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Medium 9780253014078

4. In the Beginning Was Sound: Tarāng (Wave)

Laleen Jayamanne Indiana University Press ePub

Isaw Tarāng for the second time at the Australian Cinémathèque at QAGOMA during the 2006 APT with Jon Bywater, a critic from New Zealand who later sent me the above description expressing succinctly and perceptively the multiperspectival epic compositional logic of the film, what he calls the freedom to experience the action “from a range of positions with their own values . . . intact,” after having seen it just once. I have begun to appreciate these random conversations and exchanges that films have a way of generating among strangers, especially immediately after screenings. It is as though the energy generated by films reaches out toward anyone just glancing at a stranger, activating a desire to speak of what one has heard and seen and felt, especially in a cinémathèque milieu, and in this instance enhanced by the intensity and joy of the APT. As Theo Angelopoulos once said, film can create a community of two.

Tarāng is Shahani’s second film and was over ten years in the making, due in part to funding problems related to Satyajit Ray’s condemnation of Māyā darpan as an un-Indian film.1 It was also the work done after Shahani’s cross-cultural study of the epic form on a Homi Bhabha scholarship both in India and in Europe. The film is shot in Cinemascope, which enhances the screen with the greater compositional freedom he had internalized from his study of the epic form of theater in Kerala called Kutiyattam. Shahani saw that this mode of performance continually radiated energy from one center of the body to another, with the focus of attention shifting in a centrifugal rather than a centripetal direction. He observed how the frontally staged mise-en-scène, with the elaborately dressed and masked performers, who did not move spatially much at all, was nevertheless part of an intensive, mobile choreography activated by drum beats, song, flickering flames from large oil lamps placed close to the performers, and gestural work of face and hands narrating and expressing the epic drama. These material forces activated wave-like emanations of intensive energy.2 Shahani drew cinematic sustenance from this ancient theatrical mode of centrifugal intensive mobility, which would enable him to work toward strategies of undermining the centering principle inherent in the linear perspectival bias of the lens in constructing space, time, and emotion. He activates this potential in the composition of his mise-en-scène by flattening the image (making it frieze-like) with the lateral alignment of Cinemascope. So, contrary to the usual historical claim made for Cinemascope as offering greater realism of scale and depth, Tarāng presents an image upfront that activates a kind of impulse to observe the visual field as a surface, making one aware of turning one’s neck to see and make sense of the spatial relations of a scene (as though one were walking in the caves of Ajanta looking at the protocinematic Buddhist iconography) when viewed on the big cinematic screen. The image thereby becomes a legible and readable surface, not because it is essentially language-like, though the epic signs are indeed familiar and accessible in their over-coding to those within the culture. What Shahani then does with these excessively familiar epic signs is create a transaction or exchange of sorts on values set by ethico-aesthetic imperatives rather than on the terms set by capital and its monetary equivalence, which functions as the “obverse of the film image,” its most “intimate enemy.” Tarāng refuses to editorialize for the viewer, which I think is the “freedom” that Bywater referred to in the opening quotation. Shahani finds his freedom, I imagine, by forging his own descriptive elaborations on the thick traditions of which he is an heir. Elaboration, thought of as modulation, which implies difference and repetition in ornamentation, is a dense idea in Shahani’s modern aesthetic practice. This will be taken up in the following chapters in relation to the traditional art forms he works with in elaborating his modern iconic and even iconoclastic conception of the human figure/actor and the ideas of sequence and rhythm as well.

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Medium 9780861966608

Chapter 2 Cosmopolitans and Conquistadors: Empires, Nations and Networks

NoContributor John Libbey Publishing ePub

Surveying the thickening network of sea routes and maritime traffic in 1795, the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that binding “distant parts of the world” ever more tightly together through trade and exchange laid the basis for a new world order founded on mutual respect and hospitality to strangers. He imagined people everywhere ceasing to be subjects, governed by powers over which they had no control, and becoming citizens with the right to participate fully in social and political life and help shape its future forms. At the same time, he was acutely aware that this possibility was being comprehensively undermined by “the actions of the civilised and especially the commercial states of our part of the world” who “under the pretence of establishing economic undertakings … suppress the natives” and impose “injustice … carried to terrifying lengths” (Kant on the Web, 2005).

This central opposition between cosmopolitans and conquistadors, between a world system based on open flows, equality of respect and creative collisions and one organised around asymmetric power and domination, continues to structure contemporary debate. On the one side stand those who present contemporary globalisation primarily as a system of cultural exchange. They see new spaces for popular action, novel hybrid forms of expression, and emerging cosmopolitan tastes and styles. Facing them stand those who see a new economic “empire of capital” emerging (Wood, 2003), dedicated to securing key resources, dominating major world markets and colonising imaginative horizons. Advocates of the first position point to the accelerating global flows of people, ideas, and cultural products and the increasingly heterodox cultural landscapes of the world’s major cities. Proponents of the second view emphasise the strategies of domination pursued by the new transnational capitalist class who command the leading global multinational companies, administer the global trading regime, and support pre-emptive strikes against “unfriendly” and “rogue” regimes (Sklair, 2001).

