All entries for June 2008
June 30, 2008
Media Production A2 and AS: Website Development
The Concept of Target Audience
June 27, 2008
Thomas Turgoose as Shaun. For the Cast follow this link.
This is England (2006). Dir. Shane Meadows
This is England (2006) Shane Meadows is an excellent example of a film to which a SPECT type of analysis should be applied. SPECT (social / political / economic / cultural / textual) is my preferred way of looking at films. A film is always a product of its times although if it has any prestensions to originality whatsover its way of perceiving the world and generating meaning will be very specific. This is England is suffused with a sense of memory of a transitional moment in the lives of the working class in a northern industrial town experienced through the lives of young people, who becuase of a rapidly shifting world are open to all sorts of influences making claims upon their identity. It is for these reasons that the film has quickly won some important recognition in prize-winning circles gaining firstly a prize from BIFA and then later a BAFTA award. It is an important film for unlike the blockbusters such as The Bourne Ultimatum which are nominally British, this is a genuinely British film made by independents on a low budget. At the heart of the film are the issues of identity and loyalty whther to each other or to a greater idea however flawed that idea may be. From the point of view of analysing the film it is an important one from the perspective of representation. When studying film and national cinema representation is a fundamental thing. Who is being represented, how they are being represented and why they are being represented are the questions which need to be addressed. As can be seen in the webliography Meadows himself had been a Skinhead in his youth (see Kermode YouTube below) as well as coming from a more northerly part of England and a core strength of the film is that it always gives a sense of insider knowledge informing its perspective. How this is done is something which can be ascertained most effectively at the level of textual anlysis.
This Video with Mark Kermode interviewing Shane Meadows for the Culture Show which includes good extracts from the film discusses everything from Meadows' own links with Skinhead culture to the contradictory attitude of the BBFC in making antiracist film an 18.
The insightful review in Sight and Sound (see webliography) gets to the heart of the film and relates it to the music of the Clash and their song This is England made after the miners strike had been defeated for it was this that now made the vast majority of the country vulnerable:
September 1985, and the Clash released their first single since the sacking of founder, arranger and writer Mick Jones two years earlier. Their glory days were well behind them as they struggled to make sense of their punk ideals in a world gone cold. Out of desperation came a masterpiece, a haunting state-of-the-nation report that was all the more impressive because it replaced anger with vulnerability.
'This Is England' was mid-paced, drenched not in distorted guitar but in sighing synthesisers and clattering electro-percussion. Backgrounded by sound FX of playground taunts and football chants, Joe Strummer sang of a blasted landscape: "On the catwalk jungle/Somebody grabbed my arm/A voice spoke so cold/It masked the weapon in the palm." The Sex Pistols might have sung of 'No Feelings' but here was the reality: "This knife of Sheffield steel."
Album Cover Cut the Crap by The Clash
As stated in the introduction the issue of representation is fundamental to films like this and London to Brighton as well. Because these films are social realist (trying to represent the world 'as it really is') they challenge the sorts of representation which come out of 'feelgood films' such as Notting Hill, a london of Red Telephone Boxes and Routemaster buses where everybody is 'nicey nicey' and quaint and appeals to the American audiences with the hope of turning them into tourists. For those of you you reading this this approach to representing the UK which is presumably a factor on gaining funding in any case is now going into an online multiumedia environment. Check out the ICONS online space developed by COGAPP with apparently a 7 figure budget! check out the ICON St. George's Flag its 'terribly tasteful' in fact you can barely see the flipping thing!
The Icons version of St. George
However a more genuine iconic use of the flag is by the BNP / National Front as witnessed in This is England or else by a pack of football hooligans.
A couple of England's finest sporting the Icon of St. George
From the General to the Specific
In This is England we can see the economic factors appear both in the references to the cities of the North and the Midlands as England is begining to de-industrialise. There is a sense of 'no more future'. But politics and culture cross-cut economics as the social situation deteriorates. This is the period of Punk Rock and Also Ska music. Below Andrew Shim as Milky is in a typically Two Tone style of dress which had an especially large following in Coventry and the Midlands. young people were being influenced by bands such as The Clash with Joe Strummer, The Jam with Paul Weller, Elvis Costello and the Attractions were also popular. Most bands were politically anti-Thatcher and to the left. however there was one infamous band Skrewdriver who were a Nazi band. You can see their name graffitied on the subway in the film. As the link shows even in 2005 people were jailed for distributing Skewdriver's racist rubbish. The image of the character isn't a million miles from Combo in This is England. As well as this there was the growth of the New Romantics epitomised by groups such as Boy George, Duran Duran. In the film Smell represents this strand of British musical subculture. Sheffield at the time had its own new romantic style bands like Human League.
