Archive for January, 2008

Week 5 The Electric Message

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Please post your comments here for the readings this week:

Gunning, “Systemitizing the Electric Message,” “Heard Over the Phone,” and “Doing for the Eye What the Phonograph Does for the Ear.”

Undergrad Short Assignment

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Undergraduate Assignment # 1
Short Essay–1500-2000 words, 5-7 pages—Due Feb 7, 2007
Please hand in a hard copy and send me a back-up copy in MSword via e-mail (
Choose two of the readings from the course packet we have covered so far and discuss their contributions to the conceptialization of early cinema. Outline the main arguments of the essays. State how the authors are trying to reconceptualize or redirect the study of early cinema. What aspect of early cinema do they emphasize? What are the consequences of their interventions? What do they contribute to our understanding of early cinema or the study of cinema in general? Please feel free post queries here or to e-mail me if you have any questions about the assignment.

Week 4: Bodies, Gender, and Sexuality

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

In watching the many short silent films at the end of the last class, I noticed the recurring connections between human bodies and machinery. Acting and camera tricks came together to create the stories. For example, “Mary’s Mishap” (the woman blows herself up by lighting a fire with a large amount of paraffin oil) combines over-the-top highly visual acting with camera effects. Therefore, early cinema seemed to offer the prospect of a technological form of entertainment in which the actors too were props. This differs from theatre in that the actors became secondary to / on the same level as the machinery and inanimate props.

The mechanization of the body is also commented on in the seemingly very self-aware film “An Interesting Story.” At the end, a man is run over by a steam roller, flattened, and brought back to 3D life by bicycle pumps. The body responds to mechanical tools as if it were inorganic or non-living material itself.

What surprised me is how it seemed that people could actually be afraid of human-machine interchangeability. The anecdote in Doane’s “Technology’s Body” about the woman who was reluctant to have her picture taken for fear it would be painful is very much in line with the pattern of early cinema. The relationship between real life and cinema, and the relationship between people and machines, seem to be brought together in this time period.

My question is how commonly these anecdotal stories actually took place. In other words, was the average person actually so concerned about modernism, industrialism, and these newfangled moving pictures?

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Thursday, January 17th, 2008


Tom Gunnings articla on the cinema of attractions is one that fuses the advent of new technology and a new medium together.  He is able to recognize that the cinema was attraction not simply because it was new, but because it was also mechanical.  However, focusing more on the spectacle, he recognizes that indeed that was the allure, the spectacle.  Cinema was not about story AKA narrative, although any linear progression through time can be conceived as “narrative”, it wasn’t plot or story based but a rather a linear representation fo something happening.  This to me at least seems apparent.  Not that i’m comparing myself to Tom Gunning, but the term “cinema of attractions” is something i’ve been told about since intro to film, and this was the first time i ever read the artcile so much of the information was not new to me.  His next article on the aesthetics of the early cinema was quite fascinating in that, for me at least, it is to some extent able to demonstrate why studying early cinema is important and indeed, for me personally, why i am study8ing early cinema.  We see here that cyclical nature of aesthetics and narratology and as Elsaesser will show in his article, how technology and the developemnt of technology is and the aesthetics of those technological representations inevitably define and treat our understanding subject positioning and our relationship to both cinema, image and culture.  What I found fascinating about Gunnings second article was his almost one sided attempt to potrary early cinema as something of a rollercoaster, adn this is something that Elsaeser also critiques in his article.  Gunning seems so vehemently tunnled by his belief that heleaves no real space for a counter, and this is his weakness I find, in that he didn’t disporve future criticisms.  Elsaeser on the other hand I thoroughly enjoyed because he goes back and brings the past into the contemporary, almost bringing time and space and yet at the same time conjoins his views with the politcal economy and practical technology, questioningthe past and our understnading of the past in order to question and attempt to articulate the situation we currently find ourselves as consumers and theorists in the present sense.  What I found most fascinating was his discussion of the real and spectacle and how at one point and time they were split and yet through modern science they seem to be merging at on almost alarming speed.  Elsaeser is critical of the text and is aobvisouly from the politico-economical stream of academia which choses to conceive and converge our actuality into industrialized production and how said methods condition both perception and understanding.  If the current SWG strike demosntrates, the internet and even the ipod and new “detached” screeners and containers of media are the future and only in re-examining out historical appreciation and construction of the past can we best grasp the present and postulate opinions and educated guesses about the future.

