Introduction to Film (2nd edition)

9781137463845

Movie watching has never been so wide-ranging or so popular (except with me – see previous post). The rise of Internet-based video on demand has transformed the way films are distributed and exhibited, with many previously unobtainable and obscure films becoming available for global audiences to view instantly.

The second edition of this concise yet complete introduction to film responds to these shifts in the medium, while continuing to address all of the main approaches that continue to inform film studies.

This new edition also:

• reflects the increasing importance of production contexts in chapters that focus exclusively on the film business, distribution and exhibition
• represents the significance of transnational cinema, moving away from Western-centric perspectives of film and drawing on a more global, non-Hollywood range of film examples and case studies from Europe, Asia and Latin America
• is now illustrated with a wider variety of film stills, representing world cinema from the classics to the latest in contemporary cinema.

Interweaving historical and current theoretical approaches, the book presents a tightly-focused and coherent overview of a discipline in transition. With its original narrative line and student-oriented philosophy, the second edition continues to enrich students’ appreciation of cinema, while equipping them with the essential skills and vocabulary to succeed in film studies. This is an ideal foundational text for all students and enthusiasts of cinema.

OK; even if I do say so myself. This is out today; you can get a sample chapter here.

The Pearl Button (El botón de nácar , France-Spain-Chile-Switzerland, 2015)

The disappearing

The disappearing

Patricio Guzmán’s poetic documentary returns, partly literally, to the territory of Nostalgia for the Light, his stunning 2010 documentary about Pinochet’s ‘disappeared’. Much of the imagery is beautiful and the tale of the disappearing, through colonial genocide, native Patagonians is interesting, but Guzmán’s attempt to link them to the victims of Pinochet’s murder squads over-stretches the point.

I’m, however, not sure I’m best placed to comment as I have lost my love of film. Since the turn of year the only film I’ve enjoyed is Enemy of the State. I’ve given up on many well-regarded films and seen critically lauded Leviathan and Spotlight, but neither moved me. A temporary malaise or, after 36 years of fairly intense film watching, have I burned myself out? At the end of last year I finally put the second edition of Introduction to Film (out this month) to bed: that was hard work so maybe my ennui was caused by writing the book. Roy Stafford commented, ‘I’ve never heard anything like it’. It’s extremely puzzling because I am enjoying television drama… Anyone come across this; anyone know the cure?

Hence I’ve barely blogged this year; I have nothing to say…

The Bridge – series 3 (Bron/Broen, Sweden-Denmark-Germany, 2015)

Saga's character tells a tale

Saga’s character tells a tale

Unsurprisingly this would have been in my top ten of last year if I’d seen it then; it will be in this year’s. The brilliance of the series is in the protagonists, though the elaborate plotting – this one is built around parenting – is also impressive. Sofia Helen’s autistic Saga is extraordinary in both the former’s performance and the latter’s personality as she strives to empathise but is ‘imprisoned’ by her difference.

After the demise of Martin as her partner, in series two, the producers had to be careful with who became Saga’s foil; he (or she) couldn’t be like Martin. The team’s sure-footedness was apparent by initially having an older woman and then introducing the unsympathetic, at first, Henrik (Thure Lindhardt) who works both as a foil and a man with his own traumatic past.

Apparently the ratings, on BBC4, reached 1.4m showing an appetite, albeit a minority one, for subtitled brilliance. Long may Nordic Noir continue.

Enemy of the State (US, 1998)

They ARE all around us

They ARE all around us

I really enjoyed this film when it came out and have used it in the classroom. I wondered how it stood up given the Edward Snowden revelations about how our online and telephonic presences are surveilled and the answer is ‘very well’. That’s because it’s a superbly scripted (David Marconi), shot (Daniel Mindel), directed (Tony Scott) and performed thriller. The cast is stellar and Will Smith’s malleable charm works well against Gene Hackman’s flinty cynic. I was gripped and it’s telling that the spooks could penetrate our lives fully at the end of the 20th century and appalling to know what they are doing now see Citizenfour.

