Proper Corruption: Index and Metaphor in Photographs of the Embalmed Corpse of Eva Perón
Queer Coupling, or the Stain of the Bearded Woman
Connectivity: An Interview with Susan Meiselas
The Good Fight: The Spanish Civil War and U.S. Left Film Criticism
Goyescas: Picturing Defiance and Consent in Early Francoist Cinema
The Garbage Man: An Interview with Eduardo Coutinho
Flesh for the Author: Filmic Presence in the Documentaries of Eduardo Coutinho
J. Ronald Green
Sophistication under Construction: Oscar Micheaux’s Infamous Sound Films
Berlin Year Zero: The Making of The Blue Angel
The body appears as a major theme in this issue, as something that is delicate, targeted, enduring, hated, loved, present, iconic, vulnerable, and peculiarly susceptible to public and private desire. The body in war, the body in metaphor, the body in love, the body as the lived life: how these realities are brought forth in art and in politics and what happens in their mixture are questions asked throughout this issue.
Margaret Schwartz, in her essay “Proper Corruption,” examines, with meticulous creativity, the manner in which the photographs of the corpse of Eva Perón (with its odd history of burial, theft, and reburial) have become politically iconic, yet for opposing groups. In searching that contradiction, Schwartz poses a new way of contemplating the concept of ‘iconic,’ not as a status but rather as a way of perceiving. In “Queer Coupling,” Ara Osterweil, deftly and with immense sympathy for all involved, uncovers the complex life of filmmaker Barbara Rubin, especially her explicit films, her unlikely drive into Hasidism, and her unlikely sexual relationships with Allen Ginsberg and others. She places Rubin’s otherwise marginalized artistry centrally within New York’s avant-garde movement. By studying her life in that scene, Osterweil shows that the freedoms fought for in the 1960s were muddied by the era’s blend of old European heritages and young American male confusion, which neglected many difficulties that women faced and from which many women suffered a hard price.
The Brazilian Globe journalist Marilia Martins interviewed Eduardo Coutinho during the 2009 retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. One of the geniuses of filmmaking, Coutinho has created what can only be described as his own category of fiction and nonfiction cinema in his fluid, earth-bound, yet uniquely contrived documentaries. Cecilia Sayad follows with a look at Coutinho’s work and his select way of framing the face, drawing the audience into his films with both artifice and blunt honesty.
Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas talks in an interview about the interlinks between her films and her photographs and her sense of how she attempts to capture the vulnerable body, especially in the midst of untranslatable brutality—in, among other subjects, war, domestic violence, sex work, cultural genocide, or sado-masochism—and how she deals with the dichotomies of a still camera shot that stops a moving world, a moving history.
Finally, four authors study how a moving, ineluctable history is framed within certain key films. Christopher Robé examines how New Left Criticism swept into Hollywood in the 1930s through new approaches to documentaries broached by Joris Ivens’s supportive Spanish Civil War films. Gerard Dapena digs deeply into Spanish director Benito Perojo’s seemingly escapist period musical Goyescas (ES, 1942), a Francoist film, with an homage to Goya, which, Dapena argues, exposes many of the class shifts in Franco’s uncertain, fascist world. J. Ronald Green analyzes the oddities of Oscar Micheaux’s 1930s sound films, rereading what seem to be harsh lighting and poorly imposed camera setups as inventive, almost surreal, groundbreaking methods of narrative. These techniques can also be interpreted as a demonstrative cinematic language revealing the African American worldview. And with elegant, amusing, and telling detail, John Baxter jaunts through the ins and outs of the production history of Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (DE, 1930), showing how the film’s moment summarizes the final gasps of Weimer Berlin.
In the last editorial, for the double issue commemorating Framework’s fiftieth anniversary, I posited the question: What can a journal do? Issue 51.1 marks a move toward a more sustained focus on the topics of prejudice, feminism, and politics. Focus on their intricacies and a creation of an open forum for different perspectives, adds, one hopes, to the giant social dialogue. The website carries more details.
Linda C. Ehrlich and Celia Martinez Garcia
Erice’s Songs: Nature as Music/Music as Nature
Artistic Testament or Final Exorcism? Passion and Tragedy in Bergman’s Saraband
Screen Theory Goes to Australia
Transnationalizing Women's Film History
Jane M. Gaines
World Women: Still Circulating Silent Era Film Prints
Women’s Film History Project: Issues of Transnationalism
On Frieda Klug, Pearl White, and Other Traveling Women Film Pioneers
Women, Empire, and British Cinema History
Mark Garrett Cooper
Tackling Universal Women as a Research Problem: What Historiographic Sources Do and Don’t Tell Us about “Gender” in the Silent Motion Picture Studio
A Historical Overview of NFTVA/BFI Collection Development Policies with Regard to Gender and Nation Questions
Women Filmmakers and Postfeminism in the Age of Multimedia Reproduction: A Virtual Archive for Women’s Cinema
Women’s Film History: Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art, March 2010
“Exit Flapper, Enter Woman,” Or Lois Weber in Jazz Age Hollywood
A New Eroticism or Merely a New Woman? Cecil B. DeMille’s Adaptation of Alice Duer Miller’s Manslaughter
Toward the Development of a Modern “Impressionist” Cinema: Germaine Dulac’s La Belle Dame sans merci (1921) and the Deconstruction of the Femme Fatale Archetype
This issue focuses on how small details can expose the wider picture. In “Erice’s Songs: Nature as Music/Music as Nature,” Linda C. Ehrlich and Celia Martínez García poetically reveal how the elegiac Spanish director Víctor Erice weaves songs into his films to form a hidden configuration. Through a generous feel for the temperament of the films and how Erice places them within Spain’s difficult politics, Ehrlich and García show the songs’ deep cultural meaning that is so often lost on the outsider. Miguel Lomillos, in “Artistic Testament or Final Exorcism? Passion and Tragedy in Bergman’s Saraband,” examines the last great film of the brilliant Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, Saraband (SE/IT/DE/FI/DK/AT, 2003). Lomillos focuses on how Bergman uses the device of the vivacious, sexualized, sixteenth-century musical form the Sarabande, which during the Baroque era developed into a modified but complex suite movement. The Sarabande’s contrapuntal structure is more than a metaphor, Lomillos argues: it is a method to reveal Bergman’s disintegrating characters.
