Selective Viewing

An exploration of film, video and other media by Kate Blair

Tag: film

Guest appearance on Director’s Club podcast

Hitch

I recently joined my super smart and sweet friend Jim Laczkowski on his excellent Director’s Club podcast for a conversation about Alfred Hitchcock. You can listen to it here, on iTunes, through the Podcasts app on iPhone, or whatever other way people access podcasts these days.

We covered a lot of ground during our conversation, including The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds. If we skipped over your favorite, never fear, there will be a follow-up episode.

Jim has graciously invited me back, so stay tuned for more of my voice coming at you through your various devices and, of course, more movie chatter.

 

New article at Bitch Flicks

It’s been quiet over here, but that’s because I’ve been busy at work on other projects, like this one!

My first article for Bitch Flicks is up. Please check it out!

Slashing Gender Assumptions: The Female Killer, Unmasked! 

Friday 1

Marlene Dietrich’s face: feminine power and the subversion of gender norms

shanghai express marlene dietrich

Numerous homages have been written about Marlene Dietrich. She had incredible star power that is unmatched by basically anyone else. I’m not saying that Dietrich was the greatest star that ever existed, but quite possibly the strongest star persona ever constructed. Dietrich is a dream, and a powerful point of identification for women, especially because she so frequently bridges the gap between femininity and masculinity – not just in her appearance, but in her behavior.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sex, love, and violence: the allure of the vampire film

OLLA

The vampire genre is one of the classic strands of horror, reaching from the silent era to the present. These movies cover a wide spectrum of styles, from comedy-camp to blood-soaked gorefest. While almost all horror genres have gotten the arthouse treatment at some point, vampire films seem to lend themselves particularly well to stylized direction. Vampires films are the dreams of humanity, directly transcribed to the screen.

Vampires are in the middle of a pop-culture heyday, with the Twilight series recently in theaters and HBO’s TrueBlood, which just finished its 7-season run. Everyone likes a vampire flick. Vampires are sexy. They live forever without aging, as many people wish they could. Their human source of sustenance makes their morality indeterminate. Subsisting solely on blood makes them gaunt, like heroine-addicted rock stars. All the variables in vampire lore make these not-quite-human but not-entirely-inhuman creatures a perfect metaphor for many different themes. These five vampire movies make the most of what the genre has to offer and really give viewers something to chew over, so to speak.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review – Le Beau Serge (dir. Claude Chabrol, 1958)

le-beau-sergeOf the Cahiers du Cinema cohort, Chabrol was the first to make a film, which he wrote, shot and produced himself. The result is the startling complex Le Beau Serge, which inaugurated the French New Wave in 1958. In this first attempt, Chabrol introduces many of the themes he will continue to grapple with for the next 50 years or so. While the film has its share of awkward moments, it’s also filled with the kind of visual subtleties and intricate relationships that Chabrol would go on to refine throughout his prolific career.

Read the rest of this entry »

Animal behavior: Creatures on film

au hasard balthazar bresson donkey

Making sense of our animal companions

I’ve been wanting to write something about animals on film for a long time now. I’m not talking about kids-oriented, Air Bud– or Homeward Bound-type fare – not to knock either of those movies, because they’re not un-related to the ones I’m going to discuss, nor are they bad. However, whenever I bring up this topic, these are typically the examples I hear. When you do think of animals on film, it’s striking that they appear most frequently in either children’s movies or documentaries. We either revel in their otherness, or turn them into humanized talking beasts. Not surprisingly, both iterations of the animal are loved by viewers of all ages.

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B-Movie Television: the Feminist Frontier (Part 2)

CONDEMNED-WOMEN

A completely unrelated, but relevant B-movie poster of a movie I haven’t actually seen (dir. Lew Landers, 1938)

I ended my last post by saying that commercial cinema is failing women. Allow me to reiterate: As it exists now, the film industry is a betting game, and studios just don’t seem to be banking on women in creative roles, despite the fact that we still make up about half of the audience. Why not? There are many reasons. However, in my last post I argued the disparity may have something to do with attributing so much of a film’s worth to just one individual. In an ideal world, this recognition wouldn’t hold anyone back. But when producers need to make a return on investment, it may be pure sexism that guides their decision to fund one project over another.

In a now roughly 4-year-old article, the often contentious (I mean that as a compliment) Manohla Dargis bemoaned the lack of women in the industry. In the article, she notes how a box office failure doesn’t necessarily spell out the end for a male director. But for a woman, it can potentially wreck a career. Studios appear to be more forgiving to male directors – male auteurs, rather – who have a vision. However, the Hollywood machine doesn’t grant visionary women the same benefit of the doubt.  Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing with the Ear: Mediations Seeing with the ear: Meditations on the use of sound in the films of Dario Argento

Seeing with the Ear: Mediations Seeing with the ear: Meditations on the use of sound in the films of Dario Argento

Check it out: I wrote a piece for CURNBLOG, where I’ll be contributing from time to time. While you’re there, be sure to take a look at the work of the many other talented contributors. 

Cinema and television: the auteur question (part 1)

Cinema and television fight to the death

television set

Picture of mid-century TV set from Kitschy Living blog

The introduction of television into the home decades ago instilled fear in the hearts of movie critics and industry professionals alike. Since then, they argue, cinema has been dying for a long time, slowly singing its swan song over the years. This kind of threat to one of the largest commercial and artistic industries in the U.S. has, not surprisingly, invoked vitriolic criticism of television through the years. Television and cinema – the two visual narrative mediums are similar enough that it seems as though there can only be one. At the very least, one of them must be dominant. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, homo sapiens eliminated the neanderthal. Years from now, will one of these art forms also be extinct? Cinema or television – which one will be left standing? Read the rest of this entry »