Sunday, October 12, 2008

"What is Modern Cinema?"

Adrian Martin left a comment on the previous post thread: he has a new book out. Sorry, but he's not getting away quite so easy! I'm a long-time Martinian, and this is fabulous news. It needs some megaphone treatment.

The book is called ¿Qué es el cine moderno? ("What is Modern Cinema?"), and is in Spanish. It was launched last week at the Valdivia film festival in Chile. At Quintin and Flavia's blog La lectora provisoria, here are two posts by Adrian: his book launch speech, and his talk on film criticism.

An excerpt from the introduction:

This book – after a small group of general essays – essentially discusses cinema through its artists, its directors. I do not bother to rehash the ancient arguments devised to convince readers of the existence of the cinema auteur – indeed, I have included some pointed reservations about auteurism, when the sole devotion to ‘auteur films’ (in the art-cinema or Film Festival circuit) blocks our ability to see anything else going on at the present moment in cinema – but I do adopt the method that French critic-filmmaker Jean-Claude Biette called a poetique des auteurs (rather than the classic ‘50s politique des auteurs or ‘auteur policy’).

What is this ‘poetics of auteurs’? It entails grasping, in an artist’s work, the overall complex or gestalt of style and content, sensibility and poetic gesture – in order, finally, to probe, apply and extend that “very sensitive instrument” formed by a filmmaker’s personal vision of the world, a regard (in the double sense of both a look and an attitude) that is both critical and loving. And it is my hope that writing about film can, in its own way, also carry on the “amorous vigilance” of that double regard which is so unique to cinema.

Here are the book's contents. Previously unpublished pieces have a single asterisk, and new versions of previously published pieces a double asterisk.

Part 1: Histories

-- What is Modern Cinema?*
-- Ball of Fire*
-- Possessory Credit [from Framework]

Part 2: Pioneers

-- Style and Meaning in Robert Bresson [from PhD, 2006]
-- Crossing Marker [from an art catalogue, 2008]
-- Came So Far for Beauty: Jean-Luc Godard's Lyricism* [2001]
-- Landscapes of the Mind: Roman Polanski**
-- John Cassavetes: Inventor of Forms**

Part 3: Innovators

-- Copious Associative Connections: Raúl Ruiz [edited from PhD]
-- Robert Kramer Films the Event [at Rouge]
-- Chantal Akerman: Walking Woman [at Unspoken Cinema]
-- Things to Look Into: Terrence Malick [at Rouge]
-- Abbas Kiarostami: The Earth Trembles [at 16:9]
-- What's Happening? Story and Scene in Hou Hsiao-hsien [edited from PhD]
-- Aki Kaurismaki: Realismo poético y alguna que otra copa ("Poetic Realism and a Few Drinks") [earlier translation at Miradas de Cine]
-- Pedro Costa: The Inner Life of a Film [forthcoming in Costa anthology, 2009]
-- Ticket to Ride: Claire Denis and the Cinema of the Body [edited from PhD]
-- Tsai-fi [edited and updated from Tren de Sombras]
-- Naomi Kawase: A Certain Dark Corner of Modern Cinema [Kawase anthology, 2008]
-- Apichatpong Weerasethakul, The Immaterial*
-- A Minority Report on Manoel de Oliveira*

There are also two outtakes that will likely be appearing online in a Chilean publication: the Ferrara essay in 16:9 that I linked to last week; and a previously unpublished essay on Philippe Garrel.

Adrian: Congratulations! And I hope we'll be able to read some of these hitherto unavailable pieces at your website when it launches next year.

* * *

Some links:

-- The new issue of Film Quarterly is out, and five of the pieces are available online on pdf, including a history of the magazine by Ernest Callenbach and a piece on film criticism by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith.

-- Surfing, I stumbled upon this archived interview with Jean-Michel Frodon by Fergus Daly on film criticism. It originally appeared in Cinema Scope.

-- Peter Bradshaw on Paul Newman in The Guardian.

