Screening of La Belle et La Bete on 12th March, 3.30 pm, Canterbury Curzon

Exciting News!

Melodrama Research Group member Frances Kamm is introducing a screening of Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bette (1946). The French Classic stars Jean Marais as the lonely Beast, and Josette Day as Beauty, the object of his desires.

The Curzon in Canterbury will be showing the film of Sunday the 12th of March at 3.30 pm. You can find more information on the Curzon’s website here: http://www.curzoncinemas.com/canterbury/film-info/la-belle-et-la-bete-1946

Summary of Discussion on Barbe Bleue and Bluebeard

Watching these two very different films gave us much food for thought. In addition to tracing elements of the Gothic and Bluebeard fable across two texts, it afforded the opportunity to compare silent and sound films, as well as French and Hollywood productions.

Barbe Bleue’s treatment of the Bluebeard fable was fairly in keeping with Charles Perrault’s 1697 version of the traditional folktale. At only 9 minutes long, we were surprised that some of the scenes were so lengthy. In particular, the long wedding banquet scene added little to the tension of the woman in peril. Neither did it match some of the comedy scenes in the film – notably the proposed wife’s clear disdain for Bluebeard in the opening scene, or the ‘below stairs’ hijinks of the servants.

The scenes where the latest wife was encouraged by the devil to enter the forbidden room and submitted to this temptation were more successfully realised. Both gave Melies an opportunity to show off his special effects. The discovery of the previous wives’ hanging bodies was suitably striking.

bluebeard-wives

We were surprised by the fact this was undercut in the next few scenes as, after a short period of panic and struggle with her husband, the rescue occurred quickly and all Bluebeard’s wives were brought back to life.  While this last action fitted Melies’ reputation for screening the fantastical, it affects the film’s impact, especially as all the women are given a final scene happy ending in which they marry noblemen.

bluebeard-poster

Despite this non-traditional ending to the story, Ulmer’s film was even less true the traditional Bluebeard tale than Melies’. The film focuses on puppet-maker and painter Gaston Morrell – a serial killer of women in Paris. In a warning poster the killer is referred to as a ‘Bluebeard’.  But Morrell is not married to these women, which made us ponder the use of the term – especially as the film’s title.  It certainly draws on the horror so important to the Bluebeard tale, however, potentially signalling that this was important to audiences of the time.

Ulmer’s film contained more horror than Melies’ – as befits the director of spine-chilling The Black Cat (1934) starring horror stalwarts Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. There wasbluebeard-warning-poster little suspense in terms of the killer though.  After initial scenes of melodramatic moral panic, and the lengthy puppet opera, the confirmation of the identity of ‘Bluebeard’ was fairly swift.  This was first implied by Gaston Morrell’s (John Carradine) emergence from the fog to make acquaintance with the heroine of the story – Lucille (Jean Parker). As well as echoing similar scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger (1927), the detail of the framing was significant: the meeting occurred in front of the warning poster. Not long after, Morrell’s murder of his lover, Renee (Sonia Sorel), takes place on screen.

Ulmer was especially known for his talent for mise en scene – indeed American film critic Andrew Sarris assessed that this was the one notable aspect of his work (Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema, New York, Dutton, 1968, p. 143).  We were struck by bluebeard-dangling-puppetssome of the backgrounds of Morrell’s paintings. We were also impressed by Ulmer’s use of chiaroscuro to emphasise the gothic spaces of Morrell’s apartment as well as the scenes in the sewers below. Despite the latter being somewhat derivative of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera (1909), elsewhere another echo – this time of Melies’ film when the most recent wife discovered the previous ones– proved especially effective as dangling shadowy puppets eerily appear on the walls of Morrell’s apartment.  It is also notable that the film uses Killer point-of-view as bluebeard-killer-povshots of Morrell’s eyes spying through a hole prior to the puppet show as he searches for Lucille. We’ve previously discussed Killer POV in relation to The Spiral Staircase (1945, Robert Siodmak: see https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/melodramaresearchgroup/2015/12/02/summary-of-discussion-on-the-spiral-staircase/), and it is interesting that Ulmer’s use occurred first and that he had previously worked with Siodmak.