In case people complain that This is England is unrealistic because Milky wouldn't have been with skinheads at the start, life simply wasn't that tidy. I distincly remember having a local skinhead band playing a Troops out gig in the centre of Coventry. There were a lot of people with very confused identities at that time not least because of the crisis amongst young males because any hopes for the future in industrial jobs were disappearing fast. It was into this economic and political background that the National Front then the largest nazi organisation in the UK tried to make headway. This situation is an ever present danger as the BNP Nazi party showing in the Henley upon Thames byelection of yesterday showed. At least the Specials (the major Two-Tone band) Free Nelson Mandela song being played at Mandela's 90th birthday party concert put everything in perspective, see immediately below.
An ill Amy Winehouse gave it everything as she took the lead in the Free Nelson Mandela song in a moving rendering of the song. The image below shows her doing her own number earlier on. As Meadows points out in the Kermode interview, This Is England has relevance now as much as it it did. There are obvious parallels between the Falklands War and the war in Iraq. Looks like London was Calling Again
Just like This is England this concert carried with cultural memories, not only of the principled position of many rock bands on the question of apartheid but also harking back to earlier in the 1980s when many punk and ska bands took a stand against Thatcherite economics and rising levels of unemployment and racism. Interestingly it was in London and then Sheffield where the concept of cultural industries started to emerge as part of overall regeneration strategy. Rock music was a core activity in this revival of the economy.
The Falklands War and Representations of Nationalism
The film is set against the backdrop of the Falklands war which for many at the time became a central point of nationalism as Britian was being seriously challenged by a dictator who had invaded British sovereign territory. Whilst many opposed the war it is noticeable that in this film the young people just didn't care. for them it was something happening thousands of miles away and that made no difference to their lives whether Britain won or lost. It was only Thomas Turgoose who became upset because his father had been killed in the struggle. The nationalism of the National Front member Combo and the rest of the National Front people represented weren't concerned about the war either. If anything for them the nationalism of the war which demanded unity in the face of the enemy was a danger to their own brand of racist nationalism.
General Galtieri of Argentina who ordered the invasion. Mrs Thatcher is in the background. This is a link to a useful Guardian site on the conflict.
Only a year after the Falklands conflict was finished another battle between Thatcher and the working class took place. This was the miner's strike of 1984-85. There were a disproortionate number of miners in Yorkshire and the links between coal and steel were historical ones. Here a link to the Battle of Orgreave by Mike Figgis.
Cultural Desert to Cultural Industry
Whilst the content of the film is set in Sheffield's past there is a sense of optimism in the making of the film for when we are left in the closing moments of the film with a lonely Shaun reminiscent of the ending of Truaffaut's 400 Blows the openness of the ending cycles around to the making of the film with the help of Yorshire Screen. As Shaun in the film would now be a similar to Shane Meadows there is more than a little Truffaut in this film.
Tom Riordan, Chief Executive for Yorkshire Forward comments:
“This is a coup for Yorkshire and Humber’s film industry with a local production company, local talent featured and local settings used as the backdrop for what has been confirmed as the Best British Film in 2007. We believe this will encourage further filming in the region and congratulate those involved with making This is England for this great achievement.”
Screen Yorkshire invested in This Is England through its Production Fund, which is supported by Yorkshire Forward and aims to develop a long-term and successful production sector in the region. Screen Yorkshire is also a key partner in Warp X, the national low budget feature film slate, whose first two films Donkey Punch and A Complete History of My Sexual Failures have recently gone down a storm with critics at the Sundance film festival in Utah.
This is England is also supported by the UK Film Council New Cinema Fund, EM Media, Ingenious Media, Optimum Releasing and Filmfour. To find out more about Screen Yorkshire’s Production Fund, visit www.screenyorkshire.co.uk
Shaun at the moment of his ephiphany
Cultural Policy and Cultural Politics
Reference has already been made to the fact that the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) decided to give this film an 18 certificate. Thankfully several councils have challenged this as those who are the film's primary target audience would be excluded from it. As a result in several towns and cities the film was made a 15 Certificate. For those of you reading this who are studying British cinema this is an important aspect of film and cultural policy which needs to be remembered. A film's distributional strategies can be ruined and potentially a lot of money lost apart from anything else. whilst there is much gratuitous violence which can usefully be dispensed with there are times when it is fundamental to the meaning of a film, as it was in this case. this film is an excellent example of the problems of censorship and control in society. currently as things stand Local Councils do have the power to override the decisions of the BBFC. As the BBFC is ultimately an unelected body whereas local councils are elected the issue of who controls what is seen and for what reasons is highlighted.
