestimated. To be able to debate this article at higher levels requires a good knowledge of both Freudian and Lacanian theories of psychoanalysis. Much of the work done by Jacques Lacan is notoriously difficult and is not necessary for this level of analysis.

Key points of Mulvey's original article

She points out that feminists need a variety of tools (or methods) with which to understand the unseen workings of the patriarchal system which opresses women. Mulvey is concerned to argue that psychoanalysis is an important tool whilst recognising the need for many others.

Mulvey then moves onto a section which argues that pleasure needs to be destroyed and that this destruction is a radical weapon. Cinema particuarly Hollywood cinema which is primarily structured upon bringing pleasure raises questions about how the unconscious structures our ways of seeing and understanding of the world and also why we gain pleasure from looking.

roberts Pretty Woman 1

Here Julia Roberts who is actually playing the character of a prostitute fits in with typically anodyne Hollywood fantasies which bear little or no relation to the reality of the sex trade. Compare this representation with that of Lilya in Lilya 4-Ever who is ateenager sold into the sex trade. One challenges the patriarchal status quo and the other doesn't. No prizes for working out which!

Mulvey points out that cinema had changed during the course of the 1960s and early 1970s in a way which afforded opportunities for other filmmakers outside of the mainstream because of technological developments in filming and also exhibition. It is worth noting that this is even more pertinent now because of the rise of relatively cheap digital video cameras (DV), relatively cheap software and with the growth of the internet the possibility of distributing to a global marketplace. YouTube is the perfect example of that.

Arguably it is the realms of the videogame which is beginning to impinge and to change cinema. It is perhaps here that industrial capitalist media will re-establish its headquarters. For just as it has become possible to erode and circumvennt the powerful position of Hollywood through technological advancement that advancement establishes new barriers to skills knowledge and capital, whilst a new media industry is being developed. 

In 2003 David Puttnam on the BBC video Trigger Happy suggests has the potential to replace cinema and even TV as the most important medium. Perhaps it is here that Mulvey's arguments will need to be played out all over again in terms of the representation of women. But Mulvey was writing in a pre-digital era:

The magic of the Hollywood style at its best...arose, not exclusively but in one important aspect from its skilled and satisfying manipulation of visual pleasure. Unchallenged, mainstream film coded the erotic into the language of the dominant patriarchal order. (Mulvey in Movies & Methods Vol II, p 306)

It is because this pleasure is already idologically encoded upon patriarchal terms that Mulvey wishes to use analysis to start to destroy that pleasure creating mechanism. This she hope will allow a new language of desire to emerge for humanity.

Lilya and Friend in Club

Lilya and her best friend in a nightclub. The 'friend' is out to sell herself for the first time. Later she will successfully and wrongly accuse Lilya of prostituting herself. Her  the camera has pulled the focus to a narrow depth of field to make Lilya the main object of representation. Lilya here is represented as young, näive and vulnerable in a patriarchal world. Although she is in a strappy dress the way the image is filmed is anything but eroticised. 

Mulvey then moves on to explain the term scopophilia which was developed by Freud to describe the pleasure in looking which is associated with sexual drives although nothing whatsoever to do with the erotogenic zones. In Freud's early wor:

...he associated scopophilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze.  (ibid p 307).

Mulvey is careful to note that for Freud scopophilia was essentially active, indeed it was an activity which he associated with children who have a voyeuristic curiosity to see the forbidden areas of the body. It is a curiosity which extends to the question of the presence / absence of the penis and ultimately in Freudian method to the question of the primal scene. This pleasure in looking becomes a part of the human subject. At its extreme it can be a perversion in which sexual satisfaction can only come :

...from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other. (ibid p 307)

Mulvey then notes that on the surface little could be further away from the shifty voyeur eying up an unwitting victim than cinema. this is why it is importatn to analyse carefully the workings of the cinema as a system, part of an overall ideological apparatus which structures a particular patriarchal world as 'normal'.

Pretty Woman Publicity

Above this publicity poster for Pretty Woman eroticises and fetishises in 'the nicest posssible way'. Here the use of star theory combined with Mulvey's theory of the gaze shows how Hollywood can make an unpleasant and patriarchally organised undrground busines seem 'OK'. One can pretend that it is 'post-modern irony' interpreted by the knowing subject (really?)

Scopophilia

It is in the nature of cinema that the narrative unfurls with total indifference to the audience representing an hermetically sealed world. The darkness of the cinema helps to isolate the spectators from one another while the brilliance of the screen and the play of light and dark upon it contribute to this sense of isolation.  The conditions of screening alongside the narrative and other conventions therefore can be understood to place the spectator in the illusory position of looking in on an abstract world. Here of course it is worth noting that frequently film isn't experienced like this but in the realm of home on a small screen with the possibilities of the external world intruding frequently. 

The constitution of the ego

Importantly for Mulvey the whole of the cinema-going experience creates a structure of fascination which in a seeming paradox allows a forgetting of the ego (position of the subject in the world), yet simulataneously reinforces that ego through a process of identification through ideals "as expressed in particular in the star system" (Mulvey). 

Contradictory model of vision 

Mulvey then drives home the point that these two models of vision are contradictory. Scopophilic viewing requires a strong separation of the viewing subject from the observed object from a form of ego identification with the object on the screen through a process of fascination and and 'recognition of his like'. (Mulvey)

Both models have in common that they:

...pursue aims in indifference to perceptual reality . .. creating...a concept of the World that.... makes a mockery of the empirical reality of the world. (Mulvey ibid p 308).

It is extremely important that this idea of the operations of cinema and the social construction of vision operates at a deeply unconscious level. The theory is therefore one which is hard to prove in a hard "scientific" way through questionnaires etc precisely because the whole system works at a level of the subject which isn't immediately accessible to the conscious subject. We don't understand what it is that attracts us but as Theodor Adorno has pointed out, to be able to discuss  rationality and reason there is clearly an area in which 'unreason' operates in individual subjects. Not all reponses by human beings can simply be measured by charts, questionnaires and statistics. Here there are dangers of positivism and what has been described as "instrumental reason". 

Developing Theories of the Female Spectator

Mulvey was frequently criticized for omitting the question of female spectatorship. Why do women go to the cinema and what kind of pleasure do they gain from it? These  became key questions for feminists and other film theorists and as a result Mulvey strove to address these issues in her article on "Afterthoughts" using Duel in The Sun as a case study. (King Vidor, 1946)

There has been criticism from researchers such as Jackie Stacey who comes from a Cultural Studies background.  Cultural Studies argues that peope from the audiences for films must be approached and questioned about their conscious reactions to films and specifically the represenatiions of women within these films. Her own research suggested that women could gain a lot of satisfaction out of representations of women being powerful and in control of their lives or struggling to remain in control. These research findings supported the idea of the negotiated reading which comes from cultural studies theory and argues that audiences aren't just canvases totally controlled and manipulated by the film texts they have consumed. Rather the individuals within the audience are active and critical subjects capable of engaging with the intended messages emanating from the film but choosing to decode and read them differently. You will find it useful to engage with star theory if you are dealing with better known and high budget films which depend a lot on the promotion of stars to get a larger audience.

Mildred Pierce in Kitchen

Mildred from Mildred Pierce a genre hybrid film which crosses over the matinee "woman's film" (melodrama) with a strong film noir sensibility. Here Mildred is represented as the doting mother whose obsession with her favourite daughter Vida destroys the family. After being left by her husband she meets playboy Monty who helps fiance her business. At their first meeting Mildred is painting up a ladder. The camera gradually tracks up her legs from a low angle eroticising her and providing a male gaze which is sexualised rather than seeing woman in 'her place' in the kitchen. The treatment of Mildred by the camera shows that theres is more than one kind of patriarchal gaze. however her status is still above that of an African-American woman who is playing a typical servant role!