Details are explored in the dossier “Transnationalizing Women’s Film History,” on transnationalism, feminism, and women in film history—specifically those details found from the willingness to look at what an odd dovetailing yields (such as travel, subjectivity, archiving, colonialism, or distribution, to name a few). These seven essays are taken from a two-day workshop with more than thirty participants at Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art in March 2010. The question of transnationality’s relevance for research into women in the industry was the primary focus, but the workshop was also a starting place for discussing the participants’ experience of how to research women in the industry. Issues of inventive study, new networking, viral libraries, funding, film preservation, and film access (such as copyright, archival legitimacy, theatrical screenings, DVD creation, and internet streaming) were addressed among archivists, librarians, curators, programmers, scholars, preservationists, and researchers from Europe, Asia, and the United States (see dossier for full list), in order to cross-fertilize current work on the subject.
Group effort was the secondary theme of the conference, and its organizer, Christine Gledhill, sets the case for her ambitious project designed (under the aegis of Women’s Film History International [WFHI]) to connect many such “women in film” enterprises and to open the dialogue. As such, the formality, informality, academic argument, and conversational tone of the dossier’s short essays—by Jane M. Gaines, Bryony Dixon, Monica Dall’Asta, Emma Sandon, Mark Garrett Cooper, Elaine Burrows, and Rosanna Maule—impart a flavor of a work in progress that definitely reflects the spirit of the conference.
These colloquies are important not only for the discussion but so that women and men, from different generations, can agree that these researches are vital. Generations must persuade each other that what they bring to the table matters—be it first-hand knowledge, different kinds of experience, opinions, loves, hates, discoveries, ideas, or contradictions. Through this dialogue, new strategies about databases, websites, research methods, and, as is obvious in this dossier, new points of view are mingled with forgotten names or seemingly trivial information. These tiny, tirelessly searched for, open-mindedly honored details become huge mountains of material, which, as Jane M. Gaines vigorously promotes, can (and does) change the canon at any moment.
Another cooperative dialogue should be underscored—found in the preservation of film itself. Library of Congress curator and preservationist Kim Tomadjoglou, whose talk is not included here (as it was extemporized from a PowerPoint presentation), has spoken convincingly on film preservation’s unique alliances. This process, she states, involves not only a lab technician, whose expertise is grounded in tiny detail (that a dot on celluloid can indicate the climate and season in which an old print was struck), but also a film scholar, whose knowledge is crucial to place these tiny details into context (determining the year, the studio, and related issues), and an expert who knows both these subjects and takes a curatorial role (are there other prints? is there a negative? do other international archives have variant elements? and on and on). These talks often take place in the lab while laboriously examining the film, and it is these collaborators who will create the film’s final output.
Three essays focus on myths about women in film (onscreen or off) and how, by breaking down the generally accepted story into specific details, an entirely new version, closer to reality, emerges. History has distorted the careers of powerful women of the silent period, such as the inventive director Lois Weber; in “‘Exit Flapper, Enter Woman,’ or Lois Weber in Jazz Age Hollywood,” Shelley Stamp, who is writing a comprehensive Weber biography (long overdue, since Anthony Slide’s very important but short book on Weber is nearly fifteen years old), looks at the director’s breakdown in the 1930s. This breakdown, which followed a divorce, has always been viewed as hastening the end of her career. After in-depth research, never before published, Stamp argues that the case was quite the opposite: Weber continued to work and to agitate against the growing domination of corporate control. Anne Morey, in “A New Eroticism or Merely a New Woman? Cecil B. DeMille’s Adaptation of Alice Duer Miller’s Manslaughter,” looks at how the studio distorted the work of the engaging popular novelist and screenwriter Alice Duer Miller by ensuring that the heroine’s sexual confidence in Miller’s novel shift to alienation in the screenplay. But, Morey argues, the film also can be read as showing that this split reveals some of the complex, contradictory subtleties in the New Woman’s sexual identity. In “Toward the Development of a Modern ‘Impressionist’ Cinema: Germaine Dulac’s La Belle Dame sans merci (1921) and the Deconstruction of the Femme Fatale Archetype,” Tami Williams explores how Germaine Dulac used distortion radically when she distorted the classic character of the femme fatale in her film La Belle Dame sans merci (FR, 1921), a film that delicately straddled the real and the symbolic in post–World War I France.
Finally, Constantine Verevis renders a provocative and detailed history of film theory as it evolved, creatively, intellectually, predictably, and unpredictably, in Australian film studies.