SCMS 2014

I am currently attending the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. The 55th of its kind which is taking place in Seattle this year. Yesterday I gave a talk to a small but dedicated crowd on video essays as a (possible) research practice in film historical scholarship and was overall quite happy with how it went. You can read the abstract for my presentation below.

So, now it is time to enjoy a wealth of great talks and projections until Sunday. I am especially looking forward to Saturday’s screening of Harry Smith’s Heaven and Earth Magic (1957/1962) together with a program of classic experimental films by among others Jud Yalkut. The remaining days will also be a time for meeting people with whom I share research interests and who I do not get a chance to see often, and of course to drink coffee; Seattle is full of great cafés!

scms seattle

From Film Historiography to Videography: Film Historical Video Essays as Scolarly Research Practice 

Recently established online academic journals and video communities such as Frames Cinema Journal and Audiovisualcy testify to an increased tendency to research film history in the form of video essays. While films on film history have existed in the forms of compilation films since the 1920s as a means of discerning aesthetically significant films, and in filmic appropriation art and documentaries since the late 1960s at a nexus with academic film history, the proliferation of scholarly video essays indicates that audiovisual film history is gaining momentum as a conventional scholarly practice. With attention to this development, this paper adresses the need for developing standards for assessing scholarly video essays and critically evaluate the perspectives they establish on film history. The aim of raising such a discussion the paper stresses, is to facilitate the further integration of the scholarly video essay into academia as a research practice. To answer how this could be done, the paper proposes a conceptual avenue which combines meta-historical perspectives from scholarship on filmic appropration art and current debates in digital humanities on the evaluation of digital scholarship.

To bridge these two perspectives the paper takes its cue from the recent introduction to digital scholarship, Digital_Humanities (MIT Press, 2012), co-authored by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner and Jeffrey Schnapp which invokes the subjective filmmaking of Chris Marker and Errol Morris as a conceptual model for evaluating time-based digital scholarship1. Departing from their proposition, the paper reflects upon the intersection between scholarly film historiography and independent filmmaking, thinking along the lines of film scholar Bart Testa’s conception of filmic appropriations as ”pedagogical interventions” applicable for teaching in film studies curricula (Testa, 1992) and the meta-historical perspective developed by film scholar Christa Blümlinger on the appropration works of Jean-Luc Godard, Ken Jacobs and Alexander Kluge (Blümlinger, 2009). Mobilizing key concepts from these scholars’ works such as moment, materiality and re-enactment in relation to examples of video essays from Frames and Audiovisualcy, the paper expounds on these concepts’ applicability as scholarly standards for evaluating film historical video essays, to conclusively propose a new direction for their further integration into scholarly practice.

Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography

With this post I introduce a new page which I have added to my blog called ‘Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography’. Moving deeper into my research I have become increasingly aware of how little literature exists specifically on the theory and practice of digital methods in film historical research. For that reason I thought it was particularly urgent to try to create an overview of the existing literature, and to create an awareness about this still somewhat limited discussion, first of all for my own sake but potentially also for scholars with similar interests. Hopefully, it may engender additional suggestions from readers, which I may have overlooked.

The page will be updated each time I stumble upon something relevant, so make sure to check it regularly if you, like I am, are particularly interested in this topic. Should the page grow significantly I might consider restructuring it into a thematically structured bibliography, but as for now I did not see a good reason for doing that.

For the sake of simplification I have avoided including general literature on film historiography and film archiving history as it would mean listing a very large number of film historical reference works. In other words, the aim here is not to surpass the effort of Jean Mitry’s Bibliographie internationale du cinéma et de la télévision (1966-1968) but rather to create a growing list of writings on the digital research practices that are currently emerging.

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A Numerate Film History

Detail from the flyer accompanying the symposium “A Numerate Film History? Cinemetrics Looks at Griffith, Sennett and Chaplin (1909-1917)” at the University of Chicago

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I have written a little introduction to the bibliography which reads as follows:

With digitisation of film heritage occurring at an increasing pace, the past decade has seen an array of digital formats of access and reuse emerge, in scholarly as well as in museum contexts, to become central to the production, contemplation and validation of film historical knowledge: video essays, data visualizations, DVDs, online platforms and museum installations are formats that increasingly permeate sites of film historical knowledge.

As pointed out by film and media scholars Vincenz Hediger (2008), Malte Hagener (2011) and Katherine Groo (2012) with regard to this development, it becomes increasingly urgent to understand how and if the appropriations of digitised films in these formats confirm, challenge or reformulate understandings of film history.

