|Frame grab from A Star Is Born ( Frank Pierson, 1976)|
Each version of A Star Is Born may detail the rise of an unknown, but does so through extremely well-known performers, albeit ones at different stages of their careers. […] Barbra Streisand […] was at the height of her career in 1976. Her domination of A Star Is Born (she contributed to the writing and even, as Kris Kristofferson, her co-star, saw it, the directing [(Burke, Tom. “Kris Kristofferson Sings the Good-Life Blues.” Esquire 86 (December 1976): 126–28ff), 208-9]) was another manifestation of a desire to play out aspects of her own life. The credited director has recounted at length how, during preproduction, Streisand debated the degree to which her autobiography should be reflected in Esther Hoffman ([Pierson, Frank. “My Battles with Barbra and Jon.” New York 9 (November 15, 1976): 49–60], 50). If James Mason’s character in the 1954 film becomes through role reversal the “fictional counterpart of the neurotic, self-destructive person that Garland [had] become” ([Jennings, Wade. “Nova: Garland in ‘A Star Is Born.'” Quarterly Review of Film Studies 4, no. 3 (summer 1979): 321–37], 333), then Streisand’s Esther Hoffman directly fulfills everything that Streisand herself has become by 1976. Richard Dyer even suggests that among the “number of cases on which the totality of a film can be laid at the door of the star” the case can be made “most persuasively” for Streisand’s A Star Is Born (Dyer, Richard. Stars. London: BFI, 1979], 175) [Jerome Delamater, ‘”Once More, from the Top”: Musicals the Second Time Around’, in Horton, Andrew, Play it again, Sam: retakes on remakes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, p. 84]
If anyone knows of any other good items (and it is far too short and unworthy a list so far…), please leave a comment and FSFF will add them to the list.
- Zohar Altman Ravid, ‘The star as a Creation and the Star as a creator: The Case of Barbra Streisand’ in History of Stardom Reconsidered, edited by Kari Kallioniemi, Kimi Kärki, Janne Mäkelä and Hannu Salmi. Turku: International Institute for Popular Culture, 2007
- Henry Bial, ‘How Jews Became Sexy, 1968–1983’, Acting Jewish: Negotiating Ethnicity on the American Stage and Screen (University of Michigan, 2005)
- Jerome Delamater, ‘”Once More, from the Top”: Musicals the Second Time Around’, in Horton, Andrew, Play it again, Sam: retakes on remakes. Berkeley: University of California Press, c 1998 1998
- Brett Farmer, ‘Stage Door Jennies: Interview with Stacy Wolf about her New Book, A Problem Like Maria Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical’, Genders.org, Issue 38, 2003
- Rachel Garfield, ‘Towards a Re-Articulation of Cultural Identity: Problematising the Jewish Subject in Art’, originally in Third Text, Vol. 20, Issue 1, January, 2006, 99–108
- Stephen Godfry, ‘The Way We Were’, Pro Tem, November 29, 1973 (scroll down in PDF to p. 8)
- Evyatar Marienberg, ‘Jews Have the Best Sex: The Hollywood Adventures of a Peculiar Medieval Jewish Text on Sexuality’, Journal of Religion and Film, 14.2, 2010
- Arthur Laurents, ‘Emotional Reality: Interview by Pat McGilligan’, in McGilligan, Patrick. Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991)
- Joel Rosenberg, ‘Jewish Experience on Film: An American Overview’, American Jewish Yearbook, 1996
- Jérôme Segal and Monika Kaczek, ‘Molly Picon and the Cinematic Archetype of a Jewish Woman’, CinemaScope, 14, Jan-Jul. 2010
- Greg M. Smith, ‘Streisand Shops the Museum Store: Consuming Art on Television’, Journal of Popular Film and Television, 30.1 (Spring 2002) 63-68
- Jon Stratton, ‘Introduction’, Jews, Race and Popular Music (Ashgate, 2009)
- Stacy Wolf, ‘Barbra’s “Funny Girl” Body’, SandF Online, Double Issue: 3.3 & 4.1
- Stacy Ellen Wolf, ‘Introduction’, A Problem Like Maria:Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical (University of Michigan Press, 2002)
The femme fatale is a product of the male imaginary, which emerges in literature and the visual arts under contingent socio-political conditions as a challenge to coherent and stable identities. […]
The emergence of the femme fatale motif in literature, art and cinema generally coincides with periods of social or political instability and is not specific to a culture, society or era, but exhibits countless masks as she may manifest herself in diverse historical or geo-political contexts, and through a variety of artistic and literary forms. She embodies traces of a myriad of powerful, as well as menacing, historical, biblical and mythical female figures, such as Cleopatra, Salome, or the Sirens; yet this wicked and barren creature is always imbued with an alluring beauty and rapacious sexuality that is potentially deadly to man. The femme fatale figure is a recurrent patriarchal construct, a projection of all that exists beyond that which is normal, familiar, or safe. As Rebecca Stott observes, she is a multiple sign, or ‘the Other around whom the qualities of all Other collect in the male imagination’ (1992: 39). As such, her appearances are always symptomatic of a society in crisis. [Eva Bru-Domínguez, ‘The Body as a Conflation of Discourses: The femme fatale in Mercè Rodoreda’s Mirall trencat‘ (1974)’, Journal of Catalan Studies 2009]
[I]s it possible that the tangled webs of violence, sexuality, pathology, and intrigue at the core of certain film noir offer moments of reversal and exception which challenge women’s role as eternal victim? How is an anti-feminist backlash or male anxiety around women’s power projected into these paranoid film scenarios? To what extent can such disruptions be contained through conventional “happy family” closure – or through the violent death of the (anti-)heroine whose glittering image lingers as the credits rolls? Working against the inescapable grain of the “repressive rule” of female victimhood, I choose here to seize on the exceptional figure of the “fatale femme.” While the exception may help define the rule, she also keeps alive the possibility, the inevitability, of transformation in gendered relations of power. [Julianne Pidduck, The “fatal femme” in contemporary Hollywood film noir: reframing gender, violence, and power, Masters Thesis, Concordia University, 1993: 6-7]
Rather than promoting images of women that emphasize their spirit and unknowable power, and rather than promoting images of women that rely on their bodies, finally, we need to illustrate the contexts that inform women’s experience. I want to suggest some of the reasons why we’ve grown accustomed to identifying film noir’s “femme fatale” without examining these contexts that inform her presence in film noir, by doing just that: examining the settings—social, psychological, political, physical, and geographical—that define her experience, which is, I want strongly to suggest, a far better thing to define than “woman” herself.