Construction of the Male Gaze

The Wikipedia entry currently (17 / 04 / 07) argues the following:  

In considering the way that films are put together, many feminist film critics have pointed to the "male gaze" that predominates in classical Hollywood filmmaking. Laura Mulvey's essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" gave one of the most widely influential versions of this argument. This argument holds that through the use of various film techniques, such as the point of view shot, a typical film's viewer becomes aligned with the point of view of its male protagonist. Notably, women function as objects of this gaze far more often than as proxies for the spectator.

Mildred Pierce and Vida

In Mildred Pierce it is Mildred's daughter who plays the role of femme fatale. The bad woman who uses her sexuality to get her own way. As the film progresses it is Vida who becomes the camera's eroticised object.

Webliography

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975) - Laura Mulvey abbreviated version.

Biographical notes on Laura Mulvey

Wikipedia Biographical entry on Mulvey

Brief explanation of The Gaze

There are some useful notes on The Gaze by Daniel Chandler from Aberystwyth University including some on Mulvey. Well worth checking out.

A useful Powerpoint presentation on Mulvey is available via Birmingham University Arts Web


Success of Sony PS3

Writing about web page /michaelwalford/entry/processes_of_convergence/

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

Stories Marking the success of the Sony PS3

Of particular relevance to AS Media Students doing New Media: Audiences and Institutions with OCR

The content of these stories will help you be entirely up to date when giving evidence which shows why media institutions such as Sony carry on investing large amounts of money in developing new products.

Sony chief hails PS3’s success in Europe Financial Times Wednesday 18th of April 2007. Please follow up links on the FT page for more on PS3.

Other useful stories:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/04e83306-d897-11db-a759-000b5df10621.html


April 15, 2007

iTunes and the Downloading Industry

AS Media New Media Technologies : Second Essay

Essay Title

The Financial Times suggests that Apple's investment in iTunes has allowed it to dictate terms to the industry. How far do you think this is true. Would you expect to see iTunes lose its dominance soon? How might the music companies deal with the future of music via the
Internet? Explain your thinking on this.
 

The success of the iPod:

CUPERTINO, California—April 9, 2007—Apple® today announced that the 100 millionth iPod® has been sold, making the iPod the fastest selling music player in history.

iTunes and the Music industry

One media consultancy, Enders Analysis, predicted this week that global music sales would fall to $23bn in 2009, down 16 per cent from last year.(My emphasis from FT Published: April 12 2007 22:05)

Steve Jobs CEO (Chief Executive Office) of Apple had distributed an open letter online challenging the big four music companies to allow Apple to distribute their music free of digital rights management. 

Some interesting extracts to get you thinking 

To begin, it is useful to remember that all iPods play music that is free of any DRM and encoded in “open” licensable formats such as MP3 and AAC. iPod users can and do acquire their music from many sources, including CDs they own.

Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.

users to play their DRM protected music on up to 5 computers and on an unlimited number of iPods. Obtaining such rights from the music companies was unprecedented at the time, and even today is unmatched by most other digital music services. However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.

Steve Jobs then moves on to consider three different options for the future of downloadable music on the internet:

First option

The first alternative is to continue on the current course, with each manufacturer competing freely with their own “top to bottom” proprietary systems for selling, playing and protecting music. It is a very competitive market, with major global companies making large investments to develop new music players and online music stores. Apple, Microsoft and Sony all compete with proprietary systems. Music purchased from Microsoft’s Zune store will only play on Zune players; music purchased from Sony’s Connect store will only play on Sony’s players; and music purchased from Apple’s iTunes store will only play on iPods. This is the current state of affairs in the industry, and customers are being well served with a continuing stream of innovative products and a wide variety of choices.

Let’s look at the data for iPods and the iTunes store – they are the industry’s most popular products and we have accurate data for them. Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold. (My emphasis. If you are going to answer a question using downloading as a case study you must have up to date figures. 

Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full.  This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats.  It’s hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future.  And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.(My emphasis)

Second Option 

The second alternative is for Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology to current and future competitors with the goal of achieving interoperability between different company’s players and music stores. On the surface, this seems like a good idea since it might offer customers increased choice now and in the future. And Apple might benefit by charging a small licensing fee for its FairPlay DRM.

Jobs points out that clever hackers are always trying to break into systems with predictable results: 

Such leaks can rapidly result in software programs available as free downloads on the Internet which will disable the DRM protection so that formerly protected songs can be played on unauthorized players.

A related problem is how to:

quickly repair the damage caused by such a leak... It is near impossible if multiple companies control separate pieces of the puzzle, and all of them must quickly act in concert to repair the damage from a leak.

Jobs has therefore developed the following policy: 

Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies. Perhaps this same conclusion contributed to Microsoft’s recent decision to switch their emphasis from an “open” model of licensing their DRM to others to a “closed” model of offering a proprietary music store, proprietary jukebox software and proprietary players.

Option 3: 

Jobs continues: 

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Now we come to the central challenge of Jobs' argument:  

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. (My emphasis)

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries.  Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free.  For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard.  The largest, Universal, is 100% owned by Vivendi, a French company.  EMI is a British company, and Sony BMG is 50% owned by Bertelsmann, a German company.  Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace.  Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.

Music Companies Strategy

Interestingly EMI have decided to start to sell music via iTunes free of DRM

EMI, the UK music group, announced that it would offer music downloads free of digital rights management, or digital “locks”, on Apple’s iTunes next month. (Financial Times).

EMI will be the first of the four large record “majors” to remove DRM from its catalogue, although independent labels have always sold their songs without it.

The Financial Times notes that in April 2007 

The world’s biggest music companies are expected to ask Apple to introduce a music subscription service to its iTunes digital media store as part of negotiations to renew their agreements with the computer company

Executives at Universal and other labels believe a subscription service could prove more lucrative for them than iTunes’ prevailing model of charging consumers 99 cents per track because it would increase consumption of music. It would also entitle the labels to a share of monthly payments, in addition to small licensing fees each time their songs are played.

Warner Music's response to the Apple challenge:

Edgar Bronfman, Warner Music’s chief executive, on Thursday slapped down Steve Jobs’s suggestion that record companies do away with copyright protections for digital music in order to spur the market’s growth.

Mr Bronfman expressed hope that the two sides could cooperate, but added: “Frankly, manifestos in advance of those discussions are counter-productive.”

Watch this space over the next couple of weeks, there will be some interesting outcomes and you will be right up to date for your exam. They will also effect your day to day practices in terms of gaining access to music.  

CDs and the lack of digital rights management

Steve Jobs makes an important point although one need not necessarily agree with his conclusions. When the CD was launched by Sony/Philips as a joint development venture the prospect of them being copied was almost inconceivable. CD players were very expensive initially with even the cheapest of them worth more than many people's playback systems. They were aimed at a well off market conscious of new technologies which promised better sounding playback without the deterioration associated with Vinyl (LPs). A single scratch could easily wreck a whole album and dust was an ever present issue. Delicate cartridges were another issue. Personal computers barely existed then an the concept of the internet was unimaginable for most of the World. We are only talking of the early 1980s here!

As a result the CD didn't have any anti-copying devices in them. The first CD copiers were very expensive and the record companies insisted that they had DRM built in. The breakdown in the sytem came through computing. The invention of programmes which could 'rip' music from the CD to mass produce CDs as pirate copies took off. Then the internet added to the woes of the record companies.

SACD Copy Protection 

in 2000 Sony and Philips brought out SACD which is an enhanced sound quality multitracked disc which is far superior to CD in its potential.  Naturally these companies both of whom have been employed in producing music cpntent in the past were actutly aware of the problems of piracy. SACD is copyprotected according to the Wikipedia entry:

SACD includes various copy protection measures of which the most prominent is Pit Signal Processing (PSP), a physical watermarking feature that contains a digital watermark modulated in the width of pits on the disc (data is stored in the pit length). The optical pickup must contain special circuitry to read the PSP watermark, which is then compared to information on the disc to make sure it's legitimate.

