Brian R. Jacobson
Infrastructural Affinity: Film Technology and the Built Environment in New York circa 1900
Why Look at Dead Animals?
Interview with Cecile Starr
The “spectator’s imagination filled the atmosphere with electricity.” This evocative phrase could apply to much of cinema, if not art, but it particularly suits the work in Framework 57.1, illustrating, as it does, the relationship between art and the perception of art. The perception of art is part of art’s conception, part of its formation.
The issue’s three pieces—Brian R. Jacobson’s essay “Instructural Affinity: Film Technology and the Built Environment in New York circa 1900,” Sarah O’Brien’s essay “Why Look at Dead Animals?,” and Deane Williams’s interview with Cecile Starr–have interesting and unexpected connections. All three detail, articulately and exuberantly, ways in which a person’s experience of film becomes part of film’s influence on culture. Jacobson argues that the American emerging film industry, on the East Coast, and the rising and falling urban New York cityscape, in the turn of the twentieth century, had an innate symbiosis, something he terms “instructural affinity,” which in influenced constructions of both of these material and electric architectures. Cecile Starr, not as well known as she should be because she was a vital force in cinema, once said, “I can’t imagine how empty my life would have been without film.” Williams’s long interview covers many aspects of her remarkable, proactive life, which spanned ninety-two years. In those years she worked for the March of Time; taught cinema studies at Columbia University; promoted and restored the work of experimental filmmakers like Mary Ellen Bute, Hans Richter, and Oskar Fischinger; launched a women’s film collective; and much more. O’Brien shows how people absorb tropes to deal with their lives, creating, in turn, subliminal and lasting cultural tropes. Jumping off from John Berger’s essay “Why Look at Animals?,” O’Brien takes on the complex subject of “dead animals,” arguing that people use these images, in an industry she dubs “slaughter cinema,” to create a self image that hides uncomfortable information.
– Drake Stutesman
 The New York Times, April 24,1896. Quoted in Brian R. Jacobson, “Instructural Affinity: Film Technology and the Built Environment in New York circa 1900,” in this issue.
When the Movie is Better than the Book: Fight Club, Consumption, and Vital Signs
Michelle Phillips Buchberger
The Film That Almost Was: John Fowles's "The Black Thumb" and his Collaboration with David Tringham
Orpheus of Nitrate: The Emergence of Bill Morrison
Jean-Louis Commolli's Secret Life as a Free Jazz Critic/ Thinking Free Jazz as an Avant-Garde of the Masses
Criminalizing Dissent: Western State Repression, Video Activism, And Counter-Summit Protests
Situate. This is a focus in Framework vol. 57, no. 2, as each author concentrates on newly situating their subjects. Besides the topics themselves—jazz, French film criticism, video history, adaptations, and experimental cinema—the writers’ examination of small details in these subjects that are not typically examined is fascinating. The writers ask questions: How are these facts and ideas situated in our culture, and why would we look at them? How do they fit into a longer view? Teresa Heffernan’s “When the Movie Is Better Than the Book: Fight Club, Consumption, and Vital Signs” examines the film Fight Club as “better than the book” and digs into reasons that go beyond a comparison of content, positing that reasons answers lie in why “origins and sources . . . should continue to haunt adaptation theory.” In “The Film That Almost Was: John Fowles’s ‘The Black Thumb’ and His Collaboration with David Tringham,” also about novel-film adaptation, Michelle Phillips Buchberger links the screen work of novelist John Fowles, whose writing dominated some important films of the 1960s and 1980s, to his struggles with the studio machine. Matthias Mushinski, in his detailed essay, “Jean-Louis Comolli’s Secret Life as a Free Jazz Critic/Thinking Free Jazz as an Avant-Garde of the Masses,” uncovers jazz influences in 1950s French film criticism. Christopher Robé’s “Criminalizing Dissent: Western State Repression, Video Activism, and Counter-Summit Protests” reveals an involved and persistent history of video activism, through an analysis of specific moments, which, he argues, have a key importance and are precursors to major movements today, such as Black Lives Matter. Scott MacDonald’s interview with the “Orpheus of Nitrate,” Bill Morrison, looks closely at the lesser-known world of Morrison’s filmmaking origins, discussing how Morrison developed his ability to take a tiny detail in celluloid footage and resituate it, allowing the viewer to see it differently.
– Drake Stutesman