This study seeks to modify the tone of feminist discussions about film noir’s women by reorienting our attention to the narrative, social contexts, and mise-en-scene that show the relationship between women’s powers and the limits placed on them by social rules. Both the view of the “femme fatale” as misogynist projection and the view of the “femme fatale” as opaque yet transgressive female force emphasize her status as object or symbol (as object of scorn or as the mysterious and opaque “other” that threatens to destroy the male subject). My aim is to adjust our focus on film noir and gender so that we illuminate these women’s narratives rather than mystifying women as objects or images. [Julie Grossman, Rethinking the Femme Fatale in Film Noir: Ready for Her Close-Up (London: Palgrave/BFI, 2009): 5. Book info.]
If you are a film goer you know her kind. She is attractive, alluring, enigmatic, enticing, teasing, siren-like. Totally tautological. You might come across her dancing in a cinematic cabaret or show, smoking in a private detective’s office, gracing a film noir alleyway, or haunting a difficult to decipher flashback. Or turning up like a beautiful but bad penny, provoking your scopophilia (and/or your epistemophilia), just about anywhere in almost every period of international film history.
Just what is it about these cinematic women? There certainly isn’t one answer to that question, but the studies linked to below might very well help you to begin to tackle it.
If there are any important online resources that FSFF has missed, please do list them in the comments thread.
- Rihab Kassatly Bagnole, Imaging the Almeh: Transformation and Multiculturalization of the Eastern Dancer in Painting, Theatre, and Film, 1850-1950, PhD, Ohio State University, 2005
- Linda Berkvens, ‘From Below to Above the Title: The Construction of the Star Image of Barbara Stanwyck, 1930-1935’, Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, Vol 2, No 1 (2009)
- Rebecca H. Bias, From golden age to silver screen: French Music-Hall Cinema from 1930-1950, PhD, Ohio State University, 2005
- John J. Blaser and Stephanie L.M. Blaser, Film Noir Studies (dozens of essays and clips), 2008
- Dan Callahan, ‘Fatal Instincts: The Dangerous Pout of Gloria Grahame.” Bright Lights Film Journal, Issue 61, August 2008
- Derek Dubois, ‘Silent Subversions : Exploring the Enigma of Female Spectatorship in Silent Cinema’, Master’s Theses, Dissertations and Graduate Research Overview. Paper 32, 2009
- Richard Dyer, ‘Homosexuality in Film Noir’, from Jump Cut, No. 16, 1977, pp. 18-21
- Maura Edmond, ‘Fashionable Attractions: Fashion Parades in Popular Entertainment from Lady Duff-Gordon to Lady Gaga’, SCAN, 7.2, November 2010
- Catherine Gomes, “‘The Era Of Lustrous Screen Sirens Lives On, Thousands Of Miles From Hollywood’: The Cross-Cultural Reception Of Chinese Martial Arts Cinema’s Sword-welding Actresses,” Reception: Texts, Readers, Audiences, History, Vol 1, The Reception Study Society, 2008
- Julie Grossman, Rethinking the Femme Fatale in Film Noir: Ready for Her Close-Up (London: Palgrave/BFI, 2009) Book info.
