Feature image: Aurore (Viviane Vagh, 2008)
Around this time last year I found myself in Paris. Travel, when possible, affords the opportunity to catch up with many of Senses of Cinema’s overseas-based contributors. And so it was that I found myself at lunch with Raphaël Bassan and Viviane Vagh. Raphaël is, of course, one of France’s most passionate and informed writers on experimental and alternative cinema – and has been for several decades. His book, Cinéma Expérimental: Abécédaire pour une countre-culture, had recently been published, and he duly handed me a copy in the hope that Senses would give space to a review. In the long run, it turned out to be something more than that.
Cinéma Expérimental is a compendium of Bassan’s writings spanning the period of the late 1970s to the present. The material is not organised in terms of chronology of publication dates, but rather, alphabetical groupings of articles, reviews, interviews, and general reflections or ruminations on given themes. For example, under the letter ‘A’ one finds entries on ‘Abstractions’, ‘Avant-gardes’, ‘Kenneth Anger’. Under ‘B’, entries on ‘Stan Brakhage’, ‘Robert Beer’, ‘André Breton’, and so forth and so on. Given its structure, the book does not provide an historical narrative of avant-garde/experimental/underground cinema, but rather, an a-historical montage of ideas around that history through the illuminating juxtapositioning of entries on diverse eras, filmmakers, styles, practices, aesthetics, politics, etc.
Given the book’s intriguing assemblage, the idea arose that rather than a conventional review of the book, it would be interesting to subject Bassan to a conversation on the genesis of the book adopting its governing structure. You can read the result in Julia Gouin’s abécédaire-style interview with the author in this issue, along with Bassan’s own interview with the two Franco-Australian artists/filmmakers Jayne Amara Ross and Viviane Vagh. The interview picks up on some of the topics reflected in Bassan’s book in the context of filmmakers addressing their relation and conception of what constitutes experimental practice.
In what must seem a leap from the sacred to the profane, so to speak, this issue may contain what is a first for the journal: an extensive dossier on the cinema of Michael Bay. Traditionally, Senses has given little, if any, attention to Hollywood blockbuster cinema. Not an ingrained bias as such, but given that that cinema receives wide spread courage elsewhere, we thought it best to give space to forms of cinema that we feel most passionate about. However, Bay is a filmmaker of growing fascination to scholars interested in charting the emergence of a spectacular, special effects driven cinema in the digital age. Bay deserves his due, and we thank guest editors Bruce Bennett, Leon Gurevitch and Bruce Isaacs for assembling the special dossier on his cinema.
Our 75th issue is an anniversary of sorts and I take this opportunity to call time on my tenure with the journal. All good things come to end, and after close to a decade’s involvement with Senses it feels like the right time to move on to other endeavours. Heartfelt thanks to all the co-editors that I have had the good fortune to work with over the course of time, and best wishes to the on-going editors. Long may the journal prosper.
Special thanks for work on this issue to web interns Thomas Combe, Andréas Giannopoulos and Lydia Taylor, and social media interns Hamish MacDonald and Sophie Gardener.
I dedicate this issue to the memory of Sam Rodhie (1939-2015): teacher, mentor and friend.
We hope you enjoy the issue.