Guardian feature on This is England. April 2007
Observer Interview with Meadows: I was a skinhead myself once
BBC Film Network on This is England. Live interview with Shane Meadows available here
This is England site. Lots of good stuff here!
June 26, 2008
Journalism Degree Courses
This section is to help those of you who are doing media who have an interest in doing journalism. a range of journalism courses are being linked to, many of them are linked to Media, Communications or Cultural Studies courses so it is possible to combine journalism with other subjects or else focus on a pure journalism course.
The courses below do not represent the whole range of available courses. New links are being added on a regular basis as the page is being developed.
Happy hunting !
Journalism Degree Courses
Cardiff University School of Journalism offer a choice of four different Media and Journalism undergraduate degrees.
London College of Communications. Sports Journalism (Foundation Degree)
The University of Kent's new Centre for Journalism could lead the field in journalism training and provide a benchmark for other universities, according to the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) , which has given full accreditation to the centre's degree programme .
June 25, 2008
Film Magazines and Film Journals
Like the Film Festivals entry this is another page which is designed to provide visitor with links to the increasing range of film magazines available in hard copy format. Despite the increasing online presence regarding films the film magazines market still seems to be healthy. Whether the current economic downturn will wed out weaker organisations remains to be seen, currently the situation is healthy. Magazines included will normally have an English language version.
British Film Magazine British council comment it fills "the gap between the muesli of Sight & Sound and Vertigo
and the popcorn of Empire." Its online presence states:
Britishfilmmagazine is designed to celebrate British films and British film talent acting in and making films around the world.Having launched the title and begun to explore this world in depth, it is staggering to discover just how much is going on.Indeed, it is difficult to keep track of everything that is happening, even when publishing online, as here, it is possible to add any number of new articles every day. The reality is that the British film world is booming.
Empire Magazine. The "popcorn" of the film magazine world?
Screen International. Screen's weekly trade paper, Screen International has been serving the needs of the international film business.
June 23, 2008
The Rise of the "Critic Proof" Film: Commerce Rules OK?
Mark Lawson had an interesting article in today's Guardian which I also discovered on the Guardian website. As an important critic who presents such programmes as the BBC Front Row it is was very disturbing to find that he, along with other critics, was being constructively excluded from giving a review of Sex and The City which was launched in London a few days ago. Critics are obviously an increasing danger to the "high added value" (overpaid 'celebs') fare which Hollywood is serving up to fairly uncritical audiences who are seduced by the marketing aura of celebrity and massive PR, publicity and profiling campaigns. These can rise to as much as 50% of a Hollywood film's costs.
"Refusing to hold previews is increasingly common," says Solomons, whose irritation is institutional as well as personal: he's just become chairman of the film section of the Critics' Circle. "It used to be a rare event, the most famous case being The Avengers with Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes. In fact, that film not being given a press screening was a news story. But now, such an event, even for a big film with big stars, is greeted with a shrug of indifference."
Lawson argues that the rise of the World Wide Web and the has contributed to the attempts to shut out professional critics from the media loop of production and consumption.
online comment is responsible in two different ways for the new resistance to professional critics. The first is that the spread of the web means that a cruel early review can have national or even global impact far beyond the range of the site on which it appears. Secondly, publicists now gamble that blogging and fan site comment may create a kinder environment for new releases than members of the Critics' Circle. In theatre, the Nimax group, owner of five London playhouses, is planning to survey theatre-goers and use their comments on the website instead of those grouchy newspaper guys.
Certainly cultural artefacts are likely to get much higher exposure much more swiftly via various platforms on the web and certainly social networking sites can spread gossip and opinion extremely fast. However there is a slight problem with Lawson's argument for as he points out towards the end of his article:
...cinema's main target audience: 15-24-year-olds seeking, in two senses, a big release on a Friday or Saturday night.
However, how many 15-24 year olds actually read any form of serious criticism - hardly any I suspect. But then I don't think that that many read any serious film blogs. I have a slight concern here in that this is the second item within the last month that bloggers about film and cinema have been under attack from professional critics. Nick James the editor of Sight and Sound being another important person within the film critical establishment who attacked bloggers in the June edition page 5, as well as sites like Rotten Tomatoes (which I believe is under Murdoch control nowadays). If the new democratic rights to publish are undermining the position of critics (I don't think this is the case) then Lawson is in danger of developing a grouchy defence of his and other colleagues work, however it is undermined by a few palpably ignorant bloggers which is the impression being given at least this is just an elitist trench-digging exercise and is untenable. Let's face it if critics had that much influence over audiences then presumably half this genre junk targeted at impressionable youth wouldn't ever get made.
