Celebrating Laura Mulvey: Or, Film Studies with Poetic License


The Road to Digital – New AUP eBooks on Film Archives and Mobile Screens and a Video Lecture on Digital Cinematic Attractions

  • Digital Cinema Essay-Film-Lecture (for Film History and Criticism, University of Roehampton, 29 March 2012) by William Brown
    • Films mentioned in William Brown’s essay-film-lecture, above: Arabesque (John Whitney, USA, 1975); TRON (Steven Lisberger, USA, 1982); Terminator 2: Judgement Day (James Cameron, USA, 1991); Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, USA, 1993); Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, USA, 1994); The Incredibles (Brad Bird, USA, 2004); A Very Long Engagement (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France/USA, 2004); Sleep Dealer (Alex Rivera, Mexico/USA, 2008); Day Watch (Timur Bekmambetov, Russia, 2006); The Host (Joon-ho Bong, South Korea, 2006); Panic Attack! (Fede Alvarez, Uruguay, 2009); O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen, UK/USA, 2000); Making Of O Brother, Where Art Thou?; 300 (Zack Snyder, USA, 2006); Beowulf (Robert Zemeckis, USA, 2007); Singin’ in the Rain Golf GTI Advert (Ne-o, 2005); Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, USA, 2008); Fight Club (David Fincher, USA, 1999); War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg, USA, 2006); Spider-Man (Sam Raimi, USA, 2002); Avatar (James Cameron, USA, 2009); The Day After Tomorrow (Roland Emmerich, USA, 2004); The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski, USA, 1999); Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez, USA, 2007); The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Peter Jackson, USA/New Zealand, 2003)
    • Academic texts mentioned in the above lecture: Bordwell, David (2002). ‘Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary American Film’, Film Quarterly, 55:3 (Spring), pp. 16-28; Brown, William (2009). ‘Man Without a Movie Camera – Movies Without Men: Towards a Posthumanist Cinema?’ in Film Theory and Contemporary Hollywood Movies (ed. Warren Buckland), Abingdon/New York: Routledge/AFI, pp. 66-85;  Buckland, Warren (2006). Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster, London: Continuum; Elsaesser, Thomas, and Warren Buckland (2002). Studying Contemporary American Film: A Guide to Movie Analysis, London: Arnold; Gunning, Tom (1986). ‘The Cinema of Attraction, Early Film, Its Spectators and the Avant-Garde’, Wide Angle, 8:3-4, pp. 63-70; Manovich, Lev (2001). The Language of New Media, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press; Minnis, Stuart (1998). ‘Digitalisation and the Instrumentalist Approach to the Photographic Image,’ Iris, 25, pp. 49-59; Prince, Stephen (1996). ‘True Lies: Perceptual Realism, Digital Images, and Film Theory,’ Film Quarterly, 49:3 (Spring), pp. 27-37; Wood, Aylish (2002). ‘Timespaces in spectacular cinema: crossing the great divide between spectacle versus narrative,’ Screen, 43:4, pp. 370-386
Film Studies For Free presents a delightfully digital trove of film studies treasure today. Above, a fabulously illustrated, highly informative, and very wide-ranging, first year university lecture on Digital Cinema by University of Roehampton film scholar (and filmmaker) William Brown.  
And, below, links to two wonderful, openly accessible, online “digital film studies” books published by Amsterdam University Press, the best academic publisher ever, in FSFF‘s admittedly, somewhat biased view: Giovanna Fossati’s 2009 From Grain to Pixel: The Archival Life of Film in Transition; and, just published, Nanna Verhoeff’s 2012 Mobile Screens The Visual Regime of Navigation.  
Both have been added to FSFF‘s continuously updated list of openly accessible film studies books.

Film is in a state of rapid change, with the transition from analog to digital profoundly affecting not just filmmaking and distribution, but also the theoretical conceptualization of the medium of film and the practice of film archiving. New forms of digital archives are being developed that make use of participatory media to provide a more open form of access than any traditional archive has offered before. Film archives are thus faced with new questions and challenges. From Grain to Pixel attempts to bridge the fields of film archiving and academic research, by addressing the discourse on film ontology and analysing how it affects the role of film archives. Fossati proposes a new theoretization of film archival practice as the starting point for a renewed dialogue between film scholars and film archivists.