-- Lots of good new reading at Moving Image Source, including Miguel Marías on Paul Newman and Jonathan Rosenbaum on the new Orson Welles film by Richard Linklater.

-- Also, Jonathan has a post on "two ambitious web sites".

-- Acquarello has been filing dispatches from the New York film festival.

-- Cinephilic chivalry: David Cairns has single-handedly mounted a campaign to reclaim from oblivion the Julien Duvivier film, La fin du jour. It's not too late to request him to send you a DVD-R of it.

-- An online resources links post by Catherine Grant at Film Studies for Free.

-- Two posts on Touch of Evil: at Doug Cummings's and Dave Kehr's.

-- At The Evening Class, Michael Guillen posts a Q&A with Arnaud Desplechin about his new film, A Christmas Tale.

-- An interview with Mark Peranson, who has made a documentary about the filming of Albert Serra's Birdsong.

-- Tom von Logue Newth on Lisa Dombrowski's book on Samuel Fuller, at Film International.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are two very beautiful stories about Karina (picture and real). Kudos to your wife, mr martin :)

October 12, 2008 6:09 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Indeed, Adrian, both the posts at Quintin and Flavia's blog are terrific.

Let me excerpt one favorite bit:

"But more recently, the cultural critics of Australia have invented a new and more positive, optimistic term. It is called “traveling theory”, or “nomad theory”.

The idea of traveling theory is this: you go to a place that invites you, in which you are welcome. A place where you make some new friends. And you bring, humbly in your maleta, your ideas, your concepts, your own points of reference.

You then take your ideas out of your suitcase, and you set them up in the street, in the air. They mix with the local culture, the local language idioms, with the local ideas and situations.

Everyone, in the situation of traveling theory, has to improvise, to meet half-way. There is no fixed, imported truth that is coming from the far-away “centre” of the world.

The centre is wherever you and I are, right now, unpacking our suitcases together.

Traveling theory is all about inventing new ideas, theories, connections. It’s about building a new machine for the present. And then that machine can fly to some other place, to be pulled apart and out together again, differently."

October 12, 2008 7:47 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Such rich ideas and links. It's so clear why you are indispensible to online film culture. As ever, thanks for the shout-out.

October 13, 2008 2:14 AM  
Blogger Catherine Grant said...

Gracias por el 'grito', Girish. You are truly a 'scholar and a gentleman'. Thanks for all the great Martinian links, too.

October 13, 2008 7:13 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Maya, what a great French cinema series you're getting in San Francisco. I'm envious.

Catherine, thank you for the extensive detective work that must've gone into your post.

October 13, 2008 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Greg Boatwright said...

Girish, I recently discovered your blog thanks to several positive mentions in the Cineaste symposium. I especially appreciate your commentary on the links you offer. I've been a Martinian (martian?) since discovering Senses of Cinema several years ago. I especially like his essay on film canons ('Light My Fire,' I think). I also think it's unfortunate how several of his pieces, along with others, have been archived and are unavailable for reading. Inspired by the Cineaste symposium I started my own blog about film and hope to someday participate in the global discussion of cinema that you currently enjoy participating in and I enjoy reading.

October 13, 2008 10:38 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Thanks for all the good wishes expressed here. Girish, thanks for the publicity!!

Greg, do not despair: all the pieces removed from that website you mention will be coming back in other forms and in other places, including ROUGE, and my own website-archive next year.

And welcome to our group!

October 14, 2008 12:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Greg. Good to hear from you. I'm glad to know that you were inspired to start your own blog. I look forward to following it. 'Light My Fire' is one of my absolute favorites too.

Adrian, I'm sorry if this post is embarrassing you with all the attention!

October 14, 2008 8:12 AM  
Anonymous David T. Johnson said...

The two pieces I was able to read through the links are very stimulating--I love that idea of the "poetique des auteurs" and am sure I will discuss it with my students when we look at auteurism in a spring course I'm teaching. Are there any plans to release this collection in English? (Forgive me if that question has been answered here and I missed it.) Many thanks for the excerpts, Adrian, and for the post, Girish.