Addressing this debate and the concerns it expresses, I have established the bibliography below with the aim of enhancing the overview of emerging uses of digital methods in film historical research amongst film and media scholars. I have called it “Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography” to align it to the sub-field of “Digital Historiography” which has existed in the discipline of history for well over a decade and has already seen the publication of several pioneering monographs. As historian David J. Staley puts it in his 2003-monograph Computers, Visualization and History – How New Technologies Will Transform Our Understanding of the Past:

Without our recognizing them as such, visual secondary sources do exist in our profession in the form of diagrams, maps, films, dramatic recreations, and museum displays. While these visual secondary sources surround us daily, historians accord them supplementary status to the ‘real history’ we believe is written (p. 59-60)

My hope in making this bibliography is that the aforementioned formats can indeed be recognized as secondary sources of film history and contribute to the scholarly discussion about their theoretical implications. The bibliography is updated regularly.

Enjoy!

A note on 1920s film historiography in Paris and Marcel L’Herbier’s ‘L’Homme du large’ (1920)

Since last summer I have been increasingly interested in exploring the works of the French 1920s avant-garde directors – Jean Epstein, Germaine Dulac, Abel Gance, Louis Delluc and Marcel L’Herbier – beyond the most well known films from this period, which were programmed in the first year of my film and media studies program in Copenhagen in 2005/2006: films such as Jean Epstein’s La Chute de la maison Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher, 1928) or Dimitri Kirsanoff’s Ménilmontant (1926). While those films were absolutely eye-opening to me back then and left me with a completely different view on what film could be I never made the effort to dig as deep into that period as I would have liked. Film-viewing-wise, I remember I was mostly busy watching Italian classics and exploitation cinema back then.

However, all that changed when I began reading up on early film history writing and the recognition of film as an art form last year as a part of my research. In particular I became interested in the gradual discursive change toward film and the perception of film as an art form and its institutionalization in French film criticism, theory and ciné-club culture in the late 1910s and throughout the 1920s. In this respect, one of the critics and key figures of this moment whose early film histories have interested me in particular is Léon Moussinac. Moussinac belonged to the inner circle of film critics and theorists in Paris and was a militant supporter of film as an art form, playing a central role in recognizing for example Soviet cinema as such – in particular Vsevolod Pudovkin and Sergei Eisenstein – through his central engagement in the communist ciné-club Les amis de Spartacus, which was launched in the summer of 1927. Probably the best introduction to this period and its milieu has been written by the American film historian Richard Abel in his book French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915-1929 (Princeton University Press, 1987), which in retrospect regards this particular period with its cinephile cinema-going habits and critic-filmmaker figures as a ‘first wave’ preceding the later French Nouvelle Vague and its mixture of popular cultural and neo-avantgardist attitudes. A little introduction to Moussinac written by Abel can be found here. In French, perhaps the sociological analysis proposed by film conservator and historian of the French National Library Christophe Gauthier in his La Passion du cinéma: ciné-clubs, cinéphiles et salles spécialisées à Paris de 1920 à 1929 (AFRHC/EDC, 1999) remains one of the most engaging studies of the period which I have come across, partly because it investigates the links between collection building in the 1920s ciné-clubs and film preservation extensively.

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moussinac

Léon Moussinac’s Naissance du cinéma (J. Povolovzky & Cie, Éditeurs, 1925)

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Léon Moussinac wrote several film histories throughout the 1920s, both general ones and film histories focused on national cinemas, on for example Soviet cinema (Le Cinéma Soviétique, Librairie Gallimard, 1928). Arguably, his most influential film histories are the early Naissance du Cinéma (J. Povolovzky & Cie, Éditeurs, 1925) and Panoramique du Cinéma (Au sans pareil, 1929), because of their discernment of a set frame of reference for films which in the eyes of the 1920s cinephiles had contributed to the establishment of film as an art form (these books can still be found at quite reasonable prices online!). What I find particularly fascinating in reading these books today is the detailed insight they give into the canon formation and appreciation of silent films which are still with us and which continue to be taught as key films in the history of cinema, while at the same time, they may give an impression of some of the films which tend perhaps to be forgotten today and enjoyed only within specialized circles. Furthermore, it is intriguing to  go through them because they nourish an understanding of how contemporary film theory in its conceptualization of film as an art form laid the foundation for film history writing. The structure and content of Moussinac’s Naissance du cinéma is for example particularly interesting in this aspect, with an opening statement which serves to legitimize film as art, by proposing a list of films that are particularly artistic and a theoretical conception with which to discern then.