    • Table of Contents
      • Acknowledgements 9
      • Framing Film (in Transition): an Introduction    13
    • part one practice and theory of (archival) film
      • 1    Film Practice in Transition    33 
      • 2    Theorizing Archival Film    103
    • part two theorizing (archival) practice
      • 3    Film Archival Field in Transition    149
      • 4    Restoration Case Studies: Theorizing Archival Practice    211
      • A New Mindset for (Archival) Film in Transition: a Conclusion    255 
      • Notes 261 Glossary of Technical Terms    285 List of Illustrations    291 Filmography 293 Bibliography 297 Index 311

“Nanna Verhoeff’s new book is a must for anybody interested in visual culture and media theory. It offers a rich and stimulating theoretical account of the central dimension of our contemporary existence – interfacing and navigating both data and physical world through a variety of screens (game consoles, mobile phones, car interfaces, GPS devices, etc.) In the process of exploring these new screen practices, Verhoeff offers fresh perspectives on many of the key questions in media and new media studies as well as a number of new original theoretical concepts. As the first theoretical manual for the society of mobile screens, this book will become an essential reference for all future investigations of our mobile screen condition”. – Lev Manovich

    • Table of Contents
      • Acknowledgements    9
      • List of Illustrations    11
        Introduction    13
      • 1. Panoramic Complex    27 Building Visions    28 Panoramic Desire    32 Movement in the Panorama    39 Modes of Viewing    42 The Gaze in Motion    44 A Panoramic Complex    46 The Windshield as Screen    48
      • 2. Self-Reflection    51 The Point of Self-Reflection    51 Meanings of the Screen    56 Spatial Attractions and Visual Deixis    57 Navigating the Screen    65 Navigation as Narration    68 Boundary-Crossings    70
      • 3. Theoretical Consoles    73 The Status of the Gadget: The Case of Nintendo DS    73 Portrait of the Gadget as a Theoretical Console    77 Touch Screen: Dirty Windows    82 Mobile Screen: Carrying, Sharing, Transporting    89 Double Screen: Split, Insert, Map    92 Gadgetivity    95
      • 4. Urban Screens    99 Places of Transit    99 Screenspace    104 Urban Transformation    107 Screen Practices    114 Installation    116 Programming Hybridity    124 Responsive Presence    129
      • 5. Performative Cartography Mobile Dispositif Contesting Cartography Performative Cartography Cartographic Interface Tagging, Plotting, Stitching Layering in Augmented Reality Haptic Engagement
      • Epilogue: You Are Here!
      • Notes Bibliography Index of Names and Titles Index of Terms

Pandora’s Box? On Digital Conversions and Rebirths

Open Lecture and Workshop by FSFF‘s very own author

First of all, Film Studies For Free wanted to toot on its own trumpet today.

On Friday, its author will present at an event exploring the rapidly increasing take up in scholarly and online film studies of the distinct research methods of the digital humanities.

In the lecture that will open the event, she will explore whether and, if so, how these contexts and methods with their digital, multimedia tools and techniques (such as online film and film culture archiving, mining and metrics, digital video essays, digital publishing and networking) may be enabling productive moves away from the existing paradigms of purely text-based, or ‘traditional’ offline research, scholarship and pedagogy.  The focus in the main workshop part of the event will be on the film studies video essay form, that is, on the practice of using film as the medium of its own study and criticism.

A written version of the talk will be published online later this year as part of a wide ranging edited collection, with contributions by world-leading scholars and critics, on related aspects of the same important topics. This collection, commissioned, assembled and guest-edited by FSFF‘s supremo, will form the inaugural issue of a brand new, Open Access journal hosted by a certain Film Studies department in one of the UK’s oldest and most revered universities. FSFF will bring you more precise, less teasing, news of this in due course….

