The Twitterverse: #dwfth4 from a distance.

Dear @wfthn and @callingtheshots

What does #dwfth4 look like, viewed from a distance, via its tweets? Collated out of the Twitter feed from the inspirational conference at Southampton University, organized by the @callingtheshots team, here is the image – our #dwfth4 group photo/temporary planet (via wordcloud).

A little background about the process to create this picture:

  • all the tweets and e-mails were cut and pasted into a document;
  • all names of delegates were removed (with apologies for any editor error), to honour the general rule that we are not a star system but a collective;
  • a dispensation to ‘repealthe8th’ in tweets was given, to acknowledge the conference’s support of that important, contemporaneous event;
  • less willingly, all directors’ names, were removed, to allow the shared vocabulary to prevail. Some painful surgery was, therefore, necessary on Lotte (5) and Reiniger (4), as well as Craigie (4) and Winona (2);
  • that said, Weinstein stays in, since this writer trusts it will become a historical marker, as in pre- and post-;
  • ‘canapés’ was underused (1) but should be recognised as the official kitemark of a good conference.

Please feel free to print and pin for a happy reminder.  If you’ve no such time, let us point out  a few highlights and enjoyable associations:

  • ‘tomorrow’ is visible;
  • The words ‘working’ (LHS) and ‘looking’ (RHS) are prominent, and balanced;
  • ‘pretty ignored’ has formed itself into a useful phrase (towards the base);
  • ‘pioneering’ and ‘old’ are nestling together between the ‘e’ and ‘n’ of women.

Of course, you might see others – please feel free to share via a tweet or two @wfthn.  Overall, in amongst our discursive tentpoles: women, history, feminist, film, tv and research: we have an expanding collective vocabulary – virtually and in person –  to take us forward.

@wfthn looks forward to supporting #dwfth5 – coming soon…….

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We Want More – Diversity & Visibility: Berlin, 22 February 2018

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The 6th discussion on the status of women in film business and gender equity on the occasion of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival is taking place on February 22nd, 11.00 a.m.

For further information, including booking, please e-mail: presse-iwffn@frauenfilmfestival.eu.

“There are certain images, possessing them gives you power.” belit sağ

This is a event to consider greater diversity in the areas of gender, race, age, sexual orientation and disability. How can the ongoing and significant underrepresentation in the film industry be stopped? How can the quality and value of difference be recognised and acknowledged? Join the discussion.

Line-Up and Programme

Welcome
Malte Krückels (State Secretary for Media and Representative of the Free State of Thuringia for Federal Affairs) (invited)
Representative of the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW

Introduction
Silke J. Räbiger (Festival Director, Dortmund | Cologne International Women’s Film Festival)

Key Note
Simon(e) J. Paetau (Director)

Panel : Diversity Standards
Karola Gramann (film curator, Kinothek Asta Nielsen, Germany)
Sheri Hagen (director and actress, Germany / Group “Black Filmmakers”)
Christopher Racster (Executive Director of Outfest | UCLA Legacy Project, USA)
Representative of the British Film Institute (invited)
Moderator: Aurora Rodonò (Freelance Curator & Research Fellow, Institute for Art and Art Theory | University of Cologne Germany)

Discussion & Reception

Date: Thursday, 22 February 2018, 11.00 am
Venue: Delegation of Thuringia in Berlin, Mohrenstraße 64, 10117 Berlin
RSVP: http://www.registration.frauenfilmfestival.eu

SPONSORED BY:
Film und Medienstiftung NRW
Freistaat Thüringen

IN COOPERATION WITH:
International Women’s Film Festival Network

Deadline Extension: CFP Console-ing Passions 2018

CALL FOR PROPOSALS: CONSOLE-ING PASSIONS

International Conference on Television, Video, Audio, New Media, and Feminism

July 11-13, 2018

Bournemouth University,

Faculty of Media and Communication,

Poole, UK

New Deadline for submissions: 23.59 (Greenwich mean time) 26 January 2018.

Further details may be found at the conference website here.

