All entries for July 2008
July 18, 2008
Helen Mirren (Dame): A Profile
Helen Mirren becomes a Dame: 2003
Helen Mirren was born Ilynea Lydia Mironoff the daughter of an exiled Russian Aristocrat and an English mother in Chiswick. She went to school in Southend and became involved in drama there but faced parental discouragement from entering the acting profession. Her first major role came in 1965 playing Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra at The Old Vic. As a result she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). She played Cressida in Troilus & Cressida whilst there. In 1969 she appeared in Michael Powell's last feature film The Age of Consent. Also in 1979 Mirren appeared in the trashy Caligua sexploitation movie from Tinto Brass.
1972, aged 27, she joined Peter Brook's International Centre for Theatre Research in France, and joined the group's tour across north Africa, which created The Conference of the Birds. Mirren was in Lindsay Anderson's experimental O Lucky Man! (1974). In the theatre she played Lady Macbeth in Trevor Nunn's 1974 production of Macbeth at Stratford. In 1979 she played the gangster's 'moll' in the The Long Good Friday: Mackenzie. Mirren Cleopatra again with the RSC in the early Eighties, opposite Michael Gambon. She was nominated for a Best Actress Olivier award in 1983. In 1984 she went to Hollywood where she made White Nights, directed by Taylor Hackford, her lover whom she later married in 1997.
During the 1990s she played opposite Michael Gambon in Peter Greenaway's art-house film The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and Her Lover. This was a role which she considered rather 'dangerous' as she explained to Robert Ebert in a 1990 interview:
"Well, yes, it is a dangerous film. It's deep and complex and we're not skating around any issues. It's on the cutting edge, quite apart from the content - look at the style of the filmmaking, the artificiality of it, the strangeness of the dialogue. I knew it was dangerous, but I didn't think it was that dangerous. You know, that X-rated thing, because that's a different kind of thing altogether...
It gets into a dangerous, dangerous area, and people come out thinking they have confronted something in themselves. It's a challenge. It would be irresponsible to use the material in this film for simple commercialism. Our film doesn't manipulate. Greenaway does a lot of things to put a distance between the actions and the style. The movie's clearly artificial, for example. My costume changes colour according to the different locations - red in the dining room, green in the kitchen, white in the toilet. It's crazily artificial...
She then landed the role of DCI Tennison in the highly successful Prime Suspect series by Lynda La Plante from 1991-2006. She has also been Imogen in the BBC Shakespeare adaptation of Cybeline. Another successful film role was as Queen Caroline in The Madness of King George opposite Nigel Hawthorne. In 2001 she appeared in Last Orders with Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins and she also played an important role in Robert Altman's Gosford Park released on that year. Mirren was also one of many leading British actresses to appear in Calendar Girls (2003) based upon the true life story of members of the women's Institute who did a striptease for a cancer charity.
She was awarded the status of Dame in the New Years' honours list of December 2003. This was on the basis of over 25 years of very conributions across the range of media platfoms including Theatre and Television as well as film. Dame Helen received Oscar nominations for the Madness Of King George in 1994 and for Gosford Park in 2001. In 2005 she played Elizabeth the First in Channel Four's two part series winning an Emmy. She finally received full Oscar recognition for her role in Stephen Frears' The Queen 2006. She is now considered as one of the UKs greatest character actresses.
Helen Mirren Courts Controversy in 2008
Helen Mirren is no stranger to controversy as she is renowned for being an actress who has been willing to take her clothes off in the past when it was rather less common that it is now however she entered new territory when she made some comments about 'Date Rape'. That these rather contradictory comments are important is becuase she has been such an influential actress including having a long-term role as a police inspector on a TV series. Furthermore she has now become something of an establishment pillar. The controversial comments emerged in an interview with GQ which is a pretty tawdry magazine at the best of times and one wonders why Mirren bothered to be interviewed by them. Was she flattered by the opportunity to be a sex-symbol age 63 for the twenty to thirty something blokes who read GQ. Mirren understands the importance of celebrity status as Oxfam claim her for an Ambassador to Oxfam in 1998 for example. One would have expected a rather more though out and carfeful response form Mirren in these circumstances.