October 14, 2008 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Matthew Flanagan said...

For the sake of Martinian-completism, what might be an earlier version of the Hou chapter (What's Happening? Story, scene and sound in Hou Hsiao-Hsien) is in the Journal of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies special issue on Hou (9.2, 2008) alongside excellent pieces by Paul Willemen, Shigehiko Hasumi and others.

Adrian, the book looks terrific, and I would love to read the unpublished piece on Apichatpong in particular - hopefully it will appear on the forthcoming website.

October 14, 2008 8:29 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- A lengthy report on the films at the Vancouver film fest by Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell.
-- Jonathan Rosenbaum has two pieces, on Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight and Lynch's Mulholland Dr, that were commissioned for a book that remains unpublished.

October 14, 2008 8:37 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi there, David and Matthew. That reminds me: I need to put in an ILL for that issue of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies.

October 14, 2008 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Matthew (and other bibliophile-detectives!): the English version of the Hou essay in INTER-ASIA CULTURAL STUDIES (which was also a chapter of my 2006 PhD) is a much longer version of the piece in QUE ES EL CINE MODERNO. That whole journal issue devoted to Hou is indeed worth close attention. The only pity is that Meaghan Morris' brilliant impromtu lecture delivered at the close of the original conference (in Singapore) is not included. For some things, 'you had to be there'!

October 14, 2008 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girish, thanks for pointing & linking at Geoffrey Nowell-Smith piece. I think it is important to have in mind (and the younger people to understand) what he says in the midst of so much debate about film criticism. The support may be other, other the instruments, different the objects to be discussed, but the task remains the same, and I think should remain at least partly "amateur".
Miguel Marías

October 14, 2008 10:10 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Was Godard "modern" or "post-modern"?

October 14, 2008 4:11 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Miguel, I enjoyed your new piece very much. Instead of waiting for DVD releases that may never arrive, I've resolved to track down everyting I can find of Newman's directorial work on VHS. I've seen only Rachel, Rachel.

Harry, I don't know if there's a simple, unambiguous answer to that question. There's an interesting essay by James Naremore called “Authorship and the Cultural Politics of Film Criticism” (Film Quarterly, Autumn 1990) in which he takes passages from two Cahiers reviews Godard wrote in the '50s (of Sirk’s A Time to Love and a Time to Die and Fuller’s Forty Guns) and analyzes them to make a convincing case that Godard is already deftly mixing modes--romantic, modernist, avant-gardist and proto-postmodernist. Godard's cinema was probably one of earliest that was influenced by post-modernism, but in the end, IMO, the modernist influence is the predominating one in his body of work.

October 14, 2008 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Harry, Girish has given you a complex answer, so I will give a simple one! When Godard made A BOUT DE SOUFFLE in 1960 he was modernist, and when postmodernism 'began' in film-culture circles - circa 1982 - PRENOM: CARMEN and HAIL MARY were the films that ushered the whole shebang in: appropriations/reworkings of classic/mythic stories, fragmented and ironised in a familiar Godardian ('modernist') way, but also part of a 'new religiosity' of that moment, with an intriguing kind of 'high art'/'return to classical roots' aesthetic that began with PASSION ... Although maybe JLG himself never used the word 'postmodern', I'm not sure!

October 14, 2008 7:02 PM  
Blogger Sachin said...

Thanks for these links Girish.
Adrian's talk on film criticism is just a pleasure to read. It is such a balanced rationale talk amidst all the recent noise about film criticism.

Girish, regarding Adrian's essay on Costa, you mention "forthcoming in Costa anthology, 2009". Is this a book just by Adrian or a collection of Costa essays by different writers? And is 2009 for a North American release date?

October 14, 2008 7:02 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Sachin, I don't know the details of the Costa anthology, but I suspect it's a collection that includes many writers. I can let you know when I hear more.

Adrian, your take on mid/early '80s Godard is illuminating and helpful.

