Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York
 



Charles Hailer
Trauma on Celluloid: Playing with Memory and Cinematic Form in the Films of Alain Resnais
Early in his career, French filmmaker Alain Resnais tackled themes of memory, loss, and madness in a trio of films explicitly dealing with war. The films Nuit et brouillard (1955),  Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and Muriel ou Le temps d'un retour (1963) present three different takes on those themes, offering a rich, powerful and politically progressive anti-war message through complex art film. In each film, Resnais manipulates the cinematic form by applying to it the literary and philosophical concepts of Marcel Proust and Henri Bergson. Specifically, Resnais uses Proust's concept of time and Bergson's dual scructure of human memory, dividing memory into motor memory (memory learned) and pure memory (involuntary memory), to show cinematically how the past interacts freely with the present, impregnating it with meaning and often rupturing it. Nuit et Brouillard sees Resnais as a young documentarian pushing the genre to its cinematic limits, combining color footage of present day Auschwitz in the idyllic Polish countryside with jarring, black and white, images of the horrors of the Holocaust. In Hiroshima mon amour, Resnais moves beyond the documentary form and delves into a deeper psychological analysis of war-time trauma, while still being aware of the cinema as a medium. Finally in Muriel ou Le temps d'un retour, Resnais recreates the tragedy of the everyday in a frantic serie of jump cuts showing generations of a family emotionally and physically destroyed by war. In all three films, Resnais uses his philosophical and literary background to play with cinematic convention and to open wide the possibilities of the cinema, while using its inherent, plastic, limitations for his own artistic ends.
 
Devin Alberda
Transgender Representations in Popular Cinema
Until recently, transbodies have been subjected to a variety of damaging representations in popular cinema. Because their identities destabilize sex, gender and sexuality binaries, transgender characters in film treaten the hegemony of the masculine gaze, patriarchy and heteronormativity. From early instances of nonthreatening gender play to the popularization of the cross-dressing comedy and transkiller villain, presentations of transgender bodies in the history of cinema reinforce heteronormativity. Cross-dressing comedies like Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) explore gender roles by employing progress narratives that allow characters to cross-dress for gain. Communicating conservative gender politics and reinforcing theories of sexual difference, cross-dressing comedies nonetheless afford transbodies cinematic visibility. Transkiller films prey on the fears of mainstream audiences by presenting transgender characters as psychotic killers, a trend initiated by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and continued in Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs (1991). Accurate portrayals of transgender identities are unlikely if not inpossibile within either genre. Kimberly Pierce's Boys Don't Cry (1999) marks the first attempt at an accurate and compassionate portrayal of a transgender identity. Basing her character on the life and death of transman Brandon Teena, Pierce constructs a passing narrative that exploits the transvestitism of her character in order to legitimize transgendered passing as an acceptable form of gender transgression. Boys Don't Cry also employs a transgender gaze that, though it cannot be sustained, undermines the hegemony of the masculine gaze. Boys Don't Cry is a landmark film in the push for positive realistic portrayals of transgender characters in popular cinema, and demonstrates the potential that transgender characters on film have for questioning the hegemony of heteronormativity and gender binaries.
 

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