Helen Mirren came out rather surprisingly with some very controversial comments about so-called "Date Rape". In a rather contradictory fashion she has first of all that this has happened to her in the past saying that she was locked in a room and was forced to have sex. This is clearly classed as rape under current British law. Zoe Williams in the Guardian was justifiably scathing and the Independent comments are below:
She pulls no punches in her account of what happened when she was forced to have sex at the end of dates in her late teens and twenties when she moved to London. There was not, she says, "excessive violence". She was not hit. But she was "locked in a room and made to have sex against my will". (Independent 2nd September 2008)
The Independent then points out her contradictory follow up to her personal story:
But for all that, she insists that, although it was rape, the men involved should not necessarily be considered rapists in a criminal sense. She even raised doubts about the case of the boxer Mike Tyson, who was convicted of raping a Miss Black America contestant in a hotel room in 1992, concluding: "It's such a tricky area isn't it? Especially if there is no violence. I mean, look at Mike Tyson. I don't think he was a rapist." But for all that, she insists that, although it was rape, the men involved should not necessarily be considered rapists in a criminal sense. She even raised doubts about the case of the boxer Mike Tyson, who was convicted of raping a Miss Black America contestant in a hotel room in 1992, concluding: "It's such a tricky area isn't it? Especially if there is no violence. I mean, look at Mike Tyson. I don't think he was a rapist." (Independent 2nd September 2008)
It appears that Mirren said something that would appeal to the 20 -30 something male audience of GQ and didn't want to say somethng controversial for that target audience. Would she have come out with such ridiculous and damaging comments in a Grazia interview? I don't think so. At the end of the day sex has to be between consenting adults whatever the circumstances. After many years the law is clear on this. At the end of the day no means no, which a man may find disappointing but there are worse things that can happen to you than not having sex to parpahrase a Fay Weldon comment. It might be better in future if Mirren keeps her thoughts to herself and sticks to somebody elses lines. Most 'Celebs' aren't reknowned for their brilliance at navigating controversy (or even sentences) and Mirren has proved to be no exception!
Update: since writing the above sarcastic comment I have discovered an earlier story from the BBC when Mirren first came out the fact that she had been date raped. Her comments in 2003 are very different to the ones made to GQ.
"I was being pursued by them purely for sex and absolutely nothing else," she said, adding that she came to regard men as "so vile and so cruel and alien and nasty".
She said: "I felt most men despised me as a person... it was like I was a piece of meat. In the end I realised that guys really were capable of this." (BBC 2003 Mirren Date Rape Story)
This shift in attitude seems to suport the point that Mirren is perfectly capable of changing her tune according to the media organisation interviewing her. Can you see GQ publishing these comments? Take the money and run Helen but you seem to have lost a lot of fans!
The Long Good Friday (1979)
Helen Mirren and Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday (1979)
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989). Dir Peter Greenaway
Helen Mirren as the Thief's wife in Greenaway's The Cook The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
The Madness of King George (1992). Directed Nicholas Hytner
Helen Mirren as Queen Caroline with Nigel Hawthorne as George III in The Madness of King George
Gosford Park (2001) Robert Altman
Helen Mirren as the housekeeper on Altman's Gosford Park (2001)
Calendar Girls (2003)
The Queen (2006) Directed Stephen Frears
Forthcoming Film Role
It was announced in September 2008 that Helen Mirren has been cast in the role of a Mossad agent in a film calld The Debt. The director has been named as John Madden who has previously made Shakespeare in Love and Mrs Brown. Madden has previously worked with Helen Mirren on the TV series Prime Suspect.
||Year of Production
||Country of Production
|The Age of Consent
|Oh Lucky Man
|The Long Good Friday
||1979 (Released 1980)
||Handmade Films bought the rights from Black Lion for £850k
||Orion Picture Corporation
|The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover
||France / UK
|Madness of King George
||Channel Four & The Samuel Goldwyn Company
||UK / Germany
||UK / Germany / US
||UK / USA
|The Queen||2006||Stephen Frears||UK / France / Italy
Helen Mirren wins Best Actress for The Queen at the Oscars
Times of India Report on strong critical response to Mirren's 'date rape' comments
Star fever is clearly rampant in the case of Keira Knightley. Despite the fact that in Atonement many of the serious critics rather thought she was put in the shade by James McAvoy something I'm in agreement with. Her global reception is quite extraordinary with over 9.2 million Google hits on an initial search (21 / 07/ 08). This means that researching this there is a lot of drivel to search through however this does make me think that things haven't moved on from Adorno's day in the Culture Industry when it comes to film stars. But Walsh in the Independent thinks that this is perhaps her best performance yet:
Knightley gives Vera an independence and complexity that's aeons ahead of the spunky pirate babe Elizabeth Swann or the crosspatch aristocrat Cecilia Tallis in Atonement. (Walsh, Independent, 19 / 06 / 08)
The Times online carries a story about how Knightley's mother is rejecting rumours being spread about whether Keira has anorexia or not. Nowadays star status means instant commentary whizzing around the internet. For a woman actor is appears as though their body is their primary asset. Take Walsh's comments from the Independent which create a discourse of 'sexiness' around a star:
Keira Knightley's astounding physiognomy.....Within 20 seconds, every male heart on the platform (and in the cinema) becomes her devoted slave, as her eyes and lips and hair and skin and voice construct a sensory web of enchantment. (Ibid)
The way the comment is phrased is a fine example of what Laura Mulvey has described as the 'male gaze' which, if we extend the concept beyond the confines of the cinema itself to the critical and fan community, shows us how a discourse of a star can be maintained. whether or not she can act seems besides the point.