The book opens with the kind of statement which is for the most part abandoned in film history writing today (and for a good reason I would say, but arguably a quite necessary form of history at its time) because of its teleological conception of history. As Moussinac writes on page 7:

We are living in admirable and profoundly touching times. In the great turmoil of the modern an art is born, develops, discovering one after one its proper laws, marches slowly towards perfection, an art which will be the very expression, bold, powerful, original, the ideal of the new times. And it is a long hard stage, towards the beauty, in which too few yet believe because they have not fully understood its astounding truth. (Own translation).

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Nous vivons des heures admirables et profondément émouvantes. Dans le grand trouble moderne, un art naît, se développe, découvre une à une ses propres lois, marche lentement vers sa perfection, un art qui sera l’expression même, hardie, puissante, originale, de l’idéal des temps nouveaux. Et c’est une longue et dure étape, à la beauté de laquelle trop peu croient encore parce qu’ils n’en ont pas compris pleinement la formidable vérité. (Original quote).

This is followed by a little list which indicates the most important stages (étapes) in this development toward the birth of an art form consisting mostly of European (French, German, Swedish) and North American fiction films, with a strong emphasis on the French avant-garde represented by the films of Louis Delluc, Marcel L’Herbier, Abel Gance and Jean Epstein. That the films of the latter were recognized as particularly artistic pertained to a view which became increasingly common on French film criticism, theory and distribution at the time that conceptualized as of French films as particularly artistic. This is visible in Moussinac’s Naissance du Cinéma in its extensive use of the notion of photogénie as the foundation for its theoretical conception (‘conception théorique’). This term, while used with subtle and important differences in nuance in the writings of Jean Epstein, Louis Delluc and Moussinac, sought to capture or formulate the subjective experience of a particularly beautiful cinematic moment, usually of a very short duration: a gesture, an expression or for example a detail in cinematography and mise-en-scène which appears striking because of a particularly aesthetic quality. The identification of these moments of cinematic beauty what was led the French cinephiles to make their lists of the most artistic films, in contemporary film reviews which would then serve as support for a historicisation of film art’s development.

It may seem somewhat dubious that the French tended to acknowledge their own cinema as a particularly artistic one in this period (and it may very well be the case to some extent, given that this historical view excluded so many other films) but I think it is quite important to keep in mind that the dynamic of this conception of cinema which is visible in for example Moussinac’s writings cinema may be regarded – in line with the argument in Abel’s history of the period – as very much similar to that of the later “second wave” – the Nouvelle Vague. Here seemed quite simply to be a group of individuals – more or less like-minded – who missed something more daring from their own cinema production, being – in the case of some – fascinated by developments in American, Soviet and Scandinavian cinema, thus promoting at the same time film art through film criticism/theory and filmmaking. It is exactly because of these qualities that I have begun seeking out the 1920s French avant-garde films to a greater extent, to gain insight into how a common conception of film history as it continues to be taught today emerged. Of course, it is also to watch some truly remarkable films!

Thus, yesterday evening I had the immense pleasure of watching Marcel L’Herbier’s L’Homme du large for the first time (1920). This is in some respects a breakthrough film for L’Herbier being a great success with contemporary film critics and with a general audience. It is a powerful drama about a little family living by the seaside, in which the father – Nolff – badly wishes to get a son, in addition to his daughter, with whom he can share and teach his passion for the sea. However, when finally the son – Michel – is born, he is drawn instead to the city from which the family had moved to live itself by the sea. Developing a more and more intense antipathy towards his father who remains blindly faithful and loving of his son almost regardless of his conduct, Michel eventually ends being tangled up in the seedy city life and its violence, ignoring at the same time – to the agony of his sister – his mother’s increasingly grave illness. The film is told in a complex flash-back structure where the father is first seen living as an hermit, because of the break with his son, to then look back at the development of their relationship and their eventual break-up. It contains many emotionally strong scenes, and is visually stunning, with an incredible use of colors (according to L’Herbier’s notes) to depict the sea, complex editing between locations, inter-title design – sometimes in split-screen, super-impositions and framing, of which I have included some examples of screen caps below.

As Moussinac noted in Naissance du cinéma, what gave the film its great quality was its depiction of the sea and role in the story (p. 119):

Thus, what often gives L’Homme du large, its emotion, is this constant presence of the sea which shakes the drama, penetrates it, invades it, dominates it even, gives it its terrifying bursts, its endlessness. The sea’s voice is real, one is subjected to its grave tremendous tone, a sort of pedal (pédale) which upholds the chant of beginning at the end of the film. (Own translation).