The problem here for music companies is that unlike CD there is an alternative format DVD-Audio (DVD-A). This is making buyers reluctant to buy equipment which is limited to only one format. At the same time the audio industry has developed a technique called upsampling which improves the quality of CD playback and is available on more upmarket CD players which appeal to an audience who are more discriminateing and better off. This is the market which previously might have bought SACDs and the equipment to play them on. 

Can Blueray Save the Music Companies?

The music companies are therefore unable to bring new music out in a different standard format. Ironically it is the development of the new games machine the Sony Playstation 3 which might change the balance. If sony can establish a large base of Blueray players via the games market it should also be able to make  an audio only version for the  music playback market which offers very high quality along with encryption. Sony are already working on this according to the May 2007 edition of Gramophone magazine aimed at classical music lovers which is a big global market. The younger market will also be able to use Blueray discs in their own audio systems via audio output which will create a much larger user base than SACD and DVD-A.

If this enlarged new user base can be established and music released on blueray discs then for the forseeable future the piracy issue will drop away. The music download will be fat inferior as there won't be the multitracking information available. For the long term the message is don't spend too much money in iTunes because the ground may shift yet again. Watch this space!

If you think this is a far fetched idea look at the remarkable success of the Sony PS3 after its release in Europe. The Chief Executive of Sony quoted in the Financial Times proudly announces the following:

Sir Howard said Sony was close to selling 800,000 units in Europe. “I think [in] the first two days in the UK, £100m ($199m) revenue changed hands and that’s probably the largest consumer electronics sale in history.” My emphasis).

.



Webliography 

The Financial Times on the power of iTunes over the music industry

Financial Times on EMI going DRM free in a limited way 

Financial Times on possible music subscription via iTunes

Financial Times of the Warner response to Steve Jobs

BBC: On EMI taking DRM lock off music tracks

BBC Video on this:

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
EMI's Eric Nicoli and Apple CEO Steve Jobs outline the deal

BlackBerry, iPhone or Sony UX1

Which is best?

Introduction

This is a research question for AS Students (OCR Media Studies)  doing the 'New Media Technologies' option for audiences and institutions. Other readers may use it to help them review the changing nature of the handheld device market, noting that new entrants may be competing or trying to develop new markets. Bear in mind it may well be that the growth of wireless technologies particularly in cities will increase fragmentation in the handheld device marketplace.

Please use the comments boxes below the entry to discuss any issues. 

AS New Media Research Question

Using the BlackBerry (8800 & Pearl), iPhone and Sony UX1 as examples compare and contrast the different devices and discuss whether you think they are aimed at different markets or whther they are competing with each other.  

To do this question you should:

  1. Use the links below to research the devices
  2. Clearly explain the main differences between the different devices (don't go too teccie here)
  3. On the basis of the technical differences discuss who the likely market for these devices is likely to be (business / leisure)
  4. Discuss whether you think they are  in competition with each other or whther you think the markets they are aiming at are different. (Here you should dicuss price and where and how the devices are marketed)
  5. You should make a note of the most important sites you use and the date upon which you visited them. (These are essential research skills. The examiner will expect some hard evidence so they can check your assertions made in the exam). 

The Blackberry

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BlackBerry

Please note the folloing part of the entry: Several ordinary mobile phones have been released featuring the BlackBerry e-mail client which connects to BlackBerry servers. All these phones have full QWERTY keyboards (except the Motorola MPx220, Nokia E50 and Nokia E60).

http://www.discoverblackberry.com/

This site has an excellent Flashbased product review with full sound.

http://www.rim.net/

This site gives you some background details into RIM  the company who make BlackBerries

http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2007/02/28/rim_blackberry_8800/

This gives you a review of the Blackberry 8800. The review is useful as it evaluates the Blackberry's leisure abilities as well as business uses such as having bulit in GPS.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6547515.stm

Latest business news story fromm BBC on BlackBerry. Make sure you read this one!! note the recent facts and figures about the company's market. Link the market details into the details from the story below also from the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6202181.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4222365.stm

BBC story on BlackBerry health hazard 

http://www2.essex.ac.uk/cs/documentation/blackberry/blackberry_service.htm

This is a useful independent assessment of the BalckBerry from University of Essex computer services department.  

The iPhone 

Apple's own promotional material noting how 'revilutionary the product is. Please note what features that the iPhone combines which they think justifies the term 'relovultionary'.

http://www.apple.com/iphone/


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6247803.stm

BBC technology page reviewing the iPhone

http://www.guardian.co.uk/mobile/article/0,,1987512,00.html

Guardian article on impact upon other phone companies on the announcing of iPhone

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone

Wikipedia entry useful on development of touchscreen technology 

http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/hardware/mobilephones/0,1000000685,39285404,00.htm

this review form Znet makes some useful comparisons with the iPhones capabilities as a mucis / video player with the current top of the range iPods. Note the comments on different screen sizes for example. Also note this extracts below:

The convergence device also takes a step away from its iPod brethren by offering a built-in mic for audio recordings. And unlike most mobile phones, the iPhone offers a standard 3.5mm audio jack, which will work with all mainstream stereo headphones. There's no FM radio but that's nothing new from Apple.

2.0-megapixel camera, a photo-management tool that rotates the display for landscape photos (like with videos), support for Google Maps, conference calling, a speakerphone, and text and multimedia messaging. We imagine there will be personal organiser applications as well, but Jobs kept quiet on such fine details. Connectivity options also look promising with stereo Bluetooth (thankfully), Wi-Fi (a huge plus), POP3 and IMAP4 email, and a Safari Web browser. The free push Yahoo email application looks especially cool since we won't have to wait for syncing with a PC.

On the downside, we were hoping for wireless iTunes music downloads. And it's too bad Apple stopped short of 3G support. Also, we're hoping that Apple introduces a standalone touch-screen iPod without the phone element as not everyone will want a convergence device. And here's the biggest caveat: phones are only as good as the calls they make, so we'll have to wait for our final assessment once we get a review product.

Please also note link to Znet video on iPhone below:

http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/hardware/mobilephones/0,1000000685,39285407,00.htm

Blow extract from a blog review comment on
Guardian blogs pointing out the comparisons with the BlackBerry market:

Not many people care and this is not aimed squarely at the blackberry/windows market (no outlook sync and Word app yet) so I don't think expandability and applications are an issue (I wager that Apple will add more 3rd party 'controlled' apps a la Google Maps before long). I am more peeved that iTunes songs will not be able to be used as ringtones!

A sceptical comment from the Observer on the iPhone 

Link to a blog which points up some iPhone weaknesses

Financial Times Article of March 2007. this article is the most recent an well informed one about the commercial prospects of the iPhone with links to the mobile network in the States which is likely to be the first to provide it.  

The Linksys "IPhone" from Cisco

This was an interesting market intervention. Cisco systems a massive global company  had patented the name IPhone for quite some time. Apple have had to do a deal with Cisco to use the name iPhone:

http://www.linksys.com/servlet/Satellite?c=L_Promotion_C1&childpagename=US%2FLayout&cid=1165633244027&pagename=Linksys%2FCommon%2FVisitorWrapper

Link to US based Linksys for promo materials. What market is being targeted here?  

http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2006/12/18/linksys_launches_iphone/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6189145.stm

Above BBC report on the story 

The Sony UX1

For details on the technology and the promotional and web based marketing material please link to my blog article on Sony Vaio UX1

Review of Sony Vaio UX1. Please also link to the following discussion below. (Note developments in interactivity via the internet here for exam purposes!)

Extract from Sony's initial marketing blurb (please note it is from Sony Europe compare this with the iPhone which is not yet out and with no clear information about what is happening in Europe regarding its release).

