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Theses - Centre for Film and Screen


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  • ItemEmbargo
    Maternal Transgressions in Contemporary Cinema
    Parlett, Hannah
    This thesis examines the representation of maternity in contemporary art cinema, focusing on selected films by Claire Denis, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold, Sean Baker and, in a coda, Alice Diop. It proposes that these recent directors all explore maternity from the perspective of ‘transgression’, both as it pertains to acts of literal crime, as well as more symbolic or cultural ruptures. The thesis draws on the psychoanalytic work of Melanie Klein as a key theoretical framework, and it argues that Klein is a generative (and often overlooked) point of reference for exploring the role of violence and negativity in recent cinema. I propose that Klein’s model of psychic splitting in early life, an infantile process which violently divides the maternal figure into ‘good mother’ versus ‘bad mother’, is a dialectical binary that operates structurally within the precarious worlds these films depict. Klein’s psychic model is a punitive framework, quick to categorize and punish different behaviours, just as modern systems of neoliberal governance and surveillance are eager to classify different maternal subjects. In both cases, this compulsion is fundamentally grounded within anxieties about dependency, survival, and futurity. The term ‘maternal transgression’ also seeks to describe a cinematic engagement with motherhood and reproduction that exceeds the boundaries of the human and transgresses a strictly Anthropocentric perspective. The thesis also draws on the critical work of Adriana Cavarero, Lisa Downing, Lauren Berlant and Eugenie Brinkema to consider issues of contemporary violence, ethics and precarity. In the introduction, I set out the key theoretical concerns of the thesis and illustrate how Klein’s psychoanalytic model might help to read the representation of maternal transgression in contemporary art films. I reflect on the role played by motherhood, care, and reproduction in the history of cinema as a medium, tracing a maternal genealogy from Orson Welles’ *Citizen Kane* (1941) to Chantal Akerman’s *Jeanne Dielman* (1975). I situate the project in relation to existing scholarship and reflect on how the specificity of art cinema shapes the representation of transgression and ambivalent maternal figures. Each chapter of the thesis then focuses on a different mode of maternal labour and infantile development, beginning with ‘origins’ and then turning to consider questions of ‘mess’, ‘feeding’, and ‘play’. Chapter One examines Claire Denis’ film *High Life* as a philosophical meditation on the intellectual concept of ‘origin’. It suggests that Denis approaches this primordial question from multiple perspectives, including human biological reproduction, ethics, and cosmology. Denis is interested in the role of maternity within a carceral context, both as a mode of criminal transgression and as a form of biopolitical punishment. Chapter Two turns to the films of Lynne Ramsay to explore how her radical depiction of maternity is characterized as an encounter with material ‘mess’ and its tenacity. Ramsay’s films offer a bold reworking of the traditional associations forged between the figure of mother and the domestic labour of cleaning. Chapter Three turns to the films of Andrea Arnold to examine how her cinema engages with the mammalian maternal body as a site of reproduction, care, and labour. From her first short *Milk* to her most recent film *Cow*, Arnold has offered a sustained mediation on these creaturely, embodied issues as experienced by both human and non-human animals. Chapter Four examines the representation of maternal transgression as a carnivalesque mode of ‘play’ in Sean Baker’s *The Florida Project*. In its depiction of neoliberal precarity and different forms of reproductive labour, Baker’s film considers maternity in relation to other contemporary questions of class, respectability, and urbanity. In the coda, reflections on Alice Diop’s *Saint Omer* occasion a final meditation on transgressive maternity as a dialectical conflict between both care and violence, and life and death.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Envisaging Community in Twenty-First Century US Film and Television: Neoliberalism, Relationality, Ecologies
    Townsend, Karim
    This thesis explores interconnected questions of community, politics, neoliberalism, and ecologies in twenty-first century US film and television. Specifically, I examine the work of three American filmmakers — Kenneth Lonergan, Mike White, and Paul Schrader — whose works, I suggest, can be characterised as narratives of responsibility in their foregrounding of moral questions concerning community in a contemporary neoliberal American context. Yet the depiction of community in these works, this thesis argues, is often challenging and ambivalent. Moving across film and television works that respond to key (geo)political markers throughout the twenty-first century, such as 9/11, the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis, and our ongoing climate emergency, the thesis draws on an assemblage of theorists — ranging from Judith Butler, Lauren Berlant, Jean-Luc Nancy, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, among others — to examine how US film and televisual media engage with questions of relationality and collective social responsibility, envisaging forms of political community amidst the multifaceted and destructive workings of neoliberalism in America. In Chapter 1, I analyse Lonergan’s *Margaret* (2011), examining the film’s depiction of community in a post-9/11 New York City, a setting in which questions