Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Cinephilia Collection

Zach Campbell and I have co-edited and participated in a series of letters on blogging, cinephilia and the Internet. The letters appear in a new collection out from Wallflower Press (distributed in the US by Columbia University Press) called Cinephilia in the Age of Digital Reproduction, edited by Scott Balcerzak and Jason Sperb. Also taking part in our letter relay were bloggers Dan Sallitt, Brian Darr and Andy Horbal.

* * *

A few links:

-- Great news: David Hudson returns!

-- I've just discovered two terrific film blogs: Matthew Flanagan's Landscape Suicide; and the self-effacingly named "Log" run by two cinephiles, RW and Clint.

-- Ignatiy Vishnevetsky on a recent manifesto by Jean Douchet translated for us by Craig Keller. Ignatiy writes: "[Douchet] calls for a more partisan criticism, one less interested in appearing respectable than in defending its positions, whatever they might be [...] This is both a call to arms and an example: cinephilia that isn't afraid to be polemical, youthful and "unfair.""

-- The Venice Film Festival has announced its lineup; and Darren has been tracking the Toronto film festival announcements.

-- At Nitesh Rohit's blog Winds from the East you can view, in its entirety, Shyam Benegal's 1982 documentary Satyajit Ray, Filmmaker.

-- Adrian ("The Machine") Martin: on Abbas Kiarostami and Victor Erice at Artlink; "A Reflection on Animation Studies"; a podcast at the Monash University site, "Playing Vampire Cool: The Strange Postmodern Romances of Michael Almereyda’s Nadja (1994) and Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction (1995)".

-- Cinematheque Ontario now has a blog.

-- Chris Fujiwara on Jerzy Skolimowski at Moving Image Source.

-- Jonathan Rosenbaum has an essay on Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.

-- Doug Cummings has a blog entry on Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible.

-- Catherine Grant makes has two invaluable discoveries for us: a collection of V.F. Perkins' writings online, and a post about the site "The Art of the Title Sequence."

-- At his blog Caméra-Stylo, Will Scheibel calls for papers on a panel on "Popular Film Criticism in Media Culture" for the Society of Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) conference in Los Angeles next spring.

-- Cause for celebration: the first book-length study of Hou Hsiao-hsien in English.

-- The latest online issue of Vertigo magazine.

-- Thank you to all who contributed to the vigorous discussion and debate in the comments thread to the last post on "building a large conversation"!


Blogger Flickhead said...

I’m looking forward to reading Cinephilia in the Age of Digital Reproduction. Meanwhile, coming on DVD August 25: Jonas Mekas’s Walden: Diaries, Notes & Sketches.

July 30, 2009 4:30 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Flickhead, and that's good news about the Mekas DVD!

July 30, 2009 5:50 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Here is the table of contents for Cinephilia in the Age of Digital Reproduction:

Preface: The Twenty-First-Century Cinephile
Christian Keathley


Introduction: Presence of Pleasure
Scott Balcerzak & Jason Sperb

1) Beyond the Fragments of Cinephilia: Towards a Synthetic Analysis
Adrian Martin

2) The Digital Cine-Club: Letters on Blogging, Cinephilia, and the Internet (Girish Shambu, Zach Campbell (eds), with Brian Darr, Dan Sallitt, Andy Horbal)


3) A Point of Light: Epiphanic Cinephilia in Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon (2001)
Jenna Ng

4) Floating Hats: A Mere Diversion?
Zach Campbell

5) Sensing an Intellectual Nemesis
Jason Sperb


6) The ‘Camera as Camera’: How CGI Changes the World as We Know It
Tobey Crockett

7) Déjà vu for Something that Hasn’t Happened Yet / Time, Repetition, and Jamais Vu within a Cinephilia of Anticipation
Jason Sperb

8) Swimming
Zach Campbell

9) Customising Pleasure: ‘Super Mario Clouds’ and the John Ford Sky
Robert Burgoyne


10) Cinephilia as Topophilia in The Matrix (1999)
Kevin Fisher

11) Code Unknown: An Auto-Dialogue
Girish Shambu

12) Andy Serkis as Actor, Body, and Gorilla: Motion Capture and the Presence of Performance
Scott Balcerzak

13) Gestures and Postures of Mastery: CGI and Contemporary Action Cinema’s Expressive Tendencies
Lisa Purse

July 30, 2009 5:55 PM  
Blogger girish said...

It slipped my mind but I meant to put this link in the post:

Harry Tuttle is collecting a list of all art-film blogs around the world. Please add to it if you can.