Everything about the UX1 makes it the ideal choice for anyone needing full PC capability on the go, particularly when they don’t have the luxury of time and space to open a notebook computer. Architects, engineers, doctors, sales professionals or anyone else, if your work takes you away from a desk, the UX1 can make a real difference.

A discussion blog on the relevance of the Sony Vaio UX1 and whether it will find a market, and if so who is that market?

Where it competes with iPhone:

  • It's barely bigger than a thick-ish paperback book, yet it packs a full Vista-touting PC
  • It weighs a mere 500g
  • 32GB model - it's a Flash drive. This has two advantages: it's faster than a standard drive and it's also more durable since there are no moving parts.
  • The 4.5in screen
  • The screen is touch-sensitive too 
  • Features two cameras - a 0.3-megapixel model in the top of the screen and a 1.3-megapixel job on the back),
  • One might observe that current UMPC's don't offer cell phone functionality. Until we recall that they DO have 3G or EVDO as well as Bluetooth 2.0. Skype and a bit of software are all that is needed to transform them into mobile phones.

Overview

Some of the issues which arise from this are what is the likely future of the Sony Vaio. Given their previousd product release history there will be a better one than the UX1 in a few months time. It will probably based on having a much larger flash memory and will probably be priced at the same level as the UX1. The UX1 will probably come down to about £1300.

The advantages of the machine are obvious for business and professional users. whilst its price may hold it back in the consumer market the ability to write it down as a business expense against tax will help lever it into the professional and commercial market. This should help amortise the obviously large development costs reasonably quickly with an eye to having version as a consumer product in the next couple of years. The fact that it exists now may well persuade many to wait before making a decision over something which is as expensive as an iPhone yet is 'locked down' in terms of its flexibility.

The other issue is what will BlackBerry do. It is clearly a smaller organisation than either Sony or Apple. what it may need to do to compete with iPhone is to improve its memory size and have better entertainment features.  

The jury is out over whether these will keep separate markets or go head to head. For many people the Vaio with its abilities to edit video and photos and the current ability to add in extra usb portable hard drives as well as cameras etc will be very attractive to the semi-pro image market as the price comes down.  




    April 11, 2007

    Luchino Visconti

    Luchino Visconti

    Return to Italian directors hub page

    (Please note this posting is still under construction)

    I have now decided to open the page although it is still 'work in progress', however I have noticed that a few visitors are finding this page anyway.  There are now a good range of hyperlinks provided and it is now functioning as a 'web-hub' from the Chronology of European Cinema Page for work on Visconti. My apologies to visitors for any inadequacies. Hopefully you will still find it useful for your purposes and better than anything else on the web currently available in English.  

    NB Hyperlinked filmography below 

    For all those visiting from the 'Chronolgy of European Cinema' page there is a hyperlinked filmography as well as a webliography below.  The former takes you to the best articles I could find on the web on that particular film in English at the time of construction. If you have come across anything else which you consider better please drop a message in the comments box and I will relink if appropriate.  


    Forget Rossellini and Fellini - no one did as much to shape Italian cinema as Luchino Visconti. So why is he so underrated, asks Jonathan Jones





    Audiences are always stratified and it crudifies the situation to suggest that there are only two of them, a “mass” and an “elite”. Many film spectators (not to mention readers of books or visitors to art galleries) do not fall into either category and would find insulting suggestions that they did’ (Nowell-Smith 2003: 219).


    Below is a YouTube extract from BBC 4 Arena documentary The Life and Times of Count Luchino Visconti. The full two hour version is available with the BFI version of The Leopard.



    A Brief Overview

    Introduction 

    The role of this article is to provide an overview of Visconti and to act as a web-based hub for visitors to gain more information about Visconti in a more organised way. Hopefully this will provide researchers at whatever level as well as people generally interested in Visconti with a useful service. More in depth articles on specific films are posted elsewhere and have been hyperlinked. As I come to consider Visconti's cinematic oeuvre in more depth I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that there is a strong case to be made for him being considered as one of the greatest of the World's directors. Obviously it is a contentious argument and one can immediately criticise it by pointing out that in terms of film form his work was not especially avante garde in the way that of his near contemporaries such as Antonioni's was, neither in terms of the Marxist that he was did his films focus upon class formulations in ways that promoted the working class as the historical agent of change in a didactic sort of way.

    My case is being developed built on his attempts to develop a vision of the processes of historical change in a thoroughly artistic way following the work of Lukacs and using realism as a tool to examine key turning points in history as experienced through representatives of their class who were often aristocrats and royalty rather than horny handed sones of the soil. Yet Visconti has represented the Risorgimento very effectively firstly in Senso and later in The Leopard. With The Leopard I argue elsewhere that Visconti successfully brackets what many saw as the positivity of European Liberal nationalism of the 19th century and the demise of nationalism as a force for progress in the representation of the coming to power and the consolidation of that power in Germany as it falls under the power of the Nazis in The Damned. In this last mentioned film Visconti is not afraid to use more operatic approaches within his art shifting momentarily out of realism modes of expression through the Bazinian long take into moments of melodrama a term which is perhaps best thought of attached to a more Italianate meaning of the term which simply means music with drama rather than an over the top approach to everything exemplified in British TV soap operas for example. 

    It should not be forgotten that Visconti effectively represented many aspects of the marginalised and the working class in contemporary society as well firstly in Ossessione in an indirect fashion then in La Terra Trema which was originally designed as the first of a trilogy and interestingly represented regionalism as well with the film having to be subtitled into Italian for Italian rather than Sicilian audiences. The consolidation of the political right in power in Italy brought about a need for changes in approach and Bellissima starts to tackle the ideology of celebrity and the growing power of the media. In Rocco and His Brothers Visconti  made an insightful critique of the economic forces which underly the processes of diaspora and migration something which contemporary British film makers are dealing with today

    Viscont's later films have often been associated with decadence and also his own personal predilections and history coming from an aristocratic background. Here it is important to differentiate between studies of decadence as an historical problem which often signifies a turning point in history manifest in the art and culture of the moment and associating the artist critiquing this type of society. Ludwig can be seen as a good exemplar of the historical film as the cultural impetus behind mid-19th century monarchy is represented as the end of an era. The rise of instrumentalism and bourgeois bureaucracies for modern industrial society were pushing aside the old regimes and Ludwig is as much about the rise of a German nationalism and Bismarckian realpolitick as a 'biopic' of the real Ludwig. 

    One cannot ignore Visconti's masterliness in the realm of mise en scene. Known as a perfectionist in the construction of props and clothing he was also a perfectionist in his use of music as a fundamental facet of mise en scene.  Much of his work is also about music itself either directly or indirectly. Mahler, Wagner and the  failure of culture to stand up to the pressures of the new barbarism at the core of Nazism are just some of the musical themes present in visconti's work. The theme of music and memory is present in Vaghe Stelle dell' Orsa / Sandra through the use of  the late-romantic music of Franck and the use of American pop music to make an anti-Facist point in Ossessione amount to just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Visconti's in depth of understanding of the use of music in his cinema. Perfectionism too was present in his dealings with actors. Whilst Visconti is known to have had a stormy relationship with Burt Lancaster in The Leopard mutual respect grew out of this and Lancaster supported Visconti in Conversation Piece as well as Bertollucci in 1900. The rise of Maria Callas as an opera star is attributed to Visconti and actors turned into stars such as Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale have much to thank Visconti for. 