Review of 2015

Top films

CvtMTWc

  1. Carol
  2. Citizenfour
  3. The Imitation Game
  4. Inside Out
  5. Mad Max: Fury Road
  6. Birdman
  7. Suffragette
  8. The Falling
  9. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  10. A Syrian Love Story

Top TV

1864-afsnit-7

  1. 1864
  2. London Spy
  3. Spiral series 5
  4. The Game
  5. The Fall series 2
  6. River
  7. Homeland series 4
  8. The Eichmann Show
  9. Jonathan Norrel and Mr. Strange
  10. Wolf Hall

Films seen last year

thesearchers

  1. The Searchers
  2. Good Night, and Good Luck
  3. Crash (2004)
  4. The Matrix
  5. Carol
  6. Citizenfour
  7. Babel
  8. The Imitation Game
  9. Play
  10. Blue is the Warmest Colour

Top live

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  1. Kunsthalle Museum, Vienna
  2. The Unthanks, Trades Club – Hebden Bridge
  3. Brodsky Quartet – Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds
  4. The Unthanks – Irish Centre, Leeds
  5. Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker – The Live Room, Saltaire
  6. Richard Hawley, Scarborough Spa
  7. A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller – Wyndham’s Theatre
  8. Leopold Museum, Vienna
  9. Jackson Pollock, Blind Spots – Tate, Liverpool
  10. Richter/Part, Whitworth Gallery – Manchester

Top books

132.Richard Flanagan-The Narrow Road To The Deep North cover

 

  1. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan
  2. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
  3. Guantanamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi
  4. Fallen Land, Patrick Flanery
  5. Buffalo Soldier, Tanya Landman
  6. Nothing is True, Everything is Possible, Peter Pomerantsev
  7. How Music Got Free, Stephen Will
  8. The Whites, Harry Brandt
  9. The Quest for a Moral Compass, Kenan Malik
  10. Digital Media and Society, Andrew White

Top albums

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  1. Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour
  2. The Decembrists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
  3. Jenny Hval, Apocalypse Girl
  4. Samantha Crain, Kid Face
  5. Smetana: String quartets, Pavel Haas Qt
  6. Wire, Wire
  7. Public Image Limited, What the World Needs Now
  8. Sexwitch, Sexwitch
  9. We Are Shining, Kara
  10. Emily Hall, Folie a Deux

The Matrix (US, 1999)

They needed gun

They needed guns

The Matrix was a landmark special effects film; I still remember my awe when Trinity (above left) leapt in the air and froze as the camera tracked around her. Bullet time had arrived just before the turn of the century and CGI started its rule of Hollywood. The Matrix was more than a special effects extravaganza though, its subversive plot was seamlessly integrated with the digital wizardry and the knowingness of the action sequences justified their hyperbole.

I hadn’t seen the film for a number of years but it has stood up well. It was the Wachowski Brother’s second feature (after the superb Bound, US, 1998) and they integrated their cinephilia superbly into the mise en scene. The noir narrative is fully complimented by the set design. They haven’t managed much since unfortunately.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (US, 1931)

Interesting transformation

Interesting transformation

Apparently the AQA exam board in the UK claimed that their selection of 19th century novels (which students have to study for GCSE) all had good film versions. Teachers know that for many youngsters (and oldsters) 19th century lit teaching needs the extra help provided by visuals that bring to life the often torpid prose. Like the insistence that pupils be assessed on Shakespeare, this is class-based elitism that intends to ensure ‘culture’ remains the provence of the upper middle classes. There’s no reason why youngsters shouldn’t be introduced to the 19th century literature, or Shakespeare, but to insist they are assessed upon for their final grade is farcical. So how does this Dr. Jekyll stack up? Risibly I’m afraid though there is much to like in the film.

The performance style of early 1930s Hollywood; the pronunciation of Jekyll as Je-kill; the slightly ridiculous incarnation of Hyde; the aristocratic milieux so loved by Hollywood at the time… I could go on… are all off-putting. There’s nothing in the film that will help lower ability kids get their heads around Stevenson’s great novella.

However, as a pre-Code movie, starring the excellent Frederic March, with some adventurous camerawork from director Rouben Mamoulian, there’s enough to keep the cinephile interested. The transformation scenes are an absolute triumph; apparently March’s face was heavily made up in blue and then a blue filter was removed as March gurned into the monster. It still looks great. In order to set this up, so the character is looking directly into the camera, the opening shot is an ambitious, and rare, subjective shot including seeng March in a mirror. Technically brilliant at the time and now.

There are virtually no women in Stevenson’s novella (homosexuality repressed?) but Hollywood needs the ‘love interest’ and its provided by the ‘tinsel town’ trope of virgin (Rose Hobart) and whore (Miriam Hopkins). The pre-Code nature is evident when Hopkins’ Ivy tries to seduce Jekyll; she’s clearly naked and it’s so obvious what she’s after even my Year 10 knew. Despite its inauthenticity, this works to enhance Stevenson’s themes as the protagonist’s need for sex, his father-in-law won’t let him marry for eight months, serves as his motivation to become Hyde. Less successful is the moment when Hyde seems to be a black man; typical of the racism of the time (and now in ‘Trump’s America’).

However, as a film it will only confirm to youngsters that black and white movies have nothing for them and it will serve only to further alienate them from the text they are struggling to study. But then that’s the Establishment’s purpose isn’t it.

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