Category Archives: In Conversation With

In Conversation with John Gibbs

I´m an admirer of  John Gibbs’ work on the ´Long Take,´on mise-en-scène, and on style-based criticism; on his careful consideration of the implications of various choices on film style; on the ways style and meaning intersect. It´s work that often requires reading of the text in conjunction with viewing, usually before and after, and occasionally even multiple times thereafter. His videographic criticism seems a natural extension of his previous practice in prose: observant, detailed, precise.

I´ve found that, like his scholarly work in prose, his videographic criticism similarly enhances my understanding and appreciation of film style in general and the particular works his video essays explore, sometimes in ways that prove truly illuminating. As John says, it´s a means of extending both the methods and subjects of style-based criticism but with perhaps a different kind of relationship with an audience, more immediate and with a wider reach.

I was keen to talk to him about all of this and in the podcast above we discuss how videographic criticism offers new possibilities to engage with the rich texture of movies and to extend methods of style-based criticism. We explore non-linear, non-hierarchical approaches to film history, how they present new possibilities of dealing with detailed analysis of film whilst also offering greater access to criticism and the potential for a wider audience. We chat about how good video essays enable the works to speak for themselves whilst simultaneously providing particular types of analyses to criticism, new tools for teaching, and different means through which students may achieve excellence. John mentions how videographic criticism often construct a journey of point of view through an experience, more like a filmmaker than an essayist in a traditional sense and some of the these forms invite a different kind of engagement, particularly considering the different kinds of practices going on — part of the excitement — and their relationship to found footage filmmaking, gallery art practice etc.

 

The conversation refers to particular works of videographic criticism by John Gibbs (including his collaborations with Douglas Pye) and you can see them below.

 

 

 

José Arroyo

In Conversation with Ginette Vincendeau — Part II

 

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Below is the second part of a two-part podcast with Ginette Vincendeau on Jean Gabin, which picks up a little before the first part ended. Once Gabin returned to top stardom in France in ´54/55, what values did he represent/signify? Does he mean something different in France than abroad? What is it and why? Is it true he didn´t make any good films after ‘Touchez-pas au grisby’ and ‘French Can Can’? What is the significance of him being cast with co-stars so much younger than himself like Bardot and Danièle Delorme? What does ´La France Gabinisée´and ‘La Gabinisation de la France’ mean. I ask the questions but it is Ginette´s answers that fascinate and illuminate.

 

I am grateful to Will Straw who brought to my attention the special issue of Schnock which featured Gabin and which asserted, in ways that are visualised below, that ´Gabin´means something different at home and abroad and that at home he signifies a particular type of Frenchness. This lead me to ask Ginette about it and she brought up Jean-Laurent Cassely´s book, No fake: Contre-histoire de notre quête dáuthenticité, and the concept of ‘Gabinisation’, as well as Ginette´s noting of how often ‘Gabin’ is turned into a verb: Gabinise, Gabiniser…

 

Will also brought up the interview with Nicolas Pariser in the October 2019 issue of Cahiers du cinéma, which I ask Ginette to comment on in the podcast:

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My rough translation is as follows: ‘Those films from the 50s where Gabin tells off young people are cinema´s absolute evil. In Rue des prairies, he bawls out Marie-José Nat because she does nothing and wakes up late. I have a bit of an extreme thesis: I think May ´68 was because of Gabin. He became unbearable at a certain moment. The cinema I love exploded that reactionary schema. And astonishingly we find  nostalgia for 50s cinema were the old explain life to the young in quite a few contemporary French Films’

I am also grateful to Nicky Smith for noting the difference in ages between Gabin and his female co-stars, and how this trope recurred in so many films. This lead to an interesting discussion with Ginette on this issue where Ginette notes how strong that trope is in French cinema in general, can be seen in the thirties in films like Arlette et ses papas (Henri Roussel, 1934) , and continues on quite late  and in various cultural forms(e.g. Serge Gainsbourg Lemon Incest). 

