Cinema, Experience, Vernacular Modernism: More on the Work of the late Miriam Bratu Hansen


Unfolding Film and Media Studies: "Postproduction", Freeze Frames, Death, Games, Augmented Reality and Biological Media

Framegrab from Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo/Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo (Uli Edel, 1981). Read Varpu Rantala‘s essay on studying this film via the link given below.

A quick little entry today, just to alert Film Studies For Free‘s e-bookworm readers of the latest, excellent update to FSFF‘s permanent list of links to online and openly accessible ebooks:

Jukka-Pekka Puro and Jukka Sihvonen (eds.), Unfolding Media Studies: Working Papers 2010 (Turku: Media Studies, University of Turku, 2011) PDF

Full contents are set out below.

  • Preface    7

    Film Studies

  • ILONA HONGISTO: Documentary Fabulation: Folding the True and the False    9
  • VARPU RANTALA: Samples of Christiane F.: Experimenting with Digital Postproduction in Film Studies    19
  • TOMMI RÖMPÖTTI: To the Freeze-Frame and Beyond    33
  • OUTI HAKOLA: Modeling Experience: Death Events and the Public Sphere    49
  • MARIA KESTI: Science on Fire! A Flying Torch Articulates    63
  • New Media

  • JUKKA SIHVONEN: Careless Saints: Notes for Research on the Aesthetics of Digital Games    69
  • TERO KARPPI: Reality Bites: Subjects of Augmented Reality Applications    89
  • TAPIO MÄKELÄ: Locative Games as Social Software: Playing in Object Oriented Neighbourhoods    103
  • JUKKA-PEKKA PURO: Turning Inside: Towards a Phenomenology of Biological Media    123

New SCREENING THE PAST: Special Issue on KNOCKNAGOW (1918)

Silent film based on 1873 novel of the same name by Charles J. Kickham. Production company: Film Company of Ireland. Director: Fred O’Donovan. Screenplay: Ellen Sullivan. Released in Ireland, the United States, and Britain in 1918. This film is in the public domain.
Film Studies For Free happily tips its readers the wink that there’s a new special issue up of the high quality open access film studies journal Screening the Past
Issue 33 is devoted to the study of one of Ireland’s first feature films, Knocknagow, an incredibly popular historical drama set during the land-clearances of the 1840s. Six articles by specialists examine this cinematic landmark in relation to Irish history, politics, sport, literature, and cinema in Ireland and the United States.

Appendices include a plot summary, contemporary press reviews and publicity materials, and a copy of the screenplay.

The issue contains a link to the film itself (embedded above), which was shot on location in Tipperary in summer 1917.

On Railways and the Movies

The Railway Children (Lionel Jeffries, 1970) was a film I ardently watched countless times on television as a child, and, I have to confess, I have seen and loved it countless times since. I had certainly seen it long before I saw  L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat (Lumière Bros., 1895). I noticed the resemblance between the two films only when watching Jeffries’ film again recently. But when I explored this, I was struck by the extent of their resonance, and by the uncanniness of the later film’s pastiche of the earlier one: Bernard Cribbins‘ Perks revivifies, down to his moustache, the La Ciotat station porter; an identical luggage trolley lurks in the background; the beshawled woman looks like she stepped off the earlier train, except that she’s in Technicolor.
     I began to figure, to fantasize, that the uncanniness of The Railway Children‘s penultimate sequence was not only set off by its graphic and musical evocation of the uncertainty of young Bobbie (Jenny Agutter) about quite why she was standing by the rail track, but also by its palpable haunting by the Lumière’s originary scene, with its powerful, ghostly, urtext of a, much more bustling, railway platform just after the arrival of cinema.
 For me, of course, it will also always be the other way round: that The Railway Children, and this film’s own afterwardsness, haunt L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare
[From the introduction to “Uncanny Arrival at a Railway Station” by Catherine Grant

In the ‘folklore’ of cinema history there is one anecdote which seems to be perennially fascinating to layman and historian alike. It might be summarised as follows: an audience in the early days of the cinema is seated in a hall when a film of an approaching train is projected on the screen. The spectators are anxious, fearful –    some of them even panic and run.
     This fearful or panicky reaction has been called ‘the train effect’. It is such a common anecdote, cited by so many writers both at the time and later, that it has also been called `the founding myth of cinema’ or the cinema’s ‘myth of origin. [Stephen Bottomore, ‘The Panicking Audience?: early cinema and the “train effect’”, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 19, No. 2, 1999

Rather than mistaking the image for reality, the spectator is astonished by its transformation through the new illusion of projected motion. Far from credulity, it is the incredible nature of the illusion that renders the viewer speechless. What is displayed before the audience is less the impending speed of the train than the force of the cinematic apparatus. [Tom Gunning, ‘An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator [1989]’, in Linda Williams, ed. (1994) Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film. 114–133.]