But, staying with the digital theme, today’s FSFF post also brings you rather more immediately phenomenal news of and links to David Bordwell‘s recent and hugely important online series of studies of the transition to digital cinematic projection at his and Kristin Thompson’s peerless film studies website Observations on Film Art.

Not only are these unmissable discussions in their own right but they make themselves even more indispensable by linking to numerous further essential resources on these questions.

Below the list of links to these entries, for your convenience, FSFF has re-embedded the great videoed discussion of digital conversion issues in the film distribution and exhibition contexts at the Vancouver International Film Festival to which Bordwell and other luminaries contribute brilliantly.

  1. Pandora’s digital box: In the multiplex December 1, 2011 
  2. Pandora’s digital box: The last 35 picture show December 15, 2011 
  3. Pandora’s digital box: At the festival January 5, 2012 
  4. Pandora’s digital box: From the periphery to the center, or the one of many centers January 11, 2012
  5. Pandora’s digital box: Art house, smart house January 30, 2012
  6. Pandora’s digital box: Pix and pixels February 13, 2012
  7. Pandora’s digital box: Notes on NOCs [Network Operations Centers] February 16, 2012
  8. Pandora’s digital box:from Films to Files February 28, 2012

Future of Cinema – Looking Forward After 30 Years
Event description:

The first few chapter headings in a film we did not program at this year’s [Vancouver International Film Festival] VIFF are: “Technology Is Great”, “The Industry Is Dead”, “Artists Have the Power”, and “The Craft Is Gone.” To which celluloid-loving film festival organizers might ask: Is it? Do they? Where on earth are we headed? And why?

VIFF has come a long way in its 30 years and never has the future of cinema–and VIFF‘s future–been more uncertain. Will it be bright and splendid and fair or will it move so quickly that a great deal of what is valuable will be lost before we know it? There are now dramatically more “film festivals” and “films” being made than ever, yet some fear that the industry may be dead. Filmmakers are acutely worried for funding, yet need to operate on a growing number of fronts. Given that the numbers of hours in a day and the numbers of days in a life remain fixed, what limits should we council for our own appetites? Why might we miss the Hollywood Theatre and Videomatica? Given that cultural agencies seemingly have shrinking resources but more new media and film festival applicants every year, will the centres hold or is babble ascendant? Will VIFF‘s function as an annual international universalist festival be superseded by myriad niche events?

Technology is indeed great in that it has put the means of creative motion picture production in almost everyone’s hands, but will the best artists be the ones to be recognized? The entrepreneurial spirit tends to favour change in hopes that it may profit from it, but will artists have the power? When entrepreneurs benefit, will consumers benefit? Will cultural institutions that have taken years to build remain viable? Will cinema, metrics of quality and craftsmanship and, ultimately, quality of life be improved or even be sustainable? What do you personally care about for the future of cinema to offer? What should VIFF 2020 aim to be?

Here to wrestle with these sorts of questions—and yours—will be a distinguished group of panellists including: David Bordwell, film critic, academic and author of numerous books on cinema; Simon Field, film producer and former Director, International Film Festival Rotterdam; Andréa Picard, film critic and programmer, formerly of the Toronto International Film Festival and the Cinémathèque Ontario; Tom Charity, film critic and Vancity Theatre program coordinator; and Alan Franey, director, Vancouver International Film Festival.

New Issue of CINEMA: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image

Jeff Wall‘s photograph A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai), 1993 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Today, in its continuing series of catch up posts on new offerings from open access film e-journals, Film Studies For Free brings you links to the contents of the latest issue of Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image.

Of particular interest, this time, are Tom McClelland‘s clear-eyed account of the respects ‘in which the medium of film and the discipline of philosophy can intersect’, Agustín Zarzosa‘s detailed evaluation of Rancière’s criticism of Deleuze, and Temenuga Trifonova‘s terrific discussion of the ways in which contemporary photography, like that of Jeff Wall mentioned above, ‘seeks to reclaim the cinematic within the photographic from within the twilight of indexicality’.

Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, No. 2 (2011)

Abstracts and Contributors



  • Questions for Jacques Rancière around his book Les écarts du cinéma (English version and French version): Conducted by Susana Nascimento Duarte

Conference Report

In Portuguese: 


>On Digital Cinema, Visual Effects, and CGI Studies


Faking it? Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) in Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)

Happy New Year, dear readers! A truly chilled out Film Studies For Free is back from vacation, and raring to go with a pretty impressive (if it says so itself) entry of direct links to openly accessible scholarly work on digital cinema and computer generated imagery studies.

The post was inspired by news of the availability as a free download of ‘Digital Bodies‘ – a chapter, translated into English, from esteemed scholar Barbara Flueckiger’s 2008 German-language book Visual Effects. Filmbilder aus dem Computer.

Flueckiger, Associate Professor at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Cinema Studies, has also just published her great database on the history of CGI, VFX, and computer animation online.  

Vielen Dank, Barbara! Thanks also to all the scholars listed below for choosing to publish their work in freely accessible venues online! 

Finally, in case you hadn’t yet heard of the best website for regular, informed discussions of special and visual effects in the cinema, do check out film scholar Dan North’s awe-inspiring blog Spectacular Attractions!

>Film Studies and Aesthetics video and audio resources from the University of Kent


Image of a domestic interior in A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954). Listen to John David Rhodes‘s talk on the encounter between cinema and modernist American domestic architecture, in relation to this film and others.

Today, Film Studies For Free brings you glad tidings of the very high quality, audio and video, Film Studies research resources that have been generously shared through the University of Kent website.  

As FSFF‘s author well knows, having been fortunate enough to work there for a decade, Kent is one of the largest and best university centres in Europe dedicated to Film Studies. Film research there, in both theory and practice (faculty include the world-leading scholars Murray Smith and Elizabeth Cowie, as well as the award-winning film-makers Clio Barnard and  Sarah Turner), is currently centred in four broad areas: national cinemas – form and history: North American, European, Latin American, Asian; the digital in film; the  documentary film; and, especially, film aesthetics, the latter often in collaboration with the interdisciplinary ‘Aesthetics Research Group’.

Some of these interests, and plenty more besides, are beautifully reflected in the amazing wealth of recordings of conferences, symposia and seminars directly linked to below. Just feast your eyes and ears on them.

Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Film and the Moving Image

Audio Resources

  • “The Art of Not Playing to Pictures’ in British Cinemas, 1908-1914” Dr Jon Burrows (University of Warwick) Recent scholarship on musical practices in the silent era argues that by the end of the 1900s and throughout the 1910s the typical cinema musician was a lone pianist who occupied a subordinate position in relation to the projected image and provided forms of accompaniment which ignored traditional musical logic and obediently responded instead to the dictates of narrative logic. Using a variety of evidential sources available in the UK (cinema licensing records, police inspection files, trade paper debates) my paper will argue the contrary: that miniature orchestras were extremely common in British cinemas before the First World War, and that, well into the feature film era, careful synchronisation of music and image was probably the exception rather than the rule. Listen to the lecture here (mp3)
  • “Theory and Practice in British Film Schools” Prof Duncan Petrie (University of York) Film and media education in the UK has long been characterised by a fundamental polarisation between theory and practice. This is most clearly manifest in the widespread separation between academic study and hands-on production training within University and College departments and programmes…Listen to the lecture here (mp3)
  • “Easy Living: The Modernist House and Cinematic Space“ Dr John David Rhodes (University of Sussex) In this paper I will look at a series of encounters—both real and imaginary—between cinema and modernist American domestic architecture. The paper moves from the sets of A Star is Born (Cukor, 1954), to the short experimental film House (1954)…Listen to the lecture here (mp3)
  • “World Cinema and the Ethics of Realism” Prof Lucia Nagib (University of Leeds) This paper will address world cinema through an unusual theoretical model, based on an ethics of realism. The juxtaposition of the terms ‘world cinema’, ‘ethics’ and ‘realism’ creates a tension intended to offer a productive alternative to traditional oppositional binaries such as popular vs art cinemas, fiction vs documentary films, Hollywood vs world cinema… Listen to the lecture here (mp3)
University of Kent Aesthetics Research Group
Audio and video resources:

