Research

P U B L I C A T I O N S  – D O C T O R A T E  –  C U R R E N T   R E S E A R C H

Publications

We’re probably in copyright territory here, so use advisedly.

  • “Traité de styles, traiter de style: Home, Sweet Home (1914) de D. W. Griffith et le réalisme”, published (in French) in Bulletin du Ciclaho, 2001-2002.
  • “Hollywood-Tahiti: Van Dyke, Flaherty, et quelques polysémies polynésiennes”, to be published (in French) in Bulletin du Ciclaho.
  • “Global Hollywood: What is the word for world?”, a lecture delivered at the University of Syddansk, Denmark, March 2010
  • The Day After: the spectacle of disaster, a moral inquiry”, a lecture delivered at the University of Syddansk, Denmark, March 2011
  • “‘Putting It Over’: Reaching Out to the Audience and the American silent film exhibition practice of the atmospheric prologue”, a paper presented at the 16th International SERCIA conference, sept. 2011, University of Bath (to be published).
  • “Realism, Ballyhoo, and the marketing of American Silent Films: An object lesson for small-town modern film exhibition?”, a paper presented at the symptom “Film Consuymption in the Digital Age” held at the University of East Anglia, Nov. 11-12, 2011.

Doctorate Dissertation: “The Question of Realism in Hollywood Silent Films, 1917-1927”

Successfully defended Nov. 8, 2011. Here are relevant links to know more about it:

  • the summary in English:
In the 1920s, as Hollywood cinema is undergoing industrial institutionalization, critical and advertising discourses maintain active a spectatorial pleasure derived from the sensational presence of reality in fiction films. The notion of «realism» used in those discourses is a «cluster concept» aiming on the one hand to derive cinema’s legitimacy from the serious purpose of realistic arts, and on the other to emphasize the relationship between film and the reality of on location or studio shooting, of the manufacturing of films, and of the tricks behind the realistic illusion. Those discourses therefore reveal all that is real in how fiction works in films and support a realistic project to construct an active and non-illusionistic spectatorial gaze that is invited to analyze film as an artifical illusion. These discourses are extended to spectators’ daily life through advertising practices that aim to create a playful space of reception where reality and romance merge in circus-inspired ballyhoo, in lobby decorations, and in on-stage prologues before, or during, the film. This realistic gaze developped by such discourses and practices allows us to analyze the reception of Hollywood silent films as a playful and participative moment. Aiming to awaken spectators’ senses and sharpen their attention, such discourses and practices allow us to raise the question of a Hollywood realism that would aim to create an active, conscious and critical game with the filmic illusion
  • download and read the first 16 pages here.
  • download the bibliography here.
  • Contact me for the link to the whole dissertation.

Current research

Below is the research section as it appeared before I turned the Doctorate corner. To be updated soon !

——————————————————-

Ah, then, my research. As the man used to say:

“work is not a bird. Where you leave it, that’s where you’ll find it again.”

So, my research.It’s part reception studies, part history of representations, but it’s always film studies. I intend to reconstruct Hollywood aesthetics in the 1920s by focusing on the reception discourse of 1920 U.S. cinema.

And, yes, you’ve guessed it. The usual reaction to this statement is: “and you chose that topic?”

More precisely, I want to look at silent Hollywood’s dealings with the real world.

Jerry: “And we want to know this because …”

With cinema, it’s either/or. Either fantasy, or realistic. Either entertainment, or statement. My contention is that Hollywood is not a fresh tomato — it’s more of a Moroccan dafina. I realize the reference may be obscure to some, but bear with me. Hollywood is hodge-podge, collage, pele-mele mix of conflicting values, conflicting projects, and marinated aesthetic projections from at least the 18th century, from painting, literature, high- and low-brow, theater, vaudeville, circus, and so on. Yes, David Bordwell, this research would like to be historical poetics:

This leads me to the third common proclivity that strikes me in the Cinema Journal essays [Bordwell’s talking about Cinema Journal, “In Focus: Film History, or a Baedeker Guide to the Historical Turn” (Cinema Journal 44, 1 [Fall 2004], 94–143)]. Like business history, the history of film as art is almost completely ignored in the symposium. No historian studying form, technique, or genre contributed an essay. Indeed, throughout the collection, there’s a persistent assumption that the only type of history worthy of the name is social or cultural, in both the first and last instance. Even Ross, who claims that “deconstructing” film “texts” taught him how to look at images, mentions social stereotypes (e.g., African-American drug dealers) as examples of how cinematic imagery must be taken into account (130). An accurate observation, no doubt, but not exactly the height of film analysis either.The odd thing is that in disciplines that study other media, it’s perfectly normal to pose formal and stylistic questions. Musicologists give us histories of tonality and sonata form. Historians of art and architecture trace the development of styles across periods. Historians of theatre explore plot conventions and traditions of staging and costuming. There are histories of Japanese verse forms, of Egyptian funerary sculpture, of African maskmaking. The study of an artform’s forms and styles occupies whole departments on some university campuses. Scholars in these disciplines conduct archival research (an important litmus test, according to many contributors to the symposium) and number among themselves many celebrated humanists: Riegl, Panofsky, and Gombrich in art history, Maynard Solomon and Leonard Meyer in musicology, Leo Spitzer and René Wellek in literary history. Yet in her survey of “history proper” (95) Higashi nowhere mentions such enterprises; she presumes that the only real history is socio-political history. Similarly, and with brief exceptions, her contributors ignore the possibility of writing the history of cinema as an artform. It’s as if film could never be studied as a historical artistic practice.(Film and the Historical Return)

I’d like to look at the history of the reception of realism in Hollywood cinema in the 1920s: How does the discourse about films as realistic (and by “realistic” I use a pretty large, Jakobson-inspired meaning of anything-goes-when-dealing-with-the-real-world sort of meaning) function with and within the films in the 1920s ? What role does it play in audiences’ reactions to cinema ? More largely : how does it account for 1920s cinema pleasure ?

Back then, this is what my daily schedule should have looked like:

  • start the day with a review of the latest posts, mostly from alt.movies.silent and from the invaluable Bioscope, with an occasional sprinkling of the crowd roars, film of the year, and davidbordwell.net
  • write my own. The reason for this is that ideas generated at night-time (the last ten minutes before drifting to sleep are surprisingly prolific, wouldn’t you say?) need to be processed the morning after (sorry for the analogy here).
  • afternoons: read / view (and analyze: shot by shot, metrics, and so on… cinemetrics-style) films. Late afternoons may see me back at the writing desk.

But it’s all gone through the window as I also have other fish to fry, regrettably (or not: I do like playing soccer with kids!). Notably the part where discourse analysis comes crashing into filmic texts, this will have to wait for:

  1. a rainy day
  2. more funds to buy films
  3. a green card to live and work close to archives

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