Friday, November 07, 2008

New Rouge

There's a brand new issue of Rouge, the first in almost a year. Here's a description from Adrian:

The long-awaited Issue 12 of ROUGE coalesces around the theme of the Archive. Vinzenz Hediger leads off with a proposal about film archives and cinephilia in the contemporary scene. American avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas speaks of the archive he has collected, as well as the personal archive he has filmed. From Hungary, Péter Forgács speaks vividly about his practice of found footage cinema and its politics. Russian archives hesitate between fact and fiction in the recent film First on the Moon (analysed by Julia Vassilieva) and the New Zealand video Scuppered, presented by its maker Alan Wright. Harun Farocki’s cinema of montage and critique is surveyed by Christopher Pavsek. As well, there is an appreciation of Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven by Yvette Bíró (author of the recently published Turbulence and Flow); an introduction to the Cinémathèque française Mitchell Leisen retrospective by Mark Rappaport; a tribute to the memory of Guido Mutis (director of the Valdivia International Film Festival 2007-8) by Juan Pablo Miranda; and Kent Jones’ reflection ‘Can Movies Think?’. And, on the eve of the US election, two glances back at 2004: in Jean-Pierre Coursodon’s celebration of Robert Altman’s little-screened Tanner on Tanner; and Gilberto Perez’s take on Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, an essay deemed too hot for The Yale Review. The special bonus of this issue is a dossier of essential articles devoted to the work of Manny Farber (1917-2008) as critic and painter, by Donald Phelps (1969), Jonathan Rosenbaum (1983), Patrick Amos & Jean-Pierre Gorin (1986), Bill Krohn (1988) and Adrian Martin (1999) – plus a little-known, knockout piece by Farber on radio hosts published in 1951.


Blogger ryan manning said...

there is no good or bad in art

November 07, 2008 5:59 PM  
Blogger Filipe Furtado said...

Hi Girish, I hope Adrian doesn't mind that I'm getting in the middle of his month here in the blog, to point out that my blog has changed url to:

Going back to Rouge, Adrian wrote in the comments at my blog that next issue is coming soon, so I'd guess after the long winter between #11 and #12, we Rouge addicts may get two issues in a just a few months.

November 07, 2008 8:02 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Something to look out for: there is a note on Bill Routt's homepage about an article that will be on-line very soon in the new issue of SCREENING THE PAST:

"Ford At Fox - Part One." Screening The Past 23 (2008). - A review of the big box set of DVDs that came out at the end of 2007. Well, here is a big surprise. I have written more than 14,000 words and I have only got through the first two of fourteen Ford Fox films I wanted to discuss. On the other hand, there are a lot of stills ... "

There is a lot of other stuff in this coming issue of SCREENING THE PAST, including my review of a recent philosophically-minded book on De Palma.

November 08, 2008 1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading Kent Jones' article in the new Rouge issue and was wondering what some of your thoughts might be (Girish and readers) on Jones' concluding thought that "we need to stop thinking so much about this thing called ‘cinema’, and start letting movies think for themselves."

I wonder first of all who the "we" is in this statement. The we (and the presumed audience of the article) must be persons familiar with film theory, and the old arguments and controversies about film origins and essences.

I say this as a person who is still becoming comfortable with the annals of film theory, and as a person who is encountering V.F. Perkins' Film as Film for the first time. I find the "Sins of the Pioneers" and the "Minority Reports" chapters in Perkins' book to be extremely thought-provoking. And it would seem to me that grappling with origins and essences is a necessary component for anyone's film education. I certainly feel that way about my own education. I want to encounter the history of film theory so that I can be aware of good questions and ways of seeing film theory has brought to light.

And so the question I have is, with Jones' concluding thought in mind: to what extent are conversations about origins and essences still valuable? Are they merely a signpost on the journey of one's film education? Or can they still be helpful down the road?

- Tyler

November 08, 2008 6:00 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Tyler, those are thoughtful and challenging questions you pose. I want to ponder them, but IMO, I think that asking questions about cinema's essences never becomes irrelevant or unnecessary.

