Saturday, March 23, 2013

Project Proposal: Lights, Camera, Movie: A History of a Journal

This is a project proposal I have been thinking about for awhile. I put it together in 2011. I submitted it to various university as a potential postgraduate research project--Princeton, Rice--to a resounding tsunami of no interest at all (don't you think its sexy? cultural capital? sorry, none) though Warwick did admit me, without funding of course, to do another PhD in History (please sir can I have no more? I have no interest on doing yet another wasted degree in a discipline which, despite the fact that it is grounded in theory, can't seem to admit its dirty little secret to itself, that it is theoretical precisely because it is grounded in primary source materials) and so gave up because I can only take hitting my head against an unmoveable brick wall for so long. I don't think the project will happen at this point--I am a poor adjunct--but I do think it needs to be done by some aspiring and enterprising young Film Historian somewhere for the reasons outlined below even if several venerable bureaucracies of higher education didn't seem to find it or me "worthy" of their generous and beneficent patronage (he bows and gives obeisance...).

Why Movie?
The rise of auteurism in film criticism and in film studies was one of the fundamental factors that led to the development of film studies both within the academy and without. Over the last fifty years historians of film and film critics have tended to focus on the role of the French film journal, Cahiers du Cinéma, in the development of both auteurist film criticism and Film Studies both outside of and within the academy. In this dissertation, however, I want to focus not on Cahiers du Cinéma but rather on the British film journal Movie, which, in part, served as a major conduit for late 1950s and early 1960s Cahiers du Cinéma style auteur criticism to British and American critics and audiences in the 1960s and beyond.

In this project I want to explore the impact of Movie, a prominent film journal of the 1960s and 70s, published by Ian Cameron and for which prominent critics like Robin Wood, V.F. Perkins, Charles Barr, and Jim Hillier wrote, on UK, US, Canadian, and Australian film studies, the impact of Movie on film journals like Film Comment and Sight and Sound, and the impact of Movie on publishers like Barnes/Zwemmer/Tantivy, early BFI monographs (for example, the Cinema One series), and the Twayne Filmmakers Series. These journals and publications, I will argue, were instrumental in establishing auteurism as the dominant paradigm of film studies in Anglo-American intellectual film culture and academic film studies.

I have several reasons for wanting to do this research. I think too much attention has been paid by film historians and film critics to Cahiers and to the British journal Screen, a journal which adopted the late 1960s Cahiers emphasis on that hybrid film theory which mixed and matched Marxism, Freudianism, Lacanianism, and feminism and which has come to dominate contemporary academic Film Studies today. I hope my research will show that Movie, and particularly Movie auteurism, have been important in the rise of Film Studies around the Western world. But I don’t want to stop there. I also want to show that while Movie most certainly took an auteurist stance in its explorations of the European art cinema (Godard, Chabrol, Truffaut, Makavejev) and Hollywood cinema, it was also a journal that engaged the issue of genre and the role stars played in film (Laurel and Hardy, Dames, Heavies), particularly in Hollywood film. Movie, in other words, was far more nuanced and far more diverse in its approach than many critics today recall.

I anticipate undertaking extensive archival research for this project as well undertaking and collecting a number of oral histories. I intend to film as many of the oral history interviews I conduct as I can. As to the contribution of this project and the book that comes out of it I intend both as a contribution to British history, to Settler society history (the US, Canada, Australia), to Atlantic History (France, UK, US, Canada), to Film History, and to Film criticism.

Summary History of Auteurism:
The issue of authorship, continues to haunt film and its, to a large extent, bastard cousin, television studies. In this dissertation I intend to explore the rise, conquest, fall, and resurrection of auteurism from its beginnings in the 1950s to today.

Auterism, so the story goes, originated among the young turks of the French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma in the 1950s as the politique des auteurs, the auteur policy, the auteur polemic. It then made its way across the Channel in the pages of Movie, and across the Atlantic in the critical polemics of film critic Andrew Sarris who canonised the theory in reviews in the Village Voice, in his famous and infamous article in the journal Film Culture in 1962, and eventually in his influential and popular book The American Cinema. Through much of the 1960s and 1970s auteurism dominated much of film criticism and writings on film via journals like Cahiers, Movie, and Film Comment and dominated much of the film book publishing industry via publishers like Zwemmer, Barnes, Tantivy, Studio Vista (the British publisher of Movie's Movie Paperbacks), Praeger (the publisher of Movie Paperbacks in the US), Doubleday, and Indiana University Press.

Auteurism wasn’t without its controversies, however. For the most part auteur criticism wasn't controversial with respect to the European art cinema. Auteurists like Robin Wood and Ian Cameron and critics of auteurism like Penelope Houston and Pauline Kael alike agreed that filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman and Jean-Luc Godard were auteurs, artists. What was controversial for critics of auteurism was its claim that directors in the highly entertainment oriented and collaborative studio system, directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, and John Ford were the authors of their films. Sight and Sound, the influential British film magazine Penelope Houston, in fact, rejected a paper on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho by a critic who would publish extensively in Movie, Robin Wood, on the basis that Psycho and Hitchcock himself were not to be taken seriously.

In the late 1960s thanks to cultural ferment, the academicisation of Film Studies, and the revival and rise in popularity of a number of social theories (Marxism, the linguistics of de Saussure, Freud, Structuralism, Semiology, Lacanianism,Post-Structuralism, and Deconstruction among them) auteurism came under attack for reasons other than the fact that the products of the Hollywood machine could not be authored. Taking a broader perspective Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault, prominent figures both in the new social theoretical ferment, and both from France, accused Literary and Film Auteurism of romanticism, of raising the author (in film, the director) to Olympian status and detaching him or her, in the process, from the social and cultural contexts that surround human lives and called for the "death of the author". It was the new and supposedly improved Cahiers du Cinéma and the British journal Screen which were the conduits for much of this anti-auteurist film criticism in Europe and North America.