    Visconti then, became masterful in his film art which was informed by his widespread experience of theatre and opera directing. Visconti undoubtedly had personal vision and the determination to organise and develop his projects often against severe odds such as unsympathetic producers and a hostile political climate. The latter made it hard for him to make and to exhibit films such as Ossessione, Senso and Rocco and his Brothers

    It is the commitment to artistic integrity as well as his intellectual approaches combined with a deep knowledge of aspects of European history and culture which give his films such depth. Of course he worked with the best people he could find and many people were regular members of his team. It is this which precisely defines the successful auteur. There can be few people who attend screenings of Visconti films or buy the DVDs who are driven by the genre considerations of watching a costume drama. Visconti had an artistic and political vision that was expressed in the way his films were made as well as the content of these films. To provide deep readings of these films requires of the viewer an engagement with many important features European political and cultural history. However, it must be remembered that at the time of the making of films such as Rocco and His Brothers there would have been many Italians who identified with the economic migration that was such a strong feature of Italian life in the post-war "Economic miracle". Part of Visconti's genius was his ability to engage with and represent different facets of European society in different ways which still related to his political understanding of the world. If this was less obvious in his later work it doesn't make this work any less important and it challenges the viewer to engage with the periods of histoty and culture represented. 

    Visconti's films are perhaps perfect for the DVD era although most of his films are best experienced on the big screen. Their length is frequently inordinately long for a cinematic system geared to commerce rather than art and reliant upon the safe creation of genre output. Ludwig for example is aroung 4 hours long and the Leopard around three hours. The length of course relates more closely to operas and Italian audiences were far more used to this form across the classes than in most other countries. It is this cultural diifference which may have influenced Visconti to make such long films. They are films to which a viewer can comfortably return and gain new insights and meaning. They are unlikely to appeal to those brought up on the artifically dynamic editing styles prevalent in Hollywood. Visconti was a follower of the long take and the development of a complex mise en scene as methods of creating meaning in his films. Wholehearted engagement rather than just entertainment was at the core of his films but it is this approach which will help them to stand the test of time. 

    Below are some brief bigraphical notes and an overview of his main films. Where appropriate links are provided to more in depth approaches to individual films or perspectives. Some of the comments are thin as the films are not currently available in the UK on DVD or Video. These will be developed in due course. A hyperlinked filmography is provided and a webliography will take you to the best places in English on the web about Visconti and his work. A bibliography is now included  and other bibliographical references can be accessed on the Italian Cinema Bibliography page.   


    Biographical Notes

    Luchino Visconti died on March 17th 1976 just before he reached 70 years old. His health had been deteriorating since he suffered a stroke nearly four years earlier in July 1972. Visconti’s death can be seen as part of the end of an era within Italian cinema.  De Sica had  died the previous year and Rossellini the year afterwards.

    Visconti made 14 full feature films, contributed episodes to several others as well as directing nearly twenty operas and over forty plays. As such Visconti can be said to have an understanding of the role of the arts well beyond the capacity of most film directors. Visconti also had a theoretical understanding based upon his own readings of the Marxist writers Gramsci and Lukacs which were reflected within his work. 

    Visconti was the son of a Milanese aristocrat on his father’s side and the daughter of a successful new industrialist on his mother’s side. Visconti was also gay. As an artist Visconti was interested in addressing a variegated audience who would be able to engage with the films at a number of different levels. As Geoffrey Nowell-Smith points out:

    Audiences are always stratified and it crudifies the situation to suggest that there are only two of them, a “mass” and an “elite”. Many film spectators (not to mention readers of books or visitors to art galleries) do not fall into either category and would find insulting suggestions that they did’ (Nowell-Smith 2000: 219).


    Visconti the formative years: from the 1930s to Ossessione (1943)


    Visconti’s first work had been as a race horse trainer, an occupation in which he was successful. Visconti had a restless mind and he was never going to be totally satisfied with this as a career. In the early 1930s he was increasingly drawn to Paris and as the decade proceeded he visited more frequently and for longer periods.

    As an aristocrat is was fairly easy to access the artistic and intellectual circles of Paris. Compared to the cultural straightjacket of Mussolini’s Italy Paris was seething with experimental ideas and it proved to be formative for Visconti intellectually, politically and sexually.

    Coco Chanel

    Above Coco Chanel  



    Through Coco Chanel Visconti was soon in touch with many leading lights of the Parisian avant-garde such as Jean Cocteau, Kurt Weill, and Marlene Dietrich. Being in Paris afforded Visconti the opportunity to see films banned in Italy. These included works of the leading avant-garde film makers such as Bunuel, Dali, Cocteau, Pudovkin and Eisenstein.

    Politically the decade was a formative one for Visconti as the political polarisations in Europe deepened. Initially he had a tendency to favour the right which was growing in France as elsewhere however he moved away from:

    “false nationalistic pride, Fascist rhetoric and his habit of emphasising his aristocratic background” notes Bacon (1998, p 6).

    1936 was the major turning point in Visconti’s life. The Popular Front in France had won a significant election victory that year which stemmed the growing tide of right wing nationalism amongst the French. Coco Chanel had introduced Visconti to Jean Renoir and his film making colleagues. All were strongly sympathetic to the Popular Front and this helped develop a different perspective on politics for Visconti. At the same time Renoir was pioneering new aesthetic methods. Toni (1935) had become a turning point in cinema described by Raymond Durgnat as:

    … the point at which the whole documentary movement of the French cinema achieved its fullest coalescence with the fiction film. (Durgnat, cited Bacon 1998, p 7).

    Renoir has commented about his objectives through this technique:

    My aim was to give the impression that I was carrying a camera and a microphone in my pocket and recording whatever came my way, regardless of its comparative importance. (ibid)

    Although Visconti’s aesthetic style turned to be very different to Renoir’s some of the underlying aesthetic principles became important to Visconti:

    From the moment I realised the importance of unity I tried never to shoot a scene without some background movement more or less related to the action… Another of my preoccupations was, and still is, to avoid fragmentation, and by means of playing longer shots to give the actor a chance to develop his own rhythm in the speaking of the lines. To me this is the only way of getting sincere acting. (Renoir “My Life and My Films” cited Bacon 1998, p 7)


    First Films

    Visconti had made his first film in 1934 which Bacon describes as a little 'Bunuelesque', however the film hasn’t survived and the evidence suggests that it was an amateur affair. Visconti had learnt some photographic techniques from his current partner Horst who was a photographer. Visconti’s first professional acquaintance with the cinema appears to have been as Third Assistant Director to Renoir on the set of Une partie de campagne (A Day in the Country) in 1936. The film wasn’t released until after the war in 1946. Visconti’s role was to design and produce the costumes.


    Visconti has claimed it was through politicisation that he started to make films with Renoir. However Bacon cites Ronolino’s book 1981 book on Visconti which argues that he took no strong political views on any pre WW II events including the Spanish Civil War.

    Writer and Set and Costume Designer

    At this time Visconti also played with the prospect of being a writer and two drafts for novels still survive. Bacon notes that these drafts: reveal Visconti’s obsession with detail. This level of detail can bog down the flow in a novel however in a film through mise en scene it can considerably enrich the cinematic experience and this points to the importance of using mise en scene criticism when studying Visconti’s films.

    Visconti also started to work in theatre at this time. In 1936 he designed the sets and costumes for a production of Carita Mondana (Mundane Charity). This production took place in the Teatro Sociale in Como. This was followed by a production of Jan Mallory’s (Joyce Carey) Sweet Aloes. This was also produced in 1936 and ran at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan.

    Visconti followed this by a trip to Hollywood. However it seems that this wasn’t a successful time and both Stirling in his Screen of Time and Servadio in Luchino Visconti both note that he never talked much about the experience.

    By 1938 Visconti was back in Italy and involved in theatrical production this time producing sets and costume design for Il Viaggio (The Voyage) by Henry Bernstein whom he had met in Paris.


    Tosca (1940)

    Puccini

    Giacomo Puccini the composer of Tosca

    The next film that Visconti became involved in was Tosca (1940). This turned out to be a particularly odd production. Jean Renoir was formally invited to make the film by the Italian government despite the fact that La Grande Illusion (1937) was banned by the Fascist government because of its political sympathies. According to Bacon the idea had originated from Mussolini directly. Mussolini in fact held a copy of La Grande Illusion in his private collection. As far as consistency in Fascist cultural policy was concerned this was: a prime example of its arts policy (Bacon p 9).

