Great Cinema Discussed Director By Director on The Auteurcast

Few propo­si­tions in film schol­ar­ship inspire as much con­tro­ver­sy as the so-called “auteur the­o­ry,” which holds that a film’s direc­tor imbues the work with its strongest and most iden­ti­fi­able cre­ative influ­ence. Some con­sid­er this notion laugh­ably implau­si­ble; oth­ers con­sid­er it untouch­ably self-evi­dent. But even if you don’t ful­ly buy into this auteur-cen­trism — and it can’t hurt to throw down a fist­ful of salt before the entire edi­fice of film the­o­ry — you can still use it as a help­ful tool to nav­i­gate the realm of cin­e­ma, espe­cial­ly if most of it remains ter­ra incogin­ta to you. Say you hap­pen onto a movie you enjoy — Full Met­al Jack­et, for instance — and find out it was direct­ed by a cer­tain Stan­ley Kubrick. You could then do much worse for addi­tion­al view­ing mate­r­i­al than to watch every­thing else the man ever direct­ed.

As for accom­pa­ni­ment in this cul­tur­al jour­ney, you could do much worse than Rudie Obias and West Antho­ny, hosts of The Auteur­cast. Tak­ing one film­mak­er at a time, they watch and dis­cuss every movie that film­mak­er has made. Of course they’ve cov­ered Stan­ley Kubrick: you can lis­ten to their con­ver­sa­tion on Full Met­al Jack­et right above, and I myself joined them as a guest when they talked about A Clock­work Orange. Hav­ing put out 136 episodes so far, Obias and Antho­ny have recent­ly made their way to two auteurs as seem­ing­ly on the oppo­site ends of a spec­trum (though exact­ly what spec­trum, I can’t say for sure) as James Cameron, he of Titan­ic and Avatar, and Paul Thomas Ander­son, he of Mag­no­lia, There Will Be Blood, and (to be dis­cussed in an upcom­ing episode) The Mas­ter. To catch up on The Auteur­cast as you catch up on cin­e­ma itself, you can down­load all of their past episodes as a tor­rent, then sub­scribe via RSS or iTunes.

Relat­ed con­tent:

500 Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, etc.

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek Interprets Hitchcock’s Vertigo in The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006)

Philoso­pher and psy­cho­an­a­lyst Slavoj Zizek is a polar­iz­ing fig­ure, in and out of the Acad­e­my. He has been accused of misog­y­ny and oppor­tunism, and a Guardian colum­nist once won­dered if he is “the Borat of phi­los­o­phy.” The lat­ter epi­thet might be as much a ref­er­ence to his occa­sion­al boor­ish­ness as to his Sloven­ian-accent­ed Eng­lish. Despite (or because of) these qual­i­ties, Zizek has become a fas­ci­nat­ing pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al, in part because all of his work is shot through with pop cul­ture ref­er­ences as dif­fuse as the most stud­ied of fan­boys. And even though Zizek, a stu­dent of the Freudi­an the­o­rist Jacques Lacan, can get deeply obscure with the best of his peers, his enthu­si­asm and rapid-fire free-asso­ci­a­tions mark him as a true fan of every­thing he sur­veys.

The Zizek I just described is ful­ly in evi­dence in the short clip above from the three-part doc­u­men­tary The Pervert’s Guide to Cin­e­ma. Direct­ed by Sophie Fiennes (sis­ter of Joseph and Ralph), The Pervert’s Guide places Zizek in orig­i­nal loca­tions and repli­ca sets of sev­er­al clas­sic films—David Lynch’s Blue Vel­vet, Stan­ley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and Hitchcock’s Ver­ti­go, to name just a few. Zizek’s scenes of com­men­tary are edit­ed with scenes from the films to give the impres­sion that he is speak­ing from with­in the films them­selves. It’s a nov­el approach and works par­tic­u­lar­ly well in the video above, where Zizek gives us his take on Ver­ti­go. As he says of Hitchcock’s film—which could apply to the one he is in as well—“often things begin as a fake, inau­then­tic, arti­fi­cial, but you get caught in your own game.” View­ers of The Pervert’s Guide get caught in Zizek’s inter­pre­tive game; it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing, ridicu­lous, and unset­tling one.

