Category Archives: film

More than a friend. 22.2.13. 6pm

poster3Screening of queer South Asian film as part of LGBT History Month at Goldsmiths.

LGBTQ Society & Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, invite you to a screening of More Than A Friend… a film that explores the public perception of same-sex relationships in India through the story of Rupsa and Ranja – two women in love, living together in contemporary Calcutta. Directed by Debalina and produced by Sappho for Equality (an LBT organisation based in Calcutta, India), it weaves in real-life interviews into the narrative, swiftly moving between the real and the reel.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with one of the producers.


Event Information

Location: Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building
Cost: Free, all welcome
Website: Trailer
Department: Centre For Cultural Studies
Time: 22 February 2013, 18:00 – 21:00

Border Films and Discussion once a month on sundays at Museum of London Docklands (free) from 24.2.2013

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24 Feb: Short Film Nite - four short films about the border
A screening of the films Performing The Border (1999) and Europlex (2003) by Ursula Biemann. In these two short films, Biemann tracks the activities that enact the border. In the first, we see the feminisation of the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and in the second the repeated crossings that link Europe and Africa. Also a screening and discussion with filmmaker Tim Travers Hawkins, creator of 1000 Voices (2009) an animated film featuring answer phone messages from people held in a detention centre in the UK, and Surpriseville (2010) a documentary about the gated community residents of Surprise, Arizona and their attempts to make themselves as safe as possible.
 
17 March: The Nine Muses - John Akomfrah – 2010 
Akomfrah offers an existentialist rumination on the experience of migration to post-war Britain in this docu-essay that intertwines archival images and original footage shot in Alaska; accompanied by voice-over readings of texts by Shakespeare, Beckett, Milton and Nietzsche, and music by Schubert, Wagner and Arvo Part.
 
21 April: Ghosts - Nick Broomfield – 2006
Based on the true story of the Morcambe Bay cockle-picking disaster of 2004, this film follows Chinese undocumented immigrant Ai Qin to Europe and reveals the dangerous exploitation of migrant labour in the UK.
 
26 May: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada – Tommy Lee Jones – 2005
Tommy Lee Jones’ directorial debut is a story of friendship, vengence, and one man’s commitment to fulfill a promise for his friend that sees him crossing the Rio Grande pursued by police and Border Patrol.
 
23 June: In This World - Michael Winterbottom – 2002
Using small handheld digital video cameras and non-professional actors, this semi-fictional docu-drama tracks two asylum seekers on their journey from a refugee camp in Peshawar to the UK, following the “silk road” through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey towards London.
 
21 July: District 9 – Neill Blomkamp – 2009
A camp in Johannesburg, South Africa is the setting of this science fiction body-horror drama in which an alien population of refugees is faced with eviction from the militarized ghetto where they are confined and exploited.
(with thanks to Rachel Palmer, Leila Whitley, and Maria Jose Pantoja who will, (variously/sometimes vicariously), be in discussion with John Hutnyk after the screenings).

Russian Fairytale at Doc House. (riverside 31 jan 2013)

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I am Fiction 17 Jan 2013 (London Art Fair)

Film Programme 2
Thursday 17th January only

7pm: Premier as part of Thursday Late – Max Kestner & Thomas Altheimer, ‘I am Fiction’ (2012), 82 minutes. Courtesy of Alma Enterprises (part of A.L.I.S.N., stand P29)

Reality, art performance or publicity stunt? Few people could make head or tails of the lawsuit that Thomas Altheimer (aka Thomas Skade-Rasmussen Strøbech) raised against fellow artist Claus Beck-Nielsen (aka Das Beckwerk) and the Gyldendal publishing house in 2009 for publishing the novel The Sovereign, which described Altheimer’s private life in meticulous detail.

But on the initiative of the director Max Kestner, Altheimer started to film himself during the two-year trial that followed. Amidst a vortex of confrontations, dashes to America, changing lawyers and empty vodka bottles, there is no doubt in Altheimer’s mind that he has been robbed of his identity…

http://www.londonartfair.co.uk/page.cfm/Link=6/t=m/goSection=28

 

Cotton For My Shroud – screening with the directors, 6pm 16.1.2013

 

CANCELLED, or rather DIFFERENT FILM!

- news from the directors is that the people organising the premiere (due 19th Jan) have unfortunately balked at our screening, and instead we will have Nandan and Kavita present a curated selection of short films from the International Poetry Festival that they toured with in India – more details soon, same time, same place.

Cotton-2

Screening with the filmmakers Nandan Saxena & Kavita Bahl - 6pm Lauri Grove Baths, Council Room, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths

As Multinational Corporations that produced poisons for biological warfare during the cold war positioned their deadly wares as agricultural inputs, the last few decades have seen humans waging war upon themselves.

Vidarbha, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, has become a bloody battleground in this ongoing global war between corporate greed and the people’s ‘Right to life’.

‘Cotton for my shroud’ investigates how Monsanto manipulated Bt Cotton field trials, enticed farmers with lies about yields and reduction in pesticide use. Empty promises, escalating costs, dwindling yields and depressed cotton prices played havoc.

Since 1995, a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide – the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history.

Most of them were cotton farmers from Vidarbha.

While the state and the media label these deaths as suicide, the cotton fields of Vidarbha remain a mute witness to genocide.

Narrated in the first person, the film gives us a window into the drama and despair that forms the warp and weft of life at Vidarbha.