November 09, 2008 8:21 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Tyler, also: Robert Stam's film theory intro text (which is terrific) takes up the notions of 'essences', especially in two chapters: "The Essence of Cinema" (p. 33) and "Cinematic Specificity Revisited" (p. 119). I found these really eye-opening when I first encountered them.

November 10, 2008 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Tyler, what you raise is fascinating. My personal feeling is that 'essence' talk comes naturally to almost anyone interested in film, it should not be denied or eradicated: at one time or other, we have all mused on 'the essence of cinema is physical presence', 'the essence of cinema is strong imagery', 'the essence cinema is rhythm', 'the essence of cinema is space', 'the essence of cinema is time', 'the essence of cinema is its recording of inanimate things marked by historical time', etc etc. In my opinion, all such musing is fine and often productive; the trick is not to get bogged down in one 'essence' that is fixed with religious fervour, but to keep moving, keep exploring and layering all the essences! As I understand Kent's argument, he is especially against moral arguments that are hoisted upon essence-assumptions: if you think 'pretty photography', for example, is inherently obscene, then 'pretty photography in a concentration camp fiction' is going to be completely abject! (This is the Rivette-Daney KAPO argument in short - too short!) Likewise, if you invest the moral value of 'human dignity' in a specific technique like the long take or keeping things off-screen or at a discreet distance, then fast-cut spectacular in-your-face aethetics is going to be rather distressing and amoral/immoral. It is a complex area, we are all implicated and embroiled in it ...

November 10, 2008 8:17 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Wonderfully put, Adrian--yes, I agree!

November 10, 2008 8:24 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I agree that the essence of cinema is always insightful, especially when you "let movies think for themselves" because they exist as part of the greater whole "cinema". They are not made ex-nihilo. There is no reason why we should talk about them as being unique in the universe.

Isn't there a distinction between "essence" (ontology) and "theory" (speculation). In this case, the image would be the essence, but to say that "beauty" is obscene is only one of two options (the alternate theory being "beauty is greatness in art"). I think that in the history of paintings beauty and ugliness have co-existed as greatness without negating the other.

November 11, 2008 4:34 AM  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

The essence of cinema as delineated quickly here by Mr. Martin is its physicality rather than its communicative abilities. This to me reduces cinema to visual art, like sculpture, but doesn't take into account the complexity of human interaction that comprise the story. Yes, you can have cinema without a story, and a story without cinema, but the meshing of the two in a way that has never been accomplished by anything before it is what sets cinema apart.

It really does disturb me that the "tell me a story" impulse that seems universal to humanity is often given short-shrift by an overemphasis on its visual aspects. I was with a friend and colleague at a showing of Of Time and the City. He considered it a masterpiece and went on to describe the ingenious ways Terence Davies created images. I couldn't disagree with his visual analysis, and yet I felt blocked out by the film, with its often opaque narrative that played with literary pretensions and its private diary qualities that I, a person who has never set eyes on Liverpool, could not join in on. Not knowing the neighborhood in which you're wandering can be disoriented, sometimes in a great way, but eventually it becomes the alarm of the hopelessly lost.

November 12, 2008 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello all. I think it's interesting that Tyler mentioned Film as Film when he was talking about the Kent Jones argument to let films think for themselves, because I think Perkins does exactly that. However, he does so after making a clear and careful case for cinema's special properties. So he does look back, but what he finds is a wonderfully rich and even contradictory aesthetic heritage, and he seems to conclude that trying to pin down a 'cinematic essence' is actually a perversion and betrayal of cinema. I felt that Jones was coming from a similar place. Have I made sense?