October 14, 2008 7:25 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

So what is Modern Cinema actually? Are we still in the Modernist era today? (until I can read the book)
I guess Godard has always been outside of everything else, making his own box. But isn't the "camera address" a ringer for postmordernism?
I was also under the impression that Modernist cinema was a short-lived period, killed by postmodernism... How come filmmakers can still be "modern" today? Most of the guys in the part 3, look to me, posterior to this era. They manipulate the film medium, self-conscious about it, stylized... isn't this a twist on the original values of Modern cinema?

P.S. I agree that Adrian's Valdivia speech on film criticism was brilliant.

October 14, 2008 7:43 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

I'd rather ask:

"Is an ancient cinema possible?"

October 14, 2008 8:04 PM  
Blogger Filipe Furtado said...

Girish, I'nm pretty sure you can download all Newman director's efforts (at least a few in the right format). They are very worthy it.

October 14, 2008 9:10 PM  
Blogger David said...

"appropriations/reworkings of classic/mythic stories, fragmented and ironised in a familiar Godardian ('modernist') way, but also part of a 'new religiosity' of that moment, with an intriguing kind of 'high art'/'return to classical roots' aesthetic that began with PASSION ... Although maybe JLG himself never used the word 'postmodern', I'm not sure!"

Aren't these all the standard trademarks of Joyce and Pound (#1 and #2 modernists, as they'd say in Branded to Kill)? I'm at a loss to see the postmodernism, but it's still a term I'm getting a grip on... I could see someone thinking these late Godards a bunch of games for the sake of games, but for me, that describes the early films much, much better (not adequately though)...

There's that line from Dreyer describing his intended style: "classic and modern."

October 14, 2008 9:54 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Two 'precisions' (as the French say!):

- I recently re-posted my "Light My Fire" essay on film canons at the site of the Australian Film Critics Association:

- the Costa book mentioned is edited by Ricardo Matos Cabo, and will appear in an English edition early next year, launched at the Tate in UK (a Costa retro is screening there then). Contributors to the book include Jonathan Rosenbaum, Andy Rector, Nicole Brenez, Bernard Eisenschitz ... other language editions (Portuguese, at least) will also appear. A massive and important project!

October 15, 2008 12:04 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

do you mean that "Modern" is the only obligatory flipside of "ancient"?

October 15, 2008 2:03 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Meanwhile on the DVD front, those of us who finally got off our bums and subscribed to Cinema Scope because they were offering a DVD of Costa's Colossal Youth, were recently advised by Cinema Scope editor Mark Peranson that negotations fell through on that venture. In recompense, they sent on a DVD of Jia Zhang-Ke's The World. Am I disappointed that it's not Colossal Youth? Colossally. Do I regret subscribing to Cinema Scope? Not on your life. I shouldn't have had to have a carrot dangled in front of me to support one of our best film journals.

October 15, 2008 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Kimberly said...

Congratulations to Adrian!

I'm looking forward to following all those links you posted, Girish. I suspect that I'll be spending a lot of hours online this afternoon.

October 15, 2008 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Speaking of ancient cinema, I learned the hard way that if you want to see all of Visconti's Ludwig, you have to get the "bonus disc" from Netflix. This is the four hour Italian version.

October 16, 2008 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

While it's still 'my week' on this blog (!), I better make the most of it, to also announce: a book in which I have a long essay, containing a lot of my thoughts on surrealism in cinema, has at last appeared: it's THE FILMS OF TOD BROWNING: ESSAYS OF THE MACABRE AND GROTESQUE, edited by the enterprising Bernd Herzogenrath (I also have a piece in his forthcoming Ulmer anthology), and published by McFarland in London.

October 16, 2008 3:19 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, everyone!


(1) You should not confine notifying us about your pieces here to simply 'your week'! As I'm sure you've noticed over the last couple of years, this blog counts "Adrian-spotting" as one of its objectives!

