“New directions” is certainly a key term in Issue 80 of Senses of Cinema.
In our dossier on “American Extreme”, we are joined by guest co-editor Jack Sargeant: not, in this case, to make ‘sense’ of these films as such, but rather to engage with more sensorially demanding cinematic experiences, often well beyond the scope of what is deemed acceptable. This dossier explores names, movements and moments that will be familiar to some while new to others. Keva York explores Crispin Glover’s directorial work in his “It” trilogy, Jasmine McGowan situates Bruce LaBruce’s Gerontophilia (2013) in the context of his broader oeuvre, and Jack Sargeant interviews Iraqi-American filmmaker and artist Usama Alshaibi about his work (particularly his 2003 film The Amateurs). Dean Brandum considers Jamaa Fanaka’s masterpiece of the L.A. Rebellion Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975), while Maura Edmond takes a close look at the feminist filmmaking practices of No Wave figures including Bette Gordon, Beth B. and Vivienne Dick. Stuart Richards focuses on the legacy of “grossness” in the films of John Waters on contemporary queer cinema, and James Aston provides an overview of the current hardcore horror scene in the United States. Finally, Senses of Cinema editor Alexandra Heller-Nicholas reflects on the film career of horror/pornography director Roberta Findlay, and elsewhere looks at the influence of the on-air suicide of Christine Chubbuck in 1974 on a number of films including Christine (Antonio Campos, 2016) and Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene, 2016). This dossier does not seek to canonise or formalise American extreme cinema, but rather to expand the conversations we have around these types of movies.
Our “New Directions in Screen Studies” dossier features five slices of cutting edge film scholarship that emerged from a conference held especially for early career researchers and postgraduates at Monash University, Melbourne in June 2015. Senses editor Dan Edwards was one of the organisers of this event, along with Felicity Chaplin, Matteo Dutto, Belinda Glynn and Shweta Kishore. The conference focused on emerging concerns, debates and methodologies in the field of screen studies, including film festival studies, intermediality, and digital/new media production and consumption practices. These five articles have passed through a rigorous peer reviewing process and represent some of the most incisive film scholarship emerging around Australia. Many thanks to the organisers of the New Directions conference for bringing this group of articles to publication.
In the New Directions collection, Whitney Monaghan considers queer mash-up videos as sites reflecting the desire of fans to hold onto fleeing moments of screen queerness, positioning them as an archive of queer ephemerality. Michel Rubin delves into the under-theorised realm of screen performance via Bruno Dumont’s L’humanité (1999) and Carlos Reygadas’s Batalla en el cielo (Battle in Heaven, 2005), films he argues “radically reconfigure traditional forms of naturalistic performance.” In his intriguing and enlightening work of film writing archeology, Daniel Fairfax compares the early and later writings of Cahiers du cinéma alumni Jean-Louis Comolli, Serge Daney and Jacques Aumont, to reveal an ongoing concern with “new” media in their work, alongside their better known polemics concerning cinema. Chloe Benson considers how conflicts around representation, programming, and names changes have shaped the history and identity of Queer Film Festivals (QFF) around the world. And finally, Stayci Taylor identifies a previously unexamined narrative device called “flipped reality”, that she argues is used to create a fictional alternative reality in which existing privilege, bias or behaviour is reversed. Senses is proud to be part of the New Directions initiative to support emerging film scholars in Australia.
In our general features section, Amy Simmons explores Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013), Wheeler Winston Dixon revisits George Hoellering’s 1951 adaptation of TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, and Dirk de Bruyn examines the work of Australian experimental animator Neil Taylor. Following on from Jason Di Rosso’s consideration of the films of Matías Piñeiro in Issue 79, Christopher Small interviews the New York-based Argentine director about his latest film, Hermia & Helena (2016). Eloise Ross talks to director Whit Stillman about Jane Austen and his recent film Love & Friendship (2016), Alfio Leotta speaks to Emirati director Ali Mostafa about his own filmmaking practice and the rise of the film industry the United Arab Emirates, and Chuleenan Svetvilas and documentary filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck discuss the latter’s recent movie about the US drone war, National Bird. Long-time Senses writer and Melbourne-based Hitchcock expert Ken Mogg delivers the first installment of his two-part essay on the Catholic dimension of Psycho: “Shock, Horror, Spirit”. Finally, Sally Shafto contributes a touching obituary to one of the unsung heroes of the French New Wave, Charles Bitsch, who passed away in May.
New additions to our Great Directors database include Christian Long on Albert Brooks and Steve Rybin on Alan Rudolph, and we also have reviews of recent books on filmmakers as diverse as Jim Jarmusch, Straub/Huillet and Jess Franco, as well as new work on contemporary Eastern European cinema and André Gaudreault and Philippe Marion’s recent polemical title The End of Cinema?.
We are proud to also include a number of festival reports this issue from Australian and around the world, including the Sarajevo Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Festival International de Cinema Marseille, Jeonju International Film Festival, New Horizons International Film Festival and closer to home, the Queensland Film Festival.
We sadly bid farewell to co-editor Tim O’Farrell with this issue. We thank Tim for all the work he put into the journal during his time with us, and wish him the best on his future endeavours. Tim has been a vital part of our team, bringing particular expertise on documentary film, but also a broad and passionate insight into cinema generally. Thanks for everything Tim!
Finally, as we sign off and move closer to our final issue for the year in December we would like to remind our readers of our upcoming 2016 World Poll: keep an eye out for our call for entries around that same time, and start thinking about your lists! Until then, enjoy the cinematic smörgåsbord we have on offer in this issue, as we busy ourselves preparing yet another new feast in the shape of Issue 81.