In the clip, through a series of close analy­ses of plot points and cam­era angles, Zizek con­cludes that Ver­ti­go is the real­iza­tion of a male fan­ta­sy, which nec­es­sar­i­ly involves vio­lence and night­mar­ish trans­for­ma­tions. In the “male libid­i­nal econ­o­my,” he says, in the jargon‑y psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic speak of his trade, women must be “mor­ti­fied” before they are accept­able sex­u­al part­ners. Slip­ping out of aca­d­e­m­ic argot, he clar­i­fies: “to para­phrase an old say­ing, the only good woman is a dead woman.” It’s this kind of blunt and utter­ly unsen­ti­men­tal way of speak­ing that rais­es the hack­les of some of Zizek’s crit­ics. But I’m not here to defend him. Watch­ing (and read­ing) him for me is a game of edge-of-your seat “what out­ra­geous or incom­pre­hen­si­ble thing is he going to say next?” and I’ll admit, I enjoy it. So I’ll leave you with a final Zizek-ism. Per­haps it will scare you off for good, or per­haps you’re game for a few more rounds of “per­ver­sion” with this ency­clo­pe­dic crit­ic of the self, the social, and the sex­u­al:

“A sub­ject,” says Zizek, “is a par­tial some­thing, a face, some­thing we see. Behind it, there is a void, a noth­ing­ness. And of course, we spon­ta­neous­ly tend to fill in that noth­ing­ness with our fan­tasies about the wealth of human per­son­al­i­ty and so on, and so on. To see what is lack­ing in real­i­ty, to see it as that, there you see sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. To con­front sub­jec­tiv­i­ty means to con­front fem­i­nin­i­ty. Woman is the sub­ject. Mas­culin­i­ty is a fake.”

You can watch the film in its entire­ty here.

via Bib­liok­lept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Žižek!: 2005 Doc­u­men­tary Reveals the “Aca­d­e­m­ic Rock Star” and “Mon­ster” of a Man

Good Cap­i­tal­ist Kar­ma: Zizek Ani­mat­ed

Slavoj Žižek: How the Marx Broth­ers Embody Freud’s Id, Ego & Super-Ego

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

Regina Spektor Live in L.A. — A Free 30 Minute Set with Songs from Her New Album

Regi­na Spek­tor’s sixth stu­dio album, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, is out. That means we’re hear­ing a lot more from the singer-song­writer whose music took form in the East Vil­lage of New York City. Sev­er­al weeks back, Spek­tor gave a thought­ful inter­view on NPR’s Fresh Air, where, among oth­er things, she recalled the dis­crim­i­na­tion her fam­i­ly faced in the Sovi­et Union and her child­hood immi­gra­tion to the Unit­ed States. Now, we’re catch­ing up with her in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia — at Apogee’s Berke­ley St. Stu­dios in L.A., to be pre­cise — where Spek­tor played an inti­mate con­cert fea­tur­ing songs from the new album. Catch one song, “The Par­ty,” right above, and the com­plete 30-minute ses­sion here. If you have a decent inter­net con­nec­tion, I’d skip to the HD ver­sion and enjoy. Kudos to KCRW for mak­ing this avail­able.

h/t @opedr

Reef View: Google Gives Us Stunning Underwater Shots of Great Coral Reefs

Most of us have looked up our own address­es using Google Street View. But have you ever wished you could vir­tu­al­ly dive right into the ocean, lake or riv­er near your home?

It may not be long until you can. Google has tak­en its Street View mod­el, com­plete with direc­tion­al arrows and swipe-con­trolled scal­ing, and plunged into the watery uni­verse.

In a col­lab­o­ra­tion with a major sci­en­tif­ic study of the ocean, Street View now includes panoram­ic views of six of the world’s liv­ing coral reefs. These images, shot using a spe­cial cam­era, allow us to zoom in and see schools of fish and sea tur­tles make their way over the sea floor off the coast of Australia’s Heron Island. Check out the shape and tex­ture of this ancient vol­canic rock near Apo Island in the Philip­pines.

Above the Moloki­ni Crater near Maui you might be sur­prised to stum­ble upon some oth­er snorklers.