- Melissa Jane Hardie, ‘Loose Slots: Figuring the Strip in Showgirls’, Xtext 1 (1996): 24-35
- Lee Horsley, ‘Fatal Women in the Hard-Boiled Fifties’ An extract from The Noir Thriller (Palgrave, 2001; 2009)
- Thomas Kiely, ‘Erendira: A not-so-innocent film’, from Jump Cut, no. 31, March 1986
- Naomi King, ‘Male Identity and the Threat of the Feminine’, Crimeculture, 2002
- Aspasia Kotsopoulos and Josephine Mills, ‘The Crying Game: Gender, genre and “postfeminism”‘, from Jump Cut, no. 39, June 1994
- Elizabeth Lee, ‘The Femme Fatale as Object’, Victorian Web, 1997
- Scott Loren, ‘Self-fashioning, Freedom, and the Problem of His-story: the return of noir’, European Journal of American Studies, 1, 2008
- Maree Macmillan, ‘Beyond the femme fatale: The mythical Pandora as cathartic, transformative force’, in Illuminating the Dark Side: Evil, Women and the Feminine, edited by Andrea Ruthven and Gabriela Mádlo (InterDisciplinary.net, 2010)
- Maasilta Mari, African Carmen. Transnational Cinema as an Arena for Cultural Contradictions, PhD Thesis, University of Tampere, 2007
- Michael Mills, ‘High Heels on a Wet Pavement: Film Noir and the Femme Fatale’, Modern Times (date unknown)
- Daniel Morgan, ‘Max Ophuls and the Limits of Virtuosity: On the Aesthetics and Ethics of Camera Movement, Critical Inquiry, Autumn 2011
- Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual pleasure and narrative cinema’, Screen, 1975
- Fred Nadis, ‘Mechanical Dolls and Rank Ladies’, Left History,Vol 7, No 1 (2000)
- Rebecca Claire Naughten, Spain Made Flesh: Reflections and projections of the national in contemporary Spanish stardom, 1992-2007, PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle, 2010
- Sheila O’Malley, ‘Five Things About Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy‘, The Sheila Variations, February 19, 2011
- Anne Helen Petersen, The Gossip Industry: Producing and Distributing Star Images, Celebrity Gossip, and Entertainment News, 1910 – 2010, PhD Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 2011
- Julianne Pidduck, The “fatal femme” in contemporary Hollywood film noir: reframing gender, violence, and power, Masters Thesis, Concordia University, 1993
- Patricia Pisters, ‘Lili and Rachel: Hollywood, History and Women in Fassbinder and Verhoeven’ in Kooijman, Jaap, Patricia Pisters, Wanda Strauven (eds), Mind the Screen: Media Concepts According to Thomas Elsaesser (Amsterdam University Press, 2008)
- Barbara L. Romanczuk, Screening Zola’s women, PhD, Ohio State University, 2002
- Sarah Sik, ‘[Review of] Evil by Design: The Creation and Marketing of the Femme Fatale by Elizabeth K. Menon (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006), Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide, 2012
- Cheryl Inez Simon, Gender, genre and globalization : discourses of “Femininity” in the popular culture of the 1990’s. PhD thesis, Concordia University, PhD Thesis, Concordia University, 1998
- Scott Snyder, ‘Personality Disorder and the Film Noir Femme Fatale’, Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 8(3) (2001)
- Jamie L. Stuart, The Business and Pleasure of Filmic Lesbians Performing Onstage, PhD, Bowling Green State University, 2006
- Yvonne Tasker, Spectacular bodies: gender, genre and the action cinema, PhD Thesis, University of Warwick, 1995
- Deborah Walker, ‘Re-reading the Femme Fatale in Film Noir: an evolutionary perspective’, The Journal of Moving Image Studies, Vol. 5, No. 6
- Emma Whiting, ‘Dangerous Women and the Abject in the Noir Thriller’, Crimeculture, 2005
|Framegrab from Jeux interdits/Forbidden Games (René Clément, 1952)|
The classically idyllic, carefree world of childhood would appear to be diametrically opposed to the horrors of war and world-wide conflict. However, throughout film history, filmmakers have continually turned to the figure of the child as a prism through which to examine the devastation caused by war.
This thesis will investigate the representation of childhood experience of the Second World War across six fiction films: Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan (1946) and Germany Year Zero (1947), René Clément’s Forbidden Games (1952), Andrei Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood (1962), Jan Nemec’s Diamonds of the Night (1964) and Elem Klimov’s Come and See (1985). [Pasquale Iannone, Childhood and the Second World War in the European fiction film PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2011: 11; hyperlinks added by FSFF]
Each of these works of original research has a huge amount to offer any student of cinema, and so it’s really great that their authors and their university have made them publicly available online.
FSFF hopes its readers will join it in saluting them!
- Bruns, Christina, Contemporary German documentary cinema (1999 – 2007): the rural represented, the regional defamiliarised and Heimat revived PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2010
- Iannone, Pasquale, Childhood and the Second World War in the European fiction film PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2011
- Makrygiannakis, Evangelos, Films of Theo Angelopoulos: a voyage in time PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2009
- Russell, Michael, Soviet montage cinema as propaganda and political rhetoric PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2009
- Salzberg, Ana Beyond the looking glass: the narcissistic woman reflected and embodied in classic Hollywood film 2010
- Valcke, Jennifer, Static films and moving pictures: montage in avant-garde photography and film PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2009
- Yam, Chi-Keung, Study of popular Hong Kong cinema from 2001 to 2004 as resource for a contextual approach to expressions of christian faith in the public realm after the reversion to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2008