All entries for July 2007
July 20, 2007
Impressions of the iPhone
One born every minute?
I'm going to run home and ring people just to say 'Guess what, I've got an iPhone, bye!'
Well the iPhone is well and truly launched. This posting is now collecting impressions and comments from the press, blogs etc. Will it live up to the hype is the big question. As stated elsewhere on the blog the real issue for me is how well this gadget is going to work with iTunes and where is iTunes going to go? I think this will be the secret of its long-term success (or not). I'm guessing that Apple are making a play for the mobile moving impage market which will become increasingly important over the next few years. In Britain the big year will 2012! Why? UK goes fully digital & the Olympics are being held in London. Who wsaid that concidences don't exist? (A: Arthur Koestler).
To prove my point here is the comment of a journalist from Business Week, Arik Hesseldahl:
Just installed iTunes and looked in the preferences tab and noticed a new feature specific to the iPhone: Looks like it will back up data from the phone, which is a feature that cell phones in general have been needing for a long....
The Role of iTunes
As a kind correspondent in the comments box has pointed out the facility to back up is available on some phones. A contributor to the Business Week blog above has also noted this. It is the link into iTunes which is important. In this sense iTunes is just bundling already available technologies. Intantaneous subscriptions to podcasts & vodcasts as well as everything else which iTunes has to offer is a powerful marketing tool. iTunes is already a proven and popular technology which other phone companes simply do not have.
Whilst Apple is nominally ahead of the game Nokia, Sony etc will not be far behind but as with the synergies produced by iTunes and iPods supporting archiving and downloading software is going to be crucial. This is where Sony MP3 players have lost out. Functionality combined with becoming a style icon is the game.
An interesting issue is whther iTunes is going to make deals with video content providers which could effectively lock consumers into a sytem. With music the content providers and therefore iTunes had a problem. Music was easy to download in 'pirate' versions and at the end of the day anybody could go to a record shop and get a Digital Rights Management (DRM) free CD. This isn't going to be the same with video content. This huge commercial game seems to be less about phone sales than grabbing a good share of content provision via an online database like iTunes. The chic technology provides a bigger screen and an automatic widescreen facility. Whilst the technology geeks are watching out for what the next versions of the iPhone has in store look out for signs of business dealings with content providers. This is what will drive iPhone sales over the longer term once the gadgetry spree has run its course. If Apple gets this right its share price really will start to become stratospheric and with good reason. A quick look at the Footsie 500 companies will quickly show that the software providers are making more profits on less turnover than hardware providers such as Sony.
I think Apple are likely to be outstandingly successful with this combination. They have learned a lot through the iPod / iTunes combination and this is likely to pale into insignificance once the video infrastructure catches up
Thus far Apple has the edge. There are also some video links to current iPhone "rivals", which aren't really on the link below:
Some people had been queuing for days outside Apple and AT&T stores across the US to ensure they got hold of one of the devices. (The BBC provide a link to an iPhone demonstration from this page).
Can your phone do this?
Whatever else Apple appeared to get off to a good sales launch with over half a million phones sold in its first weekend. (Thursday, 5 July 2007) That has to be impressive by anybody's standards. According to this BBC report 02 is the phone company which is getting the contract to provide iPhones when they launch in the UK in this autumn (2007). However MacWorld of 20th July has discovered an argument that Vodaphone may well be the company which has iPhones if the work of a clever hacker is anything to go by.
The price is expected to be in the region of £300 initially. These sales need to be put into the perspective of the sales of other mobile handset makers. some are arguing that even sales of 10 million is still 'small beer' compared to the Nokias of this world as a BBC analysis argued in January 07 when Jobs announced the gadget:
Mr Jobs predicts Apple will be able to sell in the region of 10 million iPhones in 2008, when the device will be available not just in the US and Europe, but also in the fast-growing Asian market.
While sales on that scale would be good for Apple, they would still be relatively small beer when compared with total annual global mobile sales.
US handset maker Motorola revealed last year that it had sold more than 50 million of its Razr branded mobile phones since its market debut.
Analyst: Apple to Sell 45M iPhones in '09
One web report on the iPhone by an industry journalist Jeff Gamet8:05 AM EDT, June 7th, 2007 comments on the predictions made by a leading analyst called Gene Munster about the sales potential for the iPhone :
Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is predicting that will signal the beginning of a skyrocketing climb leading to 45 million units sold in 2009. For calendar year 2007, he expects Apple will sell 3.2 million units, and 12.4 million in 2008.
Looking at the 45 million unit prediction for calendar year 2009, Mr. Munster commented "While this may seem like a bold prediction, we believe a number in this area is not as far of a reach as some may think. Specifically, to reach iPhone units of 45 million, we believe the product will have 7.0 percent hand set market share in North America and 2.8 percent handset market share in the rest of the world."
Whilst one Internet wag has noted that 45 million phones in one year is a significant amount of the world's population the key point is that Jobs has given an estimate of 10 million sales by that time. Obviously any sales in excess of this will be a feather in the cap of Apple.