July 30, 2009 6:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Doug Cummings has an interesting post on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (the largest museum in the western USA) shuttering its film program. And this while they are in the middle of a massive $450 million renovation! It appears they want to move from showing art-films to "artist-created" films (Matthew Barney, etc?). Doug quotes from Kenneth Turan's L.A. Times article:

"Would LACMA shutter its collection of Etruscan art if not enough people came? Probably not. Would it consider packing up its European paintings because excellent reproductions are available in books and online the way DVDs are available in stores? No, that kind of art is considered too central to the museum’s mission to be dismissed in such a cavalier manner.”

I'm wondering: is this part of an international trend of gallery/museum cinematheques and film programs experiencing sharp cuts as these institutions (in corporate-speak) 'sharpen their focus' by dropping programs that we traditionally think of as "art-cinema"?

July 31, 2009 7:46 AM  
Blogger Matthew Flanagan said...

Very humbled to receive a plug here, Girish. It's no coincidence that I decided to start up a blog (of sorts) a few days after reading the letters in the Cinephilia book - rousing and invigorating stuff. Thanks and congratulations to all the participants.

Vertigo are in a bit of a pickle at the moment, and it'd be very sad to see them go under. I'm sure any assistance from parties here or elsewhere would be greatly appreciated...

Thanks also for the tip about the Hou book - great news. I know someone who's planning a similar Tsai text, and hopefully we'll see it within the next few years!

July 31, 2009 7:58 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

Congrats, Girish & Zach! The book looks incredible!

By the way, I know so many of the most exquisite minds in cinema from around the world, and I work for the most amazing 200 year old publisher! I wish that I could bring these worlds together at Wiley. (There is also a cash incentive for me if I help sign authors. :) Just brainstorming here . . . I'm very happy for you! This is quite an accomplishment!!!

July 31, 2009 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Corey Creekmur said...

The very nice Jonas Mekas WALDEN DVD set is already out: I ordered one a while ago, and it was delayed, but arrived a week ago.

July 31, 2009 10:24 AM  
Blogger Will Scheibel said...


congrats on the anthology and thanks very much for referring your readers to my SCMS call!

July 31, 2009 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Corey Creekmur said...

As part of Girish's always valuable announcements of new work, may I add that this is a great time for Indian film studies, due to the following recent or forthcoming publications? Bhaskar Sarkar's "Mourning the Nation: Indian Cinema in the Wake of Partition," and Amit S. Rai's "Untimely Bollywood: Globalization and India's New Media Assemblage," are both recently out from Duke University Press. Ashish Rajadhyaksha's long-awaited "Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency" is out from Tulika in India, and will have a US edition from Indiana University Press soon. Finally, Neepa Majumdar's "Wanted Cultured Ladies Only!: Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s-1950s," should be out soon from the University of Illinois Press. All contribute significantly to the rapid leap forward in critical and historical accounts of a long-neglected cinema.

July 31, 2009 10:49 AM  
Anonymous RW said...

Thank you for mentioning us, Girish. Looking forward to reading the new collection.

July 31, 2009 11:39 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

The LACMA situation makes me shudder.

However, it reminds me of a directional change SFMoMA made several years back in its film exhibition philosophy. After being the first high-profile venue in the Bay Area to screen film from an "art" perspective starting in the 1940s, and continuing this tradition for decades, the museum decided to shift its screening focus in a way that seems similar to what Michael Govan is proposing for LACMA.

The good news is that a few years ago SFMOMA reversed course and is presenting an informed array of some of the best of the world's cinema. It still doesn't have the reputation of the PFA in Berkeley for immaculate presentation or completeness of retrospectives. But it's made strong steps in that direction, with surveys of Chantal Akerman, Derek Jarman, Werner Herzog, Joseph Cornell, Jean Renoir, "Non-Western Westerns", Mexican cinema, and iconic documentary work over the past few years. And its ticket prices for screenings are now the cheapest in town, whether for members or non-members.

Now, this shift may be a reaction to an opening thanks to the Castro Theatre's recent (all-but) turning of its back on screenings of art cinema, in favor of populist fare. But it's welcome nonetheless. Perhaps LACMA will return to its current programming philosophy after a flirtation with this new approach proves less productive than envisioned.

July 31, 2009 6:38 PM  
Blogger Andy Rector said...