Our definition of the Gothic involving the Woman in Peril had obviously played an important part in Melies’ film though, as mentioned earlier, this was relatively short-lived in the silent. Here the tension is ratcheted up, as Lucille continually places herself in danger. Firstly, she declares herself not to be scared of Bluebeard, then she visits Morrell alone in his apartment, later confronting him here, again alone, even once she suspects the truth.

There is another Woman in Peril – Lucille’s sister Francine (Teala Loring) – who appears part-way through the film. It is suggested that she is an undercover agent, bluebeard-francine-and-lucilleworking with the police, though this is not made clear. She too places herself in danger (presumably often a part of her job), by luring Morrell into a trap – both are women who actively investigate. When Francine appeared it almost seemed she had usurped Lucille, but with former’s death at hands of Morrell, Lucille was once more the heroine.  While both women investigate, only Francine – who is actually employed as a detective (especially surprising in the 19th century) is punished by death though.

We noted that the film was rather odd tonally. This includes its shaky grasp of its historical and geographic setting – not all that unusual in Hollywood productions. While the costumes (women’s dresses with bustles) broadly suggest the 19th century, the amount of ankle on show was deemed inaccurate.  Although set in Paris, the only European accent was contributed by Swedish actor Nils Asther as Police Inspector Lefevre.

The uneven tone is especially notable in the film’s mix of comedy and horror. When in court trying to ascertain the painter of a particular picture, the questioning of artists’ models – one of whom replies in a thick Brooklyn accent – leads to responses of hilarity carry-on-screamingby those attending. Much of this revolved around suggestions of prostitution – references also found elsewhere in the film, including as Morrell’s justification of his crimes. In addition, the killing scenes, whether an eye-bulging arms-raised action or a protracted and ineffective fight, were a bit comical. We noted these comedy elements in a horror film contrasted to Carry on Screaming’s (1966, Gerald Thomas) mostly comic, but occasionally, frightening tone.

The pacing of the film was also patchy. We especially wondered why so much time was spent on the enacting of the puppet opera near the film’s beginning. This does, however, give the film audience time to ponder the significance of the fact that Morrell is playing (and singing) the part of Faust in the production, while an older man plays the film’s hero.  This disjuncture further helps suggest the fact Morrell is the serial killer at large. Non-diegetic music was also effectively used to punctuate melodramatic moments.

The extended musical scenes also caused us to further compare Ulmer’s sound and Melies’ silent films. In both, the killer got his comeuppance, with Morrell in the later film throwing himself into the Seine. Happy endings are also suggested in both.  This occurs more forcefully in the earlier production when all the previously dead wives come back to life and are married off. In Ulmer’s film the relationship between Lucille and the Police Inspector appears to grow.

You can find an English translation of Perrault’s tale here:  http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/perrault03.html

Both films are viewable on archive.org:

https://archive.org/details/Barbe-bleue

https://archive.org/details/Bluebeard

 

Do log in to comment, or email me on sp458@kent.ac.uk to add your thoughts.

Conference Programme for Gothic Feminism Conference

Exciting news! Frances and Tamar have finalised the Conference Programme for the Gothic Feminism Conference.

 

Joan Fontaine Rebecca
Gothic Feminism: The Representation of the Gothic Heroine in Cinema

26-27th May 2016

Keynes College, University of Kent

 PROGRAMME

 Thursday 26th May

09:00 – 09:30              Registration & morning tea/coffee (Keynes Atrium, Keynes College)

09:30 – 11:00              Keynote Speech – Catherine Spooner (University of Lancaster): ‘Women in White: (Un)dressing the Gothic Heroine’ (Keynes Lecture Theatre 2, Keynes College)

11:00 – 11:30              Tea & coffee break (Keynes Atrium)

11:30 – 13:00              Papers 1: Return to Manderley (KLT2)

‘Against Fate and Paranoia: The Risk Assessor Heroine in The Second Woman (1950)’ – Guy Barefoot (University of Leicester)

