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

Launch of Network of Research: Movies, Magazines and Audiences on 13th of October, Jarman Foyer, 6-7pm

Posted by Sarah

cropped-fan-mag-blog-header

An exciting new University of Kent Research Group – the Network of Research: Movies, Magazines and Audiences (NoRMMA) – will be launched on the 13th of October, in Jarman Foyer from 6-7pm. All are welcome to view the exhibition of Fan Magazine material and to discuss the aims and interests of the group.

If you are interested in attending the launch please RSVP to normma.network@gmail.com

For further information, please see the NoRMMA blog: https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/normma/

Blonde Venus Screening at the Gulbenkian Cinema 23rd of September 7pm

Posted by Sarah

Blonde Venus

As mentioned in the last post, Lies and Ann-Marie have organised a fantastic Divine Divas season at the Gulbenkian Cinema. The Gulbenkian Cinema’s information on the film:

Josef von Sternberg | USA | 1932 | 93mins | Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Herbert Marshall

Josef von Sternberg’s Pre-Code drama stars his favourite collaborator Marlene Dietrich, and is the only one of his films that depicts her within the everyday.

In Depression-era New York, chemist Ned Farady (Herbert Marshall) contracts a rare disease, and his wife, Helen (Dietrich), must resume her career as glamorous cabaret performer ‘the Blonde Venus’ to finance his treatment abroad.

But during Ned’s absence and convalescence she falls for wealthy man-about-town Nick Townsend (Grant) and, drawn into an affair, her descent into the corruption and seediness of clubland takes her further and further from the man she re-entered it for.

Tickets: Full £8 / Concessions £7/ GulbCard Members £6 / Students £5 / GulbCard Students £4
Venue: Cinema

To book your tickets please go to:

http://www.thegulbenkian.co.uk/events/cinema/2014/September/2014-09-blonde-venus.html

Summary of Discussion on Mildred Pierce

Posted by Sarah

The group’s discussion on Mildred Pierce focused on the following areas: the film as melodrama and/or film noir; comparison of Michael Curtiz’ film to James M. Cain’s novel and the recent TV series starring Kate Winslet; the central mother daughter relationship and differences between Mildred’s daughters Veda and Kay; the career woman in 1940s Hollywood film; Joan Crawford’s star image.

The splitting of Mildred Pierce into melodrama and film noir has been commented on by several writers. In particular Pam Cook (1978) has noted the broad separation into the bulk of the narrative which is narrated by Mildred and largely melodramatic, and the film noir elements.  In fact film noirs often include such a use of flashback narration – Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) is a prime example. Such a clear separation is challenged by Steve Neale’s work on the way in which contemporaneous trade journals used the label ‘melodrama’. Neale asserts that the term was more often used in connection to films which contained ‘mystery, violence, chase’ (Neale 1993, p. 71). This relates closely to film noir. In addition, Linda Williams has proposed that melodrama is less a genre than a mode, and present in most Hollywood films (Williams, 2000). While it useful to further debate the various definitions of melodrama, it is clear that the film contains contrasting styles. We were particularly struck by the film’s opening. In this Wally Fay (Jack Carson) races around the beach house in which Mildred (Joan Crawford) has imprisoned him. We MP Wally on stairsespecially noted the nightmarish shot of a Carson staring up the spiral staircase. Elsewhere Max Steiner’s lush score emphasised the emotional drama (see Claudia Gorbman, 1982). The tagline from a Variety advertisement quoted in Tamar’s introduction that Mildred was ‘Kinda Hard, Kinda soft’ sums up Mildred Pierce’s dual nature well.