Screening  6pm Lauri Grove Baths, Council Room, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths. All wellcome

Two Augusts and Several Monuments

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 11.27.04Abstract for Lisbon keynote – On the Life and Afterlife of the Popular 4.12.12

Two Augusts and Several Monuments

To evaluate the popular, and its returns, I will contrast two Augusts of recent English summers. In 2011 there were three nights of youth rioting, which might otherwise be called a popular uprising that was both an expression of anger at austerity, and not without links to the student protests of 2010 and the various events in the wake of Tunisia and Tahrir Square that pass under the name of Arab Spring. Whether in Tahrir Square or in London these popular uprisings were met with significant and unpopular police violence. In the subsequent period, across the Arab world, and in London in August 2012, the policing of the popular has taken divergent paths. In August 2012 London’s major security effort was the operation to protect the Olympic Games, universally recognised as a success (despite problems with G4 and much carping before the opening ceremony). In Libya, Syria, and arguably Egypt, a less popular mode of policing, indeed a counter-revolutionary war, has been the order of the day.

I cannot make a full assessment of the Arab Spring in this talk, but note it as a context for a possible angular appreciation of what the Olympic Games achieved for London. To make a point about the politics of popular festivals I will do a Vasco De Gama (viewed from the tower built for Expo 98) and take three examples from outside Europe, intentionally looking elsewhere for perspective, and finding it in carnival (Mela) films from India. With a historical perspective drawn from Indian film theorists like Madav Prasad and Arvind Rajagopal a possible critical perspective on the austerity cycle of power and performance, bread and circuses becomes more clear. The Ferris Wheel of the Chicago World Fair, the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye will be associated images.

Marx Reloaded Film, with the director 20.11.12

Co-sponsored by the Centre for Cultural Studies:

Inline images 1

///Film Screening: Tuesday 20th November, 7pm 
MARX RELOADED.
Director Jason Barker will be present for the discussion.
Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre
Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London Borough of Lewisham, London SE14, UK
Entrance is Free

Marx Reloaded is a 2011 German documentary film written and directed by the British writer and theorist Jason Barker. Featuring interviews with several well-known philosophers, the film aims to examine the relevance of Karl Marx’s ideas in relation to the global economic and financial crisis of 2008–09. A Q&A with the director will follow.

MILANGE BABEY RATAN DE MELE TE (LET’S MEET AT BABA RATAN’S FAIR) – film and director talk 14.11.12

MILANGE BABEY RATAN DE MELE TE (LET’S MEET AT BABA RATAN’S FAIR)

Followed by discussion with the director Ajay Bhardwaj and Dr Virinder S Kalra
Time: 5pm, Wednesday 14th November 2012
Venue: The Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths
This film explores the idea of Punjabiyat, in ways seen and unseen, in the way it continues to inhabit the universe of the average Punjabi’s everyday life, language, culture, memories and consciousness. This is the universe that this film stumbles upon in the countryside of East Punjab, in India. Following the patters of lived life, it moves fluidly and eclectically across time, mapping organic cultural continuities at the local levels. It is a universe, which reaffirms the fact that cultures cannot be erased so very easily. It is where the love of Heer and Ranjah rather than the divisions of the priestly class are celebrated. This is a universe marked by a rich tradition of cultural co-existence and exchange, where the boundaries between the apparently monolithic religious identities of ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’ and ‘Sikh’ are blurred and subverted in the most imaginative ways.“Bhardwaj’s film further attests to the great pull the soil exercises over the people who were once rooted in it but had been forced to leave, “ Ishitaq Ahmed, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University.
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fajaybhardwaj.in%2F&h=rAQHjgrF0&s=1

I am Fiction

For those in Denmark – get to CPH:DOX for I am Fiction (click image to be transported to the CPH:DOX page):

 

Amit Rai’s Untimely Bollywood, Duke UP 2009

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“GOD IS NOT DEAD!” 8.10.2012 Goldsmiths NAB LG02 Film and Q and A with the director and others

“GOD IS NOT DEAD!”

EUROPEAN/WORLD PREMIERE – Monday 8 October 2012 6:30

GOLDSMITHS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON, CENTRE FOR CULTURAL STUDIES

THE FILM

Directed by young Turkish filmmaker Bahar Kılıç, “GOD IS NOT DEAD!” is a journey that cuts across the realms of music, politics and intercultural dialogue.

Shot in London, Berlin, Frankfurt and Istanbul, the documentary investigates European Muslims’ resistance against the epidemic of “Islamophobia” and their endeavour to transform the demonized visage of Islam in the West through music, creative expression, political activism and redefining the concept of “hybridity”.

The incredibly diverse stances, creative practices and routes of thinking displayed by the people in focus of “GOD IS NOT DEAD!” demonstrate a wealth that is unknown not only to the Western world who is prone to be infected by the virus of cultural exclusivist discourses but also to the Orient who’s suffering from amnesia.

“GOD IS NOT DEAD!” features exclusive interviews with and footage from Fun^Da^Mental and Aki Nawaz, The Kominas, Poetic Pilgrimage, Mecca2Medina, Mohammed Yahya, Nomadic Poet (The Planets), Quest Rah, Style Islam (Melih and Yeliz Kesmen), Sayfoudin (Germany) and Professor John Hutnyk (Goldsmiths, University of London).

