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Editorial

Danse macabre

Don Kalb

My native country, the Netherlands, has just been sucked into its next cycle of popular culturalist violence. Last week (November 2, 2004) in Amsterdam, the filmmaker T. Van Gogh was shot from his bike, his throat slit, and stabbed through the heart by a 26-year-old Dutch Moroccan. Van Gogh had recently produced (with Hirsi Ali, see Focaal 42) an intentionally offensive and facile drama, Submission, broadcast on television, about perceived Islamic intrusions on the female body.

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Editorial

Screening Disability

Brian Bergen-Aurand

This issue of Screen Bodies features a Screen Shots section focusing on screening disability, including essays on new disability documentaries, vacillation and the dis/abled male body—especially as it plays out in Fred Zimmerman’s 1950 film The Men—and questions of masquerade and representations of Richard III on stage and screen. It also includes general essays on “undoing” gender through complicity and subversion, the rise in the importance of the haptic in Japanese society, culture, and filmmaking in the 1920s, and an investigation of uncertainty and the “generosity paradox” with regard to gender, sexuality, and ability in cyborg cinema.

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Sam Roggen

This article examines the stylistic mechanics behind the notion of gradation of emphasis in the CinemaScope westerns directed by Anthony Mann. It confronts the general assumptions with regard to CinemaScope with fresh empirical data. Building on Barry Salt’s quantitative methods, it studies the cutting rates and shot scale in Mann’s 1950s films and situates these within the broader context of film style in CinemaScope. This article furthermore analyzes the particular stylistic strategies Mann employed in order to create gradation of emphasis in his westerns, examining if the CinemaScope frame was particularly suitable for them, while also exploring the general relevance of the notion.

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Ted Nannicelli

Welcome to the first issue of our first three-issue volume of Projections. We begin this issue with a truly exciting collaboration between a filmmaker (and scholar), Karen Pearlman, and a psychologist, James E. Cutting. Cutting and Pearlman analyze a number of formal features, including shot duration, across successive cuts of Pearlman’s 2016 short film, Woman with an Editing Bench. They find that the intuitive revisions that Pearlman made actually track a progression toward fractal structures – complex patterns that also happen to mark three central pulses of human existence (heartbeat, breathing, walking).

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Bande dessinée and the Cinematograph

Visual Narrative in 1895

Lance Rickman

The Lumière brothers' L'Arroseur arrosé ['The Sprinkler Sprinkled'] of 1895 was probably the first staged fiction film to be shown in public, but also the first cinematic adaptation of a comic strip, previous treatments of the subject including an Imagerie Quantin broadsheet by Hermann Vogel, a cartoon by Christophe in Le Petit Français Illustré and an illustrated sequence by Uzès in Le Chat Noir. What emerges from direct comparison is an appreciation of the sophisticated narrative devices that French comic illustrators employed by the 1880s, namely a dynamic combination of shot scales, angles and heights that still conforms to the diegetic demands of consistent spatial continuity. In short, these were the techniques that, perversely, would come to be known as 'cinematic'.

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‘Are We Coming to Make a Documentary or a Surrealist Film?’

Demythifying Luis Buñuel’s Tierra sin pan in Fermín Solís’s Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas

Marc Ripley

In 1933 Luis Buñuel shot Tierra sin pan [Land without bread] in the Las Hurdes region of Spain. His ethnographic documentary about this impoverished community is a relentless onslaught of decay and death, and still retains the power to shock. Fermín Solís’s 2008 graphic novel Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas [Buñuel in the labyrinth of tortoises] narrates the filming process of this movie. Solís renders the despair underpinning Buñuel’s film ironically, showing this to be in part a result of Buñuel’s doctoring of reality, thus achieving a demythification of this canonical film and questioning its ethical legacy. The mixed mode of comics is fundamental in exposing the irony of Tierra sin pan. Solís’s comic accomplishes this, paradoxically, by foregrounding the mythology of Buñuel the man, encouraging a new, contemporary audience to read the film as a product of Buñuel’s idiosyncrasies and obsessions rather than an unmediated instance of reality.

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Ovarian Psycos

An Urban Cadence of Power and Precarity

Jennifer Ruth Hosek

Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle’s documentary Ovarian Psycos (2016) enters working-class Latina culture in East Los Angeles. Seventy-two minutes offer an intimate engagement with the Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade, especially three protagonists, longtime member Xela, daughter Yoli, and newcomer Evie. Its low-angle close-ups and short-focus shots incite an effect of authenticity and uncensored biography. Its stories highlight struggles for social mobility and access to the urban landscape, voice and self-actualization, and womynist-of-color activism. Rap artist, social worker, and guiding Psyco Xela speaks powerfully about the group’s birth and aims. The militancy of her views—expressed by other Psycos as well—may seem jarring and a bit outdated in its separatism.

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Celestino Deleyto

‘I wrote the script and directed it. My name is Orson Welles.’ These words, spoken by the director over a shot of a microphone at the end of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), resonate far beyond their ostensible function of a delayed credit sequence. In the first place, to connoisseurs of Welles’s opus, this is highly ironic: the film for which the director claims entire credit was the first and, to many, the worst case of an endless series of studio cuts, recuts and various tamperings with Welles’s films that was to continue nagging the director throughout his career. The voice-over, therefore, becomes the signifier of a ghost, a voice claiming authorship for a text that no longer exists – the original, unmutilated Ambersons – , or the almost real signature of a fictional author. The real Orson Welles was not the director of this film. But then, who is this ‘Orson Welles’ who addresses the spectator from the fringes of the film?

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Tactique de guerre, techniques du corps

Pour une lecture du fait guerrier en Afghanistan à partir d'images filmées

Agnès Devictor and Camille Perréand

Based on an analysis of films shot by Youssouf Janessar, the cameraman of the Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, this article presents a study of the Afghan wars between 1982 and 1992. It considers the act of filming in its anthropological meaning and the ethnographic dimension as translated by these images. The article first deals with the link between Massoud and recorded images and, more widely, his relationship with modern technology in combat. It then proposes an anthropological analysis of fighters based on a reading of these images, which record traces of behaviour, comportment and appearance - a repository of non-verbal communication between fighters - and which represent very rich material for the anthropological study of war.

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“It Is Better to Die”

Abbé Rousseau and the Meanings of Suicide

Jeffrey Merrick

As he explained in his suicide note, abbé Jean-Baptiste Rousseau could not marry and would not seduce the young woman he loved, so he shot himself on 18 May 1784. Witnesses deposed by the police claimed that he was not in his right mind and therefore not legally responsible for his actions, but the authors of contemporary reports about the case accepted his lucid account of his dilemma. Nouvellistes and journalists provided multiple versions of his note and multiple judgments of his motives, options, and actions. This analysis of the sources from 1784 and the following years shows how they reworked the story of Rousseau’s life and death against the background of larger issues. Changes in jurisprudence during the last decades of the ancien régime culminated in the decriminalization of suicide and other religious, moral, and sexual crimes in 1791. Debates about the causes and meanings of self-destruction continued, but in the press rather than the courts.