Thursday, 13 June 2013
This blog is the third and last in a series of film studies blogs that I wrote during my own Cultural Studies BA at the University of Leeds. I have loaded them here as a teaching aid. Please click on the links below for the other two blogs:
Framing the Russian Ark
This essay looks at how Vietnam is portrayed in popular culture by using the example of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979). The Vietnam war was described as ‘the first television war’ and ‘the first postmodern war’ and while modern technology made readily available images of war for those at home, over time subsequent imagery from the multiple films made about the war have become conflated with war footage. This essay provides an example of mediated representations of history through the examination of the scenery, characters, politics and production of the film.
Apocalypse Now is known for its surrealist format: “it is a dream, a baroque dream of napalm and of the tropics, a psychotropic dream” (Baudrillard 1994, p.59). The film begins with the haunting sound of The Doors song The End (appendix 3, p.10) which echoes the reflexive element of the film. In a way Willard has already taken the journey, he took it in his hotel room in the opening scene. It is not necessary for him to actually go down the river: the journey is symbolic. In the same way the war itself was not 'necessary' and was carried out for a whole host of reasons other than the ones presented to the public. The beginning of the film is the end of the film because, as Baudrillard explains, the film and the war are actually about “the reversibility of both destruction and production” (1994, p.60).
Click here for a full downloadable pdf of the essay:
The Vietnam War on Perception
Friday, 7 June 2013
This blog is the second in a series of film studies blogs that I wrote during my own Cultural Studies BA at the University of Leeds. I have loaded them here as a teaching aid.
Please click here to see the other blogs:
Framing the Russian Ark
Apocalypse Now: The Vietnam War on Perception
This essay offers a Lacanian analysis of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Anthony Burgess' Clockwork Orange. Using Jacques Lacan's theory on the symbolic order - in particular his themes of lack, the unconscious, the phallus, the signifier/signified and speech - I use a scene in the film to explicate his theory of sexual difference. The essay is written as a story which utilises the style of a fairy tale in order to draw attention to the different voices in the film, to allude to the original myth of Oedipus and to make reference to the forgotten episode of our own enculturation via the Oedipal trajectory.
Alex knows the cat lady doesn’t have the phallus. Women just feature in his life as objects to be done to. But, Alex is under the misapprehension that he does have the phallus. He doesn’t realise that no-one has the phallus. He believes the phallus represents potency, it signifies the life-force. He thinks he is one with his penis, and that the penis-sculpture he holds to his groin is this unity writ large. He actually believes he is the phallus. However, he does not realise that he is not seamless with the phallus: not only does the phallus exist in a space he cannot gain entry to, but his body is a fragmented one, he is a divided self, due to his prior misidentification at the mirror stage.
Click here for a full downloadable pdf of the essay: Once Upon a Time
Saturday, 1 June 2013
This blog, and the following two blogs, provide good examples of undergraduate cultural theory/film studies essays. I wrote them during my own Cultural Studies BA at the University of Leeds. All three essays received a first. Reading them retrospectively, while I can find fault in them from the position of someone who now marks undergraduate essays, I do still think they have merit. They stand as creative and well-researched essays on the films they are discussing and I have loaded them here as a teaching aid.
This essay provides a deconstruction of Alexander Sokurov's film Russian Ark using Jacques Derrida's Truth in Painting as a vehicle for exploring the use of framing within the film. Using Derrida's theory of the parergon I demonstrate how the director uses the viewing subject as a tool within the film itself and explain the effects of this on the spectator and what the result of this might be for Sokurov.
The camera follows the Marquis’ stroll around the gallery, which also involves a discussion with two visitors who are actors playing themselves: Sokurov’s real life friends Lev Yeliseyev and Oleg Khmelnisky. But, rather than keeping the camera still and centring the three characters in the middle of the frame, the camera very slowly moves up and down, to the left and right, rolling slightly and incorporating the paintings in the background (appendix 3, p.10). At one point the camera zooms slowly into the painting The Birth of St. John the Baptist (Jacopo Tintoretto c1550) which has the same three characters standing in the foreground. The shot incorporates the frame of the painting, with the characters closely examining the detail of the image just above the lower part of the frame, pointing closely at particular elements. Is this the exercising of the parergon in that this action by the characters is a bridge over the abyss described by Derrida in the closing of ‘Lemmata’ (1987, p.36) and on the cusp of his opening into ‘The Parergon’?
Click here for a full downloadable pdf of the essay: Framing the Russian Ark
Here are the other blogs in this series:
Lacanian analysis of Clockwork Orange: Once Upon a Time
A political critique of Apocalypse Now: The Vietnam War on Perception