of alterity and grievability are navigated. While I consider the film in relation to 9/11 and its allegorical dimensions, I also address the contested ethical implications of allegory as a rhetorical device and examine the ways in which these allegorical complexities are necessarily inflected by the film’s cursory engagement with questions of race. Beyond its engagements with 9/11, I also explore the film’s negotiation of individual responsibility and community in relation to neoliberal discourses pertaining to gender and postfeminism. Chapter 2 centres on White’s HBO series *Enlightened* (2011–13), analysing the complex affective dimensions that undergird the series’ critique of corporate capitalism in a post-2008 context. The series’ excoriation of neoliberalism, as the chapter argues, points to the necessity of a transversal ecopolitics. Indeed, I suggest that the series constitutes an ecological opening to renewed conceptualisations of community, inclusive of the nonhuman. Yet I also contend that *Enlightened* bears numerous contradictions and ambivalences in its utopian visions of ecological futurity and in its satirical and humorous thematisation of social responsibility under neoliberalism. In Chapter 3, I focus on Schrader’s *First Reformed* (2017), examining its engagements with nationalism, religion, capitalism, environmentalism, race, and individual responsibility. I think most explicitly about various ecological questions in relation to the film’s articulation of human-nonhuman relationalities. Crucial to this chapter is a consideration of how Schrader’s film-theoretical reflections on ‘transcendental style’ may be applied beyond an anthropocentric context, attuning viewers to the planet’s materiality, imperilled as it is by the climate crisis. Ultimately, the analyses here demonstrate the ways in which recent US film and television offer us provocative mediations of contemporary neoliberal America, envisaging how we may (or may not) move beyond neoliberalism to consider questions of relationality and community anew, including beyond the human.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Towards Experiential Critique of the Capitalocene. Rethinking Immersion in Moving Image Installations by Rachel Rose, Sondra Perry and Hito Steyerl
    Kincinaityte, Geiste Marija
    The thesis examines moving image installations by contemporary artists Rachel Rose, Sondra Perry, and Hito Steyerl. It explores their capacity to generate space for an experiential critique of the logic of extractivist practices. The selected installations employ various screen-based and projection technologies to create an immersive experience, that can appear to be for the sake of sensory experience. However, throughout the thesis, I argue that these artworks possess the potential to reconfigure the concept of immersion itself, exploring it as a mode of experiential critique of the Capitalocene (a term defined in Chapter 1). I draw on Jean-Luc Nancy’s corporeal ontology to consider experiential critique in relation to his elaborations on sense and sensation that rethink sensory experience and the boundaries of self through the concepts of listening and touch. Nancy’s approach rejects the understanding of the body as a sensory experience modelled around the defined thresholds of sensation serving the neoliberal capitalist practices that turn existence into units of value for the purpose of abstraction, appropriation, and extraction. Throughout the thesis, I explore this approach and its applicability in relation to the artists’ configurations of immersive moving image installations. In Chapter 2, I draw on the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and Nancy’s ideas on resonance and threshold to discuss Rose’s early practice and her moving image installation, *Everything and More* (2015), which focuses on the limits of sensory experience in outer space. While addressing its material and philosophical layers, I argue for the artwork’s capacity to invoke ontological resistance by restitching relations and reweaving the edges of the self towards an embedded and embodied perception of the world as a critique of the techno-capitalist imaginaries of the future. In the following chapter on Perry’s practice, which resists the representational categorisation of blackness, Nancy’s notions of ecotechnics and expeausition work to demonstrate emerging tensions between the *Typhoon coming on* (2018) and the *Flesh Wall* (2016–2020) installations as a critique of the racialising logic of fungibility. The final chapter explores Steyerl’s installation *This is the Future/Power Plants* (2019), which opens a broader discussion on the artificial intelligence (AI) industry and its impact on shaping a worldview that has political, ethical, and societal implications. Drawing on Nancy’s ideas on struction and general equivalence, I approach this installation as an experiential critique of entrenched power structures driven by the ideology of the future, which entangle beings, environments, and machines on the planetary scale. For each artist, therefore, the relevant chapter investigates how they treat video production and post-production tools, the installation space, screens, and projection technology to create immersive installations that configure space for experiential critique of total vision, mastery, and deterministic projections of the future. Written at the time of the pandemic, the thesis brings Nancy’s philosophy and the selected artworks together to explore modes of resistance to the logic of profitability that renders existence into units of value. In this context, I develop a critical framework for addressing immersion as an experiential critique, which requires attending to the question of technology and how the artists employ it to activate and reconfigure a critical engagement with the present. Thus, the thesis contributes to an exploration of the role of art and theory in times of crises, while considering immersion as an experiential critique of the Capitalocene, which takes into account relations and positions to imagine other modes of being-with.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Work in Motion: Labour and Aesthetic Production in the Animated Film Industry