Scoot­ing along is amaz­ing­ly fun and the pho­to­graph­ic clar­i­ty is incred­i­ble. Take a cool swim with a man­ta ray and an under­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­ph­er off the Great Bar­ri­er Reef. It real­ly does feel like you’re there—only you’re not (and the Google water­marks bring you back to real­i­ty ).

View Larg­er Map

Pho­tos come cour­tesy of the Catlin Seav­iew Sur­vey, an inter­na­tion­al study of the oceans. Researchers use a con­tin­u­al 360 degree panoram­ic cam­era to cap­ture under­wa­ter images. In deep­er trench­es, they send the cam­era down on robots.

Sci­en­tists with the study say that some 95 per­cent of the ocean still hasn’t been seen by the human eye. Short of trav­el­ing to all these spots our­selves, this may be our best chance to bring that num­ber down.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Per­pet­u­al Ocean: A Van Gogh-Like Visu­al­iza­tion of our Ocean Cur­rents

Google Street View Opens Up a Look at Shackleton’s Antarc­tic

Tour the Ama­zon with Google Street View; No Pass­port Need­ed

Google Art Project Expands, Bring­ing 30,000 Works of Art from 151 Muse­ums to the Web

Kate Rix is an Oak­land-based free­lance writer. See more of her work at .

F. Scott Fitzgerald Reads From Shakespeare’s Othello (c.1940)

When F. Scott Fitzger­ald died in 1940, his New York Times obit­u­ary claimed, “the promise of his bril­liant career was nev­er ful­filled.” This is a sen­tence that may puz­zle mod­ern-day lovers of Fitzgerald’s endur­ing­ly-rel­e­vant fic­tion, but it was the judg­ment of the time on the exhaust­ed, alco­holic writer’s career. And it was a judg­ment he often applied to him­self, as he demon­strat­ed pub­licly in his 1936 essay “The Crack-Up,” about his depres­sion. Reduced at the end of his life to writ­ing film scripts for mon­ey, a task he found degrad­ing for a “suc­cess­ful lit­er­ary man” such as him­self, Fitzger­ald also, at some time near his final year, made record­ings of him­self read­ing the work of Shake­speare, Keats, and oth­ers, pre­sum­ably also for mon­ey, though it’s not exact­ly clear who pro­duced the record­ings or why.

In the first video (above), lis­ten to Fitzger­ald deliv­er a dig­ni­fied read­ing of Othello’s speech to the Venet­ian Sen­a­tors from Act 1, Scene 3 of Oth­el­lo. Fitzger­ald stum­bles and slurs occa­sion­al­ly, and the speech may in fact be com­posed of sev­er­al dif­fer­ent takes edit­ed togeth­er, sug­gest­ing that he may have had dif­fi­cul­ty mak­ing it through. Nonethe­less, his voice is seduc­tive and sonorous; he reads the speech as a lit­er­ary mono­logue, rather than a dec­la­ra­tion. Hear more of him below, read­ing an edit­ed ver­sion of John Masefield’s “On Grow­ing Old,” a poem which may have had par­tic­u­lar poignan­cy to the man who wrote in 1936, “of course all life is in a process of break­ing down.” But even in decline, Fitzger­ald was worth lis­ten­ing to. You can find major works by F. Scott Fitzger­ald in our Free eBooks and Free Audio Books col­lec­tions.

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

F. Scott Fitzger­ald Cre­ates a List of 22 Essen­tial Books, 1936

Sev­en Tips From F. Scott Fitzger­ald on How to Write Fic­tion

Rare Footage of Scott and Zel­da Fitzger­ald From the 1920s

Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music

John­ny Cash once called 1968 the hap­pi­est year of his life. It was the year his mas­ter­piece At Fol­som Prison came out, the year he was named the Coun­try Music Asso­ci­a­tion’s Enter­tain­er of the Year, and the year he mar­ried the love of his life, June Carter. So it was a for­tu­nate time for a young film­mak­er named Robert Elf­strom to meet up with Cash for the mak­ing of a doc­u­men­tary.