(2) I'm holding in my hands the just-received ILL of your Hou Hsiao-hsien essay from your PhD thesis. I had to laugh when I noticed that your very first endnote is devoted to ... a Hillary Duff movie! That's great.

October 16, 2008 7:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Great news on the DVD front. Criterion/Eclipse's January release is a batch of Rossellini's 'history films': Blaise Pascal, the three-part The Age of the Medici (The Exile of Cosimo, The Power of Cosimo, Leon Battista Alberti), and Cartesius. Also: the Louis XIV film.

October 16, 2008 7:36 PM  
Blogger weepingsam said...

That is good news, Girish - I've never seen any of Rossellini's history films, and am very happy to hear they're coming....

October 17, 2008 7:46 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Sam, the only one I've seen is Descartes (which I caught with Zach at MoMA a couple of years back) and I've heard nothing but great things about The Rise to Power of Louis XIV (apparently an important influence on Goodfellas!).

October 17, 2008 8:00 AM  
Blogger girish said...

At Auteurs' Notebook, from Danny Kasman's interview with Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

KASMAN: What I also like about your set design and your depiction of space is that, although places like an office or a home seems realistically inhabited at the moment a scene is taking place, all the spaces nevertheless seem temporary. People are almost like ghosts passing through spaces that they use for a moment; no space seems “lived in,” it’s just “inhabited” before the humans move on.

KUROSAWA: I think it’s very interesting you point out this temporariness, though I don’t know if I’m that conscious of it. I think that something about my sense of life, that I’m not crazy about conveying a sense of individual humans who have “melted” into environment. I think that places and humans are fundamentally not kind to each other, and whatever time a person spends in a particular place, it is temporary, as is the nature of places—they also shift and move. I guess unconsciously when I’m looking for a location I wind up settling on places that have that feel.

October 17, 2008 2:33 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi, everyone. Swallowed up by classes here, but should be back with a post by tomorrow.

October 21, 2008 7:15 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

The silohuetted masses sway back and forth in anticipation as in rumbling unison they begin to chant, "Entry....entry...."

October 21, 2008 11:36 AM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Actually, Maya: I (and my Chilean publisher) are secretly paying Girish to stay off-line for a month or so - while this book of mine gets maximum publicity at the top of the page! This site is the centre of the universe, I'm telling you ...

October 21, 2008 4:55 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ha ha. I never thought of subletting this sliver of Internet real estate to ¿Qué es el cine moderno?, but that's a great idea!

October 21, 2008 6:26 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

do you mean that "Modern" is the only obligatory flipside of "ancient"?"

Harry, are you saying that the battle between the ancients and the moderns was misunderstood by its combatants?

October 21, 2008 7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bloody crap crap wow: for all the french speakers out there arte will soon be releasing â dvd box set of the complete films of jacques demy, including shorts.
AND in collaboration with Cine Tamaris, which means we can expect those delightful, lovingly made Varda bonuses as well.

October 22, 2008 1:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi Anonymous, will the set definitely not have any English subs?

October 22, 2008 1:49 PM  
Blogger Gareth said...

In the general information at the arte DVD store, it indicates subtitles in French and English, but doesn't specify whether that holds true for everything in the box. There are some great bonuses in there, too.

October 22, 2008 3:51 PM  
Blogger acquarello said...

Lino over at emailed the Cine Tamaris folks about the Demy boxset last month and they're saying English subs on the films, but not on the supplementary material.

October 22, 2008 6:23 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

> while this book of mine gets maximum publicity at the top of the page <

Ahhhhh! Understood. That being the case, I amend my earlier image to include leatherclad overlords snapping whips over the heaving masses, yelling, "Back!! Back you miserable entry-hungry lot!! BACK!!"

October 22, 2008 7:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Great to know about the English subs on the Demy films.

October 22, 2008 9:04 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

did I lose the rhetorical question showdown? ;)
I was just pointing that one could be "not ancient" without being called "Modern" automatically... things like "contemporary", "Avant Garde", "Postmodern", and many others in "-ism".

October 23, 2008 6:55 AM  

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