Something hot from Hollywood

[photo credits to]
[hot photo credits to
VanityFair website]

quick shorthands on film studies

But let me digress first and talk serious about film. It goes like this. As i was settling in for a coffee a while ago, I was reading an article by Robert B. Ray, a Professor on English and the Director of Film and Media Studies at the University of Florida and an author of pertinent books A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema 1930 - 1980 (1985) and The Avant-Garde Finds Andy Hardy (1995). His article, entitled Impressionism, Surrealism, and Film Theory: Path Dependence, or how a Tradition in Film Theory gets Lost, describe the significance of Sergei Eisenstein on the development of film theory and the establishment of the discourse on filmmaking-as-art.

I quote from Mr. Bay's article with care:

"[...] Inevitably, film theory took longer to appear, but after the First World War it quickly developed into two analogous positions, only one of which was attached so neatly to a single name.

That name, of course, was Eisenstein. With his insistence that filmmaking-as-an-art depended on repudiating the camera's automatic recording capacity, Eisenstein aligned himself with Melies, but also with pictorialism, the movement that sought to legitimize photography by disguising its images as paintings. Eisenstein avoided that retrograde move while nevertheless shared its fundamental premise: the medium's aesthetic value is a direct function of its ability to transform the reality serving as its raw material. For Eisentein, the means of such transformation was montage, the ideal tool for deriving significance (chiefly political) from the real details swarming in his footage.

As his theoretical essays appeared in the 1920s, Eisenstein assumed the role simultaneously perfected by T.S. Eliot --- the artistic-critic whose writings create the taste by which his own aesthetic practice is judged. Eisenstein's sensational films enhance the prestige of his theoretical positions, which quickly triumphed over the alternative proposed by the French Impressionists and Surrealists. If Eisenstein saw the cinema as a means of argument, the French regarded is as the vehicle of revelation, and the knowledge revealed was not always expressible in words. 'Explanations here are out of place,' Louis Delluc wrote about the 'phenomenon' of Sessure Hayakawa's screen presence, an example of what the Impressionist called photogenie. 'I wish there to be no words,' Jean Epstein declared, refusing to translate the concept that he posited as 'the purest expression of cinema' [...]"

If by any chance you do not catch the significance of this lenghty quoted text, you can skip it and move ahead on the second part of this post.

by Annie Leibovitz, photographer and contributing editor of Vanity Fair


Most auteurist critics would disagree with my claim but this photo shoot is amazing. Though this set of pictures depict a somewhat glamorize image of the director superimposed to iconic celebrity image of the actors, made somewhat a comment, a perspective, and a justification of the fascinating connection between and actor and a director. Perhaps Vanity Fair, with Annie Leibovitz talent at its peak, wanted to draw a raw and humanistic picture.

I am particulary interested on two photographs above: one is the photo of Clint Eastwood and the other one if the photo of Heath Ledger and Christopher Nolan. I am pretty much aware that photographs are really pieces of art; but i do not want to dwell much on the dynamics of signs and symbols via semiotics. Instead, i would draw my criticism right away.

The photo of Clint Eastwood is an overlap of the director and the actor. Perhaps this remark is obvious. As we all know, Clint Eastwood is one of the most prominent directors in film history. He made an 'auteurial' debut with his film Bird (1988) and cemented his reputation as one of leading directors of American Cinema with his two features Million Dollar Baby (2002) and Mystic River (2001). He was also known for his anti-heroic and westerner roles as actor during the 1960s and 1970s. This overlapping of careers and mindset is elucidated greatly in the photograph. This is what makes the photo different from the set. It's a great way of putting up Eastwood without sacrificing his reputation.

Another photo that i like is the Heath Ledger/Christopher Nolan photo. Annie Leibovitz records a certain animate picture of Heath Ledger. She desaturated it into a black and white photo, removing all colors, a tribute to Heath Ledger who passed away last January 2008. As we know, B&W photos are a thing of the past. it also emanates a certain archival look and also a sense of the an unnatural universe. The picture migth mean to imply a certain spiritual aspect, an honor, and a message to Heath. It forms a unifying dichotomy of life and death. This is how Annie Leibovitz puts the idea of a tribute. It is impossible to draw a page for obituaries on Vanity Fair, a fashion magazine, but Annie Leibovitz creates a form of obituary to Heathby making this photo to appear B&W.

This post ends here.