What Apple aren't saying
The handset has also been criticised because it does not use the 3G network, does not support instant messaging or voice-activated dialling and does not let people choose ringtones beyond the 25 pre-installed on it.
Some critics have said that the iPhone's touch screen makes texting hard work but most agree that the design is likely to filter down to other mobiles.
Disability & the iPhone
The "Ouch" BBC Disability Magazine has some intersting individual postings such as the one below. The posting has included some choice quotes from Apple geeks which are blunt to say the least.
I'm a bit of an Apple geek on the quiet, so when their sleek and shiny new iPhone was announced last week to whoops of delight, I'm afraid that I rather joined in the chorus of "I want one! Gimme one!" I'm ashamed to say that almost the last thing on my mind was how accessible it might be to blind and visually impaired users, considering that its operation relies almost entirely on touch-screen technology.
I must admit that a phone which is marketing itself on its visual capabilities primarily the playback of larger size video is by its very essence unlikely to be very useful to blind or partially sighted people. Clearly phones which are primarily for voice communications and interface via more haptic or aural methods are going to be more suitable. It does seem a little pointless attacking Apple for designing a piece of technology which is about visual communications. The issue is surely are there a good range of alternative technologies available for bling and partially sighted people. Voice recognition and being able to connect with soembody using voice only instructions seems the way to go. I'm sure this would be more useful for most people as well as for visually impaired people than the iPhone.
so far no manufacturer has made a phone that you can completey customize (font size, colour scheme etc) like you can with say Mac OS or Windows.
One comment on the entry seems to make the point well. Interfacing which can be accessed flexibly by a wide range of users is going to be be better. I imagine this would appeal to a wide range of people. Nevertheless touch technology as an interfacing system for large audiences is in its infancy. I suspect mobile interfacing still has a long way to go. On this basis Apple's technology is to be welcomed even if it is still limited.
Apple sold up to 525,000 iPhones at its stores and AT&T's in the first weekend since the device launched on Friday, the Los Angeles Times has reported.
By Ian Hardy
Click's North America technology correspondent
July 19, 2007
What Now For the BBC?
Like many users it has come as a shock to me that the BBC has had to admit to such a range of scandals and other shenannigens such as faking phone in results, alongside ridiculous 'errors' such as the trailer of the Queen apparently leaving photographer Annie Liebovitz 'in a huff'. I certainly have a huge respect for the BBC as a media institution and for many decades it has led the World in the concept of public service broadcasting (PSB). It certainly became trendy amongst many media critics to knock the BBC for being elitist, top-down and all the rest of it. Perhaps a case of well meaning left-liberalism being blind to the dangers of rampant commercialism which as Theodor Adorno pointed out realistically many years ago would lead to crass populism in the media. Adorno was of course castigated for being a "pessimist" by naive left-liberals.
Time to support Public Service Broadcasting to the Hilt!
Instead of looking upon this crisis as an excuse to hammer the BBC and ask for "Heads to Roll" along the lines of Daily Telegraph it is time for those serious about quality media to back the BBC and argue for a return to an older system of public service broadcasting which predates the 1990 Broacasting Act. Rather than trying to foist blame on executives in the BBC it is time to lay the blame at the door of the commercialisers.
The 1990 Broadcasting Act, amongst other things, required the BBC to outsource a large per centage of its programming rather than producing everything in house. This was an action to be expected of a Tory government in a move initiated by Mrs Thatcher and followed up by John Major. It was an Act directly attributable to the ideology of neo-liberalism. The editorial of the Financial Times is quite positive about the use of outsourcing however this requires a massive extra input of training to get these outside contributors 'up to speed', it will also require massive extra managerial effort to make these outsiders more accountable. this all amounts to uneccessary time and effort and money to get the BBC back into the state it was in in 1990 in terms of its organisational ethics! Is that really the way to run things? I doubt it!
The use of freelances and independent production companies is now a staple element in the BBC’s output, and rightly so. But this means that the organisation can no longer assume its programme makers have grown up with its values. Now it must communicate its editorial standards explicitly not only to BBC lifers but also to independent suppliers and those on short-term contracts. In addition it must be more rigorous in ensuring they are met.(My emphasis Published: July 19 2007 19:34 | Last updated: July 19 2007 19:34 )
The reality which the Financial Times is hedging around is that the continuous commercial pressure and the drive for ratings is dragging down the BBC to the standards of the lowest common denominator:
Part of the problem is self-inflicted. In pursuing mass audiences to underpin the legitimacy of the licence fee that is the mainstay of the BBC’s funding, the organisation has sometimes lost sight of the need to provide programming and services different from commercial media. This has led it into the territory of premium phone-line contests and wide-ranging digital ambitions that have helped make the Beeb less distinctive. (ibid).