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Medium 9780253355560

6: How can we Differentiate among Documentaries? Categories, Models, and the Expository and Poetic Modes of Documentary Film

Bill Nichols Indiana University Press ePub

6    How Can We Differentiate among Documentaries? Categories, Models, and the Expository and Poetic Modes of Documentary Film


In Chapter 1 we defined documentary as a form of cinema that speaks to us about actual situations and events. It involves real people (social actors) who present themselves to us in stories that convey a plausible proposal about or perspective on the lives, situations, and events portrayed. The distinct point of view of the filmmaker shapes this story into a proposal or perspective on the historical world directly, adhering to known facts, rather than creating a fictional allegory.

Helpful though this definition is for documentaries in general, it scarcely begins to distinguish different types of documentary. Many documentaries violate any specific definition and mockumentaries deliberately blur the border zone between fiction and documentary in any case. There are no laws and few genuine rules when it comes to creative expression. What actually counts as a documentary remains fluid, open to debate across institutions, filmmakers, audiences, and the films themselves. Institutions, from television channels to foundations that support specific types of documentary film; filmmakers, from the extraverted Michael Moore to the self-effacing D. A. Pennebaker; films, from the searing Night and Fog (1955) to the hilarious Super Size Me (2004); and audience expectations that range from “show me the truth” to “entertain me” all co-exist. Favored styles come and go. Institutional opportunities and constraints, technological innovations, creative inspiration, and evolving audience expectations constantly change the landscape of what counts as a documentary and what constitutes its horizon of possibility.

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Medium 9780253010773

2 Live from New York!

Ron Becker Indiana University Press ePub


“Live from New York … it’s Saturday night!” is the shouted phrase that has transitioned Saturday Night Live viewers from opening sketch to title sequence for more than thirty-five years. It signals the end of a closed fictional moment and initiates direct address, reflexivity, and the spontaneity of liveness, while also highlighting the show’s connection to New York City, which is underscored by images of the city’s street life at night (diners, taxis, shops, newsstands, bridges, parks, bars, etc.) that run during the title sequence.

But these moments are not SNL’s only references to the city, of course. In everything from the setting of sketches, the abundance of New York–centric jokes and references, and the casting of the hosts (Mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani both hosted the show while in office), the city has always loomed large. And yet, one of the most intriguing references to New York is both intertextual and historical: New York’s former position as the center of television production in the 1940s and ’50s and, more specifically, the live variety and sketch comedy shows produced there during that period. This chapter will explore the ways that SNL refers to and constructs a sense of New York and urban night life through textual references, casting, and setting as well as through its historical relationship to the city and live performance (variety shows, night club comedy, vaudeville, legitimate theater, and radio and television production pre-1960) and the impact that those references had on the program’s reception during its first years on the air. By focusing largely on the mid-1970s, a time when both the city and NBC were struggling, we can see how SNL’s New York backdrop and sensibility were deployed to create a space where New York, television comedy, and NBC were all subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) rebranded, pleasing critics and city officials alike.

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Medium 9781864620542

Architectonics of Seeing: Architecture as Moving Images

John Libbey Publishing ePub

Space is never empty;
it always embodies a meaning
– Henri Lefebvre1

Sergei Eisenstein seems to have believed that one of the ancestors of cinema was architecture. The ancient Greeks, he writes, ‘have left us the most perfect examples of shot design … Acropolis of Athens could just as well be called the … most ancient [of] films’.2 Eisenstein’s thoughts can be found in ‘Montage and Architecture’, an essay written towards the end of the 1930s. For the soviet filmmaker the buildings on the Acropolis were first and foremost a montage of carefully enframed spatial views. The Parthenon, for example, faces the spectator obliquely, he notes, just like a calculated shot, thus becoming even more picturesque. According to Eisenstein, the origins of cinema – or more precisely, cinematic perception – were ancient architecture, since, as he puts it, ‘it is hard to imagine a montage sequence … more subtly composed, shot by shot, than the one which our legs create by walking among the buildings of the Acropolis’.3

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Medium 9780253010407

3 The Space Is the Place

Kathy Sloane Indiana University Press ePub

If you came to San Francisco, there was
nowhere else to go. And the amazing
thing, the paradox of the whole thing,
is that the club and what went on in
that club [existed] next door to a police
station. This, of course, is big. This
should be on page 1: “The Keystone
Korner opposite the Keystone Kops.”

