Essentially ground zero for adaptation studies—it's actually kind of embarrassing that I hadn't given it a look until recently (I'm assuming checking...moreEssentially ground zero for adaptation studies—it's actually kind of embarrassing that I hadn't given it a look until recently (I'm assuming checking it out multiple times from the library to have it sit unopened on my shelf doesn't count, right?).
Bluestone follows Lessing's classic distinction between the verbal and visual as articulated in Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry (though interestingly never references Lessing explicitly), and in minute detail argues that "what is peculiarly filmic and what is peculiarly novelistic cannot be converted without destroying an integral part of each."
Fair enough, though almost all analysis and commentary on the subject—my own included—in the half century since have taken on a more nuanced approach in how the literary and cinematic interact in film adaptations, thus Bluestone's study takes on that unenviable position of being that initial, influential text that everyone subsequently takes to task to erect their own theoretical conjectures. The majority of the book is comprised of essays that entail close, formalistic readings of both the cinematic and literary text of the type that was de rigueur in academic studies in the first half of the twentieth century (which is my diplomatic way saying that it's good stuff that makes for dull reading).
Someday I will sit down and give it a thorough read though. (less)
Important early work on the subject, not only by Dyer (who would quickly establish himself as one of the pioneering giants of the field) but from both...moreImportant early work on the subject, not only by Dyer (who would quickly establish himself as one of the pioneering giants of the field) but from both both Sheldon and Babuscio. Sheldon's contribution is invaluable in the sense of "observing from ground zero," writing at the same moment lesbian filmmaking was just starting to really establish itself, and Dyer's work is a foundation that much of his subsequent work would build upon and expand. Didn't have a chance to give Babuscio's section a look, however, since it was outside of my immediate research interests, but would like to return at some point to see how it stands up next to Parker Tyler's masterpiece of film-analysis-as-camp from just several years before, Screening the Sexes: Homosexuality in the Movies.
"Because, as gays, we grew up isolated not only from our heterosexual peers but also from each other, we turned to the mass media for information and ideas about ourselves. Until recently, films have been just about the only widely accessible source of such ideas, and we have had, unfortunately, to rely on them a good deal."(less)
Absolutely invaluable—I turned to this countless times for refreshers and ideas in how to present many of the key ideas, concepts and terms of cinema...moreAbsolutely invaluable—I turned to this countless times for refreshers and ideas in how to present many of the key ideas, concepts and terms of cinema studies to my students in ways that were both clear and meaningful (I honestly don't know what I would have done without the concise explanation of film semiotics). And I swear I'm not biased just because he was my thesis advisor! (less)
Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell are the hook and main selling point, but this is actually a collection of essays covering a number of modernist women...moreVirginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell are the hook and main selling point, but this is actually a collection of essays covering a number of modernist women writers, including H.D., Colette, Dorothy Richardson, Bryher, Stein, etc. The topics traversed—ranging from the Woolfs's personal albums to Bell's photographic experimentation to early, pioneering female film criticism and more—is unceasingly fascinating, which is why I was often frustrated with how dull Humm's analysis could become. It's pretty dazzling when it sticks to original research and close reading of a wide range of material (which accounts for the four stars), but all too often comes it lapses into ponderous strings of academese, and I quickly began to skip just about everything directly dealing with psychoanalytic theory (which is why I considered docking one of those stars).
The major highlight is the consideration of the Woolfs's personal photo albums as demonstrating a number of her literary techniques in visual form. Never chronological or even topically arranged, the five albums instead are largely associative constructions and often contain multiple photographs of a single subject from different visual perspectives (echoing cubist and other innovations of modernist visual art), and sometimes "superior" versions of photos can be found hidden behind ones that are less representationally perfect but contain flaws that are more artistically interesting and/or evocative (hinting that the albums were more than just personal records) . I wish Humm had explored a bit more Leonard's admitted contribution to the albums, but overall Humm makes a convincing case that Woolf's larger aesthetic project involves her "amateur" involvement in the photographic arts just as much as her "professional" achievements as novelist, essayist, and literary figure.
There's also a nice overview of the intimate connection many female modernists had to cinema and the photographic arts in general, opening up a number of avenues of inquiry I'm already researching and/or plan to pursue further.
[One of the images Humm includes from the Woolf albums]
I had the privilege of reading several of the essays included in this important collection in manuscript form in one of Prof. Nichols's seminars, and...moreI had the privilege of reading several of the essays included in this important collection in manuscript form in one of Prof. Nichols's seminars, and it was with great pleasure I revisited those same essays and read the additional material now in its published form. Forgács is a Hungarian filmmaker and archivist whose primarily work primarily deals with various types of historical found-footage unearthed from Europe's past, and his most well-known and powerful films use the home videos depicting the everyday lives of middle-class Jewish families in the years leading up to the deployment of the Final Solution (in one utterly devastating sequence in The Maelstrom, for example, we actually see family members packing their bags for what they believe is a work assignment, but turns out to be the death camp where they will all perish). It's really a travesty, in my opinion, that Forgács's films are not more widely known and are almost completely unavailable (the majority are made for European television), and here's hoping that the publication of this book will raise awareness and attention, and perhaps greater access to his work.
As for the actual material, the two lengthy interviews with Forgács are fascinating, and the essays generally exemplify the best of theoretical film writing; that is, they regards the films as embodying a type of supple philosophical/theoretical statements in and of themselves, and while a diverse array of thinkers make appearances (including Barthes, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur, Benjamin, Balázs, etc, etc) they are used to illuminate rather than dictate or pontificate. For me, the standout essays are those by Kaja Silverman and Michael Roth, but nearly all are worth reading. And, more importantly, the films themselves are worth watching. (less)