Whilst the pathetic phone-line contest ethos should certainly be criticised and the programmes junked, I'm less comfortable about the comment upon the wide-ranging digital ambitions. It is ironical that the BBC is being used by the government to spearhead the national digital ambitions of turning UK broadcasting into a digital cornucopia by 2012. The government here is clearly wanting to auction off more bandwidth to mobile companies to provide video services such as live Olympics which I assume was part of the bid to win the contest in the first place. No surprises then if Tessa Jowell gets a place on the board of Vodaphone or Virgin Media when she finally leaves office. Of course the Berlusconi empire may beckon given Blair's friendly relationship with him as well.
Under the circumstances it seems natural that the BBC should have wide-ranging digital ambitions, indeed as an aspect of cultural citizenship the BBC should have these ambitions. The problem is that the pusillanimous Blair government watered down the BBC's projects every time some pathetic commercial organisation felt challenged. Look at the furore about limiting the download times for TV programmes for example.
No crocodile tears for failing commercial ventures!
Let's not whinge about failing commercial broadcasters, the market is after all the market. The important issue at stake is that of cultural citizenship and the rights of citizens to have high quality broadcast / narrowcast media programmes. There is little doubt that public service broadcasting is best positioned to deliver this and in the UK this means the BBC. When the market can't compete with high quality public service it cries foul and tries to bring the service down to its own level.
When more equals less
When it comes to commercial broadcasting more seems to equal less if quality is used as a benchmark. Channel Four depending upon wall to wall Big Brother and its 'controversial' bits such as a commercially healthy bit of rascism seems to prove the point effectively. The reality bit about "reality TV" is the comercial reality! The key issue is that there is probably too much media and too little time for consumers to consume it all. The fact that the BBC has such a wide range of archive material, as well as the ability to create excellent new material - look at its world-beating website - means that commercial stations are seriously challenged. The reality seems to be that consumers don't want the pap that they regularly serve up otherwise they wouldn't be so worried. Advertisers are voting with their feet and following consumers to the internet. Lots of consumers like me are using the internet more than traditional media outlets and the BBC has positioned itself very effectively despite complaints from those with little knowledge or vision about emergent media forms.
That the Blair government did nothing to change the situation and that Freeview, which has been a godsend for the BBC and its supporters, emerged out of commercial failure, bears witness to the pusillanimity of New Labour. The fact that Tessa Jowell in the debates around the White Paper of 2006 was discussing subscription services in the next round of Licence Fee negotiations and the possibility of sharing around licence fee monies with other broadcasters is clear evidence of just how in thrall New Labour has been to commercial pressures.
PSB and Cultural Citizenship
Like many others this blog supports the notion of the strongest possible Public Service Broadcasting system. Thank heavens Tessa Jowell has been pushed sideways into managing the Olympics. It gives Gordon brown's government the opportunity to reshape Cultural and Media policy in the interests of British citizens and by extension World Citizens. As leading theorists such as David Held have proposed a key way forward for the globalising world is the development of world citizenship. This blog argues that cultural citizenship is an important component of this concept. The principle of public service broadcasting for all global citizens is an aspiration which can and should be furthered by the BBC. Historically the BBC is something Britain can be justifiably proud of. Look at the case of Alan Johnson for example who is an outstanding example of the BBC's finest. Imagine the deep embarrassement of people like this who could be tarred with the brush of the commercialism coming through the back door. The fact that so many journalists from Jordan and elsewhere in the Arab world stood up for him bears witness to just how valuable an asset the BBC is in the fight for genuine global citizenship.
When you are with one side from the conflict, you have got to put to them the very best arguments of the other side - the toughest questions
Alan Johnston's comments which seem to sumon up the BBC ethic of the highest quality journalism.
No organisation is above criticism but the crisis today is not of its making, it is an inevitable product of the crass commercialism which has been espoused by neo-liberalism of all shades from Thatcher to Blair. Let us be clear on that and start to think about how to have a BBC free from both commercial pressures and a licence fee Sword of Damocles continuously over its head. Government can not always be trusted any more than any other institution. The task today is arguably not so much of the BBC having to sort itself out as the Government being rather more committed to principled public service broadcasting than it has been for the last 17 years. The fact that people such as Alan Johnson exist is evidence that there is still a deeply held ethos, but this will become ever more eroded unless the debate is reopened at a deeper level.
July 08, 2007
Of all the new young French directors who came to prominence between 1958-1964 Francois Truffaut is currently the most written about. Truffaut’s key films from this period are 400 Blows (1959), Shoot the Piano Player (1960) and Jules et Jim (1961). In 400 Blows the character Antoine Doinel a schoolboy, who is at odds with his parents, school and society is introduced. The film won Truffaut the best director’s prize at Cannes in 1959 and firmly placed him on the map of French film directors. Below some of the circumstances of these films are explored. Firstly the article notes the position of the changing representations of youth, it then develops some issue, themes and concerns within Truaffaut's three key films of the Nouvelle Vague. Finally the article relates these films to issues of gender and the specific kind of femininity represented in the New Wave. It also questions whether Truffaut's films can be understood as being misogynistic.