Conference Report: Women in The American New Wave: A Retrospective

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Retrospectives: Another opportunity to rethink women’s contribution?

In this week’s contribution, Fjoralba Miraka reflects on a conference at Bangor University on The American New Wave.  Out of a wide-ranging event, she focusses on key aspects in relation to women and film history, not least in some challenges to the dominance of the prevailing idea of the New Hollywood male auteur. Her report provides further evidence for WFTHN readers of how looking back continues to provide vital material for reassessment and moving forwards.

The American New Wave: A Retrospective: School of Creative Studies and Media, College of Arts and Humanities: Bangor University, 4-6 July 2017

The American New Wave or New Hollywood cinema, a period of American cinema understood as spanning the late 1960s through the 1970s, remains a rich era of film research for current generations of cinephiles and film scholars. This July it was again the object of inquiry at a conference organised by Bangor University which invited and welcomed an international group of scholars to celebrate the period’s legacies and re-examine its significance. Panels discussed a variety of aspects of New Hollywood, from questions of authorship, histories and inheritances to analyses revisiting key films, stars, genres and production companies. All three days featured a special keynote address and ended with the screenings of key films from that era: Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968), and Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979).

Women’s contributions featured in various ways during the conference. Of particular interest was the panel on women practitioners, which featured a presentation by Aaron Hunter[1] on ‘Polly Platt’s New Hollywood Aesthetic’ and a second presentation by Aimee Mollaghan on ‘Barbara Loden’s Influence on the Contemporary American Female Road Movie’. Both presentations argued convincingly for the inherent sexism of traditional auteurist criticism and illustrated the ways in which it has invariably disregarded and overlooked the work of women both in front of and behind the camera. Hunter’s discussion about production designer Polly Platt’s aesthetics of realism and hyper-realism present in Peter Bogdanovich’s films offered the designer the creative credit she has usually been denied. Mollaghan’s discussion of Barbara Loden’s road movie Wanda (1970) challenged our perceptions of gender and genre by examining how the metaphoric use of landscape in the film reconstituted gender representations in relation to images of open space. My own presentation focused on the under-explored function of melodrama in the New Hollywood films, taking Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) as an example of the way in which the woman in this era is typically displaced from the central position she occupied in the melodramas of Classical Hollywood.

The function of melodrama featured elsewhere in relation to male film directors. Linda Williams focused on the wonder boy of New Hollywood, Steven Spielberg, considering the framing influence of melodrama in his films, through recurrence of childhood experience, prominent in Spielberg’s films. She elaborated on the function of nostalgia and sentimentality, which hold a significant place in Spielberg’s melodramas, and the wonderful workings of his music which produce ‘the bodily fluids of melodrama’, tears.

The second pair of panels offered explorations of alternative perspectives which challenged the dominance of the film auteur, bringing to our attention the creative contributions of scriptwriters, sound designers and film editors. Oliver Gruner, Frederick Wasser, and Warren Buckland discussed the contribution of scriptwriter Waldo Salt, sound designer Walter Murch and film editors Sam O’Steen, Dede Allen, and Ralph Rosenblum respectively, making the case for the valuable contributions of film practitioners other than the director. Their presentations were an attempt to pay tribute both to the collaborative nature of the filmmaking experience itself and the hidden figures of the industry and its history. Dede Allen’s editing work on Bonnie and Clyde was presented as typical of the period’s innovation and experimentation with stylistic choices, and reflected on how these choices functioned as cultural commentary. Thanks to her pioneering contribution to the aesthetics of key films of the era, Buckland argued convincingly that Allen is equally deserving of the title ‘auteur’. Returning to the director role, Jimmy Hay related River of Grass director Kelly Reichardt’s ‘cinema of weariness’ to New Hollywood; a cinema of passive, muted characters with restricted movements, and stylistically very close to the European film sensibility of long takes and exterior places.

