Issue 71 sees a new Senses of Cinema presented to the world! After many months in development, we’re very pleased to share with you our newly designed website. It offers an enhanced navigational experience and a responsive design – which means that it’s easier than ever to get stuck into an issue of Senses while using your tablet or smartphone. Special thanks to our web developer/designer Ben Corbett, our committee member and digital expert David Oakley, and webmaster Rachel Brown for making this all possible.
A recurring theme in the collection of feature articles in this issue is the relationship between spectator and screen. From The Hunger Games and Alfonso Cuarón’s films to Romanian cinema and the work Aki Kaurismäki, narrative convention and cinematic techniques play with our expectations.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity was one of the most talked about films of 2013. While the film’s narrative and character development has been critiqued as being rather conventional, the film’s audio-visual style challenges the audience’s expectations of the science fiction genre. The film’s notable absence of sound and attempt at realism disorient the viewer, perhaps most notably demonstrated in the film’s opening 13-minute shot.
Another film from Alfonso Cuarón is the subject of another feature article in this issue. Ben Ogrodnik looks at the camera work in Children of Men. The moving camera renders Theo passive as he inhabits the dystopian world of Cuarón’s film. Theo is an inadequate hero and the spectator becomes freed of the protagonist’s gaze, allowing us to question his agency. As the camera work breaks classical form, the spectator comes to realise the social exclusivity of narrative space. The audience here deals with an asymmetrical relationship between the narrative discourse and visual style.
Joseph Natoli’s contribution on The Hunger Games is another exploration of the audience’s relationship to the screen. The film’s production of a culture under a violent, oligarchical regime offers the audience a world that awaits contemporary capitalist societies. Audiences are lulled into a sense of security – while they struggle for empowerment in Panem, we are in cyberspace being politically and economically liberated. We tell ourselves that we are not the citizens of Panem.
The long shot is the subject of many considerations in this issue. In a study of Romanian cinema, Sam Littman sees the archetypical long shot as achieving a concurrent feeling of suspense and banality. In 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the shot of Otilia at her boyfriend’s family’s dinner table reveals her uncomfortable introspection. At 11 minutes long, the mundane nature of this shot becomes unbearable. The aforementioned quiet opening shot of Gravity distances this film’s narrative from more traditional science fiction explorations in space. The moving camera in Children of Men becomes autonomous and distances itself from Theo.
Also included in this issue are reviews of several film festivals, including SXSW, Cannes and Tribeca. We have our Cinematheque: Annotations on Film, with notes on the films of Agnès Varda, Jan Švankmajer and Nagisa Oshima. Added to our database of Great Directors are American independent director Kelly Reichardt and Romanian Lucian Pintilie. We also review a collection of newly released books, including Paul W. Khan’s Representing Identity and William Mazzarella’s Making Senses of Censorship.
Finally, it is with great pleasure that we welcome Daniel Fairfax to the Senses team. Daniel will be our new book reviews editor for 2014. He is currently at Yale University and is a longtime contributor to the journal. For issue 71, Daniel also looks at Jean-Pierre Léaud’s performance in Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 and offers an interview with Sergio Caballero.
We hope you enjoy the issue,
Stuart Richards, Senses of Cinema Administrator