A Celebration of Youth Begins
In Europe and the USA the phenomenon of youth as having a separate cultural identity had started. 400 Blows gains much of its vibrancy from a representation of youth which is totally different to anything which had come before. How far its elements are autobiographical are unclear however this to some extent irrelevant for Doinel acts as an allegory for the position of youth in France. France in this representation was seen as repressive and thoroughly hierarchical suffering the hangovers of an imperialist nation which had been invaded and was undergoing severe post-war stress as problems in Algeria and Vietnam started to emerge.
There is something of the freshness and vigour of both Vigo the pre-war French director and the neo-realist approach of Roberto Rossellini in Truffaut’s approach - Truffaut had worked for Rossellini who was even a witness at his marriage. In Rossellini's Roma Citta Aperta (1945) a young tearaway and his followers played an important role in symbolising resistance to Nazi occupation and the closing scene of children walking into a future Italy was symbolically powerful.
400 Blows is not so clearly optimistic as Roma citta aperta. It challenges the audience through its open ending. Antoine having successfully escaped from the institution and standing at the seaside is in a state of confusion: where next? is the question posed by the closing shot on his face. The shot begs the question what is the future of this boy. Does the audience want him to go back to the reform school, how do they want Antoine’s life to proceed? are his parent’s good influences? There are no straightforward answers for Antoine is in a very confused and ambiguous position. Antoine has been mistreated, yet at times is dishonest as the interview with the psychologist makes clear. It is the underlying quest of the film to place the audience in a position of reflexivity which makes the film so effective and makes it a part of a distinctly modern tradition. The film thus poses a question for France. Its politics are thus linked to its form.
Doinel appears as a character in many of Truffaut’s subsequent films. There are strong autobiographical references in this film and it is claimed that the film contributed to the divorce of Truffaut’s parents. Apparently they were very upset by the contents as Doinel’s parents are very unsympathetic characters. Apparently Albert Remy who played the father bore quite a strong resemblance to Truffaut’s father. Gillain points out that interviews with Truffaut revealed two contradictory positions on the film’s status as autobiographical having claimed that he had experienced all the hardships represented in the film and denied that the film was his autobiography. Gillain argues that the denial was down to aesthetic reasons.
Just as the world view of a director, especially an auteurist one, will operate at both a conscious and unconscious level, it is possible to over-read a text and construct it as totally autobiographically determined:
The need to understand oneself better, the desire to establish one’s unique identity or the urge to interpret one’s life- all these motives account for the autobiographical impulse. In order to treat the self as a narrative object, the author must select the facts that he or she recalls to reconstruct the unity of his or her life. The author must also impose an order on its individual events and bestow upon them narrative coherence , as well as achieve the creation of an imaginary self.
Truffaut’s autobiography can be seen as being spread over twenty-one feature length films. Although each film is self-contained an auteur structuralist perspective argues that the whole of his _oeuvre_ can be read in the light of each being a part of a greater whole. Gillain’s (2000) contention is that all Truffaut’s films offer a variation along themes of repression and secret aspects of the self in what she describes as a ‘Script of Delinquency’.
In 400 Blows a spatially organised set of relationships can be discerned which revolves around a binary opposition between outside and inside. Inside, whether at home or at school the shots are mainly static and in close-up, whilst outside there is mobility and a sense of freedom. The streets and the outside come to represent freedom of thought, action and movement.
Stylistically 400 Blows is influenced by the camera-person Henri Decae. The camerawork is fluid and combines ...a modern mobility with classical depth in many of the location shots suggests Neupert (2002) as the filming of the rotor ride sequence indicates. Gillain takes a more psychoanalytically inflected analysis of the rotor scene suggesting the space is womb-like and represents a compensation for lack of affection.
The narrative style constructs the film as a series of separate scenes or segments. This is very different to the continuity codes of the classical Hollywood cinema. This use of segmentation opens the text up so that the audience can quickly recognise that these activities and scenarios are everyday ones, in which there is no single cause and event structure, rather, the life of Antoine is consistently one of being alienated from the institutions and his parents. That he ultimately gets into trouble for stealing a typewriter - clearly an act driven by some level of internal frustration rather than maliciousness or even to try and make money - spurs the drift into his institutionalisation. In France at that time parents were able to ask the French authorities to take their children into reformatory care if they thought that they were behaving in a very uncontrollable manner and Doinel’s father did this.
The film acts as an opportunity for liberal modern reflection upon an archaic disciplinary structure which has no place in contemporary French society, and transcends the purely autobiographical, moving from the micro ethnographical approach to the everyday. In doing this it serves to create a meaning which challenges the dominant discourses based upon the discipline of the time. This trend can be seen in a wider context across western countries with the disciplinarity of imperialistically minded discourses. Resistance against the system was represented in the British New Wave by The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner for example.