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Ainsi ce qui procure à L’Homme du large, souvent, son émotion, c’est cette présence constante de la mer qui secoue le drame, le pénètre, l’envahit, le domine même, lui prête ses sursauts terribles, son infini. La voix de la mer est réelle, on subit sa note grave prodigieuse, sorte de pédale qui soutient le chant du commencement à la fin du film. (Original quote).

The film is released in a highly elegant double-DVD set from French Gaumont together with L’Herbier’s El Dorado (1921). Each film is accompanied by a detailed booklet, containing reproductions of the original poster art, elaborate notes on the restorations – particularly interesting with regard to L’Homme du large‘s colors – and historical articles, for example Henri Langlois’ praise of L’Homme… Highly recommended!

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L'homme du large 4

When Nolff learns that his wife has given birth to a boy, he proposes a clear division of their education between them: his wife can take care of their daughter, while Nolff himself will educate their son to become “- a free man, a sailor!”. Here, an inter-title appears simultaneously with the action in split-screen.

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L'homme du large 2

The terrified look of Michel’s sister Djenna set to the background of the sea, as she gathers courage to go into town and bring back her drunk brother to their mother’s sickbed.

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L'homme du large 1

One of the film’s stunning visual features is its use of masks in different shapes and super-impositions; in one of the most dramatic scenes for example, a cross suddenly appears super-imposed over the sea.

Petition Filmoteca de Navarra

Crisis times have become petition times for a range of moving image archives. Especially in Southern Europe it appears. In a period where subsidies to moving image archiving are considered increasingly easy to eliminate with the excuse of an austere economic climate this development has been particularly serious in the countries which have been affected most profoundly by the crisis and for a range of regional institutions which belong to the circuit outside of the mainstream film and audiovisual archives. Perhaps the most surprising case has been the looming closure of La Cinemateca Portuguesa in Lisbon which as of September last year only expected to have funding to keep up its activities for the rest of the year (at least this is what Cahiers du cinéma could report in its October issue of 2013 based on an interview with head of programming Luis Miguel Oliveira).

In France, smaller institutions such as Marseille’s Cinémémoire – Cinémathèque de films amateur de Marseille was facing cuts in June last year: an institution which holds a unique and important collection of amateur films from the former French colonies. Equally, La Cinemathèque de Bourgogne was to be relocated May 2013, without an offer to be hosted elsewhere.

Latest addition to this list of unfortunate institutions is the Spanish Filmoteca de Navarra in Pamplona. Earlier today a plea was sent out via the list-serv of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) to sign a petition explaining and creating awareness of the institution’s situation, which faces closure. I strongly encourage to sign and support this petition to create awareness of this important cause and to make it clear that audiovisual archives are irreplaceable and that audiovisual heritage – both as an art form and as a source of history and collective memory – is something which must be recognized on a par with other types of collecting institutions. I have copy-pasted the e-mail which was sent by film the Filmoteca’s archivist Silvia Casagrande below to accompany the plea. The petition can be signed here.

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Filmoteca de Navarra

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“Dear AMIA Community,

I am Silvia Casagrande and I’ m working as archivist at the Filmoteca de Navarra, in Spain. It is the first time that I write to the AMIA Listserv, normally I prefer to read the important suggestions that the members give regarding film’s conservation and restoration. But today I decided to write to ask the help of the entire archivist’s community.

Since its creation in 2011, the Filmoteca worked with enthusiasm trying to conserve the cinematographic and audiovisual heritage of the navarrian community. Now, the Government of Navarra decided to close the Fundation INAAC (Navarra’s institution of audiovisual arts and cinematography) that created and owned the Filmoteca! This implies that any kind of conservation and protection of the films (for the majority Home Movies) stored in the archive will be abruptly stopped. Unfortunately they don’t want to invest on their own (audiovisual) memory of the last century.

In these 3 years, as Filmoteca, we collected more than 120.000 meters of films from 80 donations; we conserve home movies from the 30’s to the 80’s, images of the Spanish Civil War, all the traditions of the region (both public and private)… all these films are historical documents of the Navarrian community.

The directors of the majors Spanish Film Archives wrote a public note to the government, but to be more effective we need the support of everybody.