Bend it like Beckham
Parminder Nagra & Keira Knightley in Bend it Like Beckham (2002). Gurinder Chadha
Pirates of the Caribbean
Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom in The Pirates of the Caribbean series
Kiera Knightley & Johnny Depp in The Pirates of the Caribbean series
Pride & Prejudice
Keira Knightley & Matthew MacFadyen as Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. 2005 Dir: Joe Wright
The Edge of Love
Kiera Knightley & Sienna Miller in The Edge of Love (2008) Dir: John Maybury
The Duchess 2008
...but the film is let down by a central performance from Knightley which overly emphasises her increasingly-annoying tendency to let her lips do the acting - tightly pursed equals unhappy or determined, open means `look at me, aren't I vivacious'.(Manchester Evening News Review of The Duchess)
Facing Fiennes, the junior cast, like lambs to the slaughter, go to pieces. Knightley gives great profile (just as she gave great close-up in Edge of Love); Dominic Cooper plays her lover, Charles Grey, as a one-note automaton; while Haley Atwell’s strumpet Bess is wonderful at saucy stares but struggles with the spoken word. In short, Fiennes: 4, Kids: Nil. (Timesonline Review of Duchess)
Filmography (British films)
Year of Production
||Country of Production
|Bend it Like Beckham
|Pride and Prejudice
||Joe Wright||Working Title
|Edge of Love
Keira Knightley's mother Sharman MacDonald on being the scriptwriter of The Edge of Love
Guardian: Wollaston interview with Knightley (Aug 2008): Not especially deep and meaningful. Clearly part of the film's pre-release marketing strategy.
Telegraph article on Knightley's agreement to play in intimate scenes in The Duchess and her attitude to nude acting in general.
BBC Woman's Hour Knightley Interview (Currently available on Listen Again)
Daily Mail interview with Knightley. Discusses her dyslexia and lack of education as she dropped out of colege before taking A levels.
Timesonline. Knightley interview. Says wants to drop acting as pressure too great. (2007)
Women & Film Hub Page
The position of women in the world in terms of poverty and health is far worse than that of men. Even in advanced industrial societies gender inequalities are still powerful markers of society. This is why it is important to research aspects of this gender imbalance in terms of power, health and wealth and try to ensure that inequalities are gradually eradicated. film has a special responsibility to get it right becuase the industry is itself arguably partially responsible through its structures of representation of women for the maintainence of the status quo in terms of gender and power.
The representation of women in terms of who represents them and how they are represented, the position of women within the film industry and many other aspects of gender relations and the construction and maintenance of these relations in terms of power, status and cultural capital have formed an extremely important part of Film Studies and Cultural Studies as well as crossing over into media and communications studies geography, sociology art and architecture and related subject areas. In most countries where there is some sort of film industry the issue of national cultural policy and local industrial policy are also extremely important. If funding and support isn't made available to women to help them make the films they want to then representation of society and the concept of citizenship itself will be all the more fragile. It is very important that national governments and supranational institutions (such as the EU) have policies in place within cinema that ensure that gender citizenship standards in terms of cultural output and production are egalitarian.
For those researching or just generally interested in cinema and gender this will hopefully be a helpful page helping to organise some lines of thougth and providing some links to follow that through. This list of entires should gradually be lengthening over time.
Kinoeye Women & Film Links
Moreau, Bardot, Karina, Deneuve: Women Stars of the French New Wave
July 16, 2008
Women and New German Cinema:
The Institutional Marginalisation of Women Film Makers
Margarethe von Trotta: Perhaps the most internationally well known
woman director emerging from New German Cinema
The history of women directors in Germany is not only interesting for its own sake but because for a time there many more women directors working than in other European countries they lead by example and many are still active in cinema today. This is a brief overview of their trials, tribulations and achievements. Individual entries will be developed in due course. It is important that this history does not become "hidden" as Sheila Rowbotham a feminist historian pointed out in her social historiography of the exclusion and / or marginalisation of women from much history. As will be seen these women film makers still had severe difficulty accessing the funding to make full length feature films. Arguably this institutionalised sexism still exists today across all nations with women film directors still being very much in the minority of directors. This phenomenon needs continous study to examine the factors at work vitiating the success of women film directors. Only then can policies be developed which ensure that this institutionalised sexism ceases.
Much of what follows is based upon the seminal book on this subject by Julia Knight Women and the New German Cinema (1992) which is still in print. By 1979 the rebuilding of a national German cinema which amounted to what is described as New German Cinema had reached another turning point since the Oberhausen Manifesto of 1962. This was expressed in the Hamburg Declaration a manifesto produced at the Hamburg Film Festival of that year. Knight comments that it was a s though the directors had wanted to declare a new National cinema existed finally which was a cinema marked by diversity in both style, form and content. Despite this assertion, Knight points out, German cinema had been largely forced down the path og traditional narrative structures in a feature film format.
