Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Note from Dudley Andrew

Though he cannot join us for Thursday's kickoff session of the 2010-11 Chicago Film Seminar, Dudley Andrew has kindly offered some words about his book What Cinema Is in advance of our panel discussion. Here, he underscores and in some ways expands the sense of the book's core assertions as they were crystallized in the prompt that the CFS officers circulated in advance to our scheduled speakers.

"I shouldn't try to inflect Thursday's discussion since I had an entire book to say what I wanted to say, but I do worry that the provocative passage excerpted from the book on the blog's 'invitation' for Thursday may unduly limit discussion. The 'feature film' is not meant to absorb all the attention of the book and shouldn't absorb the attention of the discussion. True, I do call it the bull's eye in the concentric rings of a target, but I also say that we should be concerned with the entire target. Nor is the bull's eye necessarily a normative assessment of value (50 points if you hit it, only 30 points if you hit the documentaries that circle it in the next ring, 20 points for animation etc).

"I wanted to keep in view the 'centrality' that the feature played in film studies when the field gained its great strength in the 1960s and especially the 1970s. So this is a description of both the cinema when it thought itself unrivaled, as well as cinema studies when it felt sure of its coming power. I do think we should recognize this moment of postulated ascendancy, and it is associated with strong feature films, modern ones, not 'classical' as the blog's invitation has it. But my book itself needs to deal with other forms and it addresses such works as WWII docs (The Battle of Midway, Battle of San Pietro, Why we Fight), the two great Resnais docs of 1955-56, plus Les Maîtres fous). These short films are directly in the 'line' I am intent to trace and they help to produce it. As for experimental work of this modernist period, from Maya Deren to Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakhage, it forms another line, one that was and remains personally important to me, but that was parallel to, not part of, the line that emerges clearest in my last chapter. Bazin himself of course wrote on all sorts of non-features as well as on animation and TV shows. He was a media-fiend; but the main line of his ideas came through features and documentaries (films of exploration, of painting, etc). So don't let my initial plea for a concentrated corpus completely take over Thursday's discussion. It has a place in discussion but not a constitutive place.

"Finally, let me wish you a good discussion where the target may be my book, or at least its title (and without benefit of concentric circles), but where the real goal is the expression of new ideas and understandings. May these come in abundance."

Thanks, then, to Dudley Andrew for taking the time to say more about the motivating impetus of the book and the range of its investments—and for taking the very welcome initiative to make this blog a site for additional conversation, before, about, and after our formal Thursday sessions. Again, feel free to register your own first impressions about What Cinema Is or the questions you'll be bringing with you on Thursday night in the comments.

Reminders: Today is the deadline to RSVP if you'd like to stay around for dinner after Thursday's discussion. See the previous entry for more info about the format of the evening and about practical logistics of location, parking, etc.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Session #1: Responding to What Cinema Is! (Sept 23)

(Note: read to bottom of message for important info about unusual location for this session and follow-up meal!)

The Chicago Film Seminar kicks off its annual season of formal presentations on Thursday, September 23 at 6:30pm with a moderated workshop of short responses to Dudley Andrew's What Cinema Is!: Bazin's Quest and Its Charge, the cornerstone text for this year's CFS programming. Hometown all-stars James Lastra (U.Chicago), Lynn Spigel (Northwestern), Virginia Wright Wexman (UIC), and Pamela Robertson Wojcik (Notre Dame) will commence the session with a series of 10-minute reactions to Andrew's book, including the claims it ventures and the larger questions it prompts, all of which will ramify—in spirit, thought not always to the letter—across the rest of this year's presentations.

After our series of invited responses, the workshop session will open outward to a general discussion of the book and the speakers' points, as moderated by Scott Curtis of Northwestern. We encourage you to read what you can of Andrew's book before next Thursday, to facilitate the most substantial possible exchanges. However, both the book and the workshop format are structured to solicit commentary from a wide range of perspectives, relating to issues of key pertinence for anyone in the field. Indeed, the subtitle for our workshop is "The State of Film & Media Studies Today," in which we all have strong investments. So come one, and come all!

Location: This session will not meet in our usual Michigan Avenue location, but in Room 150 of the Arthur Rubloff Building at the Northwestern University School of Law (375 E. Chicago Ave). Suggestions for parking are here and here. The Red Line Chicago/State stop is also a great option, as are a dozen CTA bus lines and, for those with access, the Northwestern Intercampus Shuttle.

Dinner: An on-site dinner reception to celebrate the new year of CFS will immediately follow the seminar. If you plan on attending the reception, please RSVP using this link to our new CFS coordinator, Adam Hart, by Monday, Sept. 20th.

Links: Check in with our previous blog entry to read more about What Cinema Is! and its role in this year's programming for CFS, including links where you can buy the book. Click on the names of all four of our speakers in the right-hand sidebar to access their faculty bios.

In the Comments: Have you already read Andrew's book? Do you have specific thoughts or questions you'll be bringing to Thursday's session, or that you hope our speakers might engage?