THE EVENT

The European & World premiere of GOD IS NOT DEAD! will take place on October 8th, at Goldsmiths, University of London Centre for Cultural Studies.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A Session with the director, the creative staff and featured names.
The event is FREE OF CHARGE.

All free thinkers and “rebels with noble causes” are welcome to join us. New Academic Building LG02

(Goldsmiths NAB LG02 – that’s the big newish building on the hill behind the back field. Walk through the main building and up the path, and up the stairs beside the gym. In the door, and downstairs to the big auditorium. NAB LG02 New Academic Building LG02. See you there.)

http://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=5707

Gian Maria Volonté screening series Autumn 2012 – Centre for Cultural Studies


The Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths presents, as part of their ongoing weekly Monday Film Night, a series of movies focused on the relatively unknown Italian actor/screenwriter Gian Maria Volonté: the bad guy in A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, under the pseudonym of Johnny Wels (later declaring he really did them for the money, to pay off debts for a theatre piece on the relation between the Pope and the Nazi regime); who refused star roles in Coppola’s The Godfather and Bertolucci’s 1900, so as to take part in exiled director Miguel Lettin’s Actas de Marusia on the massacre of Chilean miners; a member and once-candidate of the Italian Communist Party, later excluded for helping autonomist Oreste Scalzone to escape from Italy; whose interpretations can never be disassociated from fervent socio-political commitment, cultural and literary comment, confrontations with directors, and an attitude of defiance towards a culture in which an actor must merely perform a pre-written script. The first screening, to take place on 15th October 2012, will be of “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), by Elio Petri.

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all films at 7pm

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15 OCTOBER // “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion” (original: “Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto), 1970, E. Petri

22 OCTOBER // “Sacco and Vanzetti”(original: “Sacco e Vanzetti”), 1971, G. Montaldo

29 OCTOBER // “The Working Class Goes To Heaven” (original: “La classe operaia va in paradiso”), 1971, E. Petri

5 NOVEMBER // “Slap the Monster on Page One” (original: “Sbatti il mostro in prima pagina”), 1972, by M. Bellocchio

12 NOVEMBER // No film – go to this instead http://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/federici-12-11-12/

19 NOVEMBER // “The Moro Affair” (original: “Il caso Moro”), 1986, G. Ferrara

26 NOVEMBER // “The Mattei Affair” (original: “Il caso Mattei”), 1972, F. Rosi

3 DECEMBER // “Lucky Luciano”, 1973, F. Rosi

10 DECEMBER // “Christ Stopped at Eboli” (original: “Cristo si e’ fermato a Eboli”), 1979, F. Rosi

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Anyone is welcome to turn up and bring others. All films will be screened in the Council Room, second floor of Laurie Grove Baths on Laurie Grove, and will be followed by post-screening discussion. For more info on the CCS Monday Film Night, please email: k.molin[at]gold.ac.uk and check: http://ccsfilmnight.wordpress.com/

Mela

Who is going to this? Link here.

(and for fun, below, some Mela filmi style – 4 versions. How tragic the last one may be?)

Nargis/Dilip Kumar 1948

 Mumtaz, Feroze Khan 1971

Aamir Khan, Twinkle Khanna 2000

 

(aaaah – Salma Hayek, Mathew Perry – actually, this is just the Italian rebranding of 2011 for a 1997 movie called Fools Rush In – in Italian Mela means apple. Go figure)

Professor X polemic

Just found this in the 2010/1 issue of Third Text on Cinema in the Muslim World. Worth a second look:

 

I believe the text is free to download/read online, via this link here. Thanks for the shout out credit Ali Nobil Ahmad, gonna read the rest of the issue asap.

Deptford & New Cross Virtual Social Centre. Film Night. Housing. 17.5.2012 7.30PM

Hi,
Just a reminder about tomorrow’s film night:
Subject: New Social Centre / Film night starts May17th at NX Library

Deptford & New Cross Virtual Social Centre present
Films to change the world with: Housing

Films about ordinary people’s direct solutions to housing crises -  from
rent strikes to squatting

@ New Cross People’s Library Thurs 17th May 7.30

283 New Cross Road SE14 nearest station New Cross Gate on London
overground from Dalston Junction etc and train from London Bridge

please publicise through all relevant channels!

Thanks

NXRB – “In Time”, film review by Sophie Fuggle

Marx at the Movies 16.3.2012

Marx at the Movies Conference, March 16-17, 2012

University of Central Lancashire

See the extensive Conference programme here.

in partnership with

Lancashire International Film Festival @LIFEPreston2012

and sponsored by

The Contemporary Arts Development Group (CADG) and the Research Fund of the School of Journalism, Media and Communication (JOMEC)

Friday 16 March: Mitchell & Kenyon Theatre

9.00 am: Coffee and Registration
9.30 am: Welcome

Peter James Anderson, Director of Research (JOMEC)

Ewa Mazierska, Anandi Ramamurthy and Lars Kristensen (UCLan)

10.00-11.00 am: Keynote

Citizens: On Marx and Kane 
John Hutnyk (Goldsmiths College, UCL)

11.00-11.10 am: Coffee break

11.10-1.10 pm: Breakaway session (Rooms TBA)

 

see here for the rest of the programme

Newspeak – Ken Fero

Watch Newspeak: http://vimeo.com/34527445

Newspeak (25minutes/2011/Ken Fero/Migrant Media)

Truth is the first casualty of war and ‘Newspeak’ explores just how media is currently controlled in the UK through power structures like Ofcom. Using poetry and experimental visual techniques the film is a personal journey with filmmaker Ken Fero reflecting on how the radical content of certain images – deaths in police custody, Occupy London the invasion of Iraq, workers uprisings – remain hidden from UK audiences.