Behind the Production
400 Blows was co-produced by Truffaut’s father in law who was a mainstream producer and distributor in the French film industry. 400 Blows proved a critical and popular success as well as a financial one. The American rights were sold for between $50,000 - $100,000 (depending on which version is listened to). The film was also the fifth largest grossing one in the French box office that year. This catapulted Truffaut from being one of the best known young critics to the best known young film maker. It enabled him to engage in new feature length projects as well as putting him in a position to help influence producers to back other projects from the emergent new wave directors.
Shoot the Piano Player
Shoot the Piano Player was Truffaut’s next project. It was based on a pulp fiction American novel Down There. Here it is important to note that Truffaut hadn’t been against literary adaptations as such but the treatment of adaptations by the French studio system which prioritised a visual syntax that was explanatory of the words in the book rather than trying to translate the book into what Truffaut understood to be a properly cinematic language to convey the essence and spirit of the original. Truffaut and the other participants of the French New Wave prioritised a visual and cinematic language as a means of expression.
Shoot the Piano Player was a parodic take on the American 'B' movie thriller and for several reasons was unpopular with both critics and the audiences alike at the time. Sellier argues that it is a modernist work by being both critical of established Bourgeois culture of the quotidian but also of the mass culture of entertainment.
bq. Analysing mass market American films the Cahiers du cinema critics - by emphasising the most abstract aspects of their mise en scene and by disregarding the socio-cultural context of their production and consumption - gave impetus to the modernist, distanced gaze on cinema that the most innovative films of the New Wave worked to mobilise' (Sellier, Genevieve, 2001, p127)
It is in retrospect that the qualities of the film emerge Neupert (2002) describes it fulsomely as ...one of Truffaut’s great stylistic triumphs and one of the freshest, loosest and even funniest films of his career. Truffaut used Raoul Couthard who had worked on Godard’s a Bout de souffle as the camera-person which helped give the film a grittier less polished feel to it.
Truffaut’s editing was also a fundamental part of the film's aesthetic. There were shifting visual rhythms moving from the long takes, favoured by Andre Bazin, to discontinuous montages far distant from the Bazinian naturalist aesthetic. The text also plays with genre systems of narrative which has encouraged some in need of a publication to suggest that the film is in some sense ‘postmodern’ however this is taken as mere critical discursive construction, for it is in this that the film is decisively modern in its approach.
As Sellier argues the film takes a modernist mode, of what Astruc describes as cinecriture, to construct and represent a wounded masculine subjectivity. Sellier describes the process as one of an admixture between the modernist sensibility and the romanticist one leading to a dual cultural inheritance that was to strongly mark the aesthetics of the New Wave.
The Political Context
The film became beset by political problems. In the post production phase Truffaut's editor Cecile Decugis was arrested for allowing her flat to be used by the Algerian resistance movement. Truffaut used several thousand dollars from the production budget to establish a defence fund. Truffaut also signed the ’Manifesto of the 121’ encouraging soldiers to desert rather than fight the Algerian war. It had soon been signed by 400 intellectuals, artists and other well known people, including Truffaut. As a response the state owned media prohibited the appearance of the signatories which reduced Truffaut’s opportunities for publicity. The right dubbed Truffaut as ‘anti-French’, although the left-wing cinema journal Positif were led to revaluate their position on Truffaut.
Jules et Jim
Truffaut’s next film was in the mould of an historical melodrama, however, it could hardly be described as ‘generic’. Jules et Jim came from Henri Pierre Roche’s novel of the same title . The film was shot on a budget that was high by New Wave standards of $280,000, nevertheless with the death of his father in law Morgernstern during production there was an increased level of financial vulnerability.
As a result, shooting was in borrowed locations with costs pared as far as possible. The film is based upon a menage a trois consisting of: Jules, an Austrian living in Paris; Jim, a writer who meets Jules in Paris; Catherine who becomes their muse. Catherine resembles a Greek statue which they saw together on a spontaneous trip after seeing a slide show and becoming fascinated by it. Jules eventually marries Catherine, then World War 1 breaks out and Jules and Jim fight on opposite sides.
After the war Jim visits Jules and Catherine who by this time has a daughter Sabine. Catherine is unsettled and has taken on other lovers and is currently having an affair with Albert the person who showed Jules et Jim the slide show in the first place. Catherine seduces Jules who has always wanted her and the menage live in the same chalet for a few weeks together. Catherine gets bored with her romance with Jim and seduces Jules again. The men pretend that they aren’t jealous of each other although one evening it comes out that they are.
Catherine is represented as wanting to have men on her terms and as being mentally unstable. (how often is this the case when men are wanting women on thier terms?) Jim eventually returns to Paris but wants to be with Catherine who has declared that she wants to marry him and have children. Jules who has given up hope of a stable relationship with Catherine favours this as he can’t bear the idea of losing Catherine altogether.