    Morgan, Carleigh
    Diagramming the intersection between the representation of work and the work of representation, this thesis explores how animation has historically mediated technological transformations in film production through its self-reflexive engagement with labour. I track the entanglement between animated images and image production through three key inflection points in animation history: beginning with early animation’s pre-industrial roots; continuing through animation’s industrial rationalisation; and concluding with a discussion of digital animation. Contrary to claims that animation’s self-reflexive address is unique to early animation, I argue that early animation’s turn towards self-reflexivity does not vanish with the disappearance of the animator from the frame. Rather, animation showcases an ongoing preoccupation with labour. It works out tensions between autonomy and automation; movement and mechanisation; labour and alienation at key points throughout its history, especially when the work of animation is transformed by its formalisation, rationalisation, and digitalisation as a medium. This thesis is organised into three chapters. Chapter One takes up cinematic reflexivity and self-figuration to critique *Gertie the Dinosaur* (1914 Winsor McCay) through the lens of the operational aesthetic, underscoring how this aesthetic mode poses limits to theories of cinematic disclosure and problematises representations of work in early animation. Taking up the film as a cinematic treatise on the labour of animation, this chapter argues that the film’s live-action prologue disregards the role photography played in automating the reproduction of Gertie’s animated imagery, electing to prioritise the manual labours of animation as a handicraft. Chapter Two builds on Siegfried Kracauer’s theory of the mass ornament to contemplate masses, multitudes, and crowds for film. It decodes the mass ornament in the musical choreographies of Busby Berkeley; addresses its resonances with assembly line production in classical animation; and concludes with a discussion of homogeneity and heterogeneity in the production of digitally simulated crowds. Chapter Three takes up the ‘quality assurance guarantee’ of Pixar Animation Studios to consider how it articulates its relationship to creativity and the labour of computer animated filmmaking. This chapter investigates Pixar’s post-Fordist labour history to ask how this labour history intersects with the broader turn towards the immaterial labours of creativity— labours which the studio uses to underwrite its reputation as ‘Creativity, Inc.’ Through a critique of its political economy, Chapter Three describes how Pixar curates its public image and optimises worker productivity by indoctrinating animators into a company culture and corporate mythology which foregrounds artistry and creativity over computer-intensive forms of work. Reflecting on animation as a material practice; as an ideology; and through a critique of its political economy, this thesis contemplates the complex configurations between animated imagery; animated film production; and the labour of animation. This interdisciplinary work combines critical methods from production studies, film history, media theory, cultural studies, and animation scholarship to offer incisive contributions to film and media studies. It brings together aesthetic theory with critiques of the technologies, histories, and production methods of animated film. And it raises important questions for film and media studies about the work of animation; animation’s mediation of this work; and asks what animation theory can bring to the study of cinematic labour.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Allocentric Design: Critical Practice in the Age of Radical Technological and Environmental Change
    Hollanek, Tomasz
    While the discourse on the ethical development of artificial intelligence (AI), shaped by international expert panels and institutions such as the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), has largely focused on ensuring that new technologies are human-centered, scholars working in the emergent field of critical design studies have argued against this framework as a relic of the anthropocentric past, lying at the very heart of the contemporary environmental crisis. If many ‘AI ethicists’ based in the Global North seek to establish a universal approach to technology development ‘for Good’ – that translates into products and tools that are intuitive and user-friendly, and that support human wellbeing – critical design theorists and practitioners aim to reimagine design from the standpoint of marginalized groups (both within and outside of the Global North), questioning the field’s roots in the Western conception of modernity, as well as its ties to systemic racism, colonialism, and capitalism – approaching the matters of social justice and environmental sustainability as essentially entangled. By bridging these two, often contradictory, perspectives on ethical technology design, the thesis explores the potential for reconciling human-centric principles with the goals of sustainable and restorative design for a more-than-human world. Confronting the desire to encode critical reflection and ethical deliberation into easily adoptable ‘guidelines’ for practitioners – and recognizing that it is precisely the search for universal