Dave Liebman

George Cables

God, the music was fantastic. I loved playing there because I could hear. The sound was great, the vibe was great, the music was live. Some rooms you play and you hear the note: pssssst. It sort of disappears or just comes to a thud, boomp, and that’s it. But in Keystone, it was live; the sound reverberated, and you could hear the piano.

David Williams

Next to the Village Vanguard in New York, Keystone Korner was one of my favorite or maybe the favorite room for sound, for the bass. I like to hear it a certain way. And some rooms just have no personality. I’ll spend all night fiddling with the amplifier. Some rooms make the bass sound out of tune. It would be in tune but the intonation would be off, and I’d be all night trying to tune the bass. So much of what we do is about the sound. It’s all about the sound.

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Medium 9780861966738

The Early Life of Walt Disney and the Beginnings of the Disney Studio, 1901–1937

Amy M. Davis John Libbey Publishing ePub


The early years in the life of Walt Disney and the start of his studio are the subject of a high degree of myth and misunderstanding, much of it perpetuated by Walt himself. Late twentieth century folk wisdom on the subject maintains that Walt was not only not an artist, but also that he possessed no artistic ability himself and merely took credit for the artistry of his studio employees. One biography of Walt paints the picture of a man who was mentally ill in more ways than one (obsessive compulsive, megalomaniac, and paedophile are just a few of the accusations levelled104), while others prefer to paint an image of a kindly, loveable, albeit somewhat complex man, again at the expense of a balanced picture.105 But who was Walt Disney, how much was he involved in the output of the studio which bears his name, and what influence over Disney films did he have and does he continue to have? What was and is Walt Disney’s place in American popular culture, and how was that place achieved? While these questions and others will be addressed in the next few chapters, the roots of the answers will be discussed here in Chapter two. Walt Disney’s childhood, youth, and early professional years will be analysed in light of vast amounts of both information and misinformation which abound on the subject, and the founding of the Disney studio will be examined in conjunction with the biographical elements of this chapter since, in many ways, the story of Walt Disney’s life during the 1920s and 1930s is very much the story of the early years of the Disney studio.

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Medium 9780861967094

Feeding and Entertaining the Poor: Salvation Army Lantern Exhibitions Combined with Food Distribution in Britain and Germany

Ludwig VoglBienek John Libbey Publishing ePub

Cover of the German Kriegsruf, 21 January 1905, with photograph of a lantern exhibition with food distribution.

“Well, the Emperor can’t have enjoyed his meal more than us today!” said a poor man in praise of a feast the Salvation Army organised in 1906 in Spandau near Berlin. On the occasion of the imperial couple’s silver wedding, 60 needy people were offered a meal and, among other items, the projection of lantern slides.1

The Salvation Army is the best-known among a wide range of British welfare organisations that, around the start of the 20th century, used projection media for poor relief.2 While some events aimed at fundraising, many were meant to directly help poor people, for instance lantern exhibitions within food distributions. This context is a particularly interesting example for direct poor relief measures because the multi-sensory experience of a lantern entertainment was complemented by a haptic impression – the sense of taste.

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Medium 9780861967179

Colour Plates

James W Castellan John Libbey Publishing ePub

Fig. 1. Uncle Sam filming world leaders. An injured Dove of Peace looks on. Poster © 1914, New Electro Corporation. [Courtesy Library of Congress.]

Fig. 2a. Picture postcard sent by Albert Dawson to a friend in Vincennes. His handwritten note says: “Antwerp last week. Through Belgium in a military auto.” Dawson is in the back seat at the right. Dated Berlin, 24 February 1915. [Private collection of the authors.]

Fig. 2b. Reverse side of Dawson’s picture postcard, February 1915.

Fig. 3. On the Firing Line with the Germans poster. The Thiel Theatre in Marshfield, Wisconsin, only opened in April of 1916. In 1890, two-thirds of the townspeople were of German ancestry and one of the two local newspapers, Die Demokrat, was published in German. There was much pro-German feeling during the World War. [Courtesy Hershenson-Allen Archive (eMoviePoster.com).]

Fig. 4. The Charge of the Light Brigades, 1916. Some American movie companies advertised their war films in a highly misleading way. Reproduction Motion Picture News, 25 March 1916.

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Medium 9780861967025


Edited by Martin Loiperdinger John Libbey Publishing ePub
Medium 9780253021359

Appendix A The Reemergence of Oscar Micheaux: A Timeline and Bibliographic Essay

Pearl Bowser Indiana University Press ePub


The current groundswell of interest in Oscar Micheaux began with the 1969 publication in Negro Digest of an article by Thomas Cripps that characterizes Micheaux as “by far the most famous, and best, of the black silent filmmakers.”1 Cripps’s early appreciative position regarding the value of Micheaux’s silent films was courageous, since it was diametrically opposed to a prevailing disdain for Micheaux expressed by a number of Cripps’s respected colleagues at Morgan State University.2