Even more tellingly despite the assertions of solidarity amongst film makers there was a marked sexist split between a mainstream cinema that was predominantly male and a marginalised but very active feminist film culture. The names of directors evoked by the term New German Cinema mean for many of us in the UK at least Fassbinder, Herzog, Kluge,Reitz, Schlöndorff and Wenders. Having produced several films each by the early 1970s they had become established both at home and on the art cinema circuit in the rest of Europe at least. Knight points out that under the Kuratorium funding system from its beginning to 1973 it funded 46 films, however of these only 8 were made by women and of these 8 only one was a full length feature film. This was despite the fact that many women were working in both the film and TV sectors at this time. women filmamkers didn't really start to come to the fore in feature film making until after 1976.
The Hamburg Declaration fudged over this marginalisation of women film makers. The feeling of dissatisfaction at this marginalisation lead to a group of women film makers establishing an Association of Women Filmworkers (Verband die filmarbeiterinnen) to promote the work of women film and TV makers.
Some Institutional difficulties Facing Women Film Makers
For women there was another difficulty to overcome which was that there were few role models of women film makers from the past in Germany. Many of these male directors such as Lang, Lubitsch, Murnau and Siodmak had made successful careers in both Germany and Hollywood. Although there were exceptions such as Lotte Reiniger who made animations in the silent period and of course Leni Riefenstahl of Mountain film and Nazi propaganda infamy. There was also Leontine Sagan who was Austrian and made only one highly controversial film Mädchen in Uniform / Maidens in Uniform (1931).
Film maker Helke Sander certainly argued that this was a significant disadvantage. Many women who became film makers at this time entered into it via acting or else originally having ambitions to act. This included Helmer-Sanders Brahms, Margarethe von Trotta, Doris Dörrie, Elfi Mikesch, May Spils, Dorothea Neunkirchen and Marianne Lüdcke.
Helke Sander starring in her own film All Round Reduced Personality / Redupers 1977. Her films are available on DVD from her own website with English subtitles at : Helke Sander
At a more general cultural level it wasn't recognised that women wanted and had a right to proper full-time careers. As a parent Helke Sander also pointed out that childcare still remained largely the responsibility of women. for single parents this problem was of course exacerbated as Heidi Genée pointed out:
...but if the film does not turn out the way it should, I cannot apologise because I had my three children with me during the shoot. (cited Knight 1992 p 44)
Of course these were problems common to women filmmakers in all countries and many German women film makers felt an international solidarity with other women film makers rather than with their male German counterparts. This led to them promoting a new femist film culture rather than prioritising a new national cinema. Not only was the more informal working culture and set of associated work expectations male dominated in its thinking but the funding regimes were also patriarchal. women had an extra level of distrust to overcome.
The Insitutional Structures Restrictions Upon Women Film Makers
There was a reliance upon public money to be invested in New German Cinema and this restricted all the directors both male and female however, it acted in a disproportionate way by limiting the oppportunities for women film makers far more by 'virtually excluding women directors from feature film production during its first ten years'. (Knight 1992 p 45)
Women were always being confronted with their lack of technical abilities even though none of the original signatories to the Oberhausen manifesto all of whom were male had directed a full feature film. Yet the ability of these men to create a new cinema was accepted unquestioningly despite the fact that they had only ever directed short films. However when women who had a similar history of film making in shorts came to apply for feature film funding they were rejected on the self-fulfilling prophetic grounds that they needed to have experience first. Women film makers like Heidi Genée who had alreadyextablished themselves as editors and who found the transition to film making relatively straightforward always felt that they were being expected to prove themselves "with women of course we have to be twice as good. That's the way it is." (Genee cited Knight 1992 p 45).
Jutta Brückner was given a lot of criticism for choosing a woman cameraperson for her film Laufen Lernen / Learning to Run (1980). She was accused of making an ideological decision to employ a woman cameraperson rather than an artistic decision. This patriarchal structure acted like another level of censorship on women's film making throughout the 1970s.
Dr. Jutta Brückner film maker and lecturer at the Berlin Art Academy
This patriarchal approach had effects upon the types of films being made and a restriction upon artistic development. Sander for example has stated that she wanted to work in an essayistic form which would have blurred the boundaries between documentary and fiction film. But trying to workoutside of traditional formats and generic boundaries proved impossible to fund. This was partially due to a very defensive attitude from documentary traditionalists like Klaus Wildenhahn who also taught at the Berlin film school. Men like this were in a position to influence funders. Overall then women film makers of the 1970s were operating in a very hostile environment.
