November 4, 2016 – Mikki Kressbach

Please join us on Friday, November 4th at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 as we welcome Mikki Kressbach, Ph.D. Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies. Mikki will be discussing her dissertation chapter-in-progress, “Found Footage Horror and the Evidentiary Effect, or How to Know an Outbreak.”

Mikki’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.


Found Footage Horror and the Evidentiary Effect, or How to Know an Outbreak

“Found footage horror and the evidentiary effect, or how to know an outbreak,” examines the coupling of found footage horror and emergent infectious disease (EIDs).  While most discussions of the genre focus on its stylistic affinities with documentary film, this chapter seeks to understand the epistemological paradigms that underscore this comparison through the lens of visual evidence.  Developing the term “evidentiary effect,” I argue that the reflexive aesthetic of found footage horror encourage the viewer to examine the image as visual evidence, leaving them vulnerable to the shocks and scares of the genre.  EID found footage films use the evidentiary effect to create a sense of viral omnipresence as the viewer anxiously scans the image in search of information.  In upending the functional use of visual evidence, EID found footage films confront us with the epistemological paradigms and visual rhetoric with which we understand and control real world outbreaks.

Mikki Kressbach is a PhD candidate in the department of Cinema and Media Studies.  Her dissertation, titled “Perfect Contagion Machine,” explores the representation of emergent infectious disease in contemporary films, television, and video games.  Her broader research interests include popular representations of science, health technologies, and science studies.


Refreshments will be provided.

**Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu].**

October 21, 2016 – Will Carroll

Please join us on Friday, October 21st at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 as we welcome Will Caroll, Ph.D. Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies. Will will be discussing his dissertation chapter-in-progress, “Meta-cinematic Space in Suzuki’s Nikkatsu Films; or, Can Cinefication Emancipate the Frame?”

Will’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.


Meta-cinematic Space in Suzuki’s Nikkatsu Films; or, Can Cinefication Emancipate the Frame? [Excerpt]

 

Man Fall Down. Funny.

In one of the most fascinating sequences in Suzuki’s career, Tetsu the Phoenix pursues a rival yakuza boss and his underlings just after they have stolen a land deal and killed the realtor. The yakuza boss and his underlings are framed in the back and Tetsu is in the front, but he races to the back as some elevator-style doors close in front of him. Within the same shot, he pries them open and enters the newly reopened space in the background. He then seemingly inexplicably falls out of the frame. In the following shot, an overhead, we see Tetsu on the floor while the yakuza boss drops a wooden plank over him that he and his underlings then walk across.

Narratively, this scene fulfills a fairly straightforward purpose—it shows the villains putting the protagonist out of commission to allow them to fulfill their plan, but in a way that will allow the protagonist to surprise them by escaping and complicating their plans at the last minute. Since this type of development is common to the point of being a cliché in action movies, we may look at Suzuki’s decision to film the scene in this way as merely a comic way of making the cliché interesting again, because man fall down=funny.

However, upon closer examination, Suzuki’s method of executing the simple visual joke of showing a man falling down is a self-reflexive play on the visual construction of three- dimensional space onto a two-dimensional image. The joke works because of our conditioned optical assumption that the floor in the foreground carries into the background. Indeed, more than it is a joke on a character in the film’s diegesis, who would realistically be more likely to notice the absence of the floor in front of him, the joke is on us, and it rattles our faith in the assumptions of how cinematic space works, even after Suzuki provides us with a diegetic explanation of what has happened in the following shot.

Will Carroll is a PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. His dissertation, Suzuki Seijun and the Redemption of Cinephilia, deals with the filmmaker Suzuki Seijun and the fallout from his firing by Nikkatsu Studios in 1968, focusing particularly on the ways in which his films were subsequently championed, or perhaps commandeered, by various groups of film theorists. His further research interests include popular cinema (especially Hollywood 1920s-1960, Japan 1930s-1968, and Hong Kong 1980s-present), formalist film theory, cinephilia, auteur studies, phenomenologies of film experience, and cinemas of East Asia.

October 14, 2016 – Jordan Schonig

Please join us on Friday, October 14th at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 as we welcome Jordan Schonig, Ph.D. Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies. Jordan will be discussing his dissertation chapter-in-progress, “Habitual Gestures: Postwar Realism, Embodied Agency, and the Inscription of Bodily Movement.”

Jordan’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.


Habitual Gestures: Postwar Realism, Embodied Agency, and the Inscription of Bodily Movement

In one of the most paradigmatic sequences of post-war realism in film history, Maria the young maid is shown toiling about the kitchen in Vittorio de Sica’s Umberto D, performing actions and everyday gestures that would generally be elided in classical narration. Most critical accounts examine such gestures as instruments of non-narrative cinematic temporalities. For Andre Bazin, Maria’s gestures helped foster a “cinema of ‘duration,’” and likewise for Gilles Deleuze, such gestures would epitomize the time-image, a cinema in which the movement of narrative action is subordinated to the flow of lived time.

But what if we don’t take such gestures simply as instruments of cinematic time, but rather consider them as forms of movement unto themselves? My chapter argues that what I call habitual gestures—such as walking, sitting, smoking cigarettes, lighting matches, washing dishes, grinding coffee—produce a unique form of cinematic realism not simply because they suspend the flow of narrative action, but because such gestures encourage our attention to ordinarily overlooked forms of bodily motion. As Walter Benjamin observed in his “Work of Art” essay, while we “hardly know what really goes on” in the “familiar routine” of reaching for a spoon, cinematographic inscription never fails to pick up the exact muscular twitches that make up such a habitual gesture. I argue that the aesthetics of habitual gestures puts this epistemological capacity of cinematographic inscription to a realist aesthetic enterprise, foregrounding both the overlooked details of bodily movement and the autonomy of bodily habit that lies beneath the artifice of performance.

Examining habitual gestures across a range of films emblematic of post-war realism, including the laboring bodies of De Sica’s films, the ordinary gestures of a WWII veteran amputee in Wyler’s Best Years of Our Lives, and the skilled manual techniques in the films of Robert Bresson, I show how an aesthetics of habitual gestures compels our attention to the invisible bodily movements between and within willed actions, and in doing so foregrounds the body’s non-conscious and automatic ways of moving. Reading such gestures alongside the notion of “bodily habit” in the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, I argue that an aesthetics of habitual gestures not only helps us articulate the reality effects of bodily movement, but also can help rethink film theory’s fundamental assumptions about the relations between agency, performance, and the cinematographic inscription of the moving body.

Jordan Schonig is a sixth-year PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. His dissertation, Cinema’s Motion Forms: Inscribed Motion and the Problems of Film Theory, rethinks central debates in film theory by examining the phenomenology of cinematic motion. He is broadly interested in the intersections between philosophical aesthetics and film theory, phenomenological approaches to film studies, and genealogies of modernism in film and the other arts.


Refreshments will be provided.

**Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu].**