The film uses strong political statements to expose the forces seeking to censor the media. The challenging style of ‘Newspeak’ offers a visual essay that unites the mothers of those killed by the British police with the Palestinian children who were victims of Operation Cast Lead, exposes the bloodlust for oil that lead to British interference in Iran and shows how, in all these areas, there is always resistance, always survivors always a memory.

A Migrant media Production for News Anew.

Watch Newspeak: http://vimeo.com/34527445

Some Like it Hot

Screening monday 23 Jan 2012 7:15pm Laurie Grove Council Room Goldsmith Centre for Cultural Studies.

 

Other monday films here.

draft notes 1.2

draft notes 1.2

lecture notes not for forwarding

Fragment of Kane

Kane collects:

‘Witness the repugnant spectacle of a blind lust for collection … Man envelopes himself in the odour of decay; through his antiquarian habit he succeeds in degrading even a more significant talent and nobler need to an insatiable craving for novelty, or rather a craving for all things and old things; often he sinks so low as finally to be satisfied with any fare and devours with pleasure even the dust of bibliographi- cal quisquilia.’ – Nietzsche

‘No matter how many customers there are, its still an empty building’ (Welles and Bogdanovich 1998:8) – the cinema hall as a place to sell Eskimo pie.

I have been reading Marx in the cinema. To read this way is to tamper with another accumulation that seems a dull dead half-life of narrative. That which surrounds the film Citizen Kane. Orson Welles might be a good choice for this illustration because he is both actor and director, at the same time working to a script and writing that script. Marx of course is famous for saying something similar in the 18th Brumaire – we make our own history but not in conditions that we have chosen (Marx 1852/202:19). Welles is also interesting as an overexamined, already known, and yet little understood, figure – famous and notorious in advance, myths and rumours abound. Kane is a film from 70 years ago but somehow it seems renewed every decade, we still babble on about it, even more than the brilliant Touch of Evil. Welles is much maligned for his politics, he was often attacked for threatening bourgeois norms (or its complacency); his work a coded vehicle for other fears (Japan, Germany, Russia); and, I will argue, never more relevant than now (financial crisis, do-gooder philanthropists as alibi for business as usual). Welles’ character in Kane is possibly useful as semi autobiographical, it is also a critical biographical portrait of the capitalist turned philanthropic campaigning journalist. I want to suggest Kane = Hearst = Gates. Welles of course, in advance, is already known – as dozens of biographies attest, and as the pre-publicity and staged controversy of his most famous film confirms. Perhaps the question to ask is whether it is possible to reclaim such a figure from the vast accumulations of biography and myth. Already in Citizen Kane Welles mocked such ambitions. The first image is of a sign that says “No Trespassing”.

The first time we see Kane we see only a giant close up of his lips, originally planned for the abandoned screenplay Heart of Darkness, ‘the maw of a giant in his castle, ready to gobble up the audience, the cinema, the industry’ (Walters 2004:51). Though we soon discover this is Kane’s death and he eats no more, and Welles himself is unjustly chewed up and spat upon by audiences and industry while he remains alive, ending up as rent a gag guy on celebrity roast shows – however, do see his genre appropriate demolition of Dean Martin which is exquisite car crash television.

Whatever the subsequent events, for Welles or Kane, this is a noteworthy start for a film. The lips as fetish object, monstrously large, the mouth of a giant prophesyizing the trajectory of the film, trespass or not. This introduction draws the eye through the forbidden gate, across various panoramas of the same scene, with the window in the same place on the screen. This is a detective seduction, for a film in which the mode of presentation is different to the analysis. Are the lips a fetish? We are to identify the part for the whole, the man, the life, the man’s life for that of the capitalist, the capitalist for that of the system – propertied wealth as destructive, greed as alienation – and rosebud, the innocent flower, the mystery.

Kane is also way in to my particular and contingent reading of Capital because he represents one of the pantomime villains that Marx skewers in his book, and which perhaps we might also want on the barbeque. Alongside Moneybags, we will see the bankers and moneylenders, userers, the executive committee, the state, the factory inspectors and philanthropists – think of Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, but also your well meaning campaigning corporate greens, the bodyshop’s Anita Roddick maybe, and the liberal professors of political economy. Police, politicians, philanthropists and political economists may have reason to be pissed as Marx pounces. Too many p’s.

With Welles, however, the biographers are on the march towards the roasting – dozens and still counting. Simon Callow begins part one of his multi volume biography (part two released 2006) with a quote that might be read as revealing as much about the anxieties of a biographer about to approach ‘the fabulist Orson Welles’ as it does about its subject’s self-consciousness:

 “If you try to probe, I’ll lie to you. Seventy-five percent of what I say in interviews is false. I’m like a hen protecting her eggs. I must protect my work. Introspection is bad for me. I’m a medium not an orator. Like certain oriental and Christian mystics, I think the ‘self’ is a kind of enemy. My work is what enables me to come out of myself. I like what I do, not what I am … Do you know the best service anyone could render to art? Destroy all biographies. Only art can explain the life of a man – and not the contrary. Orson Welles to Jean Clay, 1962 (Callow 1995:xi)

Callow continually takes away Welles’ stories about his life, even the place where he was said to be conceived is labelled a fabrication – much energy devoted to undoing the Welles myth only confirms it. Welles had already anticipated these moves. Seven years earlier in Touch of Evil he had Marlene Dietrich say of his character Quinlan, who had just been found dead, that: ‘He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?’