Elf­strom trav­eled with Cash for sev­er­al months in late 1968 and ear­ly 1969. The result­ing film, John­ny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music, is a reveal­ing look at Cash, his cre­ative process and his ties to fam­i­ly. Elf­strom fol­lowed along on a tour that took Cash and his group (includ­ing, at dif­fer­ent times, Chet Atkins and the Carter Fam­i­ly singers) to a wide range of places, includ­ing a prison, an Indi­an reser­va­tion and Cash’s own native soil in the Amer­i­can South. Cash and Carter vis­it his par­ents and oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers, and in one mov­ing scene Cash returns to his aban­doned child­hood home in Dyess, Arkansas, a cot­ton farm­ing town that was cre­at­ed under Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt’s New Deal pro­gram in the 1930s to give poor fam­i­lies a chance to start over.

The film gives some sense of the com­plex­i­ty of Cash’s per­son­al­i­ty. There is one scene near the begin­ning, for exam­ple, in which Cash goes hunt­ing and wounds a crow. He then cra­dles the injured bird in his hands and talks friend­ly to it. “That scene, to me, says a lot about who John­ny Cash is,” Elf­strom told PBS in a 2008 inter­view. “John was not always warm and fuzzy like a pan­da bear all the time. He’s like that part of the time, but he also has a sharp edge and stee­li­ness to him.” Elf­strom went on to describe the sit­u­a­tion:

One day, we were hang­ing out in his house, and he said, “I want to go hunt­ing.” He grabbed his shot­gun and was walk­ing through the land around his house when he spied a crow and whipped off a shot. John was a dead shot, so he wound­ed the crow, and the bird hit the ground. When he picked up the crow, you could feel that some­thing was going through John’s head; he’d almost killed some­thing that maybe he should­n’t have, and he felt bad­ly about it, but that instinct to hunt and wound was a part of him too. So John car­ried the crow and sat down in the shade, and I could see he was kind of pissed off at him­self. I kept some dis­tance from him, and the next thing I knew, he was writ­ing a song to the crow.

One of the most strik­ing things about Elf­strom’s film is the way it man­ages, despite the con­straints of the ciné­ma vérité form, to con­nect the events of Cash’s life to his music. For exam­ple, at one point Cash is walk­ing through the bar­ren vil­lage of Wound­ed Knee in South Dako­ta, lis­ten­ing to the sto­ry of the mas­sacre of 1890 from one of the descen­dants of the vic­tims, and in the next scene he is singing “Big Foot,” his song about the tragedy. The film shows Cash’s gen­eros­i­ty toward unknown musi­cians. It also offers a glimpse of his close friend­ship with the young Bob Dylan. When Cash and Dylan got togeth­er in Feb­ru­ary of 1969 for a record­ing ses­sion in Nashville, Elf­strom was there. He doc­u­ment­ed the scene as the two men record­ed Dylan’s “One Too Many Morn­ings.”  Elf­strom told PBS:

John and Bob had got­ten close at that point. John was say­ing, “Gee, I wish Bob would move down here to Ten­nessee. I’ve got a lot of land, and we could be neigh­bors!” So that was fas­ci­nat­ing. We record­ed the two of them very late at night, and they were doing a duet of one of Dylan’s songs. In the mid­dle of the song, both John and Bob for­got the lyrics. So the record­ing ses­sion stopped while peo­ple scam­pered around the Colum­bia Records build­ing try­ing to find the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song. When the lyrics were final­ly found, the two of them got togeth­er again and did some great record­ing. It was real­ly an amus­ing ses­sion because John and Bob were teas­ing each oth­er all the time.

The film was orig­i­nal­ly named Cash, and was slight­ly longer than the ver­sion above. In 2008 it was re-edit­ed and renamed John­ny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music for broad­cast on PBS. It’s a reveal­ing por­trait of the coun­try music leg­end, but Elf­strom allowed his sub­ject cer­tain areas of pri­va­cy. In par­tic­u­lar he avoid­ed doc­u­ment­ing Cash’s well-known addic­tion to drugs. “Even back then, the pow­ers-that-be want­ed me to empha­size the sub­stance abuse stuff, and I had to fight the entire time to stay clear of that,” said Elf­strom. “I did­n’t want that pol­lu­tion to con­fuse the mes­sage of what John was doing. I was total­ly will­ing to take John at face val­ue, and I think he him­self rec­og­nized that ear­ly on and trust­ed me. He was a man strug­gling through life like all of us, doing his best, try­ing to come out on top.”

John­ny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music will be added to our col­lec­tion of 500 Free Movies Online.

The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.