    At the time this formal invitation was extended Mussolini had become a formal ally of Nazi Germany and at this time France had already declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939. Renoir had already been called up and was serving as an officer in the French Army. The French government sent Renoir to Italy in the hope that this might allay any outbreak of hostilities.




    Massimo Girotti

    The Tosca starred Massimo Girotti (seen above in a different role in Ossessione). Girotti was the leading actor in Visconti's first full length feature film Ossessione.





    Visconti worked on the script of Tosca with Renoir and his main assistant Carl Koch. However the international tension was mounting and Nazi Germany was making an increasingly obvious presence in Italy to pressurise Italy to declare war in support of Germany. As a result Renoir and all his French team returned to France shortly before hostilities broke out. Koch who had a German passport and Visconti were left to finish the film. This they did although Visconti has described it as a a ‘horrible film’. One important stepping stone for Visconti was that making it introduced him to the powerful Italian critics and other parts of the circle around cinema.

    Tosca Poster


    Visconti became increasingly drawn into this circle based around Cinema which had amongst its contributors several important critics who were to become important film directors. These included Giuseppe de Santis and Michelangelo Antonioni. Most of the critics were left of centre while Vittorio Mussolini (Mussolini’s son) was the editor in chief. Politics wasn’t discussed openly and Vittorio wasn’t around for a lot of the time and didn’t deal with day to day editorial decision making according to Bacon.

    Effectively the magazine became a site of fracture within Fascist cultural policy as it afforded the opportunity to write more critically yet at the same time to have the veneer of official approval. It can be seen that cultural policy was applied unevenly sometimes with Liberal writers such as Carlo Levi being sent into internal exile (Christ Stopped at Eboli being his memoirs of this which was later made into a film by Rosi). Martin Clark has suggested that intellectuals were usually bought off and flattered rather than repressed as was the case in Germany

    Ossessione & La Terra Trema

    Visconti's films Ossessione and La Terra Trema respectively marked the precursor to neorealism as a movement whilst La Terra Trema is a core film of the neorealist movement. I have currently no time to provide a fuller evaluation of these films however they are both partially covered in the entries 
    Italian Neorealism: an Introduction
    and the review Italian Neorealism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City 


    From Neorealism to Neorealism Rosa: Bellissima

    The well known post-war history Italian Cinema by Peter Bondanella surprisingly fails to mention the film Bellissima at all. This film is very important for a number of reasons. It marks a transition from Neorealism to post-neorealism within Italian cinema; it is a meta-cinematic film which deals in a biting comedy a critique of the institution of cinema itself – it thus predates Fellini’s well known La Dolce Vita (1959) by several years; it can be taken as a strong indirect critique of the political direction Italy was taking at the time as well as a critique of the Christian Democratic government's relationship to America  it gives many insights into the way Visconti worked as a director with his performers (Anna Magnani & Alessandro Blasetti); lastly and by no means least as a film it is good viewing – it appears as a favourite of Richard Dyer’s in one of Sight & Sounds surveys about favourite films of critics. For an in depth dicussion of this film please go to my review of the 2007 release of Bellissima by Eureka Video.




    Cultural Context










    It is important to emphasise that Visconti was also working within an Italian framework. The Italian audience has an operatic culture which is popular across all classes. The binary division of opera into an elitist art form doesn’t operate in this culture as it does in Britain. Indeed one can point to the operatic form as becoming associated with the Risorgimento the emergence of the Italian nation in the 19th century itself. Visconti’s texts are knowingly multidimensional. Despite many criticism of the auteur within film criticism which seems to deny that a director can be an inspirational power behind a work of art Visconti is clearly exceptional. Arguably this is the time for a thorough re-examination of his work at least in the Anglophone countries. As Nowell-Smith has pointed out there has been a paucity of critical work and the films little seen.

    The kind of film-making in which Visconti was engaged throughout his career... was a kind which put the director at the centre. The director chose the scriptwriter, the actors, the leading technicians, the editor. The director even chose the producer... Visconti’s films were all his in a way which other directors, not only in Hollywood but also in Italy, could only envy. Under these circumstances, auteurism and anti-auteurism become irrelevant categories’ (Nowell-Smith, 2000: 221-222)



    Rocco & His Brothers

    Visconti’s cinema always constituted a sophisticated analysis of these processes of social change. Rocco and His Brothers (1960) is a logical step from La Terra Trema (which is dealt in more detail below). A family from the mezzogiorno (deep south) have arrived in Milan a new centre of industrial expansion feeding the Italian economic miracle sucking in labour from the periphery. The response to this forced structural change by each of the four elder brothers corresponds to the range of individual responses which this enormous transition embodied.

    The eldest brother had already become established in Milan, with a fiancé. The family arrival caused disruptions of loyalties causing a temporary split. The Sicilian machismo of Simone represents an ideology of the past unable to accept the necessary individual sacrifices to industrial disciplining either through education or within the professionalising cultural industry of boxing. Initial success came easily as Simone had strength and natural talent and was attractive to women. Seduced by a fellow immigrant turned prostitute, another side of the ‘cultural industry’ complex, Simone finds he cannot ‘own her’, and that whilst she like the detective is able to cross formal boundaries of society through hypocritical sexual mores Simone is excluded from refined society. Simone’s inability to control the situation causes a crisis of masculinity and his ultimate decline into alcoholism and the basest of acts. Simone ends up killing Nadia who had left him to return to prostitution and a level of independence. In between Nadia had fallen in love with Rocco. Simone on learning of this had raped Nadia in front of Rocco who was held back by Simone’s lumpen-proletarian acquaintances. Rocco is then beaten up by his brother to assert traditional male dominance. Rocco accepts this traditional dominance and also becomes a boxer mortgaging his future earnings to try and keep Simone’s debts under control.

    Rocco’s quietitude and a 'Christian' martyrdom in the face of traditional family ‘values’ and Sicilian masculinity are contrasted with Ciro. Ciro has understood that the way forward is to establish himself through education. He struggles hard at night school to get the qualifications for a good factory job. Eventually he becomes a skilled worker at Alfa-Romeo. The industrial disciplining of the factory system signified by the factory whistle at the end of the lunch-break also represents the solidarity of the workforce who are supportive to Ciro when he is upset in a talk with his youngest brother Luca. Ciro sees the future in Luca telling him he will be the one who will have the luxury to return to their original homeland in recognition of the processes of modernity change the balance of society. Ciro also supports the growth of modern institutions seeing in them a force of progressive change. It is Ciro who ‘betrays’ the traditional familial quietitude about gross and murderous behaviour by reporting Simone to the police. The rational rule of law can work in favour of the working class and is superior to the outmoded and archaic attitudes of the past. It is Ciro who has recognised that a fundamental adaptation is required if the family is to successfully survive at the other end of this enormous transition.

    It is worth noting that a new version of Rocco is due out in February 2008 from the Eureka Masters of Cinema Series and this may provide some useful insights into the film.

    Il Gattarpardo / The Leopard (1963)

    Visconti’s intellectual, political, historical and cultural concerns then bring us to what are frequently described as his films of the Risorgimento, the Italian bourgeois revolution. Firstly Senso then The Leopard. Based upon the historical novel of the same title, The Leopard was set in Sicily and starred Burt Lancaster. As such, the film had a large budget and was aimed towards an international audience. Bondanella describes the film as ‘ a meditation of death, historical change, and the demise of a social class to which the director also belongs to.’(Bondanella, 2002 p 200) . The aristocratic prince whose son has just married the beautiful daughter of a rising bourgeois notes ironically and with a romantic nostalgia that the older aristocratic ruling class had an imaginary of the big cats, whilst the changes were now the ushering an order of jackals and sheep. Certainly it this had an autobiographical ring to it for Visconti’s parents were from exactly that heritage with his mother the daughter of a bourgeois industrialist, his father an heir to the aristocratic family that had ruled Milan in an earlier period.

