double issue 2009
Edward Said’s Nazareth
“Writing On The Screen:” An Interview with Emmanuel Burdeau
What Women Want: The Complex World of Dorothy Arzner and Her Cinematic Women
E. Ann Kaplan
Women, Trauma and Late Modernity: Sontag, Duras and Silence in Cinema 1960–1980
What Now? Re-enactment in Contemporary Documentary Film, Video, and Performance
Jonathan Kahana, Guest Editor
Introduction: What Now? Presenting Re-enactment
Re-staging Two Laws: An Interview with Alessandro Cavadini and Carolyn Strachan
The Black Holes of History: Raoul Peck’s Two Lumumbas
Shattering Silence: Traumatic Memory and Re-enactment in Rithy Panh's S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
The Real Movie: Re-enactment, Spectacle, and Recovery in Pierre Huyghe’s The Third Memory
Gender, Power, and Pedagogy in Coco Fusco’s Bare Life Study #1 (2005), A Room of One’s Own (2005), andOperation Atropos (2006)
New Left-wing Melancholy: Mark Tribe’s The Port Huron Project and the Politics of Re-enactment
What is Being Fought For by Today's Cinephilia(s)?
Jonathan Buchsbaum and Elena Gorfinkel, Guest Editors
Reply to Cinephilia survey
“They are like black lakes troubled by fantastic moons”
Some reflections on the Cinephilia question
Cinephilia and the Imagination of Filmmaking
For A History Of Resistant Cinema
Everyone I Know is Stayin’ Home: The New Cinephilia
On the Political Challenges of the Cinephile Today
Cinematic Promiscuity: Cinephilia after Videophilia
What is Being Fought for by Today’s Cinephilia(S)?
Cinephilia as War Machine
Regarding Cinephilia and Africa
What Does a Journal Do Today? This is Framework’s 50th issue, merging numbers 1 and 2 into a single 2009 volume. The journal started in 1974, over thirty years ago, in England, as a small publication. Its trail-blazing, far-reaching exploration of international film, its publication of directors’ own writing on cinema and on each other, and its reprints of early film theories are fundamental aspects of cinema studies today. There are articles from early issues that impress me still with their desire to look at something anew, such as Werner Herzog’s 1976 story “Why Being Rather Than Nothing?”; Laura Mulvey’s reanalysis of “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1981); Nguyen Khac Vien’s take on Apocalypse Now (1981); or Sunila Abeysekera’s examination of women in Sri Lankan cinema (1989). Framework 50 reflects less on film than on its huge diaspora: film has left its old country (of being a film) and now appears in cut-up resemblances of itself, video art remakes, or computer PowerPoints, screened in restaurants (as wallpaper), on iPods, and in galleries. Also scattered are the critiques: most journals, e-zines, blogs, websites, and magazines now hazily combine culture and politics, often blurring definitions of expert opinion. Our zeitgeist has a polarizing dynamic. Its almost obsessive return to the past (especially the last fifty years), which can be rigid in its “reassessment” of what it finds there, is offset by the twenty-first century’s hard-won open-mindedness about individual rights, allowing what is real just to be itself.
In this issue these contradictions are seen through a number of topics: journal editing, cinephilia, feminism, video installation, photography, and the art of recycling art, such as the technique of “reenactment” found in work as diverse as that of Pithy Rahn, Australian Aboriginal tribes, or Pierre Huyghe. Has cinephilia’s potency passed? In what way has film helped feminist thinking, or the thinking of any repressed group, and how has that thinking been coded in films? Does it still need to be coded to survive? What does video art’s parasitism of movies and documentaries do (or not do) for film or for art? Why is an old technique such as reenactment, a method used before cinema even began, so currently revitalized?