Matthew Might, a com­put­er sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Utah, writes: “Every fall, I explain to a fresh batch of Ph.D. stu­dents what a Ph.D. is. It’s hard to describe it in words. So, I use pic­tures.” It’s Sep­tem­ber 26. That means fall is here again, and it’s time to bring you an encore pre­sen­ta­tion of Mat­t’s Illus­trat­ed Guide to the PhD. Have a look, and you’ll see the whole under­tak­ing in a less hubris­tic way:

Imag­ine a cir­cle that con­tains all of human knowl­edge:

By the time you fin­ish ele­men­tary school, you know a lit­tle:

By the time you fin­ish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bach­e­lor’s degree, you gain a spe­cial­ty:

A mas­ter’s degree deep­ens that spe­cial­ty:

Read­ing research papers takes you to the edge of human knowl­edge:

Once you’re at the bound­ary, you focus:

You push at the bound­ary for a few years:

Until one day, the bound­ary gives way:

And, that dent you’ve made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks dif­fer­ent to you now:

So, don’t for­get the big­ger pic­ture:

Keep push­ing.

You can find Mat­t’s Illus­trat­ed Guide host­ed on his web site. This guide/reality check is pub­lished under a Cre­ative Com­mons License. You can also buy a print ver­sion for $6.50. (The mon­ey goes to char­i­ty.) Matt offers more insights for Ph.D. stu­dents here.

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Federico Fellini Introduces Himself to America in Experimental 1969 Documentary

Today, if you want an intro­duc­tion to a film­mak­er like Fed­eri­co Felli­ni, you’ll most like­ly just look him up on Wikipedia. In 1969, you would­n’t have had quite so con­ve­nient an option, though were you an NBC-watch­ing Amer­i­can, you might have caught a broad­cast of Felli­ni: A Direc­tor’s Note­book. Direct­ed by Felli­ni him­self at the behest of NBC pro­duc­er Peter Gold­farb, the fifty-minute doc­u­men­tary (now added to our col­lec­tion of 500 Free Movies Online) fol­lows the Ital­ian auteur as he peri­patet­i­cal­ly seeks out inspi­ra­tion for his cur­rent and future projects. Among these, we hear about Satyri­con, one of his immor­tal works, and about The Voy­age of G. Mas­toma, which stalled before it even reached mor­tal­i­ty. Con­sort­ing with hip­pies in a field, tak­ing a spir­it medi­um down into the “cat­a­combs” of the Rome Metro, drop­ping in on favorite actor/counterpart Mar­cel­lo Mas­troian­ni, and receiv­ing a stream of vis­it­ing eccentrics in his office, Felli­ni nar­rates his own thoughts about his direc­to­r­i­al process. It seems to come down to search­ing for the right atmos­pheres — the obscure, the for­eign, the des­per­ate, the bizarre — and tak­ing them in.

Felli­ni: A Direc­tor’s Note­book pro­vides what Felli­ni called a “semi­hu­mor­ous intro­duc­tion” to the direc­tor, his work, and the envi­ron­ment of frown­ing absur­dism that seemed to encir­cle him wher­ev­er he went. But with its fre­quent lan­guage-shift­ing, its often dark and vague­ly trou­bling imagery, its air of simul­ta­ne­ous asex­u­al­i­ty and indis­crim­i­nate louch­ness, and its obvi­ous­ly delib­er­ate craft, the film would seem to fall into the ter­ri­to­ry between forms. But if it feels too elab­o­rate, arti­fi­cial, and stud­ded with half-glimpsed grotesques to count as a straight­for­ward por­trait of an artist, Fellini’s films set them­selves apart to this day with their thor­ough pos­ses­sion of those same qual­i­ties. Cul­tur­al his­to­ry has not record­ed in much detail how the aver­age Amer­i­can home view­er of 1969 han­dled this plunge into the vis­cous essence of Felli­ni. But I’ll bet every sin­gle one who enjoyed it imme­di­ate­ly marked their cal­en­dars, if sur­rep­ti­tious­ly, to go check out the man’s inter­pre­ta­tion of Petro­n­ius.

via @coudal

Relat­ed con­tent:

Fellini’s Fan­tas­tic TV Com­mer­cials

Felli­ni + Abrams = Super 8½

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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