We still have the possibility to send a last message to the Government of Navarra, and this can be done by signing a petition. Please consider this possibility by clicking on this link. Also, we would be grateful if you can disseminate our situation with your colleagues in order to collect more signatures supporting our petition to survive.

Thank you for what you will do! If you want to have more information regarding this email please do not hesitate in contacting me directly (on or off list)

Best regards,

Silvia Casagrande”

Perforated by accident – When a digital film transfer accidentally becomes structural filmmaking

Back in 2012 I bought a handful of Soviet silent classics by Vsevolod Pudovkin, Boris Barnet, Yakov Protazanov and Aleksandr Dovzhenko from the French DVD publisher Bach films. Overall, the digital transfers of the films which can be found on these DVDs are of a very varying quality: sometimes they are pretty decent, while other times the image is fuzzy leaving no doubt that the transfer has been made from a VHS source of very dubious quality.

In spite of this, the DVDs are quite interesting and come highly recommended. They always contain interesting extras; rare shorts of the mentioned directors, television documentaries on the directors and actors (especially the release of Protazanov’s Father Sergius (1917) which contains the excellent documentary on actor Ivan Mozzhukhin’s life and career in Paris, Ivan Mosjoukine ou l’enfant du carnaval (Galina Domatovskaia, 1999)). In addition, the DVDs – at least when found in shops and not online – are usually in the price range of three euros which makes the personal economic casualty of buying a DVD with a bad transfer of a hard-to-find film quite bearable.

But there are also more unforeseeable effects to be experienced when looking at these films in these particular editions – looking is meant here in the sense intended by many film preservationists who tend to ignore content or story, while paying attention to a film’s material properties. Poor digital transfers is of course the result of carelessly supervised transferring and this leaves room for some artifacts within the image of several of these films which the most neatly restored versions of film classics from other DVD companies such as for example the Criterion Collection and Masters of CInema would probably never leave in there. Often I have witnessed artifacts which were printed- in, in the film copy to then remain in the digital transfer of a film: of course cue dots from 35mm prints which is quite common to encounter but also more interestingly, on the Bach films editions, sprocket holes appearing in the midst of the frame running over the screen.

The effect created by the latter type of artifacts was particularly striking and peculiar when I watched the edition of The New Babylon (Grigori Kosintsev and Leonid Trauberg, 1929), an effect which I cannot recall ever experiencing in my career as a DVD aficionado. It could be said to add a material reflexive dimension to this classic silent film, which depicts the fall of the Paris Commune in 1871, centering on a troubled love story between two individuals on each their side of the conflict between the commune and republican France; a doubting soldier and a militant woman. The transfer had quite evidently been made from a VHS, but nonetheless it was clear that these printed-in artifacts had remained in the frame, very far from where they should be in this type of film. Curiously, I registered that the presence of these artifacts reached its highest intensity in the film’s climactic scenes when the Paris Commune falls. All of a sudden, sprocket holes appear in the midst of battle scenes, while the troubled lovers stare at them running over the screen. This made the film appear as anything but a silent classic, but rather a materialist film in the vein of 1960s and 1970s structural filmmaking such as George Landow’s classic Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc. (1966), or more recent found footage works such as Peter Tscherkassky’s Cinemascope Trilogy (1997-2001), especially actress Barbara Hershey’s heroic fight with sprocket holes and optical soundtracks in Outer Space‘s (Peter Tscherkassky, 2000) flickering climax.

This accidental analogy made me think that, while slickness and clean images usually are the first things many would associate with digital imagery – and especially digital transfers – the reality of digitisation is much more complex, and sometimes as in the case of Bach films transfers can induce involuntary reflection on the materialities of film in the digital domain. While one could ponder at length about the deontology and ethics involved – or rather lacking – in such transferring practices, I prefer to think of them in this case – and with a touch of irony – of an accidental material reflexivity which can invite further interrogation and reflection on what the transition from analog to digital implies for our experience of film classics and archival films.

I have made a couple of screen captures – a feature of the digital viewing experience which enables me to indulge in this phenomenon – which I include here below. The characters in these shots are thoughtfully looking toward the perforations, to the right in the first example, almost in an angelic manner in the second, slightly confused in the third and (perhaps) perplexed in the fourth.

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Perf Babylon

NECSUS Interview on EYE Film Institute Netherlands’ Bits & Pieces

The latest issue of NECSUS – European Journal of Media Studies, #4 with the theme ‘Waste’, has been published today. For this issue I interviewed silent film collection specialist Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi and senior curator Mark-Paul Meyer at the EYE Film Institute Netherlands on their work with the unique Bits & Pieces compilations of film fragments. I have included my introduction to the interview below, the entire interview can be read here.