Critics Bite Back
Lawson draws attention to one disgruntled critics attitude to the film The Happening:
Last weekend, News of the World film pundit Robbie Collin explained to his readers: "I wasn't allowed to review The Happening here last week in case I 'gave away the big secret'. But now it's been out for a couple of days, I can. So here it is: The Happening is a load of shite."
Apart from the fact that it takes one to know one so as to speak this puts this particular critic in a hard place. Does he say that anyway about the usual third rate generic offerings that come along or does he normally bite his lip and play the game?
What Now For the Film Critic?
Lawson again notes Solomons who is effectively saying the writing is on the wall for film critics. It is hard to disagree with the following statement which asserts perhaps a little pessimistically that the critics days are numbered:
"The worry," says Jason Solomons, "is that film companies will now just prefer to advertise on TV to let the target audience know their product's arrived. They save a few quid on setting up screenings and avoid any negative reviews. The old idea that all publicity is regarded as good publicity has simply gone"
However on a note of optimism critics can now feel much more at liberty to trash the films when they finally do see them. As film companies are highly dependent on the video and TV aftermarket with the cinema acting as more of a shop window, making sure these things have the briefest possible afterlife and have wooden stakes thrust into them is an honourable and necessary role for the critic. Forget the first few days of a release of entirely forgettable films they aren't worth the candle.
Here are some snippets from the Londonist about the future of the critic in the digital age which included Nick Jasmes and Pete Bradsahw from the Guardian. Andrew Pulver in the Guardian also covered this discussion:
What we found frustrating was that both members of the panel and the audience had an incredibly unsophisticated knowledge of blogging and online journalism. More than once online writing seemed to conjure up an image of lonely spotty teenage fanboys, wanking in bad grammar about the movie they had just seen, in between whining posts about how misunderstood they are.
Editorial rigour is, in fact, even more keenly followed in online publishing because of the speed and the means available for writers, readers and editors to respond to one another: if an article is released with incorrect information or highly contentious material, it can be a matter of minutes to react and amend. This is a luxury, a privilege and an advantage that print journalism and publishing does not have, and we are keen to emphasise that online journalism and publishing is the better medium at this present time for editorial discipline. Rather than the unbridled, anarchic, grammatically incorrect writing that is so widely presumed when blogging is considered, there are many out there striving to emulate and even exceed the disciplines and ethics of print journalism.
Andrew Pulver's last paragrah however offers a salutary warning about the virtues and vices of blogging:
Steve Hunt, who works for the British arm of the Hollywood studio Paramount. "Blogging is, for us, just another carriage, a way to get through to our audience."
The reality is that any media platform can become subsumed, the point is to find trustworthy consistent critics. It may take the blogosphere a long time to reach that standard. I can't say that I can imagine this blog getting around to dealing with Sex and The City. I'm sure they will all cope in their Louis Vuiton outfits anyway.
June 22, 2008
European Film Festivals
With the ever increasing numbers of festivals emerging this cannot hope to be a comprehensive list as that would be a full-time occupation. The purpose of the page is to highlight the importance of film festivals and to encourage fans of older and slightly more off-beat film to kep an eye out for these festivals. The page by its very nature will be something of a work in progress rather than creating an attempt at closure.
The growing number of film festivals in the towns and cities of Europe is a very important development from the perspective of defending national cinemas and pan-European cinema in general from being overwhelmed by the industrial might and marketing power of Hollywood and the subservience of the Multiplex exhibition system. As more and more emphasis is placed upon cultural tourism and cultural planning so more and more festivals are springing up especially as state film policy such as the UK Film Council's strategy is making positive steps to encourage this. Not only do these festivals provide an opportunity for people to travel around europe and meet like-minded people but they provide people in the localities and regions a cultural hub to enjoy films that would be difficult for them to see in a cinema. With European cinema having such a magnificent heritage of high-quality films there is a huge amount of material to draw on to make each festival a unique event. This ability to call upon a long-tail of films provides many opportunities for people to think about and discuss films, directors, themes, performers and movements in ways that for all the wonders of the internet cannot be replicated. Whilst researching the Mike Leigh pages for this site I came across La Rochelle Festival which this year amongst other things is screening some Mike Leigh films. Given that getting his films into mainstream cinemas in Britain is a major feat this puts all the arguments about Hollywood in perspective.