    Bondanella reads Visconti as having sympathy with the Prince who in front of a painting The Death of a Just Man, imagines his own death. In this sense the film is a ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’, the recognition of the passing of an historical period and the inception and establishing of a new social order. However the sound of the volleys of a firing squad in the distance as the Prince walks home, indicate that the new order is already establishing itself by brutal means, and the hopes of the peasants and workers are foreshortened. Whilst for Bondanella the ‘epic sweep’ of the sets and costumes threatens to overwhelm the historical message, it is quite reasonable to suggest that the historical paradoxes are heightened by the mise-en-scene.


    A Hiatus of Content and Criticism

    After The Leopard there seems to be a general hiatus in both criticism and the availability of Visconti's work to watch and to develop further ideas about his ouevre. Hopefully this blog will contribute to a wider discourse which seeks to re-establish and re-view afresh this work of Visconti's from the middle period of the 1960s. The films concerned include Vaghe Stelle dell' Orsa / Sandra 1965 and Lo Straniero (The Stranger / The Outsider) (Italy 1967). Currently (December 2007) neither of these films appear to be available in English. 

    Vaghe Stelle dell' Orsa / Sandra was a modern interpretation of the Electra myth in which the Torjan War was replaced by the concentration Camps of the Second World War. Instead of Agammemnon being murdered by Aegisthus and Clytemnestra here Sandra (played by Claudia Cardinale) suspects her mother and her lover of betraying her Jewish father to the Nazis. Bacon (1998) comments that:

    In Sandra the fate of the Jews in the Second World War functions as a metaphor for the entanglement of victimization and groundless accusations practised in the end by Jews and non-Jews alike. (p121)

    Visconti himself notes the deep ambiguities in the film:

    All the characters excpet Andrew are ambiguous. He would like to find a logical explananation for everything, instead of which he finds himself in a world dominated by the most profound, contradictory and ineplicable passions... (Cited by Bacon 1998 p 120).  

    These are not dissimilar themes to ones which were eplored by Bertollucci firtstly in The Spider's Stratagem and then in The Conformist. When one adds Bellocchio's fascinating first feature into the mix - Fist in the Pocket - one can see that themes of the family in crisis were apparently being played out to quite an extent in the Italian cinema of the 1960s. At the same time there was a reckoning being made with the fading memories of Nazism and Fascism which had been cut short with the return of a right wing government at the end of the 1940s. 



    The 'German Trilogy'

    The Damned (1969) Death in Venice (1971) and Ludwig (1973) are known as Visconti’s ‘German Trilogy’. Here Visconti examines the decadence of the Belle Epoque, the corruption and confusion behind the rise of Nazism in Weimar Germany, and the story of Ludwig II of Bavaria who has been viewed as very eccentric and was the patron of Richard Wagner. Whilst some critics have marked this down as Visconti’s ‘decadent’ period, and noted an increasing pessimism in the themes that he dealt with this has frequently been over-personalised. Visconti has argued that what interested him was the analysis of a sick society, and in these films the historical forces of modernity versus counter-modernity are being played out.

    Some critics have managed to conflate a representation with a notion of sympathy in the director. This has the effect of undermining the subtle Marxism of Visconti from those either unfamiliar with or hostile to that particular intellectual heritage. Bondanella reviews the critical outputs on these films as follows:

    Many European critics have tried to interpret Visconti’s German trilogy as a serious, historical vision of Germany’s flirtation with romantic idealism and its subsequent perversion in the Nazi era. But the three films fail to provide any coherent explanation of such a complicated process. It is far more accurate to conclude that in this trilogy Visconti has allowed his taste for visual spectacle, as well as his own personal preoccupation with old age, solitude ugliness and death to overwhelm his philosophical or cultural intentions.’ (Bondanella , 2002 p 20


    In The Damned the representation of the infamous ‘Night of the Long Knives’ when the SS slaughtered the leadership of the sexually transgressive SA of Eric Rohmer, links the growth of Nazism to a crisis of masculinity, and also explores the homo-erotic bonding of militarism which repress its own sexual excess instead transferring that into compulsory heterosexuality in tandem with patriarchal family values.

    Death in Venice links Thomas Mann and Mahler, artists of the period, with a desire for youth represented as homosexual longing which was an impossible desire at that time. Representing a crisis where the new generation will be fundamentally different whilst the once resplendent Venice the most dynamic city in Europe of the Early and middle Renaissance is decaying, riven by a pestilence of a more Mediaeval type. This isolation of the wealthy and their retreat to decadence is a representation of modernity as conquering the old, marginalising the ancien regime.

    In Ludwig the king is seen as amusing himself with musical projects whilst his generals are unable to act as the Prussian Army under Bismarck will ultimately defeat Bavaria allied with Austria. For Germany this was their equivalent of the Risorgimento. Bismarck was to unify the squabbling and corrupted principalities in the name of a greater Germany nation, one which was able to organise industrially and administratively to enter the modern period. In these works Visconti’s predilection for opera and melodrama shines through, and the treatment of these dramatic social changes is artistically portrayed through the responses and activities and thoughts of representatives of those moments. Ludwig’s homosexuality can be seen as indicative of the passing of a monarchical system reliant upon hereditary and therefore compulsory heterosexuality. This dovetails two themes. Patriarchal systems based upon physical reproduction have become outmoded and unstable. A newer form of patriarchy is necessary to achieve stability. For Ludwig to express his desire even as a monarch means to regress from the social reality of the moment only when Bavaria has been subjugated to Prussia leaving a token monarchy can Ludwig act out his desires in a limited. But kings are now subject to controls and he is deposed. The war with Prussia was taking place at the same time as Austria’s war with the Italian process of the Risorgimento. Austria was fighting both wars.

    Whilst in Italy there was some hope for progress, in a more democratic sense, both Bavaria and Prussia have acted to forestall a more democratic revolution and its attendant risks, the memories of 1848 still burning strongly in their memory. The modernisers represent ‘realism, calculation, negotiation, countering rival modernisers such as Bismarck by playing a similar game’ (Nowell-smith 2002 p 186). Nowell-Smith suggests that there are some links with Shakespeare’s Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II which have homosexual motifs. Nowell-Smith reads this link as suggesting that legitimacy is itself a burden upon the individual, but while noting that Shakespeare was an apologist for the Tudors he fails to note that under Elizabeth the First the issue of inheriting the crown was one of the gravest concern. Just as Elizabeth played marriage possibilities diplomatically she was at heart a political animal. Even then stability was only a temporary event as the English Civil war was to show.



    Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno (Conversation Piece): (1974)

    (Apologies still under construction)


    L'Innocente (The Intruder): (1976) 

    (Apologies still under construction) 

    Visconti decided to do an adaptation of D'Annunzio's L'Innozente. This was his last film for he died on March 17th 1976 whilst was in its editing stage. As Bacon points out these later works of Visconti's reading Sandra as a turning point in his approach have frequently been read as 'decadent':

    ...an expression of an aging director's morbid fascination with the themes of sickness, decay and death. On the whole it has not always been clear whther the label of decadence is a reference to the subject matter, the style or both, or whther it is used simply as a perjoritve term. (Bacon, 1998 p 214)















    Filmography

    Short

    Appunti su un fatto di cronaca (Italy 1951) Director


    Features 

    Ossessione (Italy 1943) 

    Giorni di Gloria (Italy 1945 - Director of one episdode) 

    La Terra trema (Italy 1948) 

    Bellissima ( 1951)

    Siamo donne (We, The Women) Italy 1953 (Director of 1 part in 5)

    Senso (Italy 1954)

    Le Notti Bianchi (The White Nights) (Italy 1957) 

    Rocco e I suoi Fratelli (Rocco and his brothers) (Italy 1960) 

    Boccaccio '70 (Episode title Il Lavoro / The Job) (Italy 1962)

    Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) (Italy 1963)

    Vaghe Stelle dell' Orsa (Of a Thousand Delights) (Italy 1965). I was unable to find one good or even reasonable entry in English on this film despite looking under the Italian and French titles on the search engine. It is clearly a gap which need spaying attention to!