Women film makers at this time were more successful in persuading funders in the documantary field as well as shorts and TV work. Where there was much lower financial risk there was more equality. Funding for more ambitious feature film projects was a different matter. The Kuratorium when it first started was able to award up to 300,000 Deutsch Marks (The pre Euro currency in Germany). Many complained that this was a totally inadequate sum however when Ulrike Ottinger received an award to make her first feature it only amounted to DM 80,000 to make Madame X - eine absolut Herrsherin / Madam X an Absolute Ruler. This was ten years after the fund was started and therefore the figure was eroded by inflation. This continual underfunding lead to the creation of a DIY culture for women film makers who were forced to be very adaptive as Dagmar Beiesdorf director of die Wolfsbraut / The Wolf Girl (1985), recalls:
We were a small team of six people. No production manager, no extra people for make-up and costumes. So, one is, of course responsible for the bulk of the work oneself. For instance I needed a piano for three days but had no properties manager...when I eventually got something agreed, it was 'but you have to collect and load yourself'. So at five in the morning....I set off...collected two sleepy friends...When we unloaded the thing where we were filming shortly before nine o'clock we were of course completely worn out...If I hadn't had such a patient and helpful team several days filming would have fallen through. (Cited Knight 1992 p 47)
Other issues which emerged were problems of editorial interference as Jütta Brückner found after being commissioned to make a series of films on women in mid-life crisis:
The producer and TV editor - both men - had their own ideas about how a film about a woman, written and directed by a woman, should look. Their interference began with the script and became even worse. (Cited Knight 1992 p 48)
This kind of attitude lead to self-censorship in order for women to increase their opportunities for gaining work.
Given the partriarchal structures of the film industry in general in Germany at the time male directors woring within New German Cinema had the opportunity to 'go commercial'. Some Oberhausen signatories like Peter Schamoni were able to make commercially oriented films in order to trigger state subsidies for projects they were personally interested in. some such as Schamoni headed production companies making sexploitation films to do this. (What is new about that you might ask!)
Women, Work & the Mass Media
The institutional sexism of the German mass media at the time meant that women often had long periods of unemployment. This was even more demoralising in an industry which was skewed against women furthermore this excluded them from developing their skills just as thier confidence in their existing ones was beginning to wane. The story of Ula Stöckl is a case in point. When the critic Renate Mörhmann was interviewing Stöckl about her work in the 1970s Mörhmann had assumed that Stöckl who had many productions under her belt had no difficulties in finding work. In fact Stöckl burst into tears of frustration at this point reporting that she had had no work for months and felt she was '...vegetating. I've simply been forgotten' (Knight , p 49).
Ula Stöckl now a film professor & film maker
When women film makers resorted to working in video and other cheaper mediums such as 16mm film the work didn't have such high production values and this was then turned against the women who were accused of making 'shabbier' products and not capable of making better products - yet another Catch 22. This catch 22 also translated into criticism and journalism and public perception. Despite their heroic efforts to participate in the new developments in German cinema women by the end of the decade of the 1970s largely considered as working in peripheral areas of moving image production and making little contribution to mainstream developments.
More work will be developed on New German Cinema and the relationship of women to this national rebirth of cinema and the gender issues arising from this. hopefully this will encourage and stimulate readers to do their own research as well.
High-Speed Broadband coming to Britain from BT
Yesterday BT announced one of the most significant moves of its history and one of fundamental importance to the future of UK PLC which is its willingness to invest in Hi-speed broadband networks. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of this announcement as a hi-speed network is crucial for maintaining parity in the global marketplace. In ten years time any country which does not have the majority of its population accessing these networks will be severely diadvantaged for advanced economies will be highly dependent upon these networks.
The Current Situation
Only a few months ago I was reporting on the problems of taking the next step in the development of the UK as an important hub within the developing networked society. This centered around the issue that Britain currently lacked and had no plans for a high-speed broadband network. From a media and general economic perspective having a network like this is the essential next infrastructural step to keep UK PLC at the front of the pack. In a few years time countries that do not have a hi-speed broadband network will be economic laggards. From the perspective of the domestic consumer the introduction of high-speed broadband will enable households to download streamed moving images at High Definition (HD) levels of quality driving large flatscreens. This means that games, films, TV style programmes can al be accessed through computers and if necessary stored on domestic servers etc. Increasingly business is depending on the use of files such as these as well. Internal corporate communications and external marketing of moving images will be able to be downloaded from company servers. Imagine how useful that would be for travel companies or estate agents. Viewing the hotel you want to stay in or a house you are interested in viewing would be great for prospective clients and could cut down on work from the companies. From the perspective of media students who will be looking for media work there is likely to be lots more of this in the business sector in the future.
This Financial Times technology report gives the current realistic situation for UK download speeds which are currently slower than German & France! This FT report on the BT announcement has a useful video embedded.
BT to pump £1.5bn into broadband
Britian's future has just changed for the better with the announcement made yesterday from BT that they will invest around £1.5 billion into high-speed broadband networks:
The plans would bring 40% of homes in reach of an ultra-fast service by 2012. BT is also planning to put fibre-optic cable into about 1 million homes, making the service even faster for those customers. (BBC story 15 / 07/08)
The domestic bait is the promise of a fantastically diverse entertainments / work from home system:
The group's plans should enable homes to run so-called "multiple bandwidth-hungry applications" which would enable some family members to watch high definition movies while others were gaming or working on complex graphics projects. (ibid)
There is one major obstacle in the way and that is the current regulatory environment which is discouraging BT from investing in a system like this. To install it into homes would be an immensly expensive operation and BT currently has to provide a universal service down copper wires which can't carry much information compared with optic-fibre cables. Unless BT is allowed to charge realistic rates on its investment then of course it isn't going to do it:
A spokesman for the firm said BT hoped to discuss updating its current universal service obligation with the watchdog.Under current rules BT must provide a copper connection to all homes, however, the firm says this is out of date and unnecessary for updated services based on a fibre-optic connection.BT's rival Virgin Media already uses fibre-optic cables, which are faster than BT's copper lines, although the final connection to the home user is done with traditional coaxial cable. (ibid)
Digital Divide or Cultural Citizenship?