Rebecca and The Haunting: Comparisons of a Gothic Protagonist’ – Johanna Wagner (Høgskolen i Østfold)

‘Impossible Spaces: Gothic Special Effects and Female Subjectivity’ – Christina Petersen (Eckerd College)

13:00 – 14:00              Lunch (Keynes Atrium)

14:00 – 15:30              Papers 2: Unexpected Locations (KLT2)

‘New Films in Gothic Mode: Pale Imitations or Crimson Peaks of Achievement?’ – Tamar Jeffers McDonald (University of Kent)

‘Bluebeard in the Cities: Investigative Gothic Heroines in Two Early 21st Century Films’ – Lawrence Jackson (University of Kent)

‘The Gothic Heroine Out West: A Town Called Bastard (1971)’ – Lee Broughton (University of Leeds)

15:30 – 16:00              Tea & coffee break (Keynes Atrium)

16:00 – 17:30              Videographic Work  (TBC) (KLT2)

17:30 – 18:30              Cake reception

 

Friday 27th May

09:00 – 09:30              Morning tea & coffee (Keynes Atrium)

09:30 – 11:00              Papers 3: Small Screens (KLT2)

‘There’s a secret behind the door? And that secret is me? The Gothic Reimagining of Agatha Christie’s And There Were None’ – Katerina Flint-Nicol (University of Kent)

‘Laughing at Periods: Gothic Parody in Julia Davis’ Hunderby – Sarah McClellan (Independent Researcher)

‘Bluebeard’s Women Fight Back’ – Gisèle M. Baxter (University of British Columbia)

11:00 – 11:30              Tea & coffee break (Keynes Atrium)

11:30 – 13:00              Papers 4: Mothers (KLT2)

‘The Science-Fiction of Feminism: Ripley as a Gothic Heroine in the Alien Franchise’ – Frances A. Kamm (University of Kent)

The Babadook, Maternal Gothic and the ‘woman’s horror film’’ – Paula Quigley (Trinity College Dublin)

‘Good Evening, Good Night: Goodnight Mommy and the Gothic Woman’ – Lies Lanckman (University of Kent)

13:00 – 14:00              Lunch (Keynes Atrium)

14:00 – 15:30              Papers 5: Beyond Hollywood (KLT2)

‘‘Dammit’ Janet!!!! Celebrating Female Sexuality in The Rocky Horror Picture Show Live Experience’ – Sarah Cleary (Trinity College Dublin)

‘East German Gothic’ – Dana Weber (Florida State University/ Freie Universität Berlin)

‘Imperilled Chavs and Hoodie Heroines: (Under)Class, Gender and the Gothic’ – Hannah Priest (Manchester Metropolitan University/Swansea University)

15:30 – 16:00              Tea & coffee break (Keynes Atrium)

16:00 – 16:30              Final remarks (KLT2)

 

Also  remember to visit the  gothic feminism blog and twitter for the latest updates!

For any queries please contact: gothicfeminism2016@gmail.com
Conference organisers: Frances Kamm and Tamar Jeffers McDonald, University of Kent
Melodrama Research Group
Centre for Film and Media Research
School of Arts
And don’t forget to register!  Registration closes on 18th of May:

Rebecca (1940) and Joan Fontaine in Fan Magazines

Our screenings of Gothic films, many of which might be included in Hollywood’s Golden Age, afford us a great opportunity to collaborate with our lovely fellow Kent bloggers of NoRMMA (Network of Research: Movies, Magazines, Audiences).

Rebecca Mags

NoRMMA has posted some really interesting Fan Magazine materials from the 1940s regarding Rebecca – and its star Joan Fontaine. These include an Advertisement, Reviews and an article on Fontaine. Analysis of such texts is especially apt given the film’s referencing of Fashion Magazines through which the second Mrs de Winter finds sartorial inspiration.