Micheaux’s first and third novels were reprinted;3 so was Peter Noble’s The Negro in Films, an obscure book on black cinema that was first published in 1948.4

The legend of Oscar Micheaux, which had persisted in parts of the black community since Micheaux’s time, began to emerge into wider streams of American culture in 1970. Between March 24 and May 14 of that year, the Jewish Museum in Manhattan screened a program of films by black producers, curated by black cinema activists Pearl Bowser, Charles Hobson, and others. This was repeated a few months later at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Penelope Gilliatt published, in The New Yorker, a two-column notice of the Jewish Museum’s press screening of Micheaux’s film God’s Step Children;5 and Thomas Cripps published a scholarly article that included discussion of Paul Robeson’s role in Micheaux’s film Body and Soul. Bowser’s film programs and her continuing activism also signify the presence of an unbroken current of interest in black-produced cinema in the African-American community, a current that began virtually with the advent of movies and erupted into history with the black response to the release of The Birth of a Nation in 1915.

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Medium 9781864620009

An analysis of Susan Pitt’s Asparagus and Joanna Priestley’s All My Relations

Edited by Jayne Pilling John Libbey Publishing ePub


To describe the woman’s voice in contemporary animation requires a brief historical note on the representation of women in animation as well as their lack of participation in the planning and execution of these works. In addition, we must look to the role the feminist movement has played in both understanding and articulating the place of women in art in general – how at this point we can say the movement has re-politicised art; in this case, film.

To address these issues I wish to refer to two animations: Asparagus by Suzan Pitt and All My Relations by Joanna Priestley. While we can debate the definitions of feminist theory and female imagery, I do not think we will deny the issues, concerns, nor subject matter of these two films. I have chosen these two films, one which uses language, one which does not, because I am particularly interested in the iconographic qualities of animation in a field where the ruling ideologies of language have, in many cases, reduced or limited critical discourse by narrowly inscribing meaning.

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Medium 9780253018472

1 Joseph Campana and Theodore Bale · “Pawning, Picking, Storing, Hoarding: Archiving America on Reality Television”

JONATHAN PAUL EBURNE Indiana University Press ePub

As much as and more than a thing of the past, before such a thing, the archive should call into question the coming of the future.





Joseph Campana and Theodore Bale

What kind of archive is America? Let’s ask the unforgettable Palm Apodaca (Helena Kallianiotes) in Bob Rafelson and Carole Eastman’s 1970 classic film Five Easy Pieces, in the midst of which two mismatched lovers (played by Jack Nicholson and Karen Black) on a road trip pick up a stranded lesbian couple (played by Kallianiotes and Toni Basil). As the lesbian couple unloads a heap of luggage and a conspicuous sewing machine, they complain about their unreliable car, a recent purchase. They are headed to Alaska, they reluctantly admit, which they imagine as a clean place free of garbage. Their conversation in the car provokes Apodaca’s diatribe on the state of the Union: “I had to leave this place because I got depressed seeing all the crap. The thing is, they’re making more crap.… I’m seeing more filth. A lot of filth.”

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Medium 9780861966899

Chapter 21 Daniel Sánchaz Salas, Spanish lecturers and their relations with the national

Richard Abel John Libbey Publishing ePub

This essay addresses the question of how the concept of the national provides a context for the work of the Spanish lecturer in early cinema. As is well known, previous studies have always stressed that the film lecturer was responsible for mediating between the screen and viewers, for whom, at least in the beginning, moving pictures were something strange.1 Also we should not forget that he was dealing with a specific public, determined not only by the period of time, but also by the location. Generally, histories of early cinema have analysed film lecturing from a local perspective. In the case of itinerant exhibitors, however, the lecturer often was not part of the group of people accompanying the film show, but rather a different person at each venue, chosen from among the inhabitants of the various locales in which the film show was presented. This recurring circumstance increased the likelihood that the lecturer, in mediating the show, tended to make references to the local context he shared with the audience.

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Medium 9780861966592

Chapter XI The Provisional Nature of the Averyan Universe

Floriane Place-Verghnes John Libbey Publishing ePub

The uniqueness of Tex Avery’s comic language is tightly linked to the historical and sociological circumstances of his time. Characters, objects, or settings, it seems that nothing in the Averyan universe can claim to keep a definite shape once and for all; everything is likely to undergo the most incredible distortions.

Tex, more than any other director, was fascinated by the limitless possible extensions of the medium. He simply ignored all the physical laws of the universe, with, perhaps, an occasional nod to the law of gravity.218

What is valid for the physical nature of things finds a parallel in socio-cultural references. In the same way the axiological theme (good vs. evil) at stake in Tex Avery’s cartoons is actually inherited from the concept of survival cherished by a generation who lived in “the perpetual fear of the following day”, the provisional – physical – nature of the Averyan universe may be read as a metaphor for a general lack of safety, sociologically, politically, or economically speaking.

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