As we worked on issue 98 of Senses of Cinema from our lounge rooms, home offices and dinner tables across two continents, there was a sudden realisation among the editorial team: it has been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic permeated all aspects of our lives and upended the dynamics of cinema production, distribution and spectatorship. This artform and industry we have come to love will experience significant changes in the years to come. In this year of recurring lockdowns, virus mutations and closed cinemas, we have learnt to experience moving images in different ways. Films have also acquired new meanings in our personal and collective lives. For many, they have become one of the few collective experiences that remain.
As streaming services, not limited to Netflix and Amazon Prime but including other options such as Mubi, The Criterion Channel and local outlets like the Australian SBS On Demand, responded to cinephilic cravings, a global, communal form of film spectatorship has re-emerged. Film allows us to be alone together, and this is a theme that transpires in this issue of Senses of Cinema. This is an issue of contemplation and reflection, of discoveries of the old and the new.
The featured dossier this issue, What Will Become of the Cinema? Postcards for the Future, features translations of selected personal essays that featured in the book ¿Qué será del cine? Postales para el futuro commissioned, edited and published by the Mar Del Plata Film Festival in Argentina in 2020. Though written at a very specific point of the pandemic, the ideas and hopes are just as applicable to 2021. They speak to the uncertainty yet deeply-felt love of cinema – all of it – sometimes with an undertone of a feeling of loss and frailty of the infrastructure, but not the artistry, of film. We are so honoured and pleased to present this selection of essays in English for the first time.
In the Features section, Marion Campbell pays tribute to internationally renowned theorist and writer, Lesley Stern, with a piece that is both joyously evocative and critically insightful. Campbell recalls teaching alongside Stern in the late ‘80s, and the thrill of pursuing an experimental approach that fused theory and creative practice, which would form the hallmark of Lesley’s writing. Campbell underlines Stern’s singularity when she eloquently captures her “life project” as being “to ask, relentlessly, before every phenomenon: what does it mean, and how can I write it, make it, perform it”. Also, Mark Lager pays tribute to Giuseppe Rotunno’s cinematography, specifically his breathtaking, highly evocative work in Fellini’s Amarcord and Visconti’s The Leopard. Filmmaker and author Salvador Carrasco revisits Luis Buñuel’s Él and Hitchcock’s Vertigo in the context of the #metoo era. Adam Wyatt explores the cinematic reconciliation of environmental degradation in Texas oil movies, while Robert Alpert examines how the decay of the flesh mirrors American social disintegration in George Romero’s zombie movies.
Irene Lusztig, director of the documentary, Yours in Sisterhood,, discusses the process of making her film and where it sits in relation to earlier feminist documentary work from the ‘70s. A fascinating expose of letters written by everyday women in the 1970s and sent to America’s first ever feminist magazine, Ms., Yours in Sisterhood is a timely reminder of the ongoing struggle for gender equality, of the gains made since the 1970s and the areas where victories still need to be won. In Warsaw, Jessica Hudson looks at how the mermaids of Agnieszka Smoczynska’s The Lure (2015) engage and articulate female agency in 1980s communist-ruled Poland.
Renowned for his characteristic blending of the political and the personal is the legendary Spike Lee, who we celebrate in this issue with a Great Directors entry, penned by Isabella Mahoney, who provides a thorough overview of his oeuvre to date. Our Great Directors section this issue also includes entries by Hal Young, who looks at the often misunderstood career of eclectic Japanese filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi, and William Blick, who examines what patriotism looks like for Sidney Lumet.
Finally, we are proud to feature interviews with the filmmakers Ana Vaz, Queena Li, Morgan Quaintance, Togbe Gavua and Marwa Arsanios, book reviews of After Authority by Kalling Heck and the anthology After Kubrick edited by Jeremi Szaniawski, well as reports from festivals (both online and in person), including Cinéma du Réel, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Punto de Vista, Sundance, Berlinale, Viennale, and AFI FEST.
The throughline in this issue is that there should be no doubt that filmmakers continue to make films, festivals continue to show them, critics continue to write about them and audiences continue to see them. As this point in 2021 brings a small sign of hope that films will soon be projected on a big screen again, we hope you enjoy the assortment of approaches and questions and cinematic styles in this issue.