In “Edward Said’s Nazareth,” Susan Slyomovics, a professor of anthropology, pieces together a photo journey of Said and Nazareth, making a remarkable picture of what can no longer be pictured. E. Ann Kaplan returns to 1970s and 1980s international feminism and the tropes that women covertly and overtly used in their art to analyze their part in society. She places two films side by side, one by Susan Sontag (Brother Carl, SE, 1970) and one by Marguerite Duras (Nathalie Granger, FR, 1972), to see how these two women coincide rather than depart from each other, despite different, almost opposing, intellectual constructs. Donna Casella does something similar in her gloss of scholarly perspectives on the “women’s picture” films of Dorothy Arzner. Casella finds that Arzner intended an even greater subversion of the genre than has been previously argued. Bitter and sympathetic, Arzner both despaired of the convention and used it to lay bare women’s lives where, Casella argues, little comfort is found. Dudley Andrew’s cogent interview with Cahiers du cinéma’s chief editor, Emmanuel Burdeau, combs over the legacy of Bazin and Cahiers and the joys and difficulties, as Burdeau puts it, of “translating the screen.” Nevertheless, much as he loves words, Burdeau advocates activism beyond them. He pointed out, in the 2008 New York Film Festival panel on criticism, that Cahiers could be a “dinosaur” if it only remained in the field of writing.
Finally, the issue contains two dossiers, on Reenactment and on Cinephilia. In the first dossier, guest editor Jonathan Kahana poses the operative question— “What now?”—showing, through six pieces, how reenactment’s old trick has become new. What can it do for us? The same can be asked of cinephilia—What can it do? In the second dossier, guest editors Elena Gorfinkle and Jonathan Buchsbaum ask twelve critics what is at stake in cinephila today. Their very personal answers move through a panoply of militancy and nostalgia. Cinephila, in a sense, ties all these ideas together. I appreciate Burdeau’s outwardness because I too find cinephilia practical: right now, it can protect history from film and its offshoots. One of the most powerful forms of propaganda, film can seem to speak to everything. Take the Tribeca Film [Festival] Newsletter’s December 2008 description of the new film Frost/Nixon, about British talk-show host David Frost’s interviews with former president Richard Nixon: “Frost/Nixon makes a thrilling transition from stage to screen. With Ron Howard at the helm and two terrific leads, the film offers mass-market context, a succinct history lesson, and a groovy, 70s version of southern California.” The groovy 1970s version of southern California is not what comes to mind when I remember Nixon in 1975. Yet that pitch tries to lure younger people to the interviews, made during one of the hardest political transitions in U.S. history and involving one of our most complex and hated presidents. How many viewers of Frost/Nixon have seen the actual interviews or even know that they are available on DVD? In today’s deluge of found footage, orphan films, hipster archives, DVD releases of weird, offbeat, cult, or porn films, of exploitation, genre, or Hollywood B-Z films, of esoteric foreign gems or shocking newsreels, of TV shows and experimental art classics, of remastered great cinema presented by big names such as Martin Scorsese (presents Val Lewton) or Terry Gilliam (presents Les enfants du paradis, FR, 1945), or the presentation of films in studio collections such as Paramount, Hammer House of Horror, Universal, or TCM, there is a danger of believing that “it all”—from important to silly—is being saved.
My fear is that the gatekeepers of these “save fests,” as crucial as they are, exclude films that represent uncomfortable groups: for example (only a sliver of possibilities), some hard-core feminist films, gay films that aren’t stereotypes, atypical porn that is simply gyno-erotic, an indie picture that isn’t in vogue, or a record that doesn’t suit a dominant view of “what the past was like.” That others will decide who represents another group and not that group itself is a serious problem for reality. In the last few years, I have co-chaired the Women’s Film Preservation Fund, a small fundraising New York body that gives grants to preserve films in which women have played a significant artistic role. We have restored some eighty movies, a few fairly esoteric, and it is easy to see how many “unknown” films could fall through the cracks if such organizations did not exist. This is a frightening thought: what happens if many films disintegrate and no one knows in twenty years that they, and their points of view, even occurred? How will “history” be formulated? During the January 2009 American Historical Association conference, medievalist Albrecht Classen broached such a fate. In his research on the chastity belt, he discovered that it never existed, yet virtually every literary source, even established ones (and of course the Internet), took it as fact. He saw that generations would be “victims of a myth” if they bought into the plethora of false information, but such misinformation was very difficult to avoid.
In the face of this, “philia” is the key word for answering what a journal can do: it must love looking at what fits the zeitgeist (personal and cultural) and love recognizing what doesn’t fit and why. It must support the latter because, in conserving anything only as an act of love, a “retro chic” account of the world may become what is taken for the serious “groovy” past. As a place for lobbying and education, a journal can, at most, agitate for lesser-known “philias” or, at least, be willing to take a second or third look at them. It can help to ensure that information with unpopular perspectives is given public access, public discussion.