solutions that has caused harm in the past – the first two chapters build on approaches including Louise Amoore’s cloud ethics and Anab Jain’s more-than-human politics, to argue for critical practice as a means of accounting for the full complexity of the systems in which design operations take place and the wider network of planetary interdependencies that design affects. While the first part of the thesis thus establishes that, to address the challenges of the Anthropocene, critical design practice must proceed from acknowledging the distribution of agency among human and nonhuman assemblages, the second part introduces design frameworks that, in search of desirable expressions of technology-enabled collective intelligence and interspecies collaboration, build on the relational understanding of existence and depart from the individual-based model of human society – focusing on Neri Oxman’s nature- centric practice and Benjamin Bratton’s conception of terraforming as a means of de-centering the human in geopolitics. If critical design practice in the Anthropocene must abandon the egocentric, anthropocentric perspective, the penultimate chapter investigates how an allocentric framework can embrace the kind of ontological and epistemological pluralism that the advocates of Indigenous and non-Eurocentric design methodologies (such as Arturo Escobar) have called for, while retaining as part of this pluralism the notion of scientific objectivism – a paradigm that remains indispensable to investigating the causes of and acting upon the climate crisis. Finally, the concluding chapter elucidates why the allocentric reorientation in design practice requires that we actively intervene in how technologies are imagined, not merely in how they are assembled; referring to the example of Olga Tokarczuk’s Ex-Centrum Project in Poland, it considers the role that storytelling may play in the process of re-modelling the ‘we’ of design in the age of radical technological and environmental change. By filling the gap between mainstream AI ethics and critical design studies, and drawing on insights from media theory, philosophy of technology, and decolonial and post-development studies, the thesis aims to be a significant contribution to the growing fields of Critical AI Studies and AI Humanities.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Camera Mortis: Ethics and Aesthetics in Emmanuel Levinas and Richard Mosse
    Jakobson, Christine
    This thesis examines the purpose of art — specifically, fine art photography — in depicting contemporary conflicts that have resulted in suffering, violence, human rights abuses, and death. The thesis argues that the purpose of such art is not aesthetic. Instead, such art functions as a means to channel artistic expression towards increased political awareness and to facilitate an ethical encounter between the viewer and the other through a questioning of the other’s death and the viewer’s self. The depiction of the other’s death gives rise to a contemplation of moral responsibility and a movement from the viewer’s self towards the other, breaking the viewer’s solitude and expanding her moral horizon to encompass an other removed in time and space. The thesis takes Emmanuel Levinas’s articulation of ethics and aesthetics to propose a theory of a camera mortis that reflects the proximity of life and death as a defining condition of the twenty-first century and art. To develop this approach to art, the thesis primarily refers to Levinas’s three concepts of death, temporality, and responsibility to offer a revision of Levinas’s aesthetics. It proceeds with an analysis of how Levinas opens up debates about Richard Mosse’s major projects, addressing the question of what art is for. Chapter One outlines Levinas’s ethics as first philosophy and critically examines his notion of art before considering his writing on the political. In so doing, it revises the common conception that art and ethics are incompatible in Levinas’s philosophy. Chapter Two examines Mosse’s first major project, comprising Infra (2010–11) and The Enclave (2013), to propose a reading of Mosse’s aesthetics in terms of the potential to change a viewer’s perception and to increase self-awareness via an encounter with the conflict in Congo rendered through variations of the colour pink. The chapter also complicates the artworks’ ethics by demonstrating that the other remains unseen and confined to alterity in temporal delay and in the making invisible of death and suffering. The third chapter examines Mosse’s second major project, comprising Heat Maps (2014–16) and Incoming (2017), to argue that the artworks throw the viewer’s self-perception into radical crisis via an encounter with the corporeality of the refugee. They do so by highlighting the absence of a coherent present and a confrontation of the moral responsibility towards an other who is not treated as an equal in her worthiness to be alive.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Refashioning Difference: Costume and the Materiality of African and Afro-diasporan Cinemas
    Grieve, Alexandra