Whilst film festivals like Cannes and Venice are for the Glitterarty (!) this isn't relevant for large numbers of filmgoers who have a love of film and want to experience them on a large screen quite possibly in the company of others. With digital technologies rapidly improving and coming down in cost hopefully we could see the building of smaller scale cinemas which are more relevant ot localities. These would help maintain a discourse including a physical presence of quality cinema and its audience which is more challenging than the average genre film. These audiences would be able to experience festivals across Europe exchanging experiences, ideas etc. For this to be achieved European film policy needs to have in mind exhibitionary and audience development running alongside distribution. The other things that film financing bodies need to be prepared for is not the quick return on capital demanded by Hollywood investors.
The very best films can have a long life measured in decades rather than in days. Given that it is still impossible to get many European classic films of DVD in the UK and assuming that this situation is replicated across Europe this is a shameful issue that needs addressing. Hopefully readers of this blog will use opportunities to persuade policy makers that there needs to be a stimulus to general film culture that goes deeper than just boosting tourism important though that is. If the European project is to generate deeper meanings it is essential that this takes place on cultural grounds rather than being forced through by politicians against people's will. Although this blog is entirely in favour of developing closer links between European countries the agenda needs to be driven from below rather than by dictat from above.
Film Festivals tend to be divided into two types. Ones which are more aimed at audiences and those which are primarily about screening new materials in order to raise profiles and do business. The latter ones are more international in their nature. Bearing this in mind it is interesting to see how the UK Film Council is assigning £740,000 over the next three years to build up film festivals although there is certainly commercial intent behind the initiative:
The funding from the UK Film Council's Film Festivals Fund (national strand) will give thousands more people the opportunity to enjoy more films, learn about film and meet filmmakers. The cash boost will also help to raise the profile of British film at home and abroad and contribute to the development of a more competitive UK film industry.
Film Festivals in France
Film Festivals in the UK
The French Film Festival UK is an annual event and takes places across a number of cities. 2008 saw the 16th French Film Festival UK take place from 7 - 20 March 2008 in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Cardiff, Warwick, Birmingham, Manchester and London.
The Filmstock Film Festival
The Filmstock Film Festival at Luton looks like more of an audience event fun and whacky as well. They also ensure that there is Fair Trade produce only on sale
Image of the Luton Hat Factory now regenerated to a post-industrial cultural industries agenda. This is the venue for the Filmstock Film Festival
Its over now but watch out for next year's.
Bristol the Encounters short film Festival
The 14th edition of the Encounters Short Film Festival takes place in the wonderful city of Bristol, UK from 18th - 23rd November and once again we will be screening the very very best short films from around the universe!'The big thinking short film festival' the Guardian. Encounters offers an important platform for both new and established filmmakers to showcase their work and is the place to be inspired, to talk technology, share ideas and make new connections. 6 days of screenings, special events, workshops and masterclasses and those all important networking opportunities: the parties!
CORNWALL FILM FESTIVAL 6th - 9th November 2008
The Cornwall Film Festival is an annual festival dedicated to exhibiting and marketing Cornish filmmaking and developing relationships with the wider industry. The festival offers local and national premieres, master-classes, workshops, discussions and networking events for everyone from the enthusiast to the professional.
Bradford International Film Festival
Cambridge Film Festival organised by the Cambridge Film Trust
Edinburgh International film Festival
The UK Film Council has given the Edinburgh International Film Festival a large award to try and establish it as the World's leading festival for new talent.
Glasgow Film Festival
The 2009 Festival which will run from February 12th to 22nd.
Having just held its fourth event the Glasgow Festival has recorded another great leap forward in audience attendance with final figures expected to nudge 20,000 admissions. The festival lasts for eleven days.
The first Sheffield International Documentary Festival was held in 1994. The festival was launched as a two pronged event - an international film festival and a conference for all professionals working in documentary film and television production. he idea of launching a UK-based international documentary festival was the vision of Peter Symes of BBC TV Features Bristol. He felt that it was incredible that there was no festival in the UK celebrating the work of documentary makers and no forum at which the makers could meet to argue and debate their craft, especially considering that Britain has a long tradition of making some of the very best documentaries in the world.