From Paris Jim corresponds with Catherine whilst being with Ghilberte who is represented as being little more than somebody who brings Catherine’s letters to Jim and is wetly prepared to accept her lot. The relationship between Jules and Catherine seems to have broken down irretrievably when Catherine who is pregnant by Jules has a miscarriage. By ‘chance’ Jules and Jim meet up in Paris and Jules goes to meet Catherine again in the mill house near Paris where she and Jules have moved to. Jules is determined to try and break the spell and announces that he is going to marry his girlfriend Ghilberte whereupon Catherine draws a revolver and threatens to kill him .
Later, there is a seeming attempted rapprochement when Jules, Jim and Katherine go out for a drive together in Catherine’s car. Catherine asks Jules to come with her for a drive and asks Jim to watch them carefully. Catherine then proceeds to drives them both off an bridge which has no central section and they both drown. It was a film about amour fou or mad love.
The use of Jeanne Moreau and the nature of the story were good marketing ploys. It was criticised by the Catholic church in France and the Legion of Decency in America which might well have helped its success. The film employed long takes and montages alongside freeze framing, handheld wide screen shooting, and 360 degree pans. This combination of techniques break decisively with the ‘cinema of quality’s’ approach to the historical melodrama.
The larger budget also allowed for more refined lighting techniques and more sophisticated work on the soundtrack so in this sense the film was moving away from the rougher edged early films. Many critics see the film as the beginning of the end of the New Wave (Nouvelle Vague ) as many of directors gradually became part of a different structure of cinema.
Issues of Stars and Gender in Jules et Jim
It is worthwhile reading Jules et Jim through the lenses of both gender and star criticism. Here the work of Sellier and Vincendeau is especially useful in beginning to open up the discourse. The typical new wave film coming from ex-Cahiers critics can be seen as being an aesthetic project which was highly critical - at times vituperative in Truffaut’s case - towards the establishment. The aesthetic also functioned from a necessity born of material limitations.
In a move typical of rebellious youth, Truffaut had announced that he wasn’t prepared to work with established stars such as Michele Morgan and Pierre Gabin on the grounds that they influenced the mise en scene by demanding close ups in accordance with their status as stars. An argument that was more polemically based than factual.
It was an argument which Godard would effectively dispel in Le Mepris which critiqued the role of the producers and their control of the financial package to ensure that the audience were given what they ‘wanted’ as the key determinant. (Godard's treatment including the ways in which Bardot was filmed will be dealt with elsewhere(. Nevertheless, in relation to the issue of the usage of stars Truffaut made an aesthetic vision the rationale for not being able to afford well established actors.
The Eroticised Star of the New Wave
Of course this very materially influenced approach to film-making brought forward new actors. Less established women actors such as Jeanne Moreau and entirely new women such as Anna Karina became central to the French New Wave. In a tradition that emanated from 19th century romanticism the leading women were often associated with the directors. In Moreau’s case with firstly Louis Malle and then Truffaut and in Karina’s case with Godard.
Vincendeau perceptively places Moreau as central in this process for Moreau was associated with Malle in the prefigurations of the New Wave in Lift to the Scaffold, and then Les Amants. This was followed by her work with Antonioni in La Notte (1961). Moreau then played a key role as Catherine in Jules et Jim.
Above Jeanne Moreau in Antonioni's La Notte
Moreau had been firstly reconstructed by Malle and her early acting work within the mainstream played down. As Catherine, Moreau fits in well with one of the trends in the representation of women in which they are objects of desire who function to lead the male protagonists to their downfall. Moreau played this role in Lift to the Scaffold (1958), Les Amants and Jules et Jim. Truffaut can be identified along with Malle by establishing this approach in Tirez sur le pianiste as well.
Jeanne Moreau in Louis Malle's Les Amants(1958)
The attraction of Moreau is that through her performances she helped to establish a new definition of femininity which was an essential part of liberalising modernity. It was a representation that was fresh, alluring and different suggests Vincendeau.
This wasn’t a position solely occupied by the French New Wave for the ‘phantasmic male projection’ of new woman was also created in Britain through the character of Julie Christie. Unlike Moreau, Christie was to gain international star status in films such as Dr Zhivago moving on from the ‘will o the wispish’ persona exemplified in Billy Liar (1963).
Christie can also be associated with the more gamine actresses associated with the New Wave such as Karina and Jean Seberg. Moreau’s role as a slightly older actress was to reflect the sophisticated, intellectual mood of the films. But all echoed the ideology of the New Wave: authenticity, modernity and sensuality. In Jules et Jim, Moreau was positioned in a different hierarchy to mainstream cinema as the star wasn’t dominant in the mise en scene, just an element within it.
In common with other films from the New Wave such as A Bout de souffle and Bande a parte, both by Godard, there was a different regime of the look in which a less sexually but more erotically inscribed construction of femininity was installed. Vincendeau compares this look with that of Bardot: New wave actresses were young, good-looking and sexy, but not too overtly glamorous. Bardot was so extraordinary that her beauty conceptualised as an effect of surface, became the theme of her films. In the New Wave films committed to authenticity and depth, beauty appeared more ‘realistic’ coming ‘from within’. Vincendeau argues that in contrast to the female nudity increasingly exploited by the mainstream the New Wave achieved a more erotic effect by shifting the focus of attention from women’s bodies to their faces.