You can see the post here: http://www.normmanetwork.com/?p=233

After the screening of Uncle Silas on the 2nd of November check out http://www.normmanetwork.com for more fascinating Fan Magazine material relating to our Gothic season.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 26th of October, 4.30-7pm, Jarman 7

All are very welcome to join us for the first of this term’s screening and discussion sessions, which will take place on Monday the 26th of October, 4.30-7pm, in Jarman 7.

The first of our Gothic season is Rebecca (1940, Alfred Hitchcock, 130 mins).

Modern Screen May 1940 Rebecca ad modernscreen2021unse_0421

According to a review in the June 1940 issue of the Fan Magazine Hollywood, the film is the ‘story of a young bride who was haunted by the mystery and by the memory of her husband’s first wife, Rebecca’ (p. 16). Above is an advertisement for Rebecca from the May 1940 issue of the Fan Magazine Modern Screen (p. 12). The artwork and text of this advertisement keys us to several of the film’s melodramatic themes, adding to the information provided by the review. (You can find these, and other Fan Magazine treasures, on the wonderful Lantern search facility of the Media History Digital Library website: http://lantern.mediahist.org/)

The presence, and positon and size of the illustration of the two stars is instructive. The large head and shoulders portrait is placed centrally. The wide-eyed facial expression of the second Mrs De Winter is in keeping with the ‘woman in peril’ theme of the Gothic we are focusing on this term. Significantly, underneath the credits it is noted that this is the ‘sensational starring debut’ of Joan Fontaine. This chimes with her character’s naïve, unknowing initial state and her eagerness to uncover the truth.

Laurence Olivier is more straightforwardly billed as previously being the ‘hero’ of Wuthering Heights. Rebecca is also an adaptation, but of a more recent popular novel by Daphne Du Maurier. The illustration of Olivier is suitably moody given Maxim De Winter’s complex character and contrasts to Fontaine’s concerned expression.

A figure we might presume represents the first Mrs De Winter appears in the top right hand corner, and unlike the film’s stars she is afforded a full-length presence which shows off her evening gown, with a hand resting nonchalantly on her left hip. Her face is obscured into nothingness, however, heightening the sense of mystery. Our interest is further piqued by the tagline which focuses on the suffering of the couple: ‘The Shadow of this Woman DARKENED THEIR LOVE!’

The Manderley estate, the subject of Du Maurier’s novel’s famous opening line, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’, is also prominently placed. This is seen just underneath the looming figure of Rebecca, indicating that she continues to ‘haunt’ the house.

Do join us if you can – the intersection of stardom, male and female relations, Gothic tropes and domestic space will provide lots of food for thought.

 

 

Additional resources

Mary Anne Doane’s chapter “Female Spectatorship and the Machines of Projection: Caught and Rebecca.” The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s (1987): 155-175.

Lisa M. Dresner’s chapter “A Case Study of Rebecca”.  The Female Investigator in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture (2006): 154-182.

You can find more information on these articles on our additional blog (https://melodramaresearchgroupextra.wordpress.com/) or email me at  sp458@kent.ac.uk

Katie Grant’s fantastic audio-visual essay ‘Voluptuous Masochism: Gothic Melodrama Studies in Memory of Joan Fontaine’ is  on her Film Studies For Free blog:

http://filmstudiesforfree.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/voluptuous-masochism-gothic-melodrama.html

 

 

Melodrama Research Consortium Website

Hi all,

Just a reminder to check out the Melodrama Research Consortium’s website: http://melodramaresearchconsortium.org/

The Melodrama Research Consortium was founded by Matt Buckley and brings together scholars from several disciplines to foster collaborative networks for studying this pervasive, but challenging, genre. One of its undertakings is the Melodrama Database Project. This will rely on contributions from members to provide data  which allows for the genre to be mapped in space and time.

