Shadow Lives: Josephine Baker and the Body of Cinema
Two Degrees of Separation: Xhanfise Keko and the Albanian Children’s Film
“The Gland School”: Gertrude Atherton and the Two Black Oxen
Architects on Film: Architects on the Frame
Diane Lewis, Guest Editor
Good Morning, Babylon: The Cathedral Is a Movie
The Epic Frame
Catherine Ann Somerville Venart
Langsamkeit/Slowness: Meditating on the Frame: Blind Spots and the Construction of Erotic Space in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia
Black and White Equals Gray
Medianeras/Sidewalls: A Film by Gustavo Taretto
Out of Body Experience
Ole W. Fischer
Silenzio! Fade Out into Blue: Notes on the Visual Presence of Absence in the Closure Frame of Le mépris
Kiss Me Deadly
New perceptions of old material is the theme that runs throughout this issue. The first three essays focus on three unique women—the iconic performer and American expatriate, Josephine Baker; the 1960s Albanian filmmaker, Xhanfise Keko; and 1920s American screenwriter, Gertrude Atherton. In Shadow Lives: Josephine Baker and the Body of Cinema, Katherine Groo argues that Baker’s longest films—La Sirène des tropiques (Henri Étiévant and Mario Nalpas, FR, 1927), Zou Zou (Marc Allégret, FR, 1934), and Princesse Tam-Tam(Edmond Gréville, FR, 1935)—reflect far more about Baker’s own intentions to “muddle the distinctions between index and icon, reality and representation, subject and screen” than has been considered previously. Bruce Williams’ essay, Two Degrees of Separation: Xhanfise Keko and the Albanian Children’s Film, charts the tricky political world, from the 1950s through the 1980s, in which Keko made her films, in two incarnations—one as well-trained citizen for the state and one as a creative director who innovatively constructed her films. Anne Morey, in “The Gland School”: Gertrude Atherton and the Two Black Oxen, uncovers the strategies that Gertrude Atherton, the 1920s novelist and screenwriter, used to convey women’s desire.
In the dossier, Architects on Film: Architects on the Frame, guest edited by Diane Lewis, ten architects were asked to examine a single film still and to write about it in a single page in whatever manner they chose. Each piece, with a personal, almost dreamy, quality, is distinct. At times the still is discussed on its own; at times ￼supporting images are used. Some pieces have a journal-like tone, others seem like a reflection, others are meditative, and others an exegesis. Each is its own “house.”
The essays look at an architectural element in a film and the film itself. This appears as the wall in Soy Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov, CU/SU, 1964), the beach house in Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, US, 1955), the cathedral implicit in the Hollywood metaphor of the epic as cathedral in Good Morning, Babylon (Paolo Taviani & Vittorio Taviani, FR, 1987), the spatiality in Nostalgia (Andrei Tarkovsky, IT/SU, 1983), the blurry horizon of Le mépris/Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, FR/IT, 1963), the slice of a building and slice of personal separation in Medianeras/Sidewalls (Gustavo Taretto, AR/ES/DE, 2011), the gray and white tone of the day inside a church in Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman, SE, 1963) the relationship in 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, US/UK, 1968) of cold, infinite outer space to earthly living space and more. Many of these cinematic details have been noted often by cinephiles but here these details are seen as pieces of a larger world frame where, arguably, film is as organic to our societies, as buildings are.
Judith Mara Gutman
Early Cinema in South Asia: The Problem of the Archive
Neepa Majumdar, Guest Editor
Film Propaganda: Triumph of the Will as a Case Study
Early Cinema in South Asia: The Place of Technology
in Narratives of Its Emergence
Melodrama as Method
On Scavenging and Salvaging: NFAI and Early Indian Cinema
Cinema as Timepiece: Critical Perspectives on The Clock
Catherine Russell, Guest Editor
Around The Clock: Museum and Market
Firing at the Clocks: Cinema, Sampling
and the Cultural Logic of the Late Capitalist Artwork
The Clock: Gesture and Cinematic Replaying
Archival Cinephilia in The Clock
Conversations on the Avant-Doc: Scott MacDonald Interviews
with J.P. Sniadecki, Stephanie Spray and Véréna Paravel
The past—what is it? L. P. Hartley, in The Go-Between, sees it as distant and incomprehensible: “The past is another country. They do things differently there.” William Faulkner, in Requiem for a Nun, sees it as alive and organic: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
This issue discusses time in similar terms—as contradictory, distant, close, living, unknown. Neepa Majumdar guest edits the dossier “Early Cinema in South Asia: The Problem of the Archive,” on the difficulties of searching and grasping the remote and/or undocumented past. In her essay “What is ‘Early’ Cinema?,” she sets a vibrant and creative frame through which to look at these endeavors:
What I’ve found in actual practice is that established theoretical frameworks demand constant retooling or even dismantling in response to the realities on the ground, and this is where there are exciting new challenges to film studies as a field.
Her posit—that the need to adjust the established framework can be the jumpstart to seeing all material diff erently—strikes the point of how important it is to view past decades with an open eye and, in any analysis, to allow for what can’t be known. Th is perspective isn’t only about the far past. Even a relatively familiar film, for example an American film made in 1972 such as Superfly (Gordon Parks Jr., US), is elusive because 1972 will never have an exact translation to present times. The past of 1972 is both ever present in today’s life and is a place where things are done diff erently. A political stance in 1972, a use of a color in 1972, or a physical feature in 1972 is so steeped in the world of 1972—its milieu and its relationship with the past—that a scholar from 2013 can’t recognize it fully or give it true context.
Is the past just an “archive,” or is it a living space, an “undeclared world,” as Judith Gutman, in “Culture Counts,” states it? Her 1982 work on nineteenthcentury Indian photographic images, Through Indian Eyes, argued that cultural forms are defined by the social perception of space and time from which they emerge. In this issue, her think-piece examines contemporary Indian work and the forceful energy embedded in its relationship to the past.
The dossier, “Cinema as Timepiece: Critical Perspectives on The Clock,” guest edited by Catherine Russell, about Christian Marclay’s The Clock, the popular, complex 24-hour loop film, critically places ideas of time as a taxonomy and art as part of that taxonomy in the larger arena of time as personal. The Clock, with its mechanization on the one hand and its personalization on the other, in this dossier becomes a place to examine aspects of how time can be studied.
The final section, Scott MacDonald’s conversations with the Sensory Ethnography Laboratory filmmakers Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, J. P. Sniadecki, Stephanie Spray, and Véréna Paravel, are about the Avant-Doc, or the avant-garde documentary form, and its break with old paradigms. The long interview, with its in-depth details, its subjective and shift ing conversational voice, its repetitions, its easy, adamant opinion, its uncertainty and its sureness, is also a break with a paradigm. To read through it becomes a thought process that argues ideas much as an analysis in an essay’s detailed argument does.
Each of these subjects can throw light on the others. Each is experimental in its own way. The archive (be it of film outtakes, scant footage, or everyday life) is in an experimental state that is ever alive, static, impoverished, stuffed, manipulated, monumental, or unclassifiable. Its open-minded researcher, examining its contents, is also an experimenting work in progress.