Welcome to issue 83 of Senses of Cinema, where we feature two exciting dossiers. The first focuses on the present state of cinema studies. “Contemporary Cinema Studies: A Discipline with a Future?” includes interviews with six distinguished scholars in the field, with their roots in different national traditions: Jacques Aumont (France), Francesco Casetti (Italy), Dana Polan (USA), Vinzenz Hediger (Germany), Weihong Bao (China) and Angela Ndalianis (Australia). While these scholars offer a diverse range of viewpoints on the cinema and its study, they all show a wariness towards preemptive pronouncements about the ostensible “death of cinema” or the “death of film studies”. In the face of dizzying technological, social and aesthetic changes which impel cinema studies to engage in dialogue with other mediums and art forms, all six figures retain a resolute optimism about the current prospects for their field. For all of them, it turns out, cinema studies is indeed a discipline with a future.
Our second dossier this issue takes a more historical angle. Guest edited by Dean Brandum, it focuses on Budd Boetticher, a director who has long fascinated us at Senses of Cinema. This timing is largely in light of the exciting new edited collection The Films of Budd Boetticher (edited by Gary D. Rhodes and Robert Singer and part of Edinburgh University Press’s ReFocus series), which has encouraged us to revisit and rethink some of Boetticher’s work, both famous and lesser known. We are proud to include here two online exclusives: firstly is a reprint of Wheeler Winston Dixon’s final interview with Boetticher before his passing in 2001 from Film Criticism (republished here with many thanks), and an interview with Andy Rausch which includes material that has never before been publicly available. Jeremy Carr considers the “good bad man” convention that permeates Boetticher’s filmography, while Amy Taylor revisits Comanche Station (1970), and Eloise Ross reflects on his relationship to Don Siegel’s Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970). Paul Jeffery focuses on the broadly underplayed function of acting across a number of Boetticher’s films, Wheeler Winston Dixon looks at The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960) and Geoff Mayer reflects on the director’s use of Lone Pine in his film. David Wingrove and Dean Brandum closely consider two Boetticher films where bullfighting plays a central role: David Wingrove on Bullfighter and the Lady (1951)and Brandum in Boetticher’s final film, Arruza (1972) – and finally, Dean Brandum reviews the ReFocus collection that inspired this dossier in the first place. From our archives, we also revisit some older pieces we’ve published on Boetticher in the past at Senses of Cinema, including Sean Axmaker’s career overview, Adrian Danks’ take on Comanche Station, Robert J. Read on Decision at Sundown, Riccardo De Los on Behind Lost Doors and Bruce Hodson’s reflections on the Ranown westerns that screened at the 10th Brisbane Film Festival in 2001.
In our Features section this issue, we have two pieces that – in different ways – focus on music videos. Ivan Kreilkamp revisits the original clip for Whitney Houston’s iconic “Greatest Love of All” considers the song in relation to its recent use in Maren Ade’s celebrated Toni Erdmann (2016), while Sam Twyford-Moore explores the relationship between Bob Dylan and his recent music video collaborations with Australian filmmaker Nash Edgerton.
Looking elsewhere, Peter Verstraten explores Martin Koolhoven’s Brimstone (2016), a Dutch Calvinist take on a classic genre, which has been proclaimed an “edam western”, and Kaveh Bassiri investigates the thematic synergies and cultural divergences between Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (2016) and Asghar Farhadi’s Forushande (The Salesman 2016). Samm Deighan confronts the relationship between the natural and the supernatural in one of Powell and Pressburger’s final collaborations, the “pagan pastoral” Gone to Earth (1950). Si Mitchell provides an intriguing overview of the state of VR documentary at the intersection of ethics and empathy, while Thomas Austin interviews Greek filmmaker Marianna Economou about her 2015 documentary The Longest Run, and Iván Zgaib talks to Argentine director Eduardo “Teddy” Williams about his extraordinary movie The Human Surge (El auge del humano, 2016).
And we are proud to publish two interviews with one of Senses of Cinema’s most cherished directorial duos, the radically uncompromising couple Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. In 1976, Straub/Huillet spoke to French radio host Claude-Jean Philippe, while in 1984 they were interviewed by the Italian journal Filmcritica. Both interviews shed fascinating new light on their working practices and views on cinema, and appear here in English for the first time. Our thanks go to the sterling efforts of Straub/Huillet scholar Sally Shafto.
We also have three vital additions to our Great Directors database this issue. Jeremy Carr explores the career of acclaimed Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr, Wheeler Winston Dixon celebrates the work of American director Phil Karlson and James Douglas takes a deep dive into the career of one of Australia’s favourite cinematic sons, Dr George Miller.
June always sees a plethora of festival reports and this year is no exception. In one of most geographically- and genre-expansive array of festival reports for some time, we bring to you missives on CPH:DOX, Full Frame, IndieLisboa, Punto de Vista, Pan African (in Los Angeles), Hong Kong, Jeonju and of course Cannes, as well as the short film festivals Oberhausen and Clermont Ferrand. Our book reviews section features a review by the editor of our Boetticher dossier, Dean Brandum, of Gary D. Rhodes and Robert Singer anthology The Films of Budd Boetticher. We also have in-depth responses to Molly Haskell’s Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films and Jean-Louis Comolli’s Daech, le cinéma et la mort, as well as reviews of Out of The Past: Lacan and Film Noir by Ben Tyrer and film critic A.O. Scott’s rumination on the art of critical writing Better Living through Criticism.
Finally, a collection of film annotations that accompany a series of upcoming screenings at the Melbourne Cinémathèque include a number of pieces exploring the works of filmmakers including Hirokazu Koreeda, Paul Verhoeven, Juraj Herz and Ernst Lubitsch.
As usual, we will be publishing a special dossier to coincide with an aspect of the annual Melbourne International Film Festival, and 2017 will be no exception – keep your eyes peeled when we go live with this very special focus in mid-July when the MIFF programme is announced in full.
Until then, keep watching!
Senses of Cinema