London International Film Festival 2008
Picture from the Times BFI London Film Festival reception at the Cannes Film Festival, Sunday 18 May 2008, Hôtel Palais Stéphanie. From left to right: Greg Dyke (BFI Chairman); Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MBE MP (Minister for Culture, Creative Industries & Tourism); Amanda Nevill (Director of BFI); Sandra Hebron (Artistic Director, The Times BFI London Film Festival)
Film Festivals Czech Republic
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Spanish Film Festivals
Seville Film Festival held in November. Look out fot the latest information.
The reputable film studies publishing company has established a festivals magazine for cinemagoers and film makers called Films and Festivals which provides much useful information and news.
film & festivals is also proud to announce its partnership with Filmfestivals.com, the largest website dedicated to film festivals in the world! Filmfestivals.com and CFC Media Lab, Telefilm Canada in partnership with Moving Pictures, film & festivals magazine and Cineuropa.org are proud to present another installment of the 'Future of Cinema Salon Series' at the Cannes Film Festival this year.
June 19, 2008
Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. 2008. Continuum Press
The book cover is from Godard's Le Mépris (Contempt) featuring Michel Piccoli and Bridget Bardot. A film in which Godard was forced to make a voyeuristic take of Bardot to satisfy the producers need for salacious images. Godard of course makes a film ironising the role of the American producer and their insatiable commercialism amongst other things.
If only there were more film studies books written like this! This is one of those admirable books which has been written by a leading expert but combines a lightness of touch, a synoptic vision able to draw useful comparisons between countries, directors and films and avoids recourse to over-theoreticism much beloved in certain quarters of academia - not that Nowell-Smith isn't able to hold his own in this sphere. It quite simply isn't the point of the book. It is the sort of book which European Cinema enthusiasts desperately need more of. Far too often books of essays cobbled together by an editor come out in order to satisfy RAE type publishing requirements providing disparate although often insightful analysis of individual films at the expense of coherence. This is increasingly divorcing academics from real audiences interested in Euopean films both past and present. If new audiences are to be attracted to these films in a context which goes beyond the usual academic parcelling up of the period into 'national movements' combined with lots of textual analysis then this is the sort of book which needs to be written. No hagiographical commentaries, no over-weighty attempts at 'theory' and no misplaced and tedious attempts to incorporate everything into a 'postmodern' discourse. This is a pleasurable and insightful read.
There is often little attempt to contextualise films either to other aspects of cinema contemporary to the times being written about or to the social, political,economic and cultural tendencies, which define the cinematic moment. Nowell-Smith overcomes all these hurdles adroitly. He moves from the enigmatic representations of Antonioni through the gritty Brit documentary realism to the joie de vivre of the nouvelle vague seamlessly. The changing narrative structures, the changing situation in censorship and the key production concerns, and issues such as Vietnam, Algeria, the Hungarian Uprising, and the Suez Crisis are all brought into play in a highly relevant and readable way.
This is a book which avoids the kiss of intellectual death embedded within the text book mentality prevalent at pre-university level as it contains individual vision. It avoids the patronising 'bite-size' mentality of most of these but it doesn't make assumptions about knowledge. It carefully explains things as it goes along whilst still maintaining the rhythms of a proper book. It is the best overview of the period I have come across, providing those who saw some of the films at the time and who still have fond memories of them an excellent route into reviewing the films. It wil eanbel them to place the films into a wider pattern rather than having a strange hotch-potch of memories which never slotted together at the time. For those just gaining an interest in the period it provides an excellent introduction and opens up a myriad of paths to follow. It is a book which I can comfortably recommend for enthusiastic A2 students and undergraduates. Whilst it is unlikely to hold many surprises for the seasoned academic it is clear that they are not the target audience.
From Truffaut's groundbreaking first feature 400 Blows which won at Cannes and launched the French Nouvelle Vague
European Film Studies has for a long time needed more books like this which have the coherence of a single author overview underpinned by the kind of specialist knowledge neccessary to give great depth to what on the surface seems to be a simple statement. It comes thoroughly recommended for all librarians for school, college and university first years as well as for the general cinephile who might well get to see many of the wide range of films referenced but find difficulty in making any kind of overall sense to them outside of the pleasures of the text itself.
Italy made a transition from older directors such as Visconti to vibrant new ones such as Marco Bellocchio whose Fists in the Pocket (1965) was a hard hitting angry portrait of a dysfunctional upper middle-class family
Nowell Smith also manages to bring together strands between movements and points out that Italy didn't need a 'new wave' in the way other countries did because being the leading filmmaking country in Europe from the neorealist period until the waning of the new waves at the end of the 1970s there was a continuum between the older styles and directors and the newer ones rather than the attempts to make a radical break with the past. Neorealism had largely achieved this with the fascism which went before it.
