Film Studies

A Life of Barbara Stanwyck by Victoria Wilson & Barbara Stanwyck by Andrew Klevan

April 2014, no. 360

How many words does it take to write a life (or actually half a life) of movie star Barbara Stanwyck? Admittedly, she had a long career – she started in a revue chorus in 1921 at the age of fourteen and played in her last episode of the television series The Colbys in 1987 at the age of eighty – but 1044 pages that take us only to 1940? As Liz Smith quipp ...

Ben McCann’s Ripping Open the Set begins with four epigraphs, observations of various kinds. They come from American figures – Frank Capra, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Nathanael West – and they express a range of notions, none of them particularly positive, about the place of design in cinema. McCann – senior lecturer in French at the ...

Although he used screenwriters, Alfred Hitchcock was a model auteur and engineeredhis films meticulously. ‘Casting and performance, mise-en-scène, lighting, camera angle, construction of setting, and music must all be woven into the director’s “action” as he makes a scene,’ remarks Murray Pomerance in his study of Hitchcock’s American ...

As film critics go, Geoffrey O’Brien is a lover, not a fighter: unconcerned with starting quarrels or settling scores, he simply aims to share his pleasure in what he has seen. Perhaps his remarkably good temper stems from the fact that he is not a full-time critic, but an example of that nearly extinct species, the all-round man of letters. He is editor-in-chief of the Library Of America series, and oversaw the latest edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations; he has published six collections of poetry, along with books on pop music, hard-boiled fiction, and the history of Times Square.

... (read more)

Reflections upon Melbourne’s reputation as a world cultural capital often sideline film-making, but the relationship is long and fruitful. The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), filmed on the former Charterisville Estate in Heidelberg, is history’s first feature film. The first Australian entry in this series of global guides highlights the centrality of location to emotional spaces and film narrative. Melbourne-set films are defined by a ‘dispersed and piecemeal psycho-geography of the city’. The guide loosely groups forty-six films into six eras, providing snapshots of pivotal locations and scene-setting stills, from the dusty dystopian carnage of Mad Max (1979) to the subterranean blues of the brutal Romper Stomper (1992) opening sequence.

... (read more)

Cinema by Alain Badiou, translated by Susan Spitzer

December 2013–January 2014, no. 357

In recent years, the work of French philosopher Alain Badiou has been discussed with increasing regularity as part of an academic dialogue between cinema studies and philosophy that is often called ‘film-philosophy’. His various writings on cinema were for a long time scattered among many different sources, the majority untranslated. With its original 2010 French version and now this English translation, Cinema has finally changed all that. Containing thirty-one different pieces, all but five appearing in English for the first time, this important book offers a unique contemporary philosopher’s rich, varied, yet always coherent and evolving response to cinema spanning seven decades.

... (read more)

Stranger by the Lake is set entirely within the perimeters of a cruising ground for men by the shores of a lake in France. There unfolds a perfectly simple temporal conceit in which the cruiser, a handsome thirty-something everyman called Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), arrives each summer day, parks his car, and walks down to the pebbled beach by the lake’s edge. That this is a narrative of repetitions becomes clear the third or fourth time we see the sunny establishing shot of the makeshift carpark where Franck parks his Renault. His routine documents almost ethnographically what happens at the cruising ground: he walks down to the beach, greets some acquaintances, takes off his clothes, swims, sunbakes, waits, rummages around in the scrub for sex, then does it all again.

... (read more)

Nevil Shute’s apocalyptic 1957 novel On The Beach and Stanley Kramer’s 1959 movie adaptation hold a continued fascination, particularly for Melburnians – even if we have grown weary of the famous quip, attributed to Ava Gardner, about the city being the ideal place to film the end of the world. Largely setting aside such parochial concerns, Lawren ...

The last twelve months have seen some notable film reworkings of classic literary texts, with Anna Karenina set in a theatre, a black Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and a gorgeous Much Ado About Nothing enacted in monochrome contemporary California. Now we have a compelling version of Henry James’s novel What Maisie Knew (1897), ...

Anthology films are expected to be uneven; in a way, the unevenness is the point. With no less than eighteen directors on board, this adaptation of Tim Winton’s short story collection The Turning (2004) resembles an epic round of the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, in which players separately draw parts of a human figure on a sheet of paper which is ...