November 12, 2008 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's something which seems to me not quite right about the discussion here, I'm not a 100% sure what it is but it seems to me that the term essence is used a bit too loosely. The way I understand it, the word essence would cover the core of what is cinema (a bad film as well as a good film), and anything that does not include it is by definition not cinema.
Well, vast discussion, but it reminds me of something Brenez said when (I think it's in her book on Grandrieux, which I haven't got but plan to) she says that a good film is a film that forces us to reconsider what before we thought was cinema.
I'll go on a tangent here (from the concept of essence to that of criteria), but this reminds me of a discussion a formidably erudite friend of mine has with his even more colossally erudite father, in which they debated the notion of perfection. His dad said that it was intellectual laziness to give in to the first instinct that "there is no perfection", but instead proposed the view that perfection exists historically (they're both marxists, btw), it is just not absolute. But for every given time and place and set of values, perfection is attainable in art(I'm still not sure whether I agree with that or not).
So let me link back to the central discussion: isn't the notion that cinema doesn't have a single essence, and that they are all of equal worth and that one can glide between them all equally, part of the same intellectual laziness, and the very contradiction of what essence means?

I'm not accusing or pointing any fingers, I really don't know myself...

November 12, 2008 11:55 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, all!

Let me offer a couple of thoughts. Just my two cents here:

I don't think of the impulse to "tell a story" as necessarily being more universal than the impulse to communicate visually, e.g through pictures. I think they're both integral to most if not all cultures.

Neither are the two things mutually exclusive. Some of the greatest filmmakers are those who are able to both tell a story and do it with audiovisual imagination.

I don't think of storytelling in movies as being "given short-shrift by an overemphasis on its visual aspects". If we look at film history, and also at the majority of popular writing on film (e.g. the history of film reviewing), the vast majority of films and popular writing on film focuses more on its 'storytelling' aspects and less on its visual aspects. If anything, it is these visual aspects that end up being shortchanged both by filmmakers at large and by most popular writing on film. Again, just my two cents here.

November 12, 2008 2:22 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Nathan and others -- A quick word: I don't see the 'multiple essences' argument as being intellectually lazy. To me, it is more open-minded and pluralist and admitting of a variety of rich possibilities; rather than fixing simply one kind of cinema as being the sole authentic, true, 'essential' cinema. I don't see cinema as possessing one and only one exclusive 'essence'. It's too rich and complex (and interesting) for that.

November 12, 2008 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

This is an interesting discussion, although we are all indeed sliding around a bit on the different senses of 'essence' - as in 'medium specificity'; as in 'what a medium can do well'; etc etc ... and then onto these concepts that mix ethical premises with aesthetic ones, such as issues of beauty, perfection ...

But just a quick word in response to Marilyn: in my little, random list of various 'essences', I wasn't trying to suggest that film is a. primarily or only visual - rhythm, for instance, is not just visual!; or b. that is 'essentially' non-narrative. Alhough I think (personally) that this line gets TOO MUCH play these day, one could just as easily add to any such list: 'film is essentially storytelling'. Many people - including quite a few screenwriters and filmmakers! - believe this, certainly. Sometimes it then becomes a struggle to convince some souls that cinema is not only, or primarily, 'story'! There's a great piece by Mark Le Fanou on-line about this, I recommend it.

November 12, 2008 2:54 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

If Kent Jones believes Rosenbaum's NYT obituary on Bergman was a highlight, I understand why we disagree...

When Bazin developed his ontology, he speaks about the inclination of humanity to reproduce its own image to fight death, this is an essence in Art.
But when he makes the case for neorealism, he supports one aspect of cinema, one incarnation of this essence. It's one of many theories on the characters of cinema, it doesn't discount everything non-realist.
Critics may agree on what constitutes the essence of cinema, and praise various aesthetical movements that seem contradictory in their characteristics, like neorealism and musicals, Avant Garde and documentary, Silents and Talkies...

It's for individual artists to emphasizes a certain identity of their art, their own vision, and exclude every others. Thus establishing an antagonism between their work and the rest of cinema. But it doesn't alter the essence of cinema across the board if it was truly essentialist.
Godard may declare cinema dead, because he speaks for himself, as an artist, his own conception of cinema.

The whole Kapo argument doesn't sound essentialist to me. Maybe it was "obscene" in this case, but I doubt we could generalize and ban "aesthetisation" in every situation. There are great artists who do nothing but aesthetize potentially "obscene" content (like Chytilova, Buñuel, Jodorowsky, Barney, von Trier, Korine, Andresson, Kubrick...) without making bad cinema or something that couldn't be called "cinema".
I don't think we could give an intrinsic meaning to a tracking shot out of context. The essence of cinema is not in there. It's a moral question. Art is not moral.

