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Masquerading Early Modern Disability

Sexuality, Violence, and the Body (Politic) in Richard III

Lauren Coker

Building on Katherine Schaap Williams’s (2009) reading of the play, this article uses a disability studies approach to consider Richard Loncraine’s 1995 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Loncraine’s adaptation allows modern-day viewers to experience a highly visual (and often intimate) exchange with Sir Ian McKellen as Richard Gloucester. Specifically, Gloucester’s verbal claims of a disability that renders him unsuitable as a leader and a lack of sexual prowess are juxtaposed alongside sexually violent visual actions and imagery—particularly in the form of phallic symbols. The juxtaposition of verbal passivity in opposition to visual aggression demonstrates how Richard showcases or hides his disability as he pursues the throne: the first half of the film features Richard masquerading ability, while the second half features him masquerading disability.

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Reviews

A. Anthony, Tess S. Skadegård Thorsen, Steen Ledet Christiansen, and Carmela Garritano

Reina Gossett, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton, eds., Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017), 419 pp. ISBN: 9780262036603 (hardback, $49.95)

Katharina Lindner, Film Bodies: Queer Feminist Encounters with Gender and Sexuality in Cinema (London: I. B. Tauris, 2018), 272 pp. ISBN: 9781784536244 (hardback, £72)

Saige Walton, Cinema’s Baroque Flesh: Film, Phenomenology, and the Art of Entanglement (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016), 280 pp. ISBN 978 90 8964 951 5 (hardback, €95)

Marietta Kesting, Affective Images: Post-apartheid Documentary Perspectives (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2017). vi +278pp. ISBN: 9781438467856 (hardback, $95); ISBN: 9781438467849 (paperback, $29.95)

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Revisiting the Kuleshov Effect with First-Time Viewers

Sermin Ildirar and Louise Ewing

Abstract

Researchers have recently suggested that historically mixed findings in studies of the Kuleshov effect (a classic film editing–related phenomenon whereby meaning is extracted from the interaction of sequential camera shots) might reflect differences in the relative sophistication of early versus modern cinema audiences. Relative to experienced audiences, first-time film viewers might be less predisposed and/or able to forge the required conceptual and perceptual links between the edited shots in order to demonstrate the effect. This article recreates the conditions that traditionally elicit this effect (whereby a neutral face comes to be perceived as expressive after being juxtaposed with independent images: a bowl of soup, a gravestone, a child playing) to directly compare “continuity” perception in first-time and more experienced film viewers. Results confirm the presence of the Kuleshov effect for experienced viewers (explicitly only in the sadness condition) but not the first-time viewers, who failed to perceive continuity between the shots.

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Rogue or Lover

Value-Maximizing Interpretations of Withnail and I

Peter Alward

Abstract

In this article, I want to consider two interpretations of the film Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987), one according to which the title character is a rogue and the other according to which he is a lover. I argue that both interpretations are supported by the text and note that, insofar as an intentionalist approach to interpretation is adopted, the interpretation according to which Withnail is a rogue is correct. Nevertheless, I argue that it is a better film—both morally and aesthetically—on the latter interpretation and, hence, that if one adopts a value-maximizing approach to interpretation, one ought to accept this interpretation. Finally, I argue that insofar as viewers are interested in getting other people to admire the film, they ought to adopt the value-maximizing approach and, as a result, endorse the interpretation according to which Withnail is a lover.

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“Something Outside of Ourselves”

Crossing Boundaries in New Disability Documentary Cinema

Anna Debinski

Documentary film has traditionally perpetuated damaging cultural understandings of disability. However, Astra Taylor’s Examined Life (2008) and Bonnie Sherr Klein’s Shameless: The Art of Disability (2006) utilize documentary techniques to problematize the culturally constructed boundary between disability and able-bodiedness. Spectators are dragged into simultaneously traditional and innovative relationships with the spaces, bodies, and lives inhabited by the documentaries’ disabled subjects. These relationships encourage connection and intimacy even as they contain moments of distance and alienation. The films’ ambivalent representations foster an appreciation of disabled bodies as a reflection of valuable human diversity and a denaturalization of disability’s Otherness. As examples of new disability documentary cinema, the documentaries reflect the political potential of complex and affective representations of disabled subjects.

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“Undoing” Gender

Nexus of Complicity and Acts of Subversion in The Piano Teacher and Black Swan

Neha Arora and Stephan Resch

Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2001) and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) are films about women directed by men. Both films unorthodoxly chart women artists’ struggle with the discipline imposed on them by the arts and by their live-in mothers. By portraying mothers as their daughters’ oppressors, both films disturb the naïve “women = victims and men = perpetrators” binary. Simultaneously, they deploy audiovisual violence to exhibit the violence of society’s gender and sexuality policy norms and use gender-coded romance narratives to subvert the same gender codes from within this gender discourse. Using Judith Butler’s and Michael Foucault’s theories, we argue that Haneke and Aronofsky “do” feminism unconventionally by exposing the nexus of women’s complicity with omnipresent societal power structures that safeguard gender norms. These films showcase women concurrently as victim-products and complicit partisans of socially constructed gender ideology to emphasize that this ideology can be destabilized only when women “do” their gender and sexuality differently through acts of subversion.

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When the Future Is Hard to Recall

Episodic Memory and Mnemonic Aids in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

Hannah Chapelle Wojciehowski

Abstract

Puzzle films like Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016) present challenges not only for viewers, but also for scientists seeking to understand brain functions such as memory formation, because these films deliberately scramble the temporal and spatial contexts that viewers normally rely on to create mental narratives and to form episodic memories. The strategic shuffling of multiple plotlines and chronologies in Arrival ultimately builds to an illusion of clairvoyance in the viewer, the imaged sensation of being able to see into the future, alongside the protagonist, Louise Banks. In order to create this “special effect” within viewers’ memories—a false memory of the narrative’s future—Villeneuve seeds the film with key pieces of information that viewers must hold in memory before ultimately solving the puzzle at the end and enjoying a special form of catharsis in the process.

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Book Reviews

Margrethe Bruun Vaage and Gabriella Blasi

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A Cinema of Movement

Michele Barker

Abstract

In this article, I consider some of the aesthetic and temporal forces that give us the opportunity to rethink the relationship between movement and perception in cinema and new media practice. Following Bergson and Deleuze, I offer an idea of the moving image that considers how we can move with the image’s movement. Through a discussion of my own media arts practice, I suggest a new approach to the creation of images that create movement, one where we feel rather than see imperceptibility. Considered in relation to other artistic and scientific deployments of imperceptibility revealed in the use of slow motion in contemporary moving images, this “feeling” of movement summons a kind of time that is neither atemporal nor a subdivision of time but rather a time of moving with images.

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Communicative Functions of Performer Expressiveness and Their Artistic and Aesthetic Aspects: Analysis of a Scene from Smiles of a Summer Night

Johannes Riis

Abstract

In order to understand the functions of performer expressiveness in film narratives, we need to draw on multiple conceptualizations of emotions. By viewing emotions in terms of their objects, rather than of their distinct expressions, we may understand how, for example, a pause during line delivery can suggest rich character emotions. In an analysis of an Ingmar Bergman scene from Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), I show how acting styles serve different purposes, such as invoking emotional implications of what has been put in place in the narrative. I discuss how artistic constraints and aesthetic considerations, such as acting norms and the need for balance among parts, provides a supplementary explanation of performer expressiveness.