    Feminist film scholarship has rehabilitated costume by correcting the view that it is a frivolous, feminized element of filmmaking, arguing instead that dress establishes historical and geographic context. Despite these interventions, little research has explored costume from non- Western cinemas, nor have scholars addressed how both the intersections of gender and race have influenced the ‘fashioning’ of onscreen subjectivities. These are not irrelevant considerations, given the historical link between the expansion of Western textile production and the extraction of resources from formerly colonised territories, particularly the African continent, which remains an attractive destination for cheap, often female manufacturing labour. My doctoral thesis brings these geopolitical and feminist concerns into interdisciplinary conversation with film studies, by taking up the complex imbrications of clothing, race and gender, and considering the unexamined possibilities that material culture presents for African postcolonial cinematic authorship. Comprised of analyses of the work of female filmmakers Claire Denis, Julie Dash, Wanuri Kahiu and Zina Saro-Wiwa, I argue that their richly haptic, textillic works highlight the filmic image as a materially ‘fashioned’ medium, through which African/Afro-diasporan peoples’ entanglements with globalized (neo)coloniality have been sensually remediated for the screen. Combatting the marginalization of African women in cinema studies, as well as the broader devaluation of women’s aesthetic practices, I demonstrate that the neglected cultural contributions of African/Afro-diasporic female filmmakers should be reconsidered, with an eye turned towards the highly politically expressive field of dress and its material cultures.
  • ItemOpen Access
    'Face Value' in the Moving Image Practices of Harun Farocki, William Kentridge, and Hito Steyerl
    Alexander, Lawrence
    This thesis examines the face as a central topos in contemporary moving image art. Specifically, it investigates how the face simultaneously figures as a locus of capture and resistance in the essay films and installations of Harun Farocki, the performance and video art of Hito Steyerl, and William Kentridge’s intermedial productions for gallery and stage. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s articulation of the face as a site of political struggle in A Thousand Plateaus (1987) provides a guiding theoretical framework for this analysis. I place this post-structuralist model in dialogue with contemporary discourses of media archaeology and critical race theory in order to interrogate these artists’ confrontations with the crimes of European and, in particular, German colonialism. In this vein, I also consider their opposition to the enduring racial and environmental violence reproduced by contemporary systems of capital and control. Central to this analysis is the correlation of the face to both the surroundings of landscape and the managing function of the hands in the production of moving images mediated across various networks of circulation and exchange. Considering aesthetic production as a kind of metonymic hand(i)work, meanwhile, establishes a chain of connections between these practitioners and their works using a range of image-making technologies. The tripartite structure of the thesis accordingly explores three main thematic foci: the manual treatment of the face in cosmetics, the organizational management of the interface, and the work of the hands in archaeological practice. I contend that faciality provides a model for thinking about or against systems of representation, figuration, and inscription that also encode the domination of bodies and territories by intertwining systems of corporate and state control both historically and in the contemporary moment. This analysis thus demonstrates the central importance of the face to scholarship that engages with the related aesthetic and political strategies active in staging resistance and solidarity in contemporary moving image practices.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Relationality and Opacity: Approaching Trans in Cinema
    Pickett-Palmer, Lili
    This thesis seeks to attend to modes of trans relationality in cinema. Recent scholarship, most notably by Eliza Steinbock and Cáel M. Keegan, has pictured cinema as a privileged medium for diversifying the range of trans-related effects and affects available to film audiences, exploring how trans embodiments and cinema might share a liberatory capacity to transform modes of perceiving and experiencing. My study offers an alternative angle of approach, asking how trans has become associated with the capacity to transform. I turn to trans studies genealogies of how trans embodiments have been instrumentalized as metaphors for mutability, mouldability, or interchangeability. In particular, I follow Jules Gill-Peterson’s and C. Riley Snorton’s tracings of this tendency through histories of racialization. One strand of this thesis approaches cinema as a medium that abstracts and instrumentalizes trans experiences, shaped by these histories. A complementing strand argues that such abstractions cleave imperfectly to the lived complexity of trans experience, leaving room for manoeuvre and offering measures of opacity. Reading for opacity, I propose, offers ways to read for forms of trans relationality that persist in excess of the abstractions that have put trans towards other purposes. In chapter one, I trace and interrogate themes of isolation, irreversibility, and impossibility through Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s In a Year of 13 Moons. I put 13 Moons in conversation with a series of Christer Strömholm’s photographs and Sébastien Lifshitz’s film Bambi. The transfeminine desires and intimacies documented in these artworks offer a fresh perspective on the forms of negativity and relationality associated with 13 Moons. Chapter two focuses on sites of convergence between Black and trans in British cinema, surveying films by Derek Jarman, Sankofa, and Neil Jordan, and artworks by Travis Alabanza and Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley. Through this archive, I follow fugitive practices of Black and trans kinship transecting conditions of fungibility. In chapter three, I connect histories of trans children to readings of three films: Tomboy (Céline Sciamma), Little Girl (Lifshitz) and She Male Snails (Ester Martin Bergsmark), asking how trans children are alienated from their agency and instrumentalized as figures for development, plasticity, innocence, and futurity. I consider, however, how these films also make it possible to partially glimpse the force of trans children’s expressivity through the distorting abstractions they are asked to bear.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Sounds without Borders: Industry, Society and the Voice in Giallo Cinema
