All posts filed under: Featured

“Nasty women” hitting the silent screen at Le Giornate Del Cinema Muto 2017

(title image: Rosalie et Léontine vont au théâtre, Roméo Bosetti, 1911) For its 36th edition last October, the Pordenone Silent Film Festival (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2017) dedicated four programs and one feature to the “nasty women” of the silent screen. Having decided to embrace the much-debated term since it was first used by then candidate, now US president, Donald Trump, curators Maggie Hennefeld and Laura Horak wanted their program to be a tribute to what became a feminist rallying cry across the United-States and abroad: “Nasty Women.” Horak and Hennefeld, both responsible for challenging publications on gender and queer studies and early cinema,1 had a simple vision in curating this program: what about women directing and acting in the early years of motion pictures? The rage and enthusiasm provoked by the term “nasty women” throughout the presidential campaign and after the election almost worked as a welcomed pretext in the compilation of a program recalling how women used to destabilize the film frame, quite literally, as the introduction of the program suggests: Long before …

The Branded Future: Brand-Placement Implications for Present Viewers and Future Narratives

by Barbara D. Ferguson In Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Minority Report, set in the year 2053, the protagonist John Anderton is wrongly accused of murder and forced to flee his own law-enforcement colleagues. In a subway station where commuter crowds should offer anonymity, the advertisements lining every wall become dangers Anderton hadn’t considered. Floor-to-ceiling billboards for Lexus, American Express and Guinness scroll and flash with animated life, and, because retinal-scan identification has been integrated into marketing, the merest glance at an advertisement triggers a personalized appeal. As he enters the station, a woman’s voice assures him on behalf of Lexus, “The road you’re on, John Anderton, is the one less travelled.”1 “John Anderton,” hails a genial voice a few hurried steps further, “you could use a Guinness right about now!” The faster Anderton moves through the corridor, the more his name resounds from all directions in a cacophony of goods and services offered.2 The film’s plot progresses amid a sea of branding, with Lexus receiving the most prominent screen-time and -space, but with Aquafina, Nokia, Bulgari, …

Affecting Activist Art: Inside KillJoy’s Kastle, A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House

By Genevieve Flavelle Photo credit: Allyson Mitchell, Lesbian Rule, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist. On a warm fall evening in 2015 a lesbian feminist entity known as KillJoy opened her fang bearing mouth in the center of Los Angeles’s Plummer Park. Inviting audiences into her inner sanctum, the maligned matriarch elicited delight, horror, fear, sentimentality, laughter, and reverence for lesbian feminist herstories1 Viewers grouped together in line with friends, or perhaps friendly strangers, awaiting their turn to experience the novelty of a Lesbian Feminist Haunted House. Reaching the front of the line, visitors’ introduction to KillJoy’s Kastle was brusque as Valerie Solanas was back from the dead and working the door!2 Brandishing her infamous S.C.U.M. Manifesto, a ghoulish Solanas instructed groups that what they were about to experience would not be “part of the ordinary.” As a group was being informed about nudity and instructed not to take flash photography, I joined in time to be advised that the “KillJoy’s Kastle is best viewed by the light of your pussy—if you have one.” I quickly explained, as I …

“Your Bad Theory Helped a Killer Go Free”: Recession Anxiety, Surveillance Labor, and the Hauntology of the Digital in Sinister”

Written by John Roberts I. Introduction In a dimly lit home office, a writer gets to work: taking notes while screening home movies and hoping (needing desperately, in fact) to make sense of the footage somehow, to scrutinize the screen until it yields a meaningful, self-evident explanation of its visual contents. The writer is Ellison Oswalt, protagonist of Sinister (Derrickson, 2012), but this description, with slight modifications, could just as easily fit the (post-)cinematic spectator of Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2007), who examines that film’s home movies with the same level of investigatory intensity, and with similar outcomes: both will be fascinated and frightened by the images they see, and also be made palpably anxious by the evidentiary truths those images do and do not disclose. Shifting frames again, the description could apply as well to the spectator of Sinister (academic or otherwise), engaging in processes of narrative hypothesis-testing and thematic construction: a forensic construction of narrative that pieces together coherent meaning from a flow of audiovisual data in time. This essay explores how Sinister, in …

Ghosts are Real: Digital Spectatorship within Analog Space in Crimson Peak

Written By Patrick Brame The prologue of Guillermo Del Toro’s 2015 film Crimson Peak begins with a white screen fading in on the disheveled, distraught, and bloodied protagonist, Edith, proclaiming, “Ghosts are real… This much I know.” Del Toro presents to the audience Edith’s first interaction with a ghost with a flashback of Edith’s mother’s funeral. On a stormy night, as young Edith weeps in her bed, the audible tick tock of a clock abruptly stops, with the shot lingering down a dimly lit hallway. A translucent, gaseous woman in a black dress slowly approaches and crawls into bed with her daughter. Edith’s mother returns to warn her, “When the time comes, beware of Crimson Peak,” then disappears from the room. As the camera exits Edith’s bedroom, retreating backwards down the hallway, Edith’s voice-over claims, “It would be years before I again heard such a voice. Or understood its desperate warning. A warning from out of time. And one I came to understand only when it was too late.” The end of the prologue fades …

The Utopian Failure of Constant’s New Babylon

by Darren Jorgensen and Laetitia Wilson For a period of almost twenty years, artist and architect Constant Nieuwenhuys, known simply by the name ‘Constant’, held tight to a revolutionary vision of a new world and a whole new way of life. From 1956 to 1974, he drew and painted, made collages and lithographs, designed experimental maps and built maquettes of this vision in a speculative city called New Babylon.  It is an exemplary vision of both the aspirations and the failings of the utopianism of the so-called ‘long 1960s’, an extended decade of cultural and political turmoil in Western countries.1 Fredric Jameson’s well known essay on this period, “Periodizing the 60s,”  argues that the failure of historical actors of this period, such as the counter-culture and civil rights movements, to bring about substantial change to the structure of Western democracies was built into the historical situation itself.2 This essay turns to New Babylon, the subject of recent exhibitions in Madrid and the Hague, to argue that this argument can also be made of this project, …