 “The more we know about the men who wrote [Don Quixote, King Lear etc], the bigger chance there is for all the Herr Professors in the academic establishment to befuddle and bemuse” Orson Welles

Knowingly, Welles is surrounded by myth. Among the routine retinue, it has become commonplace to sort commentators into two camps – defenders and opponents – Pauline Kael who raised the stakes of the controversy over the writing credit for Citizen Kane into an international brouhaha on the one side, Peter Bagdonovich still attempting to finish Welles’ final masterpiece, The Other Side of the Wind (caught up in legal disputes) on the other. In between, sects and factions, a host of divergent positions and jockeying for favour, and a massive publishing culture industry that has made a commodity, franchise and brand out of the good name of the citizen.

Welles himself deserves some praise for this. In cases where there is so much written, this will always be offered with some perspectival bias. Should it matter than that the following highlights are only a selection?:

- 1915 born, his mother a suffragette who once served time in prison for her radical views (Welles and Bogdanovich 1988:326), a ‘brilliant public speaker’, she was the first woman in Kenosha to be elected to political office (Callow 1995:9)

- 1936 an all black production of Macbeth– admittedly there are issues of exoticization here in the move of action from Scotland to Haiti, and where Welles contrives a voodoo withes scene (see Callow 1995: 235). Nevertheless, an important production

- 1938 campaigns for and champions various leftwing causes, including speaking against Franco at ‘Stars for Spain’ – a medical aid benefit. Welles gives a series of talks on the ‘People’s Front’ at the Workers Bookshop and writes for the Daily Worker. Plays Signmund Freud on stage, gets to know Hans Eisler, Count Bassie, Vincent Price, Lucille Ball.

- October 30th 1938 War of the Worlds radio play.

- 1941 Wells is ‘attacked as subversive and communistic by leaders of the American Legion and the Californian Sons of the Revolution in Hearst papers (Rosenbaum 1998:363). The FBI’s J.Edgar Hoover writes a memo linking Welles to various ‘communist’ organizations (Bogdanovich 1998: xxxvi)

“FBI director J. Edgar Hoover writes a “memorandum for the assistant to the attorney general Mr Mathews F. McGuire” stating: “For your information the Dies Committee has collected data indicating that Orson Welles is associated with the following organizations, which are said to be Communist in character: Negro Cultural Committee, Foster parents’ Plan for War Children, Medical Bureau and North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, Theatre Arts Committee, Motion Picture Artists Committee to Lift the Embargo, Workers Bookshop, American Youth Congress, New Masses, People’s Forum, Workers Bookshop Mural Fund, League of American Writers [and] American Student Union…” (See James Naremore, “The Trial: The FBI vs. Orson Welles, “ Film Comment, January-February 1991” (Rosenbaum 1998:364).

- May 1st 1941 – Citizen Kane.  In a scene edited out of the film, Kane’s first wife’s son was to have been killed ‘when he and other members of a fascist organization try to seize an armory in Washington’, with the son’s body shown interred in a mausoleum where a wall inscription from the 1001 Nights begins The drunkenness of youth has passed like a fever’ (Carringer 1996:148).

- 1946 Welles gives protest speeches against the nuclear tests on Bikini Atol (Rosenbaum 1998: 397) and uses his ABC program Orson Welles Commentaries to campaign to bring charges against a policeman who had beaten and blinded black war veteran Isaac Woodward. With heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, Welles draws 20,000 people to a benefit for Woodward. The culpable policeman is finally identified in mid August (Rosenbaum 1998:398-9).

- 1955 on a television program Welles speaks out against passport control and immigration bureaucracy, a subject later dramatised in Welles’ film Touch of Evil.

‘the bureaucrat is really like a blackmailer. You can never pay him off; the more you give him, the more he’ll demand. If you fill in one form, he’ll give you ten’ (Welles and Bogdanovich 1998:262)

- 1962 Welles’ film of Kafka’s The Trial in part conceived as a commentary on Displaced Person Camps (Welles and Bogdanovich 1998:281).

- Filming Don Quixote, incomplete, but the Knight is the emblem of a quixotic politics

- 1972, Welles reports that he still wants to make a film of Conrad’s Heart of Darkeness, emphasizing the contemporary political associations (Rosenbaum 1998:512). Seven years later Francis Ford Coppola releases Apocalypse Now.

- 1977 ‘the original Rosebud sled turned up in a prop warehouse at Paramount that used to belong to RKO. (Custom-built in the RKO property department, it was thirty-four inches long, made entirely of balsa wood, and fastened together with wood dowels and glue … three identical sleds were built; two were burned in the filming’ (Carringer 1996:49-50)

- 1973 F is for Fake – if you have not seen this, see it now.