Anna Magnani in Pasolini's Mamma Roma 1962. "A Rome which was a microcosm of every possible contrast between new and old, rich and poor, developed and primitive, north and south" (Nowell-Smith, 2008, p156)
One aspect I liked was Nowell-Smith's little asides about Stalinists and dogmatic Trotskyists. Also his knowledge about British political changes on the left as Western Marxism was born out of the vacuums left because of the disgust with the Soviet crushing of Hungary in 1956 was of interest. As someone who is currently in the throes of writing an institutional history of the British Film Institute (BFI) his comments about using Penelope Houston and Lambert from the cinephile magazine Sequence which had gone bust after 14 issues was amusing:
Dennis Foreman, who had grand plans to give more focus to the lively but dispersed film culture he saw emerging all around him, offered Lambert and Houston a golden opportunity: forget trying to keep Sequence alive and instead take over and revitalise the institute's established but stodgy magazine Sight and Sound. (Nowell-Smith, 2008 p 31)
Rita Tushingham in Tony Richardson's Taste of Honey (1961). "A Taste of Honey is the most 'Free Cinema' and also the most 'New Wave' (in the French sense) of the British realist films. It is the lightest in touch, the nearest to improvisation, and the best rooted in its chosen setting." (Nowell-Smith 2008, p128)
Nowell-Smith's wide-ranging knowledge serves the reader well for on the previous page to the one mentioned above he he succinctly brings in what he considers an important moment in the development of French cinema which involved getting the backing of Cocteau and founding a high profile cine-club Objectif 49 which opened in May 1949 and the establishing of a festival the Festival du film Maudit (Festival of the ill-fated film) in June of that year in Biarritz. The festival showed many films that had been banned in the past such as Visconti's Ossessione, and the Brecht/Dudow collaboration Kuhle Wampe. The festival also showed many other fringe type of films. There was an underlying hope of unifying the cinephiles and the left in France although this had to wait in the event. It was an interesting insight which isn't provided by a large book on French cinema Williams' Republic of Images for example.
Nowell-Smith organises the book in a very useful way. He briefly reviews 'What Were the Sixties?' concisely and realistically cutting through the nostalgia which makes them 'Swinging' and summarising the situation well. He then reviews the general contextual situation in the 1950s in the build up to the new waves, and also reviews the changing film culture and the importance of new criticism within that culture as poles of difference emerge in France through Cahiers du Cinema and in the UK through Sequence. He then proceeds to examine the new cinemas themselves taking into account the tensions and contradictions inherent within the various systems of censorship, the changing narrative structures and technological issues such as new zoom lenses and the introduction of wide-screen.
Nowell-Smith succincntly runs thorugh the changing narrative priorities that were emerging at the time. instead of the purposive heros driving the plot cinemas of the 1960s began to examine life without clear purpose. Antonioni can be seen as an extreme example of this notes Nowell-Smith (p 104):
The new cinemas everywhere are peopled with characters who either do not know what they are supposed to be doing or are impotent to achieve their goal.
Monica Vitti on the deserted volcanic island in L'avventura (1960)
Nowell-Smith then reviews the film movements of the time, British Social Realism / Free cinema, The French Nouvelle Vague and then the situtation in Poland and Czechoslovakia as well as looking at the changing circumstances in Latin America partially stimulated by the Castro led revolution in Cuba. Finally Nowell-Smith looks at the role of the auteur through brief synopses of Godard, Antonioni and Pasolini.
Nowell-Smith has a nice concluding paragraph which will hopefully encourage older readers to revisit the films and younger ones to try the films out as more and more become available on DVD:
Rather than die, then, the new cinemas dispersed. But they had created a legacy, even more widespread than that of neo-realism a decade and more earlier. And unlike neo-realism, they stand today forty years on, as representatives of modernity. More valuable still, the modernity they bespeak is liberation. and the message of modernity as liberation is not one locked up in a bottle: it may no longer be available in the cinemas, but it is there for the asking when you unwrap that DVD and put it in your player. (Nowell-Smith 2008, p 216)
June 17, 2008
Communications Studies Degrees
Anglia Ruskin: BA Communications and Music (This requires A level music of grade 8)
Brunel University (W. London)
University of Buckingham Communications Studies:
Business Management with Communications(Please note this new course is especially for Students whose main language is not English)
University of Nottingham:
June 14, 2008
Film Studies Books Hub Page
This page will provide internal links to film studies book reviews from Kinoeye it will also provide external links to good quality film studies reviews when these are discovered.