You can follow up on all of these issues through Ginette´s books below:

Furthermore, I have blogged on some of  Gabin´s later films, some mentioned in the podcast, and if you want to pursue that further you can click on the hyperlinks below.

Articles:

Voici le temps des assassins/ Deadlier than the Male (Julien Duvivier, France, 1956)

Miagret tend un piège (Jean Delannoy, 1958)

Maigret et l’affaire St. Fiacre (Jean Delannoy, France, 1959)

Le clan des Siciliens/The Sicilian Clan (Henri Verneuil, France/USA, 1969)

Le chat (Pierre Granier-Deferre, France, 1971)

Le tueur/ Killer (Denys de la Patellière, France/Italy, 1972)

On clips from:

Touchez-pas au grisbi (Jacques Becker, 1954)

Razzia sour la chnouf (Henri Decoin, 1955)

French Can-can (Jean Renoir 1955)

José Arroyo

In Conversation with Ginette Vincendeau – Part 1

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The first of two podcasts with the great Ginette Vincendeau on the great Jean Gabin. I´ve always been a fan of Gabin´s but my interest in him was revived by the ‘Jean Gabin: The Man With Blue Eyes’ retrospective curated by Edouard Waintrop at the 1919 Il Cinema Ritrovatto  in Bologna,  where aside from more familiar classics like Pépé le Moko (Julien Duvivier) and Le plaisir (Max Ophüls, 1951), I also had the opportunity to see Coeur de Lilas (Anatole Litvak, 1931), De haut en bas (George W. Pabst), Au-delà des grilles (René Clément, 1948), La Marie du port (Marcel Carné, 1949), and others.

I wanted to talk about all of this and find out more about Gabin. And who knows more about Gabin than Ginette Vincendeau? Ginette is Professor in Film Studies at King´s College London. As you can see from some of her various books above, she´s written on French Cinema of the 1930s, on Gabin specifically, on Gabin films in particular (Pépé le Moko), on directors Gabin worked with (Renoir) stars and stardom in French Cinema, texts in context in French cinema, etc. No one of my acquaintance knows more about Gabin and few are as much fun to talk to.

This above, the first of two podcast, covers the period up to 1954, where after a fallow post-war period Gabin once again re-emerged as a top box-office attraction. Who was Jean Gabin? How did he become a star? What did he represent in the 1930s and how is that significant in terms of class and national identity? How central is he to 1930s French Cinema. Was he allied to the Popular Front? There´s a narrative of failure around Gabin´s post-war career. Does that narrative hold up to scrutiny? These questions and others are discussed in this first podcast. The second will deal with the period from 1954 to his death in 1976.

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Some of my blogging and podcasting on Gabin films of this period, mostly arising from he viewing in Ritrovato, can be found by clicking the hyperlinks above and below:

 

La Bandera (Julien Duvivier, 1935)

Le jour se lève (Marcel Carné, 1935)

Martin Roumagnac (Georges Lacombe, 1946)

Podcast from Ritrovatto that touches on Gabin

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José Arroyo

In Conversation with Julie Lobalzo Wright

 

Julie Lobalzo Wright has written a fascinating book on the concept of crossover stardom and what it tells us about popular male music stars in American Cinema. The book is now on paperback and thus accessible. Julie is also involved in various events around the musicals season at the BFI this Autumn, the highlights of which are: A study day on musicals at NFT3 on October 26th; and a talk on her book on November 4th at the BFI Reubens Library. This matrix of events is the context for the wide-ranging and enthusiastic conversation which you can listen to above, one that touches on, amongst other things, stardom, the musical, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Kris Kristofferson, Justin Timberlake, Barbara Streisand, various versions of A Star is Born, stardom over time, and changes in the musical genre right up to the live network screenings of shows such as Hairspray and Jesus Christ Superstar.