Bogdanovich: ‘well, do you have a theory about possessions, or just an inability to keep things from getting lost’

Welles: ‘Both. The things you own have away of owning you’

B: ‘How about things like letters and books’

W: ‘I’m not laying this down as a law for anybody else. Its just that I feel I have to protect myself against things, so I’m pretty careful to lose most of them’ (Welles and Bogdanovich 1998: 183)

Don Quixote and the unfinished work of tilting at giants/windmills (this sequence exists and is brilliant) is perhaps a better autobiographical imaginary for Welles. It is both unfinished, and heroic misconstrual on the part of a maverick intelligence that is far too good for this world, and is still yet only a jester.

War of the Worlds

Welles is useful here to – as a prankster – his empire takeover expansion story was of a different order, but relevant perhaps. The ‘War of the Worlds’ (1938) was something more than a mediocre Halloween gimmick radio presentation which works through the conceit of a radio programme being interrupted by progressively more alarmist news reports that Martians had landed in America. It is a matter of record that the panic of hundreds of thousands who believed the play led to all manner of incident, with miscarriages and heart attacks and allegedly one woman in Pittsburgh taking her life rather than risking violation by Martians. As Bazin points out, it should be remembered that this occurred just as the world was preparing for WW2 and ‘the day was not far away when an unidentified announcer would interrupt an entertainment broadcast to declare in trembling voice  that Pearl Harbour had just been destroyed by the Japanese. But this time, many Americans who had gone along with Welles would believe it was a joke in bad taste’ (Bazin 1972/1991:49). Curiously enough, many people who saw the images of he twin towers of New York hit by planes in 2001 thought it was just an action movie.

The version recently filmed with the scientologist, betrayer of Nicole, and father to be, Tom Cruise is embarrassing in the extreme. It is impossible not to read the film as one big panic about terrorists attacking America. The hero (Cruise) just wants to protect his kids and the pregnant mum in her perfect home (even if it is not quite a perfect home). He is prepared to reluctantly sacrifice his teenage rebel son to the war effort, and to kill a red-neck type marine. The heroic soldiers still organise disciplined effort amidst chaos. Sure, the special effects are great, but it is so much like a close up view of 100 crashes of the World Trade Towers that I can only hope people reject the film for the tired scaremongering pap that it is. Grrr.

This tells us more than we need to know about our current climate of fear. But isn’t that what H.G.Wells had intended? The book, and the radio play, and the film, all begin with the earth being studied ‘across an immense ethereal gulf’ (Welles 1938) – an anthropological moment that is revealing in itself.

But Welles’s radio play, albeit more subtle, was primarily a prank, not intentional war propaganda. It was rather an attempt to toy with America’s faith in the ‘new magic box’ of the radio. It was an ‘assault on the credibility of that machine’ (Conrad 2003:90). It was also both almost the destruction of Welles’ career, and that which enabled him the opportunity to go to Hollywood to make Kane. Yet considering the immediate aftermath of the broadcast, with looting in half abandoned cities and chaos all over, its hard to imagine it going ahead had Welles know of the extent of this prank’s consequences Was there a plan to create more than a sensational outrage? Perhaps. Astonishingly his radio contract with CBS had been checked by Welles’ lawyer and it left him with no responsibility for any consequence of his plays except for questions of plagiarism. CBS had to deal with over 100 law suits as consequence of the 1938 invasion from Mars (Bazin 1972/1991:49).

Two brief mentions of ‘the Orson Welles broadcast’ occur in Theodore Adorno’s Current of Music (Adorno 2009:47-8, 373). The first time along with the suggestion that ‘It might be worthwhile to study whether children and naïve persons are really thoroughly conscious that radio is a tool’ (Adorno 2009:47). Confronted with authentic ‘voices’ with which they cannot argue, it is not too difficult to see a contemporary significance here – even as it should also be remembered that Adorno was writing for an audience (the Princeton Radio Project Group led by Paul Lazarsfeld) that he did not much respect.

Adorno denounced the Princeton Radio Research Project for being not dissimilar to market research. Its inquiry into the ways the mass media created effects was, he argued, unable to do anything significantly different to just what the programme owners and advertisers wanted. The Princeton Radio Group had been studying the radio play of War of the Worlds in the year before Adorno offered this scathing criticism. They had identified similarities between Welles’ radio panic and the demagoguery of the National Socialists in Germany, but Adorno argues that without and examination of production methods, this research remains epiphenomenal.

Today, the dialectical shift of course necessitates recognition that we all very well know that the production process of the media (news, critique, scholarship even) is all ‘tool’ and that authority is a function of style, carefully calibrated through presenter fashion and product placement. And yet it still works. We are naïve children even when we know it. We shop knowingly, even ironically, for books about Marx, for example. As we vote, we watch, we turn in at the prescribed hour, we know that even a critical appreciation is factored into the calculations of the under-assistant west coast promo executive.

The snow dome is a way into the start. An object, collected by many, contemplated, pondered, shaken. It is not always frozen, its kitsch relevance to the everyday and its souvenir quality make it both domestic and profound, familiar, but also strangely remote. Miniaturized. I am fascinated by these domes, as have been many before.

I want to develop this as an introduction to Capital, through a contrary incarnation in the figure of moneybags Kane, and begin to get at commodities through a focus on the kind of obscure, miniature, almost irrelevant and  insignificant of objects to hand – those baubles and trinkets that mesmerize us all. When the film opens, Kane’s life is over, the story ends before it begins – the ‘No Trespassing’ sign raising questions at the beginning to flummox would-be explanations of a man’s life, or – since we know the ending – to dissuade us from thinking that Kane’s life can be referred back to the primordial snow globe scene where he is wrenched from his sled, and his mother, and catapulted into education, the news, the world… abundance and loss.