Of course different charging structures for different services will raise complaints from many quarters that universal equality of service will not be available with poorer families not being able to afford the high-speed services. This again opens up the dangers of a 'digital divide'. No government is going to be able to justify higher taxes to subsidise BT in installing entertainment lines to domestic properties. Rory Cellan Jones' blog offers some useful comments on some of the costings involved however we need to think bigger than this at the levels of regulation and what we demand and need to be active citizens in a digital future.
At this stage perhaps we need to reinvent the notion of public service 'broadcasting' into a notion of public service media access based upon the central concept of cultural citizenship. This would help the concept fit the digital age as currently the very term 'broadcasting' is rapidly becoming an anachronism. Arguably there is a case for the so-called annual TV licence fee to be increased by say £10 pa with that amount ring-fenced for the ongoing installation of hi-speed optic fibre cables into domestic properties. This money would go to BT on the understanding that universal access was developed within a certain timeframe. This would ensure that in say fifteen years time there wasn't a huge inequality in terms of access for bad access will undoubtedly be educationally disadvantageous for the worst off.
Educational Infrastructure and Networked Society Futures
These likely developments also raises the issue of ensuring that educational institutions are guaranteed the highest possible quality links. Currently the exponential development of the world wide web in developing data heavy content means that many schools and colleges which at one time had connection speeds which were more than adequate are now lagging. The ever increasing need of students and staff to utilise YouTube and similar sites is giving IT managers headaches throughout the educational system. New media specifications at A level for example are also demanding that student work is available online for moderation putting even more strain on currently overloaded dystems. At the strategic level government needs to be preparing educational institutions for a high-speed broadband world, otherwise the educational system which should be providing tomorrow's leaders for a fully developed networked society will be lagging.
changing the Regulatory Structures
It is important that all MPs are familairised with sober rather than hyed up notions of what the networked society might look like. I'm highly sceptical of the notion of Media Studies 2.0 and an assumption that independent and individual contribitions to networked society are developing into anything serious in economic terms rather than the creation of cultural and social networks /communities are likely to be thin rather than thick. Nevertheless Ofcom needs to be persuaded that the changes in regulations that BT requires are largely put into place however there needs to be the 'but' of universal access. BT can quite justifiably argue that it simply isn't economic to deliver this. It is responsible to its shareholders many of which are pension funds with ordinary peple's money invested. It is safe to make the presumption that nationalisation and public subsidy isn't going to be the path taken therefore the licence fee linked to notions of cultural citizenship seems the best way forward. I notice that Ofcom already has a Citizenship and Convergence consultation paper published. It is important that readers start to interact with these initiatives as the future of digital citizenship within a networked society is a high-stakes issue.
July 15, 2008
New German Cinema Directors
I recall some of the most exciting cinema of the 1970s being what became described as New German Cinema. This was the cinematic new wave which had broken at various times over much of Europe with most remembering France as being associated with the Nouvelle Vague, and the directors Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rivette, Malle and several others being the cool people to talk about. Britain too had had its changes, as had the then Czechoslovakia. Germany too had had its new wave. The build up for these cultural moments and movements are of course uneven however the same fundamentals were driving these waves although each country had its cultural specificities.
In Germany the key defining moment or turning point can be seen as the Oberhausen Manifesto of 28th February 1962. The Oberhausen Film Festival was then in its eigth year. Young directors had been coming together at Oberhausen to celebrate their work in this small Ruhr town. The work itself comprised of shorts but there was a determination to make full- length feature films. The Oberhausen Manifesto was signed by 26 young directors overall. Undoubtedly their mood and their frustrations woring within a moribund German cinema of the time was intense. In reality the situation of the national cinemas in Britain, France and Italy was far more interesting by 1962. The directors declared their object to be no less than "...the creation of the new German Feature Film" (Cited Sandford p 12):
We have a concrete notion of the production of the new German cinema at the intellectual, formal and economic levels. We are collectively prepared to take economic risks. The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new one. (Oberhausen Manifesto 1962 cited Sandford p 13)
Women Directors in New German Cinema
It will be quickly be noticed that a significant number of the directors mentioned are women. It is interesting to note that two of the books on the current bibliography below were criticised by Julia Knight (1994) - also in the bibliography - because of their treatment (or lack of it) of women directors within New German Cinema. Knight cites Anton Kaes on page 14 who criticises Sandford's book:
such accomplished directors such as Helke Sander, Helma Sanders-Brahms, or Margarethe von Trotta are not represented as major directors but merely as illustrations of the women's film.