Did anyone do the basic math on that? LACMA Film Program = 1 million dollar "loss" over a 10 year period. Nix the worthless 450 million dollar Renzo Piano re-design and that would pay for 4,500 years of the LACMA Film Program. No, Govan wants the ice age NOW. I put loss in quotes because that's how the discovery of cinema (not artfilm) by hundreds of thousands of people is being described. I can't tell you how devastated and outraged I am about this. LACMA was as close as I and many others had to a Cinematheque in Los Angeles - steady, reliable, sincere, mixing classical and modern cinema, without elitism, without superfluous commentary, without the disgusting ceremonies of spectacular contemporary art and museum practice, or the groupie-ism of cult houses. Incidentally, it was a place where you might meet a bunch of teenagers (urged, maybe even required, to attend a film there by their teachers, but still) from Ingelwood who really liked WOMAN IN THE WINDOW and discussed it. Unfathomable institutional ostentation gets funds and bailouts while a quiet program requiring less than ten of LACMA's employees is fucked out in the open. Must LACMA be run like a giant electronics corporation, reorienting itself toward "a younger audience" every few years? Must the "younger audience" fall for it?

Pardon my language and thanks to Doug for writing a heartfelt and clear rebuttal to the news, and to Girish for passing it on.

August 02, 2009 3:39 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

It's really pathetic and really shocking. Andy, I'm sure you know this, but the entire LACMA Film staff is comprised of TWO people, the rest are volunteers. Their annual budget is $200,000, which includes their salaries and benefits! And LACMA has the gall to complain about a $70,000-$100,000 loss a year? That's like giving someone $25 to buy a $50 worth of groceries and then complaining that they're a drain on your budget.

Andy, thank you for the Inglewood example. I know some cinephiles are shrugging because they feel LACMA isn't The Harvard Film Archive or the Cinematheque Ontario, but it's all we have, it's centrally located, and the Los Angeles community will suffer for its loss.

August 02, 2009 2:04 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, all!

This just in: The French philosopher Francis Jeanson, who appeared in Godard's La Chinoise, has just died.

August 03, 2009 11:46 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Doug, Andy, Brian, and others -- I have just received word: there is a petition to save LACMA Film that can be viewed (and signed) here.

August 03, 2009 8:52 PM  
Blogger Save Film @ LACMA said...

Thanks, Girish--I signed it yesterday. As a matter of fact, I've somehow inherited the blog devoted to the protest:

August 04, 2009 10:36 AM  
Blogger Save Film @ LACMA said...

(Woops, that was me--Doug Cummings.)

August 04, 2009 10:37 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

LACMA has responded to the outcry by setting up its own online forum:

August 04, 2009 11:24 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

Congratulations on the anthology, Girish; I look forward to reading it.

Doug, your piece on LACMA was great coverage of an unfortunate event. There's much to be said about the public's responsibility to play these conflicts out in the cultural public sphere. Kudos to you for doing same.

August 04, 2009 1:07 PM  
Anonymous caboose said...

As always, the bureaucratic doublespeak quoted here and elswehere is breathtaking for its gall. Cuts = a renewed commitment to film, blah blah blah. How do these people say this with a straight face? If, as reported, they are claiming that their film programming represents a financial 'loss', this is beyond the pale. Since when did their contemporary art exhibits, for example, make money?

The same it seems is happening in various forms everywhere. While the parent company of Cinematheque Ontario is building a condo tower on some of the country's most expensive real estate - three short blocks from Toronto's soon-to-be-shuttered Pages bookstore - the 'cinematheque' (the only one such in the world without an archive) shut down programming for two months this past spring to 'save money', locking out some of their employees (but not, of course, management). A cinematheque that builds condo towers but doesn't show movies? You learn something new every day.

Here in Montreal the latest round of financial cuts a few years ago led to a slash in programming (three screenings per night to two; six nights a week to five, etc.); some obvious bargain-basement programming (cut up 16mm distributors' prints; video instead of film without warning); and the closing of their little bookstore. There, in about 40 square feet of space in a corner of the lobby, you could find film books that could not be obtained anywhere else in town. How much was this little bookstore losing? It had maybe $10,000 in inventory, was open three hours per day, from 6 to 9 p.m. (from just before the start of the first film till just after the start of the last), and had no real overhead to speak of (utilities etc), being in a corner of the lobby. But closed it was, as if film books were a luxury and the sure knowledge that certain kinds of film books would not be available in this city anymore was not important. The cinematheque's restaurant, however, in the opposite corner of the lobby, was kept open, and I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts it was losing twenty times as much money as the bookstore. Fifty times.

What to do?

August 04, 2009 1:44 PM  
Anonymous omar said...

The standard of film journalism just keeps getting better - another excellent, well written and informed blog; thanks for the links. I will add you to my blogroll. Thanks Girish.

August 04, 2009 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Jeux said...

Fantastic collection!
I wonder why i could not found this site before. I can guess that Chris Fujiwara, Doug Cummings, and Will Scheibel will be the best out of good list. I will surely try to pick them as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing nice links here.

October 13, 2009 6:29 AM  
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