Kane is a collector – and one thing he hangs onto is the snow globe. The first sequence of the film has him dropping it as he dies, it shatters.

My friend Joanne collects snow domes. I borrow one from her each time I do this Kane lecture. I like to think of this as the cinematic scene. The snow globe shakes up conventional souveniring versions of cinema – stars and cameos – in favour of miniature worlds and mis-en-scene. A glass ball into which all manner of interpretive occult effects can be projected. The snow globe can be thought of as a miniature TV, a time machine for memory, for second sight. It records and replays the past in newsreel fashion. In her book Film Cultures, Janet Harbord notes Adorno’s elegant phrase for capturing Benjamin’s fascination for ‘small glass balls containing a landscape upon which snow fell when shaken’ – an example of the ‘frozen image’ (Harbord 2002:34 London: Sage). I think this glass ball occult theme also gets at what fascinates in the globe – the world miniaturized, yet pointing in other directions, evocative, aspirational, and leading us elsewhere. In her next section Harbord explores the increasing importance of ‘ephemeral’ consumption of the ‘dematerialized commodity’, she writes: ‘The experiential economy is characterized by time-based goods, simultaneously used up in the moment and extended in souvenir-like ancillary products’ (Harbord 2002:48 ). The film is ephemeral, the snow globe souvenir you buy afterwards is the material residue (as is the DVD on the shelf).

Despite the No Trespassing sign, Kane, and I guess Welles probably, is fixated on childhood, so no doubt Freud should be called, but just in case he is busy we might look into that crystal ball, and take the snow globe as a vision machine, not just that which Bazin describes as a ‘childish souvenir’ which Kane ‘grasps before dying’ a ‘toy that was spared during the destruction of the dolls room belonging to his wife Susan’ (Bazin 1950/1991:65 ‘Orson Welles’). He also reports that Welles had described the style of Kane as ‘bric-a-brac’ in comparison to his less famous ‘Magnificent Ambersons’ (Bazin 1950/1991:59), but Bazin also provides an excellent analysis of the single shot which presents Susan’s suicide attempt, contrasted with the six or seven cross-cut shots that ‘anyone else’ would have used (Bazin 1950/1991:78).

Melanie Klein wrote extensive notes on Kane but these were not published until 1998, not only, I think, because they were not written up, but also because the film outdoes psychoanalysis before the letter – another Wellesian prank perhaps, snooting his nose at those who’d second guess. (see Mason, A. (1998). ‘Melanie Klein’s Notes on Citizen Kane with Commentary’ Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 18:147-153).

Klein notes that the snowdome Kane drops as he dies is obviously a breast, and that Kane though lonely at the end, is not ill and has always pursued manic progressive goals:

‘in his youth, Kane has strong social feelings and purposes. The underprivileged, the poor are to be helped. He is going to devote his powers, his money, his capacities to this purpose’ and later, after failing in politics because of the scandal  when he marries Susan the opera singer it is in part to ‘control multitudes’ through her voice (Klein, in Mason 1998:148)

Kane merely collects, oblivious to what this means. He is after all a distorted capitalist, the wealth he made is base on an originary accumulation, the Colarado Load, that he does not work for. He continually feels he should do something worthy – his petronizing charitable impulse is not, we might thing today, unlike certain other tycoons, who also collect. But Capital is not just a collection of commodities.

Not that I want to pursue a psychoanalytic enquiry, the point is just to do away with the idea that the beginning is the key to the whole. That said, when Klein identifies the snowdome as the maternal breast, there is cause to recall it is the one thing Welles keeps with him after trashing Susan’s room. This is more than the ‘time capsule’ that Deleuze identified, and yet like Rosebud, it is kind of cheesy. A cheap trinketization.

Susan herself ends up a maudlin drunk when Kane dies, but she had spent a good part of the film trying to put the puzzle of trinkets together – literally in the case of her jigsaw puzzles in the great hall of xanadu.

If it were possible to understand the Kane snow globe in many ways we might include, and not privilege, it as example of what Guattari called the time crystal. This maybe combines what Deleuze calls the time-image and the movement-image.

Time image because it is memory of a past present made virtual in that crystal ball, a repository in a sense of Kane’s memory, but also – movement image – an invocation of the distances traversed in the many moments of the Kane story.

Hence also using the trick of a biographical introduction to Welles, or Marx, or Quixote as being something of a faux psychoanalytic cinema biopic filmed by Orsen Welles. He was ‘some sort of a man’, says Marlene Dietrich of Welles’ cop in Touch of Evil

Is it possible to reclaim Citizen Kane from all the readings that have passed over it so much? What residue will need to be cleared away so as to see this film anew? Is that even possible? So many biographies of Welles, but an oblique angular take on this overwritten film can perhaps still reveal something about our perspective today.

‘I still wonder why film students babble on about Orsen Welles … Even the worst films of Russ Meyer and infinitely more interesting than Citizen Kane’ (Waters 2005:12)

I still believe we can learn a lot about the world as it appears to us today from an old movie from another time – Citizen Kane – for those of you who have seen it, think of why he is “Citizen”. Citizen of where? OK, this is a much worked terrain – the search for meaning in Kane, Welles’ nuanced and complicated text that tells us at the start there should be ‘no trespassing’ on the childhood drama that motivates Kane, yet the film of course does so trespass, tells us about Kane’s childhood, shows that not all can be explained by the sled.