This attention to ‘surface modernity’ of the stars also fitted well with the liberalising modernity of modernising France which was moving to a consumption based model of capitalism as the more classically bourgeois fourth republic, which was also a moment of post-war reconstruction and austerity, gave way to TVs, holidays and cars a harbinger of greater leisure as the post-war boom progressed and the bonds of empire began to fall away.
In terms of space and the representations of women in the city the New Wave saw Jean Seberg in a Bout de souffle follow Moreau’s roam through the city firstly in Lift to the Scaffold and then in La Notte. This public space was still fraught with danger that accompanied those who tried to became a sort of flaneuse. Moreau was taken as a prostitute on occasion and Seberg ended up being chatted up by a thief and a murderer. In that sense these representations of modernising women were rather more conservative than that of Julie Christie in Billy Liar for it is she who travels everywhere, even to France (perhaps a reference to the new wave representation of women?), by hitch-hiking on lorries if necessary.
New Wave Directors as Misogynists
Christie represents the fearlessness of modern female youth in a world apparently without danger. She is contrasted with the dreaming Billy Liar who is unable to turn his fantasies into reality. By contrast the French representations of femininity end in the misogyny of the femme fatale of a neurotic Catherine in Jules et Jim, a femininity based upon a romanticist notion that it is women through their deadly sexuality who foil the projects of the heroic male.
The final sentence of Vincendeau’s article encapsulates the gendered limitations of the New wave directors take on liberal modernity: Concentrating the values of romantic love, sensuality, sensitivity and modernity, Moreau brought a feminised surface to the New Wave which superimposed itself on its male and misogynist foundations.
If Jules et Jim epitomises a masculinised notion of freedom through the carefree images of an idealised woman and set of relationships in its first part the darkening mood of the film could be seen to represent a post-First World War in which the mechanised killing fields mean that nothing is ever quite the same again. It is a position which relates to the expressionist mood of early Weimar cinema. As a story of amour fou looked at in hindsight the film seems somewhat vacuous. Characterisations are thin and inconsistent and Catherine as an object of desire is constructed through the look rather than through any intellectual or emotional capacities.
Enigmatic Romanticism and the Suspension of Materiality
In Jules et Jim this enigmatic romanticism was constituted around an enigmatic statue of a woman in a way which establishes an essential female eroticism which transcends both time and space and inscribes femininity with both an exotic and erotic otherness fundamental to romantic thought. The film also suspends materiality, for Catherine manages to afford her own car at a time when to have a car meant to be extremely well off yet she has no obvious independent income. Jules as a hermit style ecologist in his post-war character can hardly afford that.
The audience is informed that Catherine has both an aristocratic and a commoner background however this is not expanded. The voice-over narration is used to describe the feelings of the characters functioning to allowing the mise en-scene a certain amount of autonomy. In that sense the film is working as a part of New Wave aesthetics. Unlike La Dolce Vita (1959) the film tends to ignore society, and it fails to achieve the necessary depth in its characterisations. Its romanticised modernism doesn’t go as far as Antonioni’s L’avventura (1960) in terms of alienation and the difficulties of communication between people but it is nonetheless following this path.
All these films feature suicides which is the ultimate breakdown of interpersonal communications and alienation and still a feature of contemporary life. In hindsight the explanation from Tartan video’s opening that the film is a ‘cult’ classic is probably fitting. Whilst it was a massively important contribution to a defining cultural moment in French cinema it ultimately fails to satisfy as a piece of art when set alongside the contemporary contributions from Italy.
References here can be accessed in the bibliogaphies section of the blog in the French bibliography.
July 01, 2007
Contemporary British Broadcasting: Public Service Broadcasting
Please note still under construction
There is still some more legislation to include however the webliography is very useful.
The question of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is an especially important one in the Media Issues and Debates Unit of the OCR A Level Media specification. The fact that the BBC has been under a cloud in July 2007 because of vaarious breaches of trust around issues such as falsifying phone-ins has lead to demands for high level resignations which accompany a sense of shock that an institution with such a high quality pedigree could have slipped so far to have allowed these infringements to happen. I have given a frank opinion on this matter elsewhere on the blog. Here though it is important to establish what the roots of PSB are and why it might still matter today.
The BBC Brief
The BBC for many decades has developed a formula which has gained consensus from the highest instution in the land namely Parliament. The purpose of the BBC historically has been to provide entertainment, information and education. There have been many criticism of the way this formula was applied particularly in the earlier decades of the BBC when the content seemed to be more in favour of education and information with entertainment coming behind in the hierarchy. The entertainment that was priviledged was often considered to be more on the 'elitist' side of culture. This stemmed from the notion that public service meant bringing in the best work which had been achieved by the greatest artists, writerws thinkers etc and ensuring that these ideas became known to a wider public. This has been described as a 'top-down' approach to culture. A more 'democratic' and 'bottom up' approach was promoted by many of the BBC's critics especially from the 1960s onwards when there was a flowering of popular culture and a loosening of the class system with a corresponding desire for a more meritocratic society.