    Le Streghe (The Witches) (Italy 1967). 1 part in 5 episode title La Straga Bruciata Viva)

    Lo Straniero (The Stranger / The Outsider) (Italy 1967). This is the only vaguely reasonable link I could find on the search term The Stranger / The Outsider which shows that this film is need of publication and a radical reassessment. 

    La Caduta degli Dei (The Damned) (Italy 1969)

    Morte a Venezia (Death in Venice) (Italy 1971) 

    Ludwig (Italy 1973)

    Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno (Conversation Piece) (Italy 1974)

    I' Innocente (The Intruder) (Italy 1976)










    Webliography 


    The British Film Institute Luchino Visconti Feature


    BBC Arena Page reporting on the very good BBC documentary the Life & Times of Luchino Visconti


    Ossessione Review by Richard Armstrong on the Kamera Site 

    Johnathan Jones The Guardian 2001 asks why Visconti is so neglected?

    David Thompson Guardian article The Decadent Realist

    This article by David Thompson is possibly the worst article on Visconti I have ever seen from somebody who is reputedly meant to have a good understanding of cinema. Whatever else, this is a vituperative piece of nonsense. Make sure you break the NHS prescribed amounts of salt when you read this. I have included it because the writer is well known however inclusion does not amount to a recommendation, it does show what Visconti was up against in terms of the petulant jealous petit-bourgeois failed intellectuals (maybe there are advantages to being an aristocrat after all :-) ).

    Derak Malcolm  Guardian article on The Leopard

    Pete Bradshaw Guardian on Death in Venice

    Phiip French Observer on Death in Venice

    Guardian / NFT Question and Answers with Claudia Cardinale

    Guardian / NFT Part 2 with Claudia Cardinale 

    San Francisco Film Society Dennis Harvey on Visconti

    Strictly Film School Blog on Visconti 

    Premuda, Noemi Luchino Visconti's Musicism (You will need a JSTOR account to access this article) 

    BBC 4 Arena article about the 2 hour documentary on Luchino Visconti

    Film and Literature. The Case of "Death in Venice": Luchino Visconti and Thomas Mann
    Hans Rudolf VagetThe German Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Mar., 1980), pp. 159-175doi:10.2307/405628

    This article requires JStor access.  

    Marxism and Formalism in the Films of Luchino Visconti Walter F. Korte, Jr.Cinema Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Autumn, 1971), pp. 2-12 doi:10.2307/1225346

    This article requires JStor access.

    Dr. Ivo BlomPainting, theatre, cinema: Intermediality in the work of Luchino Visconti

    Visconti Conference


    Peter Brunette in film and Philosophy: Review of Nowell-Smith's third edition book on Visconti


    Visconti's Cinema of Twilight by Maximilian Le Cain in Senses of Cinema site

    Brief article by Gary Morris  

    The Incompossible Languageof Natural Aristocracy:Deleuze's Misreading of Visconti's The Leopard

    by Privitello on Senses of Cinema site. 

    Bertellini, Giorgio : A Battle "d'Arriere-Garde": Notes on Decadence in Luchino Visconti's "Death in Venice" . (This requires JSTOR access)

    Frieze Magazine: Forever Changes Dan Fox

    Hide in Plain Sight: An Interview with Piero Tosi. Drake Stutesma. Project Muse PDF from Framework 47


    Visconti Revisited: Take 2 . Senses of Cinema Review of Nowell-Smith's 3rd re Visconti 2003.





    Bibliography

    Bacon, Henry. 1998. Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

    Bertellini, Giorgio Ed. 2004. The Cinema of Italy. London: Wallflower Press

    Bondanella, Peter. 3rd edition. 2002. Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present. New York and London: Continuum

    Hipkins Danielle. "I don't want to die": Prostitution and Narrative Disruption in Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers', in Women in Italy 1946-1960, ed. by Penny Morris (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 193-210

    Hudson, Anne. ‘Rocco E I Suoi Fratelli / Rocco and His Brothers. Bertellini, Giorgio. 2004. The Cinema of Italy. London: Wallflower Press

    Landy, Marcia. 2000. Italian Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

    Marcus, Millicent. 1993. Filmaking by the Book. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press

    Marcus, Millicent. 1986. Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism. Princeton: Princeton University Press

    Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. 2003 3rd edition. Luchino Visconti. London: British Film Institute

    Rohdie, Sam. Rocco and his Brothers. London: BFI

    Sellors, Paul. C. 2004. 'Senso'. In Bertellini, Giorgio Ed. 2004. The Cinema of Italy. London: Wallflower Press

    Wood, Michael. 2003. ‘Death becomes Visconti’. Sight and Sound , May 2003 Volume 13 Issue 5 , pp 24-27



    DVD Availability in the UK


    This link to Moviemail gives a list of Visconti films currently available on DVD in the UK



    April 10, 2007

    Gender & Videogames

    Gender and Videogames

    Introduction

    Gender and videogames has for a long time been an issue. However as the linked article below from the BBC suggests players of online games are frequently women. It does seem as though the demographic profile of gaming is changing. As computer gaming has been around for a couple of decades now the market is shifting. There are now generations of older gamers who want something different out of their games from the 14 year old lads stuck in the attic. Lets see what is going on. 

    VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
    "With online games, 54% of players are women."

    Women in Games Conference


    Women in Games at the University of Wales, Newport later this month wants to encourage more girls to consider a career in developing games. This is the latest in a series of annual conferences and is getting to grips with a range of gender issues in relation to gaming. 


    Women in Games Programme 

    Aims of Women in Games

    1. Give a voice to women in the games industry.
    2. Analyse and monitor the role of women in the games industry.
    3. Provide networking opportunities, especially for women developing and researching games.
    4. Support and encourage students, researchers and developers to explore and redress the game industry's
        gender imbalance.
    5. Disseminate research into games (past, present and future), especially (but not exclusively) with reference
        to the experience of women playing, developing and responding to games and game culture.
    6. Disseminate information on the latest technologies and the best design and development practices.

    Some Facts & Figures taken from the stories in the Webliography






    Games Women Play

    • Role-playing games - Final Fantasy
    • Narrative adventures - Legend of Zelda
    • Easy to pick up driving sims - Colin MacRae Rally
    • Puzzle adventures - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
    • Quick-fire arcade puzzlers - Tetris
    • Life simulations - The Sims
    Source: Elspa white paper on women in gaming







    Women in the UK make up just over a quarter of the total number of gamers. This compares to 39% in the US and 69% in South Korea.

    The typical female gamer in the UK is 30 to 35-years-old, plays around seven hours a week and spends £170 (250 euros) a year on games, Ms Krotoski found.

    Think about how this quotation below relates to the need for media institutions to keep investing. Also think about the notion of institutions "Desperately Seeking Audience":

    The 15 to 24-year-old male market is saturated so it is interested in exploring different populations in order to reach a mass market," she told BBC News Online. (My emphasis)

    What does the following comment say about gender relationships in society? why might women have less time to play games? 

    There are differences, however, in the types of games that women like playing, and this is partly due to having less leisure time.

    Women gamers constitute a big market 

    The Sims, which is published by EA, is arguably the world's most successful game - with more than 40 million copies sold  (says David Gardner, chief operating officer for EA's worldwide studios, who was speaking to a conference in Edinburgh.)




    Webliography

    Women in Games International 

    http://www.womeningamesinternational.org/

    Women taking on the gaming world

    All women gamers, please stand up

    Games industry is 'failing women'

    Girl gamers who shoot first, love later

    Women gear up for gaming invasion

    Girl gamers strike at the boysm

    Women take a shine to video games

    Frag Doll site 



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