Kane, and Welles probably, is fixated on childhood so no doubt Freud should be called, but just in case he is busy we might look into that crystal ball, the snow dome, which Bazin describes: Kane ‘grasps this childish souvenir before dying, this toy that was spared during the destruction of he dolls room belonging to his wife Susan’ (Bazin 1972/191:65).

The different windows on the story of Kane also offer an allegorical way into reading Marx’s Capital – the initial newsreel section something like the commodity fetish chapter, a platform that warns, as does the very first sentence, that things are not what they appear, that the wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails only presents itself as an immense collection of commodities

Although the film begins and ends with the No trespassing Sign, it is Welles I think who does want, and wants us, to trespass. His camera passes through the chain mesh, and again through various windows and signs to examine and inquire. This is something like the metaphoric architecture that governs the presentation of Das Kapital. The theatrical references to drawing back curtains (before the wizard of Oz, duex ex machina), the ocular, vision and camera lucida that ‘at first look’… implies always a second, and third, look, the ghost commentary so beloved of Derrida, and much more.

Unsurprisingly the psychoanalysis of the US in the 1930s and 1940s become a salacious mystery hunt for mommy daddy. Some say of course that Kane can be taken as (unconsciously) modelled also on Welles himself.

Kane has an ego of some considerable proportion and his personality dominates his workers for sure, but he is Citizen Kane, not only Hearst-moneybags. He has personal ‘needs and wants’ that accord to a ‘degree of civilization’ and a ‘degree of comfort’ (Marx vol 1) but these are not far from, at least aspirationally, the needs and wants of every citizen. Yet, when the successful Kane seemingly has bags of money enough to satisfy any need or want, he remains deeply dissatisfied. I imagine he was only happy as a campaigning political journalist, struggling for his paper’s success, fighting the corner of the ‘everymen’ (sic). Use-values have here relate to exchange-values, and exchange proves insufficient perhaps.

The citizen must be trained to consume, but this is also unfulfilling, a betrayal. Cain.

But it would be worth thinking of Kane as only the personification of a member of the capitalist class at a certain – changing – time in the capital cycle. We see the boom and bust, growth and crisis of the man’s career – this we should consider as an allegory of the cycle. But to be more careful, we can perhaps read this alongside Lenin quoting Marx on the tactics of the revolutionary forces after the defeats of the late 1840s, when Marx has been working on journalism and building the socialist movement patiently. Lenin tracks Marx’s tactical relationship to the bourgeois revolution in Germany:

‘In Germany, Marx, in 1848 and 1849, supported the extreme revolutionary democrats, and subsequently never retracted what he had then said about tactics. He regarded the German bourgeoisie and an element which was “inclined from the very beginning to betray the people” (only an alliance with the peasantry could have enabled the bourgeoisie to completely achieve its aims) “and compromise with the crowned representatives of the old society”  (Lenin 1918/1964:77)

In a kind of aside, sotto voce, Lenin is writing about the peasantry in 1913-1914 surely with a view to circumstances in Russia, or, since the part on tactics was suppressed by the encyclopaedia, more likely he has added this bracketed insertion in 1918 when the published as a pamphlet by Priboi publishers. Understandably he reads Marx through the prism of his contemporary circumstances, as he surely should. We do this as well, even if in any case, we can also read across the bracketed and underline the betrayal of the people that a compact between bourgeois and aristocracy entails, remembering the need to deal with the Czar. What is interesting though is to see Lenin do several things here, one offer an illustration of the materialist dialectic, and two, an assessment of where Marx was politically in the mid 1850s, which I can’t help but think has important resonances for us now. In any case, Lenin continues:

‘Here is Marx’s summing up of the German bourgeoisie’s class position in the period of the bourgeois-democratic revolution – an analysis, which, incidentally, is a sample of a materialism that examines society in motion, and moreover, not only from the perspective of a motion that is backward: “Without faith in itself, without faith in the people, grumbling at those above, trembling at hose below … intimidated by the world storm … no energy in any respect, plagiarism in every respect … without initiative … an execrable old man who saw himself doomed to guide and deflect the first youthful impulses of a robust people in his own senile interests”’ (Lenin 1918/1964:77)

This could easily be a depiction of Kane as personification of the moribund ruling class after the crisis, just as it names the foibles of Prime Ministers Blair and Cameron today, pretending to act with historical import, but this time as farce.

So you might be forgiven for thinking that Kane was schizoid too – we see several versions of the man that do not add up to ‘a’ life. And the mythographer, Welles himself, always took on many roles and seems to have glossed details in a grand style. Peter Conrad cites both Malinowski and Lévi-Strauss to support his contention that Welles’ storytelling – about himself, or of Hearst – did not need to be constrained by the facts (Conrad 2003:34)

The materialist comprehension of the commodity, object, souvenir or trinket (these are not the same) is different to that of the psychoanalytic approach, which takes individuals and their drives, desires and motives into first account. The fetish is not just a deviant displacement, not just a sexual misrecognition (mommy-daddy) but a feint or trick that hides a deeper social malaise to do with distribution and ethics.

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