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José Arroyo

José Arroyo in Conversation with Joaquín Aras

 

Joaquín Aras is an artist and filmmaker from Buenos Aires. His work is on show alongside that of María Agustina Fernández Raggio and Paula Monzillo at the What It Became Is Not What It Is Now exhibition curated by Louise Hobson and currently on show at Grand Union until the 9th of November. Aras also screened Snuff 1976 at The Electric Cinema in Birmingham. Snuff 1976 is a reworking of the original ´snuff´/horror/ soft core porn’ American exploitation film shot in Argentina just at the time when a military dictatorship was coming into power and beginning to commit the atrocities this period in Argentine history will forever be remembered for. The film was advertised as ‘A movie that could only have been made in South America, where life is cheap’.

 

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This is a wide-ranging conversation that touches on: film history; what is centre/ periphery in relation to how film cultures circulate?; how does one reconstruct popular memory?; film preservation; the connection between Snuff 1976, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the Manson murders; and Aras´ ongoing attempts to give voice and expression to those areas related to history and popular memory currently occluded, bypassed, sometimes even lost or erased.

Joaquín and I also discuss the relationship of his work to the video essay, how his choices of what to focus on are contextual and specific to Argentina. We discuss the relationship of guest and host in the horror film and what the work of Levinas and Derrida can bring to an understanding of that relationship. We also talk about how memory might be a great way to challenge historicity. A conversation worth hearing and a show worth watching. Details of the exhibition are below:

 

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Those of you interested in issues of film history and popular memory might want to follow up by reading Annette Kuhn´s foundational work in these areas:

An Everyday Magic: Cinema and Cultural Memory. London: I.B. Tauris, 2002. Published in the US as Dreaming of Fred and Ginger: Cinema and Cultural Memory. New York: New York University Press.

Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination. London: Verso, 1995; rev edn, 2002.

 

José Arroyo in Conversation with David Greven

 

A conversation with David Greven, distinguished Hitchcock scholar, author of Intimate Violence: Hitchcock, Sex and Queer Theory, Psycho-Sexual: Male Desire in Hitchcock, De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin and many other books (see images below) which took place at the Under Capricorn +70 Conference at King´s College, London. We talk of Hitchcock as a queer filmmaker, how his works undermine gender roles and expectations. We discuss David´s explorations of the intersection of Queer Theory and Hitchcock and what he´s learned by bringing them together. We bring into the discussion recent television work by Ryan Murphy as well as the work of Pedro Almodóvar. We touch on the significance of the re-release of five Hitchcock films in the 80s in the context of gay male representation, as well as on E.M Foster adaptations such as Maurice, Room with A View, Howard´s End and the recent theatrical deployment of some of those structures and tropes in The Inheritance. Finally the conversation refocuses on his work on Under Capricorn, the presentation of which is David´s reason for being in London, putting it in the context of Ingrid Bergman´s ‘trilogy’ with Hitchcock (Spellbound and Notorious are the others). Under Capricorn is enthralling but is it goodP? Finally David offers some recommendations on how to introduce yourself to Hitchcock´s work if you haven´t already done so. If you don´t love Under Capricorn, you don´t love Hitchcock, and if you don´t know how to appreciate Hitchcock, you don´t know how to appreciate cinema. An informal but stimulating and all too brief conversation.

 

José Arroyo

In Conversation with Adrian Garvey on James Mason

 

A long, wide-ranging and informative discussion with scholar Adrian Garvey on the career of James Mason , the subject of Garvey´s interest and research for over a decade now. We touch on various aspects of the particularities of Mason´s career and achievements but with a particular focus on his work in the UK in the forties, and then in the United States in the 50s. The conversation ranges from the differences in his level of stardom in the UK and the US, his choice of projects, the quality of the people he sought out to work with, how a star becomes a lasting star in spite of never quite becoming a box-office star in America, what his star persona was in the UK and how that was re-deployed but also re-inflected in America. We touch on the directors he worked with: Reed, Ophuls, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Minnelli, Nicholas Ray; we compare his career to that of other British stars of the period and after– Stewart Granger, Dirk Bogarde, John Mills, Richard Burton, Peter O´Toole, Richard Harris, Alec Guiness…. A must-listen for anyone interested in James Mason.

José Arroyo