At a point at which discussion of the gender imbalances of much conference activity has become an increasingly pressing conversation in academia, the conspicuously limited number of women presenters at the event, as well as the limited number of presentations focusing on women actively involved in film during the Hollywood Renaissance era, was striking. Some interesting, illustrative numbers were: only 1 out of the 4 keynote speakers was a woman; only 6 out of the 37 presenters were women (myself included); only 4 out of all 37 presentations involved discussions about women in New Hollywood (those were sound editor Dede Allen, designer Polly Platt, directors Barbara Loden, and Kelly Reichardt); all three screenings were films directed by men.  This offers the chance to think about possible reasons behind this imbalance in numbers. Is it indicative of a limited presence of women active during that period in film production? Could it indicate a perception of New Hollywood as male topic or terrain in the approaches adopted in film history and criticism? Can we, positively, perceive these questions as a spur to engage in a determined manner, to reassess film history and work towards a more inclusive canon? In that respect, the Women and New Hollywood conference organised by Maynooth University for May 2018 comes at the right moment to offer fresh, challenging, and inspirational perspectives on the innovative and influential contributions of women whose labour has been overlooked, dismissed, or simply erased from critical perspectives.

In a subsequent discussion, Yannis Tzioumakis (University of Liverpool) reflected upon the ongoing passion scholars show towards the films of that period and expressed aims of interest to Women’s Film and Television History Network. In recent scholarship in this area, he commented that ‘there has been a strong emphasis on looking beyond a director-centred or auteurist cinema that has tended to dominate existing studies and a focus instead on such issues as the role of other collaborators, the distinction between myth and fact, an examination of little-seen films and little-discussed companies and indeed an emphasis on the ways in which we can potentially reassess the period with the help of these new perspectives and focal points. For me, all these developments are very positive and are bound to produce new and exciting work on the topic. And I think female scholarship/scholarship on women and the Hollywood Renaissance can play a vital part in this project.’ As Robert Kolker also reflected: ‘it was especially gratifying to meet so many young scholars. Their passion for the field proves not only the lasting value of American films of the 1960s and 70s, but also the health of cinema studies.’

The conference was hosted and organised by academics and staff from the School of Creative Studies and Media which is part of the College of Arts and Humanities at Bangor University. We extend, thus, our warm thanks to Bangor University and to its lead organizers Gregory Frame and Nathan Abrams, for offering the necessary space for such concerns to be raised and addressed.

For the conference programme, see here http://americannewwave.bangor.ac.uk/

Fjoralba Miraka is a Ph.D student at Roehampton University and teaching associate, with a research focus on the postclassical melodramatic imagination in the Hollywood Renaissance period. She is currently working on a chapter for publication concerning the male melodramas of Scorsese’s early films. She is also writing an entry on the history of Feminist Film Theory for the first Encyclopaedia of Gender, Media and Communication, scheduled for publication in 2019, as part of the ICA series of the Sub-disciplinary Encyclopaedias of Communication.

[1] Aaron Hunter is on a two-year postdoctoral fellowship which focuses on Women and New Hollywood, based at Maynooth University, Department of Media Studies and sponsored by the Irish Research Council. Details about their forthcoming 2018 conference on ‘Women in New Hollywood’ are available on the website

 

Glamour, Nostalgia and Film Memory: Contemporary Popular Culture and the Femme Fatale

In this week’s blog, Katherine Farrimond writes from a very contemporary perspective on the enduring cinematic figure of the femme fatale. Further to the publication of her monograph, she considers how recent examples in film and television create different dialogues between past and present.

In my book, The Contemporary Femme Fatale: Gender, Genre and American Cinema, I was keen to expand research on the figure beyond the erotic noir thrillers of the 1980s and 1990s that have been so central to the majority of research on the femme fatale in the post-studio era. Such films have been interrogated in terms of their representation of the dangers of professional women, their complicity with backlash discourses against second wave feminism, their controversial representations of violent women, and their updating of the classical noir narratives that have been central to foundational work in feminist film studies. Rather than thinking about the value and limits of the femme fatale per se for feminism (a tempting but irresolvable debate), I found it more productive to think through the details of those representations. Therefore, I moved away from theoretical narratives of backlash and sought to address the representation of teenagers as femme fatale figures in an era of ‘girl culture’, by using bisexuality to frame my readings of neo noir and by re-reading science fiction films’ use of the femme fatale in its hybrid human/alien bodies.