    Pollard, Damien
    The Italian giallo film was a type of thriller that was produced in huge numbers between the early 1960s and the late 1980s. This thesis contributes to recent scholarly attempts to situate the giallo within its socio-cultural historical context but resists the critical tendency to read these films as passive and transparent reflections of social attitudes in post-war Italy. Rather, I attend concretely to the form of these films and, specifically, to their critically neglected sound designs. I argue that the giallo’s voice tracks were conditioned by the commercial imperatives of Italy’s post-war popular film industry and that these commercial imperatives were in turn shaped by wider social, economic and political phenomena. By theorising the voice as a mediator between the giallo text and its industrial and social contexts, I show that these films both registered and reified social change. Chapter 1 demonstrates that the anonymous narrator of Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) adopts a range of sonorous modes throughout the film. Each of these sonorous modes invokes a specific set of intertexts which are vital to tracing both the giallo’s cultural origins and the increasingly globalised socio- cultural landscape from which it emerged. This chapter then shows that Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) uses the model of the cinematic voice-over to explore the subjective experience of urban space in post-war Italy. The film suggests that by 1970 the ability to vocally ‘narrate’ and thus control space had become a fundamental assumption of the modern, cosmopolitan subject. Chapter 2 analyses Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) and Sergio Martino’s Torso (1973). Both films draw on longstanding Italian cultural stereotypes to pitch the silence of the rural against the vocality of the urban. The films use silence and the voice as ‘cartographic’ tools to delineate the profound socio-economic divisions between Italy’s rural South and its more urban North, but they also illustrate the giallo’s underlying affinities with its silent cinema ancestors and so challenge the assumed temporal borders between cinematic eras. Chapter 3 argues that Argento’s Tenebrae (1982) and Fulci’s The New York Ripper (1982) variously mimic the vocal aesthetics of television. These films lay bare both the increasing dominance of the Italian cultural landscape by imported commercial television in the 1980s and the neoliberal economic project that underpinned that trend. Ultimately, they question the stability of the nation itself, precisely because the voice — now fractured across a global mediascape — is unable to signal national specificity.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Framing Sex and Spatiality in French Queer Cinema: Nolot, Dieutre, Guiraudie
    (2021-04-01) O'Dwyer, Jules; O'Dwyer, Jules [0000-0002-3081-9709]
    This thesis explores interrelated questions of sexuality and spatiality through the lens of contemporary French queer cinema. While film and media studies has recently seen the critical ascendance of spatial, embodied and proprioceptive theory on the one hand, and a burgeoning interest in queer sexualities, counterpublics and relational practices on the other, the conceptual convergences between both areas remain largely unmapped. This thesis offers a corrective to this oversight by taking as its focus the work of three critically under-discussed directors—Jacques Nolot, Vincent Dieutre, and Alain Guiraudie—who each appeal to the spatial practice of gay cruising to explore the formal, textual and geographic construction of cinematic space. The first chapter establishes the cultural and theoretical backdrop of the study, arguing that while French thinkers from the post-1968 period sought to analyse the factors that ‘produce’ and differentiate experiences of lived space (or what Lefebvre terms ‘l’espace vécu’) the question of sexuality rarely figured as a substantive concern. Drawing queer theory, cultural geography and film studies into closer dialogue, I argue that cinema is well-positioned to think through, and expand upon, these concerns. Chapter two stages an encounter between the cinema of Jacques Nolot and the film theory of Roland Barthes to explore how the homoerotic space of the movie theatre might serve as a site to reorient key debates in film theory. Chapter three explores how cruising figures as a metaphor for archival and geographic exploration in the documentary practice of Vincent Dieutre. Seeking to complicate Paris’ privileged position as the locus of queer life and cultural production, Chapter four explores the rural and post-industrial spaces of the French South-west via Alain Guiraudie. The guiding thread that runs throughout this analysis is a sustained interest in how the production and articulation of cinematic space is informed by questions of non-normative desire, embodiment, and sexual politics. Indeed, while the trope of flânerie has long constituted a symbolic touchstone in French literary and artistic culture—serving to articulate entwined ideas of modernism, spatial exploration, and urban sociality—the thesis suggests that cruising might offer a queer cognate to these culturally sanctioned discourses. Forging itinerant pathways through the spaces of French cinema, Nolot, Dieutre, and Guiraudie invite spectators to consider questions of intimacy, relationality and cinematic space anew.