Brief History of the British Broadcasting Scene /Key Legislation
With the development of the broadcasting infrastucture ITV was introduced. The first ITV broadcast was in September 1955 in the London region. Famously the popular Radio soap Opera The Archers tried to keep audiences away from ITV by killing off a key character Grace Archer. ITV still had a public service broadcasting remit. It was required to entertain, educate and infrom just like the BBC however the balance and style was different and appealed to wider audiences.
BBC 2 was launched in April 1964. This allowed the main BBC channel now renamed BBC1 to provide a different mix of lighter entertainment with a more popular appeal. BBC2 could have more adventurous programming without being so beholden to the ratings issue as Wikipedia points out.
BBC Two is the second major terrestrial television channel of the BBC. It was the second British television station to be launched by the BBC and Europe's first television channel to broadcast regularly in colour, from 1967, envisaged as a home for less mainstream and more ambitious programming.
The beginnings of the breakdown of the BBC / ITV duopoly came from Channel 4 which was started under the insistence of Mrs Thatcher in an attempt to develop more choice for consumers and to challenge the dominance of the BBC.
Channel 4 is a public-service British television station, broadcast to all areas of the United Kingdom Republic of Ireland), which began transmissions in 1982. Though entirely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned: Originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the station is now owned and operated by the Channel Four Television Corporation, a public body established in 1990 for this purpose and which came into operation in 1993, following the abolition of the IBA.
The next big development in Broadcasting was made possible by the 1990 Braodcasting Act. Originally the initiative came from the Thatcher government however after she was removed from office the baton passed to John Major. A summary of the act is available from Screenonline an extract is given below:
The Broadcasting Act 1990 required the British Broadcasting Corporation, all Channel 3 Licensees, the Channel 4 Television Corporation, S4C (the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority) and the future Channel 5 Licensee to procure but not less than 25% of total amount of time allocated by those services to broadcasting "qualifying programming" is allocated to the broadcasting of arrangement adversity of "independent productions". The expressions "qualifying programming" and "independent productions" defined in the Broadcasting (Independent Productions) Order 1991.
As can be seen from the above passage existing TV companies were required to source at least a quarter of their programming from outside companies. This was particularly to effect the BBC as prior to this it produced all its material in-house with exception of films. Whilst this opened the door to commercial companies this didn't entirely revolutionise British Broadcasting. This came about under the 1996 Broadcasting Act which as Screenonline notes below:
The Broadcasting Act 1996 made provision for digital terrestrial television broadcasting and contains provisions relating to the award of multiplex licences. It also provided for the introduction of radio multiplex services and regulated digital terrestrial sound broadcasting.
The next big thing in terms of legislation was the 2003 Communications Act:
The Communications Act 2003 dissolves the Independent Television Commission, Broadcasting Standards Commission, Radio Authority, Office of Telecommunications (OFTEL) and the Radiocommunications Agency, and replaces these with a new body, the Office of Communications (OFCOM). OFCOM is charged with the regulation of the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services, and with furthering the interests of citizens and consumers in relation to communications matters. The Act also liberalises UK media ownership rules and allows for the formation of a single ITV company, subject to existing competition in merger regulations.
Ofcom on Public Service Broadcasting and the News
News is regarded by viewers as the most important of all the PSB genres, and television remains by far the most used source of news for UK citizens. The role of news and information as part of the democratic process is long established, and its status is specifically underpinned in the Communications Act 2003. (Ofcom Report)
Ofcom discussion of the changes within TV in the digital era
What do all of these digital developments mean for the relative health of the
main terrestrial TV channels, and indeed for public service broadcasting itself?
Overall, there appear to be two main conclusions: first, public service broadcasting
has to be considered in the context of a complex, fragmented multichannel digital
world, not a simple five channel analogue one. In this digital world, BSkyB
has established a powerful competitive position. The growth in the number of
channels and the competition between the different digital platforms has brought
substantial new revenues into the television sector: for instance, BSkyB's
subscription revenues now exceed the total amount raised by the BBC licence
fee. The established main terrestrial channels have had to learn to share the
broadcasting space with an aggressive, successful new entrant. (My emphasis: Ofcom Report )
Webliography for Public Service Broadcasting
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)
Ofcom ( Office of Communications) Review of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)
2002 Speech by Caroline Thompson the Director of Public Policy for the BBC on the future of PSB
A useful academically based page summarising the position of some leading British academics such as Graham Murdock: http://www.cultsock.ndirect.co.uk/MUHome/cshtml/media/peacock.html
The NUJ response to the Ofcom review of PWSB
Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS): Broadcasting
Speech by Tessa Jowell Jan 2007 on the renewal of the BBC Licence fee until 2012 / 13
Guardian Report on Second Ofcom review of Public Service Broadcasting