What I was most taken with, however, was the constant return to film history, or at least, film memory, in representations of the femme fatale over the past quarter-century. As James Naremore argues in More Than Night (1998), contemporary noir films are often “about” their noir look. This attention to aesthetics is uniquely tied up with nostalgic fantasies of glamour, femininity and power when it comes to the femme fatale. This is most obvious in retro noir films set in the 1940s or 50s, or drawing on the iconography of classic noir. Films like LA Confidential (1997), Lonely Hearts (2006) and Gangster Squad (2013) lean heavily on the aesthetics of the femme fatale in their promotional materials, despite being reluctant to follow through on their initial promise by creating truly dangerous femme fatale characters. Exploring the specific ways that the cinematic memory of the femme fatale has been put to work as a useable myth complicates attempts to claim the figure as being intrinsically feminist or antithetical to feminism. The aesthetics of the tough, glamorous retro femme fatale have been deployed in wildly divergent ways. Emma Stone’s passive moll in Gangster Squad is horribly at odds with the hard glitter of her appearance, whereas Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) provides Eva Green (who studied Barbara Stanwyck’s noir performances in preparation for the role) an unlikely opportunity to fulfil the role of femme fatale with excess and camp abandon. Thus, the figure’s nostalgic glamour is often used simply as an appealing and marketable surface, but it also presents an opportunity to revisit and adapt the energetic femininity of the classic noir femme fatale.

Figure 1: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Season 3, Episode 1) ‘from a victim to a woman scorned.’ © Netflix.

A timely example of this can be found in the opening of the new season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2017), a series characterised by its knowing deployment of genre and popular culture tropes and clichés.  Having been left at the altar, the titular character Rebecca Bunch pulls herself out of her hotel room depression with a trip to the shops to transform ‘from a victim to a woman scorned’. This makeover includes dark nail varnish, dark hair dye, a tight white dress cut in a retro style, and most tellingly, DVD copies of Fatal Attraction (1987) and Basic Instinct (1992). She returns to her workplace to enact an elaborate, exaggerated and self-referential performance of sultry femininity. As she informs the friend who interrupts the routine, ‘Paula, I’m trying to do a thing!’ Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s ‘doing’ of the femme fatale allows for a clear explication of both the aesthetics of the figure and some of her more violent and vengeful incarnations in film history. The femme fatale becomes a ‘thing’ reducible to a palette of aesthetic choices, but is also presented as an available and malleable fantasy. The cinematic memory of the femme fatale is employed as a transitional myth, used to shift from one way of being to another. Rebecca’s ‘doing’ of the femme fatale provides her with a sense of control, and a reprieve from the humiliation of her circumstances, even as the series’ narrative presents the femme fatale as a comically unlikely and unsustainable fantasy.

Figure 2: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Season 3, Episode 1) ‘My hair is dark so I look evil, but I’m wearing white which is ironic.’ © Netflix.

The femme fatale is a consumable and compelling archetype that gestures back to Hollywood history in fascinating ways, and demonstrates the complex power of cinematic nostalgia. The looking back facilitated by the femme fatale does not simply represent a desire to return to how things once were, but rather invites a reconsideration of the pull of past femininities, and provides an opportunity not for wholesale recreation, but for playfulness and transformation.

Katherine Farrimond is Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex. Her research explores gender and genre in contemporary popular culture with particular focus on the femme fatale, mediated constructions of virginity, and the politics of nostalgia. Her monograph, The Contemporary Femme Fatale was published with Routledge in 2017, and she has published numerous articles and book chapters on representations of girlhood, femininity, sexuality and the uses of the past in popular culture. She is book reviews editor for Feminist Theory Journal and co-editor of SEQUENCE.