Cinema as we know it, as an institution, as an entertainment based on the mass spectatorship of projected moving images, was born in ’95, in the Golden Age of railway travel. As the prehistory and beginnings of cinema strongly suggest, film finds an apt metaphor in railroad. The train can be seen as providing the prototypical experience of looking at a framed, moving image, and as the mechanical double of the cinematic apparatus. Both are means of transporting a passenger to a totally different place, both are highly charged vehicles of narrative events, stories, intersections of strangers, both are based on a fundamental paradox: simultaneous motion and stillness. These are two great machines of vision that give rise to similar modes of perception, and are geared to shaping the leisure time of a mass society. [Lynne Kirby, ‘Male Hysteria and Early Cinema’, originally in Camera Obscura May 1988 6(2 17)]

Following on from Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s now seminal account of the nineteenth-century railroad and the institution of “panoramic perception” as being emblematic of modernity, critics like Lynne Kirby and Mary Ann Doane have already explored the historic connections between film and the train’s profound re-configuration of vision, with its mechanical separation of the viewer’s body from the actual physical space of a ‘virtual’ ‘perception. [Saige Walton, ‘[Review of] Jeffrey Ruoff (ed), Virtual voyages: Cinema and travel. Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2006′, Screening the Past, 20, 2006]

Above, Film Studies For Free gifts to you another of its author’s experiments with real-time video comparison (also a further exploration of cinematic pastiche).

This tiny videographic donation accompanies the links, below, to Omar Ahmed‘s truly wonderful, much more comprehensive and informative video essay series on trains in Indian cinema.

And below those links are others to further, openly accessible online scholarship that touches on the topic of railways — a very cinematic apparatus indeed — in the movies.

Bon voyage!

    INMEDIA on Jarmusch, US ‘Britcom’ remakes, global and local cinema, contemporary Hollywood and US Independent films

    Framegrab from the Limits of Control (Jim Jarnusch, ) Read Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s essay on this film, and also a new essay on it by Céline Murillo

    The aim of InMedia is to study the media and media representations in the English-speaking world. The journal focuses on the press, photography, painting, cinema, television, video games, music, radio and the Internet among other fields of study. It provides a multidisciplinary approach and comparative perspectives. Contributions are welcome from many research areas, including history, economics, political sciences, sociology, aesthetics, anthropology or science and communication studies.

    Film Studies For Free is delighted to pass onto its readers news of the birth of InMedia, an online French Journal, in English, of Media and Media Representations in the English-Speaking World. 
    This is a very welcome developement: as François Cusset puts it in his great contribution to the journal — ‘Media Studies: A French Blind Spot

    Not only has French publishing started to translate the best of non-French theory which it had refused to import for so long (even if media theorists are still quite rare in French catalogs), and not only have issues of minority representation and reception theory started to be raised within the French media world (even if they have not yet been raised in more academic circles), but the French university system has come to acknowledge its belatedness with regards to the major theoretical debates of the globalized academic scene–and to half-open its doors to initial experiments in this direction, as with Gender Studies or with a serious approach to popular culture. Let us only hope that we won’t have to wait for French media to improve its own standards of accuracy and professional rigor, and to become more hospitable to minorities and alternative views, before we finally see Media Studies taught in French universities. Because that might still take a long time.

    This blog wishes a good and hearty online life to InMedia. Its excellent contents are linked to below.

    Finally, for today, with reference to Cusset’s important point about the increasing translation into French of non-Francophone film and media theory, FSFF would very much recommend to its French-speaking/reading visitors the remarkable online, open access journal débordements
    which is doing just that (see its versions of Screening Sex, Linda Williams [Les orgasmes de Jane Fonda]; Plaisir visuel et cinéma narratif, Laura Mulvey (première partie); Plaisir visuel et cinéma narratif, Laura Mulvey [seconde partie]).

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