  • ItemControlled Access
    'A Place Called Slaughter Race': Spectres of conflict in contemporary Disney animation
    Chew, Kevin
    This thesis traces the themes of war, racism, ecological anxiety and postindustrial subjugation as forms of conflict informing the Walt Disney Animation Studios features Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams, 2014), Zootopia (Byron Howard and Rich Moore, 2016), Moana (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2016) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, 2018). By interrogating these films on the levels of narrative, aesthetics and production, I chart a series of tensions and contradictions between the fantastical diegeses of the films and their historical dimensions in order to produce an account of their critical potential. The history of violence haunting the United States through to the present day provides the extradiegetic touchstone for my analysis, which reflects on the entwinements between Disney animation and cultural history to reformulate the significance of my corpus as a form of critical memory. This reformulation goes against the grain of more traditional Disney scholarship that seeks to identify and interrogate an ideological and political programme pursued by the Walt Disney Company at large. Instead, my work complements historical materialist approaches that situate film and animation in a dialectical engagement with historical knowledge, suggesting that the repression of conflict frequently critiqued in Disney animation conversely serves as a mode of transmission in popular memory. I thus propose that a critical reading of these films involves unpacking the historical contents that persist in the family-friendly spectacle widely associated with Disney animation, while also accounting for the melancholic gap between the utopian imagination expressed in these films and the historical violence that they inevitably commemorate.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Gesture and the cinéaste: Akerman/Agamben, Varda/Warburg
    (Department of French, University of Cambridge, 2016-03-01) Mowat, Hannah Barbara
    This thesis offers an adjunct to recent theories of the haptic contingent upon proximity by considering how embodied engagement might take place at a distance. Developing a broad definition of gesture as a motion away from the (carnal or camera) body that is nonetheless always attached to it, the thesis seeks a state of in-betweenness unmediated by touch. Two chapters explore this gesture-as-bodily-extension as an analytical approach to art. Each focuses on an insistently individual artist, according each a different theoretical approach in order both to do justice to that individuality and to test fully the potential and limits of the gestural approach in question. The first chapter focuses on the writings and films of the écrivain-cinéaste, Chantal Akerman, whose gesturality, equal parts literary and cinematic, is explored through Giorgio Agamben’s similarly language-based thoughts on gesture, the moving image and repetition. Charting a three-stage gesture of (displaced) demonstration (proximal, medial and distal) that finds its linguistic correlate in a triad of slippery shifters (là, làbas and ça), it examines how, and why, the artist, in a relentless process of ressassement informed by atrocities always one step away from first-hand experience, translates these to page and screen as the story of ‘la petite chose à côté’. The second chapter centres on the photographs, films and installation work of the artiste-cinéaste, Agnès Varda, using an approach developed from selected writings by the German art historian, Aby Warburg, the majority translated into English for the first time. As with Akerman, Varda’s work insists upon a spectatorship premised on distance, but it also demands complicity. Defining the viewing experience not as the still contemplation of moving images but as the active contemplation of still ones, the chapter explores the relation between onlooker and image by harnessing Warburg’s vision of a gesture encoded in the artwork that may be triggered anew through mobile, engaged and bodily spectatorship from afar; a vision underpinned by his concepts of the animated accessory (bewegtes Beiwerk), the memory-image (Erinnerungsbild) and the inbetween space of artistic encounter (Zwischenraum). Ultimately, this thesis asks, and answers, two questions. What can theories of gesture contribute to a close analysis of artists whose work demands distance? And do these highly individual artists exceed the scope of theory – and in so doing, expand it?