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bp417-2

Frame grab from Bits & Pieces fragment no. 417.

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“Since the late 1980s, EYE Film Institute Netherlands (formerly the Nederlands Filmmuseum) has been collecting and preserving unidentified film fragments from its collection to create an ongoing series of compilations titled Bits & Pieces. The compilations consist of fragments which the majority of film archives would tend to disregard in favour of restoring complete films, but which EYE considers to contain a certain kind of cinematic beauty which deserves to be preserved and shown. Currently, the series counts 623 fragments, each of which has been assigned a number, and spread out on 56 reels of 300 meters.

The initiative to create Bits & Pieces was taken at a time when film archives increasingly developed different institutional deontologies of preservation and when film historians went into film archives in a revisionist spirit to rediscover neglected directors, actors, exhibition practices, and technologies. The Nederlands Filmmuseum – then headed by deputy director Eric de Kuyper and assisted by staff members Peter Delpeut and Mark-Paul Meyer – gained a significant reputation at this time by propagating the view that film historians continued to neglect the fact that film archives contained a substantial amount of film fragments which could not be attributed to an author or fit into an aesthetic school. Pointing to a discrepancy between the theory of film history and film archival practice, the Filmmuseum’s staff began to plea for new forms of presenting and valorising the fragments they found, which ultimately materialised in the Bits & Pieces project.[1]

Since then, Bits & Pieces compilations have been in high demand. They are continuously programmed in festivals and have provided source material in numerous filmic appropriation works – uses that have received widespread attention in literature on found footage and recycled cinema. However, it remains relatively unknown how the curators work with the collection on a daily basis and how their selection has developed since its launch. In this interview the current curators of Bits & Pieces – silent film collection specialist Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, involved in Bits & Pieces since 2000, and senior curator Mark-Paul Meyer – met for a conversation about the appraisal of fragments at EYE and the initiative’s imperative in a past and present perspective. The interview took place in the nitrate identification facilities of EYE located on the outskirts of Amsterdam.”

Do the Gilles – Deleuze becomes the phantom of La Cinemathèque française

It was quite a sensation – especially for some early cinema scholars – when the rapper Snoop Dogg performed live at Coachella in 2012 with a sudden “guest appearance” of long deceased Tupac, a stunt often discussed among journalists as being a hologram while it was not. To see such a media practice reemerge in contemporary popular culture offers an interesting potential insight into the feelings audiences could perhaps have felt in the late eighteenth-century when witnessing the Phantasmagorias of Etienne-Gaspard Robertson and its ressuscitations.

Recently, a quite different way of creating such a moment of resuscitation caught my attention as something which goes a bit further, and as a quite original take on bringing a prominent personality back to life, this time from the domain of film theory appealing to a slightly different crowd. Twenty-five years ago, in 1988, the television film L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze was filmed, shown for the first time on the French television station Arte in 1996 after Gilles Deleuze’s death (one of the conditions of filming it was that it be shown post-humously). To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the filming, La Cinémathèque française in Paris, has decided to pay tribute to Deleuze in a rather fascinating manner to introduce his film theory to new audiences, or just to keep its memory alive.

From September 2013 to July 2014, the actor Robert Cantarella will throughout the year, re-enact the lectures which form the basis for Deleuze’s cinema books. Under the title “Faire le Gilles” a lecture will be re-enacted one wednesday a month and entrance will be free. Cantarella has listened closely to tapes of the entire lectures to attain the grain and diction of Deleuze’s voice as well as his bodily gestures, in order to perform this tour de force and to become a “phantome” of Deleuze. Cantarella finds it crucial, to experience the voice of Deleuze to understand his thought and has therefore decided to embark on this. A video can be seen below where Cantarella explains and performs this (this one is for the francophones only, sorry!). It has been an on-going project for Cantarella for some years, who already in 2011 was giving lectures on a monthly basis, copying the voice of Deleuze – an example can be seen here. So, it is an expert – perhaps the only one? – in this field.

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But one could also say, that it is in a way an expert institution for this kind of project. It seems logical, that La Cinémathèque française which is so renowned for collecting and presenting early visual devices and documenting practices such as Robertson’s phantasmagorias, should embark on such an experiment of resuscitation; making Deleuze the phantom of the Cinémathèque for the next year thus in a peculiar way reflects the institution’s unique heritage.

I hope to be able to make it at least once if my schedule allows it!