Almost Famous

If this issue seems like a hodgepodge of themes and topics then that’s because it is. One thing that Senses of Cinema aimed to achieve when it was first set up was an eclecticism in topics and a seriousness in its approach toward cinema. When one’s choice for writing on film was either sound-bite, hype-driven, analysis-devoid coverage or (overly)theoretical writing in which the thrill of cinema and the knowledge of its history seemed all together tragically missing, the gap was all too obvious. In this issue, a general overview of mainstream Australian film in 2000 sits alongside a clear and heartfelt appreciation of the films of Philippe Garrel, an extraordinary filmmaker whose films have never screened in this country. Or, from a solid and comprehensive study of the Female Gothic genre that comes to grips with the intricacies of its themes, you can go to an equally fascinating discussion of documentary filmmaker William Greaves, active in the New York late ’60s avant-garde scene, who has been sorely overlooked. In fact, the ‘overlooked and underrated’ section continues with each issue because this gesture of looking back into the past unfailingly brings to shore gems of cinema history washed away by the force of time and accepted canons.

Above all, Senses of Cinema recognises that the beauty and wonder of cinema often lies in its diversity – in this issue such diversity ranges from the poetics of Hou Hsiao-hsien to the latest Schwarzenegger to Clint Eastwood’s ongoing probing of a cultural icon to the technique of Béla Tarr. As Jim Jarmusch once said in an interview, speaking of the wide-open nature of cinema: “Hollywood is just one part of it, the part that generates the most money, and therefore is the most visible. To me, it’s not the center of the form.” But often uncanny similarities arise – Darren Aronofsky’s apocalyptic Requiem for a Dream meets up with Tsai Ming-Liang’s The River only by virtue of their common themes of profound isolation and alienation as specifically modern urban symptoms. The minimal, magisterial formal aesthetic of the latter though is clearly of another realm to Requiem‘s crude, lazy, sledgehammer style, and is infinitely more riveting and rewarding. Senses of Cinema hopes that through its diversity, eclecticism and seriousness, future filmmakers may glimpse something beyond the Hollywood or U.S. approved indie product that so dominates theatrical cinema screens.

With the year well and truly under way, two major festivals have already taken place – Sundance and Rotterdam, and are both covered in this issue. Plans are already underway to release In the Mood for Love and Brother locally, the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta opens soon in Melbourne, while the Australian Cinémathèque, for which Senses of Cinema publishes the annotations, commences around the country this month. All positive signs of an active film culture.

We at Senses of Cinema look forward to yet another year of discovering cinema in its contemporary and historical guise, and its many forms. We will keep a track of our thoughts and our feelings in this journal – and we invite you to do the same.

Many thanks to all who contributed to this issue and in particular to my colleagues Bill Mousoulis and Adrian Martin whose hard work, dedication and generosity is always inspiring.

Enjoy the issue.

Fiona A. Villella

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