But the new anti-auteurism had its discontents as well. The notion that one must place authors into their social and cultural contexts, of course, was not new in the 1960s and 1970s. Marxist cultural critics had been making similar arguments at least since the 1920s. It was as fair a point than as it was in the 1970s and is today. The problem with some of this anti-auteurist criticism was that in their haste to condemn auteurism for its ahistoricism the new "radical" critics set up one thread of auteurism as its straw man, the most "romantic" of auteurisms where every film auteur was a man or woman out of time.

It must be remembered, however, that not all auteurists were the same. Auteurist polemicists who wrote for Cahiers like Godard and Francois Truffaut tended to think that the films of every Hollywood studio auteur (Howard Hawks, Nick Ray, Alfred Hitchcock, Budd Boetticher) were worthy of careful study and attention and, on the aesthetic level, worthy or praise, often effusive praise. For another auteurist, Andre Bazin, the godfather of Cahiers and modern film criticism and analysis, however, not every film by every auteur, and he didn't think there were many particularly in Hollywood, was worthy of aesthetic praise. Some were simply bad movies. Even for that great boogeyman of critics of auteurism, Andrew Sarris, not all Hollywood directors were auteurists (members of his pantheon of film directors). Most, in fact, were metteurs en scene's, company men, cogs in the impersonal Hollywood machine with no observable style or point of view. It was only in a few specific instances then, for critics like Sarris, that a Hollywood director was an auteur, someone who managed to put his or her personal stamp on a mass-produced product (Sarris pantheon of auteurs included Hitchcock, Hawks, Ford, Lubitsch, Welles, Chaplin, Murnau, Keaton, Griffith, Ophuls, Lang, von Sternberg, Flaherty).

And it must be remembered that the proclamation of the death of film auteurs may have been premature, even in the academy. Today crystal ball textualism, the notion that racism, gender bias, colonialism, and a whole host of other “sicknesses” at the heart of Western culture can be found in the text and that it is unnecessary to do archival, interview, ethnographic, or audience analysis as a result, may continue to dominate academic film studies but auteurism continues to live in the film criticism of highly regarded critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum (a American who has ties to Cahiers and the BFI) and Dave Kerr and is promulgated, in revised form, by academics like James Naremore and the recently deceased and once upon a time Movie man Robin Wood who melded critical social analysis to his Leavisian auteurist humanism.

Introduction: From Film Reviews to Film Criticism:
Early Journalistic Film Criticism (Greene, Agee, Ferguson, Crowther, Farber)
The European Art Film and Auteurism (Sontag)
Cahiers (1951-) and Hollywood Auteurism

Chapter One: Ian Cameron and the Rise of Movie:
Precedents and Links: Cambridge (Leavis, Literary Criticism, Humanism, Wood), Oxford (Oxford Opinion), Cahiers, Positif (1952-), Films and Filming (1954-1990)
Movie (1962-2000): Ian Cameron, V.F. Perkins, Robin Wood, Jim Hillier, Charles Barr, Peter Bogdanovich, Raymond Durgnat, Joel Finler, Elizabeth Sussez, Michael Walker…
UK: V.F. Perkins, Charles Barr, Susan Smith, Deborah Thomas, Edward Gallafent, Peter Wollen?, Laura Mulvey…
UK: Cameron, Movie

Chapter Two: Reading Movie
Movie Movie Paperbacks (Studio Vista/Praeger/University of California Press
Cameron and Hollis Publisher/Continuum in US
Movie and Wood (Hitchcock’s Films, Howard Hawks, Ingmar Bergman
Movie as Nuanced: The diversity of Movie
Movie and Auteurism (Art Cinema, Hollywood)
Movie and Genre (noir, Westerns...)
Movie and Actors (heavies, dames, Laurel and Hardy)

Chapter Four: Movie’s Impact
Movie in the UK
Cameron Wood at Warwick
Wood and Hitchcock’s Films
Perkins and Film as Art
Movie in Canada: Wood at Queens and Wood at York, Cineaction (1985-)
Movie Down Under: Colin Crisp, specialist in French Cinema, Griffith University, Brisbane, Tom Ryan
Movie and Auteurism
The Varieties of Auteurism
Film Criticism and Auteurism: Sarris, Sontag Simon, Kaufman, Schickel, Canby, Maslin…
Film Books: Barnes/Tantivy/Zwemmer (Cowie, Auteurs, Genre, Stars), Twayne (Auteurs, Genre), BFI and Film Book Publishing
The Ultimate in Auteurism (Faber and Faber’s Directors on Directors series)
The Expansion of Academic Film Studies (film as art, film as crystal ball)
Academic Auteurism (Indiana University Press)
UK: V.F. Perkins, Peter Wollen?, Laura Mulvey, Stephen Heath
US: Peter Cowie, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Ernest Callenbach, James Naremore, , Dave Kehr
Australia: Adrian Martin, Tom Ryan

Chapter Five: Movie and its Critics
Contra Auteurism: Houston and Sight and Sound
Contra Auteurism: Kael and the battle over Citizen Kane
Movie and the New Film Criticism
later Cahiers, Screen, Sam Rohdie
UK: V.F. Perkins,Peter Wollen? Laura Mulvey, Stephen Heath

Conclusion: Movie in the Twenty-First Century The Inevitability of Auteurism?
Auteurists always (Rosenbaum, Kerr, Naremore, Wood)
Movie’s Next Generation (Pye, Smith, Klevan,Thomas, Gallafent, Close-Up, Warwick, Sunderland, Grant and Canada, the revival of Movie at Warwick…)

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