Corrigan's book published three years later focuses upon six case studies which are all on male directors which :
...can inevitably come to be considered in some way representative. this futher reinforces the marginalisation of women's film-making. (Knight, 1992 p 14)
Knight is of course quite right becuase academic contributions help to construct the dominant discourse so it is as well a corrective was put into place, albeit some ten years later! Knight continued her survey of academic contributions which will be summarised in a later posting suffice it to say here this linked (where possible) overview has been constructed to recognise this critical gap in academic output. Where there are no links to external comments considered of worth this acts as an identification of a critical gap, and proffers a research opportunity to Germanists at least. (See also Women's Cinema in Germany)
For those visitors using this as a research reference point in Women and Film please cite the page referencing the date of access. This is very important as this page will be a dynamic one for some time as new links are researched and added.
||Federal Film Prize 1982 das letze Loch (The Last Hole) 1981
|Ackeren, Robert van
||Federal film Prize 1973 Harlis (1972/3)
|Alemann, Claudia von||1943-
|Fassbinder, Rainer Werner
|Geissendörfer, Hans W.
|Huillet, Danièle + Jump Cut interview
Special Prize Venice 1966 Abschied von Getstern (Yesterday Girl) 1965/66
Venice Grand Prix 1968 Die Artisten in der Zirkuskuppel: Ratlos (Artistes at the Top of the Big Top : Disorientated) 1967
Federal Film Prizes in 1967 / 1969 /1979
Perincioli, Christina (Swiss national)
|Praunheim, Rosa von
|Salles, Sohrab Shahid
|Syberberg, Hans Jürgen||1935-
Useful page at Queens University Belfast: The New German Cinema
Corrigan, Timothy. 1983. New German Film: The Displaced Image. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
Elsaesser, Thomas. 1989. New German cinema: A History. London: British Film Institute
Knight, Julia. 1992. German Women and the New German Cinema. London: Verso
Sandford John. 1980. The New German Cinema. London: Eyre Methuen
July 13, 2008
British Women Film Actors
This is brief meta-survey of significant British women actors working mainly in the British film industry. Strangely the entries on those non-white women who have appeared in Brtish cinema on rare occasions are frequently not dealt with properly in Screenonline which has been my main link source for biographical details so far. In Burning an Illusion there is no coverage of the lead woman actor. Similarly in Bend it Like Beckham then is no linking biography of the central Asian women actor!
Readers doing the current OCR Women & Film research unit for A2 may find this metahub useful. Please remember if you use this as a reference to ensure that you put the date of access! This page is going to be fairly dynamic and will be updated / upgraded frequently.
This is currently under development as can be seen from the empty boxes in the table but is hopefully a useful source of quick links.
A key selling point of the film industry in general revolves around the creation and selling of stars otherwise known as the star system. Sometimes stars can become linked to specific genres as the combination of stars and popular genres makes for a powerful marketing tool. In Britain most of the female stars are often employed in live theatre television and even advertising. Studying women and film from the perspective of the creation of the star system and the perspectives audiences have on specific stars is a fruitful area of audience research. Undoubtedly having stars as a part of the cast of the film can dramatically improve the selling prospects of a film and this encourages investors to put up money to invest in a film.
British Female Stars & Actors in British Cinema
To reach Stars and Star Theory click here
July 12, 2008
Olivier Assayas (1955- )
Poster for Summer Hours (Released in UK 18th July)
Originally Olivier Assayas was a critic writing for Cahiers du cinéma for 10 years between 1975 - 1985 which is very similar to the famous critics and then directors of the French Nouvelle Vague. Assayas was born into a cinematic milieu being the son of Jaques Rémy who had changed his name to hide his Jewish identity, his real name being Rémy Assayas from Thessaloniki. Irma Vep (1996) starring Maggie Cheung whom he was married to for a time has been one of his most popular films. The film was metacinematic being a film about a remake of a 1915 series by Feuillades The Vampires. It was a commentary upon both the state of the French film industry at that time and also upon an outsider's position in Paris. Summer Hours (2008) was commissioned along with films by seven directors overall by Paris’s Musée D’Orsay to celebrate its twentieth anniversary that include Flight of the Red Balloon
Assayas Boarding Gate (2008)
YouTube extract from Irma Vep (1996)
YouTube Extract from Boarding Gate (2008)
Summer Hours (L'Heure D'Ete) 2008
Boarding Gate (2008)
Paris Je T'Aime (2007)
Maggie Cheung in Irma Vep
L'Eau froide ( 1994)
Une nouvelle vie (1993)
Paris s'éveille (1991) [winner of Prix de Jean Vigo]
L' Enfant de l'hiver,(1989)
Winston Tong en studio (1984)
Laissé inachevé à Tokyo (1982)
Rectangle - Deux chansons de Jacno (1980)
Peter Aspden Financial Times 12 / 07 / 08: French Film Global Culture. Assayas in Discussion about Summer Hours (you may need to disable or allow pop-ups)
Senses of Cinema Olivier Assayas (Very useful article with a good bibliography)
Sight and Sound August 2008. Family Ties: Ginette Vincendeau
Sight and Sound August 2008. Interview with Olivier Assayas by Nick James
Sight and Sound August 2008. Review of Summer Hours by Tony Rayns
Handmade Films emerged in the late 1970s the brainchild of former Beatle George Harrison and also run by Denis O'Brien whom Walker (2003) has described as an American hyphenate lawyer-accountant-producer. The initial impetus for the company was to rescue the Monty Python film Life of Brian. Originally it was being financed by the conglomerate Thorn-EMI however Lord Delfont who ran the company wanted to dispose of the film as he thought there was a risk of running foul of the blasphemy laws. Eric Idle of the Monty Python team knew Harrison who read the script and decided to go for it. Life of Brian was subsequently bought by Handmade films for $2 million (Walker, 2003 ). It was sold on a country by country basis and was to become immensly profitable.
