Hello and welcome to Issue 85 of Senses of Cinema. Tying in with the centenary of the fall of the Romanov dynasty in Russia and the ensuing October revolution, the centrepiece of this issue is our blockbuster dossier “100 Years of Soviet Cinema”. Come and see an arsenal of more than 50 articles, on individual films stretching from 1924’s Strike to 2014’s Leviathan, with entries covering works that have been celebrated across the world (even if, at times, their deified directors often found it hard to be a god), as well as those that encountered political repression and critical neglect, and, but for the irony of fate, faced becoming letters never sent. Our dossier not only offers a wide-ranging account of filmmaking in the Soviet Union, whose men (and women) with movie cameras crafted a mirror of life in the country that covered one sixth of the world, it also looks at how Soviet cinema has resonated up to the present day, even after the 1991 collapse of the would-be New Babylon that was the world’s first socialist state. Our sincere thanks go to the many writers, both the old and the new, who contributed their pieces to this critical Russian Ark.
Back closer to home in Australia, we are also proud to present a dossier of peer-reviewed papers stemming from the recent Screening Melbourne conference, guest edited by Glen Donnar and Sean Redmond. Senses of Cinema is proud to call Melbourne home, and this strong collection demonstrates just what our city has offered across the years to filmmakers and other creatives, and ourselves as audiences. In “Leaving Home: Kennedy Miller in Melbourne”, James Robert Douglas considers works including (but not limited to) the iconic Mad Max (George Miller, 1979). Glenn D’Cruz’s “Uncanny Suburbia, Hauntology and Post-Traumatic Poetics: Conversations with Dirk de Bruyn’s Conversations with My Mother” reveals thoughts of Melbourne both through and inspired by de Bruyn’s film, the director a long-time and much valued Senses of Cinema contributor himself. Di Sanders’ “Affectively Trapped, Fossilised and Fetishised: Early 1990s Melbourne Through Stillness, Movement and Music in Proof” reflects on Jocelyn Moorhouse’s beloved 1991 film starring Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe. Looking beyond Stanley Kramer’s star-studded 1959 Melbourne-set Hollywood movie, in “Before On the Beach: Melbourne on Film in the 1950s” Adrian Danks looks at three lesser known films about the city. In “Sonic Disturbance and Chromatic Dissolution: The Cantrills Remake Melbourne”, Tessa Laird examines the work of the legendary Australian artists, filmmakers and writers Arthur and Corinne Cantrill and the relationship to Melbourne in their work. Stayci Taylor provides a revealing assessment of her own experience as a screenwriter presenting the city in her work and that of others in “Screenwriting Melbourne/s: The Challenges of Re-presenting and Re-creating Melbourne Within a Screenplay’s Flipped-reality Narrative”. Finally, Lisa French takes a fascinating critical deep-dive into the history of one of our city’s most beloved cinema spaces in “Melbourne’s Capitol Theatre: ‘The Best Cinema That Has Ever Been Built or Is Ever Likely to Be Built’.” While each article demonstrates an aspect of Melbourne and its relation to screen culture that stands on its own merits, collectively this dossier provides great insight into the cinema culture of the city we at Senses of Cinema call home, and our thanks go to the authors and dossier editors Glen and Sean for allowing us to publish this essential collection.
In our Features section this issue, we have some outstanding writing on some less scrutinised films. Andrew Northrop investigates the haptic imagery in Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I and Jacquot de Nantes, and argues for the skin surfaces in those films as landscapes of memory. Bill Blick turns his attention to the roles class and cultural conflict play in Peter Weir’s underseen television movie The Plumber. Andrei Kartashov turns his attention to the ephemeral film-objects produced as part of the Guy Maddin project Seances, turning to surrealist poets, Derrida’s notion of “hauntology” and Lev Manovich’s ideas on digital cinema to understand a work that remakes film history through user-generated content. Gerard Corvin reappraises Ingmar Bergman’s mostly rejected English-language endeavour The Touch, giving special attention to its sensitive performances. Tackling more well-known films, meanwhile, Murray Pomerance looks at the trope of the gangster in French cinema of the 1950s, with the first installment of his two-part article “Le goût du crime”.
We are also thrilled to include a number of rich and diverse interviews this issue. Emma Westwood talks to filmmaker Mattie Do, whose second feature film, Dearest Sister (2016), was recently announced as the first submission ever from Laos to the Best Foreign Language category of the Academy Awards. Andy Rausch speaks to Hollywood screen legend Tab Hunter, a remarkable figure who reflects on a career that intersected with everyone from John Wayne to John Waters. Justine Smith speaks to artist and documentary filmmaker Basma Alsharif on her feature debut, Ouroboros (2017). Additionally, we have two very welcome additions to our Great Directors database: Jeremy Carr provides a profile on the great Max Ophüls, while Luke Aspell considers the extraordinary career of Lindsay Anderson. Julia Vassilieva provides a complement to the Soviet cinema dossier with a new profile on the formative filmmaker of the USSR, Sergei Eisenstein.
Our December issue always has bumper festival coverage of events from this busy time of the year, and this edition is no different – from the blockbuster festivals to the smaller, specialised ones. In the latter category is Carmen Gray’s round up of the curatorial-focused European documentary festivals from recent months and Joel Neville Anderson’s coverage of Japan’s Yamagata documentary festival. Of course, the big-city festivals in London (by Tara Judah), Toronto (by Darren Hughes), New York (by Jackson Arn) and Busan (by Marc Raymond) are detailed, and there are also reports on diverse festivals such as Adelaide (Saige Walton), Thessaloniki (by Petro Alexia), Vancouver (by Josh Cabrita) and the inaugural Moving History festival in Potsdam by Marco Abel.
In October we launched our Senses of Cinema podcast, in tandem with a Patreon campaign. With our ultimate goal of being in a position where we can pay our incredible writers, we’d like to thank everyone who has subscribed and become part of our push towards this important acknowledgement of those who fill this journal with such excellence every single issue. The podcast has launched with great success, reaching #1 in our category of TV and Movies on iTunes. So far, we’ve talked about topics and films as diverse as Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, João Pedro Rodrigues’ The Ornithologist, the cinema of director Jacques Tourneur, the career of Gloria Grahame, the cinema of the Mexican narco wars and the harassment scandals that have rocked the entertainment industry over the last few months. Plus, our patrons have been treated to bonus discussions on Terence Davies and highlights from our huge September issue. We’re committed to making this podcast a reflection of what’s going on in the world of cinema from right across the globe; so, if you haven’t yet subscribed, search for us on iTunes – or, for those who prefer less fruit in their technology, head over to our podcast page, click on the menu at the left, and use the feed supplied for your pod program of choice.
It is also the time for the Senses of Cinema World Poll, and this gives all of you the chance to share a list of the best films you have seen this year. There is a minimum of ten titles and a maximum of 1000 words, but how you tackle it is up to you: ranked, grouped, alphabetical, annotated, discussed, personal, objective – whichever way you think best captures your best screen experiences this year. And with the podcast up and running, we’re inviting you to send us both your list for publication, and, if you wish, a 30 second audio file where you state your name, location and your best film experience. We’ll select some of these submissions to include on our bumper World Poll podcast in January. For details on the World Poll, check sensesofcinema.com or our Facebook page.To submit your poll, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
And last, but certainly not least, we would like to send our heartfelt appreciation to our interns from Melbourne’s Monash University who were fundamental in helping us pull this issue together: to Stephanie Donaldson, Sian Mann and Harry McCallum, our sincere thanks!