Cinema of Attraction

Thursday, January 17th, 2008
In regards to this weeks readings, I was most intrigued by Tom Gunning’s “The Cinema of Attractions” article. It would seem, according to Gunnings, that technology was the central source of entertainment — not narrative. Natrually so, since such experimentations with technology were indeed so new — so novel. However, I can not help but wonder, can we completely replace the entertainment that comes with narrative film with the awe and wonderment that comes with new and revolutionary technnology? For example, while the Lumiere borthers tested the early forms of cinematopgraphy, how much of their filming of people disembarking off a train after a work day was simply technology? Is there not narrative inherent within all aspects of filming reality? Similarily, Melies demonstrated visual affects with new cinematic technology via the narrative plot line of scientists going to the moon.

 So overall, my questions is: while new cinematic technology was itself the primary attraction in early cinema, can we see the roots of narrative inherent within all representations of reality — despite their medium, despite technology?

 Adamo Ruggiero

Early Cinema inspired screening of Deco Dawson films at The Royal Cinema on College

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

This has nothing to do with the readings, per se, but I could not figure out how to post this in Screenings. Tomorrow night at The Royal Cinema on College Street, Winnipeg filmmaker Deco Dawson is showing a few of his short films- with a question and answer to follow. Deco used to collaborate (editor, shooter) with Guy Maddin- who’s short film “Heart of the World” we screened the first class. Deco actually shot a lot of “Heart of the World. He and Guy had a terrible falling out-which is not necessary to discuss here- but nevertheless his own work is inspired by a lot early cinema, as well. Might be an interesting opportunity for students who are interested in making films using early cinema techniques….

608 College (at Clinton St.), Toronto tel. (416) 534-5252

(posting by Nadia Litz. Nadia, let me know if you don’t have access to “Write a post.” Thanks, Sharon)

Reading Comments/Questions for Week 3 Cinema of Attractions

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Please post your comments on the readings for this week:

–Tom Gunning, “The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde,” in Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative (London: BFI, 1990), pp56-62.
–Tom Gunning, “An Aesthetics of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator,” Viewing Positions (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994), 114-133.
–Thomas Elsaesser, “The New Film History as Media Archaeology,” pp.75-117.

Week 2 Reading: Temporality, Storage. Legibility (Freud, Marey, and the Cinema)

Thursday, January 10th, 2008


This weeks reading raised many points in reference to time — including the thoughts of Freud and Marey. While Marey and Freud had two different theories about time, I feel the reading had one common theme: ourselves within time. Marey raises questions like, how are our movements played out within time? Freud raises questions like, how do we preceive and store time within our unconcious? None the less, Frued, Marey and more specfically, early cinema attempted to expose our daily activites within time. And in this sense, I agree with the theory that time is more a product…. a product of our existence within landscape. (For example, Marey studies the way we move on ground whereby time is a product of this movement that can be measured.)

I find myself thinking how this relates to early cinema. As the article states, cinema was the first instance in which time could be represented in “real time” — without breaks between images. Time was represented just as we saw it in real life — with no particular purpose to understand it — but merely to view it instead. Therefore, cinema inherently took on the idea of narrative insofar as it captured everyday life in real time. The article argues that, it is the result of this lack of understanding of time that has creating “noise” — an overstimulation of images within continous time. We have no way to draw meaning from these images within time. We simply accept them without entirely underastanding them.

I feel as if these anxieities surrounding time have appeared quite recently. While Frued theorized the notion of time, Marey or Muybridge and their use of technology turned time into a sheer enigma. And now with the advent of cinema, time is even more so an enigma. The rise of technology has forced us to tamper with something that we would have otherwise accepted as natural. So my question is, has technology made us ever so objective to the notion of time that it has produced a culture of confusion? In a borader sense, has technology forced us to confront things that are meant to just be? I feel technology in general has produced a culture of over stimulation, of excess, of cloudiness within modernity. Maybe things are better left to the unkown.

Adamo Ruggiero

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

I thought the article was interesting because it took two seemingly dichotomous positions on the subject of cinema. One focusing on the psychical, the other on the physical. Doane’ perspective was interesting, at least for me, because it delineated the idea of cinematography in a way that was not theoritcally articulated to me before. The notion “resistance” and “storage” are both, in a sense, acurrate, in that the image has the ability both destroy and yet preserve time, and this anxiety is something that contemporary film and media scholars as well as film makers (One Hour Photo w. Robin Williams being a good example) have been investigating. Indeed all the “anxieties” pertainning to the process of the cinema (apparatus, structure, narrative, the image, editing) is not a contemporary phenomenon, but rather a contium of the ever historized fear of “otherness”, “otherness” representing that which is un known, which can attemptively be had and is continuously elusive. Doanne recognizes, at least in this chapter, the inability to conclusively decypher the specificities of the binary. She demonstrates the intersticed network that functions between all the relations, suggesting that what is keen to the cinema is not what it is, and it wi not, but rather the pleasure, and perhaps, displeasure unmediated transferance of subject, image, editing. Angelo