Handmade also brought what has turned out to be one of the best British gangster-thriller films ever made The Long Good Friday at around this time. Black Lion Films run by Lew Grade who was Delfont's brother had wanted to significantly tone down the violent scenes which would have seriously reduced the impact of the film. The film also dealt with IRA issues as well as corruption and Grade decided to sell it on.
Handmade films was capitalised in Luxembourg presumably for tax reasons and it was presumably bankrolled from Harison's resources. According to Walker (2003) they claimed they could make films for 60%-70% more cheaply than the major studios. It made Time-Bandits for £2.2 million and grossed £6.7 million in the US alone.
Many of its products were quirky and displayed an excellent feel for a British sense of humour which had revelled in The Goons, Monty Python and similar output. Films such as Withnail & I and Time-Bandits were of this ilk.
HandMade Films was eventually sold in 1994 due to falling profitability, making losses on American co-productions. There were also allegations of O'Brien embezzing the company leading to a split between Harrison and O'Brien. It was bought by Canada's Paragon Entertainment Corporation for $8.4 million. (Walker, 2003). It went on to make two films in 1995. Over the period of its existence under Harrison & OBrien it produced 23 films in all (Screenonline Handmade Films estimate) which was roughly 2 per year over the course of its existence. The comedy Nuns on the Run (1990) was effectively its last production.
The films produced were wide-ranging in terms of genres and many are recognised as some of the best British films made during the 1980s. Many were 'quirky', as Walker has noted for along with other emerging production companies:
The films they backed were irreverent, transgressive, contemporary (if not in period then in feel. Their marketing departments...aimed the product squarely , but with subtlety and wit , at intelligent if as yet undiscriminating young people in the fifteen - thirty age bracket weaned on the TV satire shows of earlier decades and nourished afressh by the present day Pythons. (Walker 2003, p 12)
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979): Directed by Terry Jones
The Long Good Friday (1979). Directed John Mackenzie
Time-Bandits (1981): Directed by Terry Gilliam
The Missionary (1981): Directed by Michael Palin
Scrubbers (1982): Directed by Mai Zetterling
A Private Function (1984): Directed by Malcolm Mowbray
Withnail & I (1986): Directed by Bruce Robinson
Mona Lisa (1986): Directed Neill Jordan
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987): Directed by Jack Clayton
Track 29 (1988): Directed by Nicholas Roeg
Nuns on the Run (1990) Johnathan Lynn
Walker Alexander. 2003. Icons in the Fire. London: Orion
July 11, 2008
John Madden (1949)
John Madden at the NFT
John Madden has worked in film, theatre radio and TV. His first big film hit was Shakespeare in Love although he did get two Oscar Nominations for Mrs. Brown. Captain Corelli's Mandolin was less well received with many considering Nicholas Cage miscast in the leading role as an Italian officer on the island of Kefalonia. The film is based upon a novel by Louis de Bernieres about the Italian invasion and occupation of the island of Kefalonia during the Second World War. After the Italians surrendered to the Allied armies in 1943 the Nazis recaptured the island. The Italian occupying troops had decided to resist the Nazis and as a result many were summarily executed in yet another inglorious chapter of Nazi atrocities.
Shakespeare in Love pulled off the difficult feat of being a bizarre hybrid genre film combining history, heritage and comedy in a film which had great appeal to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic thus ensuring it was a profitable enterprise and is a fine example of promoting tourism in the UK as well. The wonderful synergies of cultural industries!
Mrs Brown was about the relationship that the permanently in mourning Queen Victoria had with a former trusted servant of Prince Albert. Brown evenutally ended up having considerable influence over Queen Victoria.
Mrs Brown (1997)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Captain Corelli's Mandolin Teacher's Notes (PDF) (Film Education)
Italian Identity and the Culture Industry in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)1 Dr Rodanthi Tzanelli