November 12, 2008 3:54 PM  
Blogger Ted Fendt said...

The Le Fanu essay Adrian mentioned:

November 12, 2008 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Girish said...

Ah, excellent. I didn't know of the Le Fanu piece. Here's a clickable link.

November 12, 2008 6:35 PM  
Blogger Sachin said...

The Le Fanu piece is very interesting. He mentions the following when he is talking about L'Avventura:

The film seems, as it unfolds, to have no structure at all; yet, when it ends, we have undoubtedly been somewhere, and taken prizes. Its cadences, in the musical sense, are beautiful and just.

These words make me think of a journey,say such as the one in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist to give a quick example. I think the story in the The Alchemist ends in the same place as where it started. But during the course of going from Point A to Point B eventually back to Point A, the main character has changed. The experiences along the way have changed the way he will look at the world. The same can be said for some films in that they take us along a journey and even if the film itself might circle back to the same starting point, we would be enriched by what we have experienced along the way, be it a visual experience, a sound maybe or even the words that are spoken on screen. It is a combination of all those experiences that we might take away from a film, even if sometimes some aspects strike us more than others.

November 12, 2008 7:48 PM  
Anonymous Girish said...

Surfacing quickly to point out that Andrew Klevan left a nice comment on the previous, "More Martiniana" thread. Adrian, I will look for your Belle Toujours review in the new Sight & Sound. I meant to put up a post on Andre Bazin this week but school work has had me on the run. I still hope to do that this weekend.

November 13, 2008 8:36 AM  
Anonymous Kimberly said...

Just wanted to pop in say how much I enjoyed the latest issue of Rouge. The Manny Farber articles were really interesting since I'm not all that familiar with his writing and I was impressed with Gilberto Perez's smart look at Fahrenheit 9/11.

November 16, 2008 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Kimberly, thanks for your thanks! And great news about the LES IDOLES event (I think I have just succeeded in posting on this over at your great site!).

November 16, 2008 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Girish said...

Hi there, Adrian and Kimberly!

I find that I'm now officially submerged by end-of-semester duties. I had hoped to slap up a post here today but it's not to be. But I hope to do so by mid-week. Have a good start to your week, all.

November 16, 2008 9:54 PM  
Blogger Gareth said...

For those in the area - and just plain interested - the schedule for the Yale Bazin conference, mentioned in a number of previous posts, is now up (you can access the poster/schedule as a pdf from the film centre's listings page). As well as the various speakers, there are screenings of films by Resnais, Fellini, Rossellini, Roemer, and the whole event is free and open to the public.

November 18, 2008 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Alert to all true Shambuans: there is an excellent essay by our own Matthew Flanagan up at the new 16:9, on the "slow aesthetic" in contemporary cinema.

Matthew, if you see this, have you yet encountered Yvette Biro's recent book TURBULENCE AND FLOW? It explores many of the issues you raise in your essay. I highly recommend it. (I will be celebrating it soon at MOVING IMAGE SOURCE.)

November 19, 2008 4:07 AM  
Anonymous Girish said...

Adrian and Gareth -- Thank you for those links!

Finally: A lull in the week (just for today) means that I will have the chance to get a post up!

November 19, 2008 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Matthew Flanagan said...


Thanks! You didn't exactly give me an easy act to follow...

Yes, Yvette Biro's book is great, and I'm still trying to get my round it to be honest. I have slight reservations about certain aspects of her argument (the notion of 'rhythmic design' often risks becoming a rather abstract concept, especially when applied to such a formally diverse selection of films), but if interpreted carefully it really does have the potential to map out a whole new field of study. I very much look forward to your piece in Moving Image Source.

If I could contribute some more Rouge-love, her piece 'The Fullness of Minimalism' was a crucial text in getting me to think about 'slow' in the first place. I guess I have you to thank for that as well!

November 19, 2008 8:43 PM  
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