Matt recently emailed all members to update us on exciting developments and to emphasise that new members are always welcome. You can take advantage of this fantastic opportunity  via this link to the Consortium’s website:

http://melodramaresearchconsortium.org/join-us/

 

 

 

Leaving Comments on the Blog

Hi all,

As we are currently on a short break from Melodrama Research Group activity (I hope you’ve all enjoyed Easter/Passover!) I thought it might be helpful to recap the process for leaving comments. Such comments are always welcome and need not be limited to the most recent posts. Do feel free to search for a topic that interests you in the search box at the top right hand corner of the main page, or indeed click on a tag from the tag cloud on the right hand side of the main page  or at the bottom of posts to follow a tag’s history. You can  then add your thoughts. Recent comments always appear on the right hand corner of the main blog page, below the list of recent posts.  This means that others can see which discussions have been contributed to recently.

If you are accessing the blog off-site, away from the Kent campus, you must first set up a VPN. You can do so via this link which explains the process :http://www.kent.ac.uk/itservices/home/index.html  (A Kent login is required)

To leave  a comment, click on the ‘comment bubble’ to the right of the heading on the blog post you wish to comment on, or click ‘Leave a Reply’ which appears at the bottom of the post, after the tags. You are then asked to log in. To do so, fill in your Kent login (part of your Kent email address) and password.

comment bubble images

If you do not have a Kent login you can also email a message direct to me on sp458@kent.ac.uk and I can leave it on the blog on your behalf.

All comments left on the blog pass through the moderator, so there can be a short delay before they are published.

As ever, do feel free to contact me for any further information.

 

Pam Cook’s essay ‘Text, Paratext, Subtext’ in SEQUENCE

Frances has also mentioned the exciting news of the recent publication of Pam Cook’s essay ‘Text, Paratext and Subtext’ in the online journal SEQUENCE. We were very happy to welcome Pam to speak on this subject of Mildred Pierce in its many forms at our Maternal Melodrama Symposium last May.

MP TV seriesThe following invitation to read Pam’s essay was written by REFRAME editor Dr Catherine Grant of the University of Sussex:

‘Writer-director Todd Haynes has previously recounted how film scholar Pam Cook’s 1978 foundational article “Duplicity in MILDRED PIERCE” informed his 2011 HBO miniseries adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel (an effective remaking of Michael Curtiz’ 1945 film). Now, in her new essay for the open access serial SEQUENCE (a REFRAME publication), Cook turns her attention to Haynes’ miniseries and its intertextual chain of makings and remakings, and explores, in particular, how we come to read it (or any other audiovisual artefact) as “maternal melodrama.” Her essay is online here:  http://reframe.sussex.ac.uk/sequence2/archive/sequence-2-2/.’

Do log in to comment, or email me on sp458@kent.ac.uk to add your thoughts, including any other melodrama links you’d like to add to the blog.

BFI Event on Female Stardom on 7th of March

Frances has very kindly drawn the Melodrama Research Group’s attention to an event taking place at the BFI on the 7th of March.

BFI Female Stardom event

The BFI invitation: ‘Join us for this special one-day course looking at the political and cultural questions raised by the dynamic careers of various female screen stars. Featuring illustrated presentations, film clips and extended discussions, we’ll assess stars of the 20s and 30s such as Marlene Dietrich, through to contemporary icons such as Jennifer Lawrence. As we study their performances and public personas, the ideas of leading thinkers in film studies and gender theory such as Laura Mulvey and Jacqueline Rose will also be considered. At the heart of our discussions will be Katharine Hepburn’s own fascinating career and how it helped shape notions of stardom and gender today.’

For more information, including a schedule of the BFI’s season of Katharine Hepburn films  and a link to buy tickets, please visit the BFI website:

https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=herpoliticsoffemalestardom

Do log in to comment, or email me on sp458@kent.ac.uk to add your thoughts, including any other melodrama links you’d like to add to the blog.

The Women Screening at the Gulbenkian 13th of October, 7pm

Posted by Sarah

Following the launch of NoRMMA, outlined in the below post, the Gulbenkian is screening the Hollywood classic The Women (1939, George Cukor). This film stars numerous Divine Divas, including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell, who were the subjects of many a Fan Magazine article. The film will be introduced with an illustrated talk by Lies Lanckman.

The Women

For more information and to book your tickets please go to: http://www.thegulbenkian.co.uk/events/cinema/2014/October/2014-10-the-women.html