Kendall Walton and The Aesthetics of Photography and Film (2007)

Jerrold Levinson: Key Concepts in Aesthetics (2008-09)

Research Seminars (ongoing)

Art, Aesthetics and the Sexual (2009)

>New Senses of Cinema: Assayas, Ava Gardner, Haneke, Morin, Rouch, Epstein, African Francophone cinema, Citizen Kane, digital cinema


One Touch of Venus (William A. Seiter, 1948), starring Robert Walker and Ava Gardner. See Edgar Morin‘s essay on Gardner here.
As ever, Film Studies For Free rushes you the latest e-journal news. Today, the latest Senses of Cinema hit the e-newsstands. Without further bloggish ado, read the below links to contents and weep with film-scholarly joy!

Issue 57 Contents

Feature Articles

Great Directors

Festival Reports

  • Celluloid Liberation Front on Venice

Book Reviews

Cteq Annotations

>On Film Music and Digital Media


Film Music and Digital Media 
(Moderator: Martin Marks with Paul Seiko Chihara and Dan Carlin) MIT, April 2, 2009 (Running Time: 1:55:26)
Film Studies For Free really enjoyed the above highly insightful and well-illustrated video and it very much hopes you will, too. The discussion covers, with wit and great intelligence, many of the practical considerations that are part and parcel of contemporary film scoring. As it is quite long, the below text will let you know a little of what you can expect.

For more on film music studies, check out FSFF‘s entry “Music to the Eyes: Film Music Essays and Resources Online“, as well as its other references to film music here.

About the Lecture

In a panel that at times resembles a late-night ramble and conversation, three film music professionals discuss changes in their industry, with some no-holds-barred dishing and kvetching.

Martin Marks sets the scene historically, starting with the revolutionary introduction of sound to film. He plays a clip from the original 1933 film King Kong, which he describd it hopes es as both a technological and aesthetic landmark of soundtrack production. Paul Chihara continues the story, explaining that the score’s creator, Max Steiner, was part of the first wave of film composers, classically trained musicians, fleeing Hitler’s Germany. Steiner drew on the music he knew best, the kind performed by the Vienna Staatsoper, for his King Kong score, so we get a movie that’s “wall to wall music, filled with leitmotifs,” played by a giant orchestra.

Cut to 2005, and the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. In what he describes as “an electro-acoustic seminar on how digitally sound is enhanced,” Chihara plays several clips of the same scene that demonstrate the evolutionary leap in soundtrack scoring since 1933. The process involves the demo track, a score with digital sampling and no acoustic instruments intended to help the filmmaker imagine how music will work with the film; next an acoustic score; and the final dub version, where acoustic and digital music sources combine, and the rest of the sound elements are added in post production (dialogue and sound effects).

The new scoring process can prove dangerous to composers, as Dan Carlin reveals. “We have a term called ‘demo love,’ describing how the director gets attached to the very first track offered by the composer.” This is a digitally sampled score often drawn from other composers’ work. The editor and director become accustomed to it, and test audiences watch films with demo tracks. “So the composer comes in with a new approach, and often gets fired at this point.” This has led to composers fearful of originality. Carlin says starting in the ‘90s, generic romantic and action scores began to emerge: “Everything starts to sound alike.” He also describes how composer Georges Delerue went to see Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, and heard one of his own themes, which had started as a temporary music cue but then was essentially plagiarized. This led to a very lucrative law suit. Marks notes that “one of America’s film music geniuses,” Elmer Bernstein, essentially dropped out of the business because of the insistence on demo tracks over original music.

Panelists also bemoan the demise of orchestral recording sessions at production studios, as digital audio tools put the composer’s work in the hands of directors and editors, who play with increasingly authentic sounding software-based instruments. Companies are buying up the rights to the sounds of famous symphony orchestras, down to the staccato and legato notes of strings and horns in different keys and pitches. The craft involved in composing music, then conducting an orchestra through a movie scene, has become obsolete. Chihara concludes sadly, “It’s an unnecessary art.”