Kinoeye Film Studies Book Reviews
Italian Neorealism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City. 2006. Mark Shiel. Wallflower Press Short Cuts. Review
External Film Studies Book Reviews
History on Film/Film on History R. A. Rosenstone.California Institute of Technology Pearson Education, Harlow, 2006 .James Chapman
Scope Magazine. The Flash of Capital: Film and Geopolitics in Japan. Eric Cazdyn.
Scope Magazine. Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan In Hollywood and Out (Revised Edition). Slavoj Zizek
Scope Magazine. Review by Graeme Harper. Hollywood and Europe: Economics, Culture and National Identity 1945-1995. By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and Steven Ricci (eds.). London: BFI
Scope Magazine review by David Inglis: Matthew Tinkcom and Amy Villarejo (eds.). Keyframes: Popular Cinema and Cultural Studies. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.
Scope Magazine Review by Karen Boyle. The Film Studies Dictionary By Steven Blandford, Barry Keith Grant & Jim Hillier. London: Arnold
Scope Magazine. Jean Vigo by Michael Temple
Film Philosophy Review by Davina Quinlivan: Caroline Bainbridge (2007). The Cinema of Lars von Trier: Authenticity and Artifice. Wallflower Press: London
Film Philosophy by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein Review by : Stacy Gillis. Ed. (2005). The Matrix Triology: Cyberpunk Reloaded. Wallflower Press: London and New York
Robert Baird. Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic by Dan Auiler. St. Martin's Press
Review by David Seed. Fredric Jameson. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. Verso Books, 2007
(Although not strictly film studies Jameson's criticism is very interdisciplinary. Given the importance of SF as a genre in film as well as fiction it seems sensible to include it here.)
Reviewed by Nathan Abrams. Linda Ruth Williams and Michael Hammond, eds., Contemporary American Cinema. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006.
Review by Yannis Tzioumakis. The End of Cinema as we Know it: American Film in the Nineties. Jon Lewis. Pluto Press, 2002.
Review by Jan Uhde. The Film Studies Dictionary. By Steve Blandford, Barry Keith Grant, Jim HillierStud.
Arnold Publishers (London) and Oxford University Press (New York), 2001
Film Studies Textbooks
Personally I have a distinct dislike of the 'Textbook' they frequently treat the reader like a a complete idiot and do bitesize spoonfeeding with little exercises which seem artificial but are a publishing staple. If more blogs and websites like this one were developed they could become a thing of the past however teachers in the UK at least like to cling to the textbooks. It means you can set studnets something to do when you've run out of ideas I think. Nevertheless they are in common useage. I came across a very usefult blog page which had decided to do an overview of the availble film studies textbooks.
Architecture and cinema have an interrelated history: World renowned directors such as Fritz Lang and Segei Eisenstein had an architectural training. Increasing architecture is being recognised as a media form as well as having many other facets to it. Similarly cinema as a media form requires exhibitionary space in which to function. The architecture of cinemas has been an important development especially in the 20th century. How important cinemas will remain as exhibition spaces remains to be seen, just as what is actually shown in them is now possibly about to change as real time HD streaming of live events is become an everyday reality. On this page there are some videos representing architecture. A vast range of these can be viewed at the Architectural Videos Blog and for those with a very strong interest in architecture this site comes highly recommended.
Daniel Liebeskind: The Jewish Museum Berlin
Walter Gropius: The Bauhaus
The Bauhaus can in many ways be considered as an iconic building symbolising a return to a discourse of optimism and progress in the Weimar Republic. It was built soon after the Dawes plan was instituted to stabilise the German economy which had been suffering from severe hyperinflation. The revived economy, at least in the areas of lighter industry, was the perfect market for industrial designs; an area in which the Bauhaus soon came to be a world leader. Gropius was both an architect in his own right as well as being the director of the Bauhaus although architecture wasn't actually taught there during his time as director. However several students worked in his private office. The type of modernism with which the Bauhaus aesthetic cam to be linked was New Objectivity (Neuesachlichkeit) steered clear of Soviet Constructivism and also broke with the various strands of Expressionism prevalent in the Weimar aesthetic consciousness after the First World War. This was very much an anti-industrial feeling generated because of the mechanised mass killing of the First World War. There is of course a link between the Bauhaus and the Jewish Museum because the Bauhaus was eventually forced to leave its site in Dessau because it was persecuted by the local Nazis. It closed down very shortly after the Reichstag Fire and the takeover of the Nazis in the Spring of 1933.
More to come later.