MP Ann Blyth cabaret 2Michael Curtiz’ film was also discussed in relation to James M. Cain’s novel. It was noted that Curtiz’ film kept a flavour of Cain’s punchy social commentary. We were a little surprised that under Hollywood’s Production Code fairly obvious references to extra-marital sex and pregnancy were included.  The film was still, as Variety noted in its review, fairly cleaned up from the novel. While in Cain’s novel Veda became a successful opera singer – and therefore profited from her hideous behaviour – in Curtiz’ film she ends up a low-rent cabaret act. A more significant difference is Mildred’s response to finding her eldest daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) and Mildred’s second husband Monte (Zachary Scott) in a compromising position. In Cain’s novel Mildred is so enraged she attempts to strangle her daughter.  Such an understandable response is not present in Curtiz’ film, though.  Instead Mildred’s suffering sacrifice is played to the hilt. Mildred’s one refusal of Veda’s demands occurs when Veda has shot Monte dead. Mildred soon reconsiders, however, and is prepared to take responsibility for the crime herself.

Veda’s selfish behaviour can be usefully compared to that of Stella’s daughter Laurel in Stella Dallas (1937). In King Vidor’s film both mother and daughter make sacrifices. A telling scene takes place on the train. Stella and Laurel, lying in separate bunks, overhear the latter’s friends mocking Stella for her vulgarity. Each pretends they have not heard in order to protect the other. In Curtiz’ MP ungrateful Vedafilm Mildred alone overhears something significant: Veda’s ungrateful comment to her sister that she would not ‘be seen dead’ in the dress her mother has scrimped and saved to buy for her.  This is especially poignant as Mildred has sacrificed her marriage to Veda’s father in order to supply Veda with everything she desires rather than what she deserves.

MP Mildred slaps VedaWhile Mildred’s accepting sacrifice in the face of such an ungrateful daughter in Curtiz’ film is perhaps less then believable, it was agreed that Ann Blyth superbly portrayed Veda’s venal nature. The film ably contrasts Veda to her sweet little sister Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe), whose death scene provides the film’s most distressing moment. We also noted the way in which the film managed to convey complex aspects of Mildred and Veda’s relationship. The repetition of a slap was commented on. The first time this occurs Mildred slaps Veda and, immediately overcome with guilt, profusely apologises. Towards the end of the film Veda slaps her mother. This second occurrence is far more shocking. Partly this is due to the heft of the slap and Mildred/Crawford’s fairly exaggerated physical recoil but it is also notable that Veda does not regret her action. This neatly comments on both the differences MP Mildred is slapped buy Vedabetween the characters and the change in the dynamics of their relationship. The actresses’ costuming, hair and make-up parallel this change. As Veda grows up and Mildred becomes more business-like their outfits and hairstyles echo one another, foreshadowing that they are ‘squaring up’ for the next round of the fight.  We might ponder whether this mirroring is a statement on how much Mildred is responsible for Veda’s spoilt nature.

MP TV seriesJoan Crawford’s performance was compared to Kate Winslet’s in the 2011 TV mini-series. Similarities were noted in the scenes where Mildred puts her children to bed.  In particular the tendency of both actresses to employ minimal mouth movement was commented on. However Crawford’s individuality was also a source of discussion. In addition to the seeming impossibility of her facial features – the severe cheekbones and large eyes and mouth – her wide shoulders were referenced.

 Mildred’s progression from domesticity to high-powered business woman was also commented on. This was compared to the career woman in 1940s Hollywood film – most often in comedy, and portrayed with distinct flair by Rosalind Russell. But we also related it to Crawford’s own star image. In particular her films They All Kissed the Bride (1942) and The Damned Don’t Cry (1950) were mentioned. It was noted that at the time real shop girls were thought to identify with the shop girls portrayed by Crawford in sound films – such as in The Bride Wore Red (1937). It is worth noting, however, that despite the shop girl playing an important part in Crawford’s 1930s star image she actually played a variety of roles. (See Jeanine Basinger, A Woman’s View, 1993, pp. 171-173.) It was thought that perhaps the emphasis in fan magazines on how Crawford herself learned’ through films strengthened the connection.

In relation to Crawford’s star image It's a Great FeelingTamar suggested  watching It’s a Great Feeling (1949) starring  Doris Day, Jack Carson (Wally Fay) and Dennis Morgan. In the film various Warner Bros. contract stars play up to their star images. Crawford in seen knitting in the background (apparently a hobby of hers) and then angrily berates and slaps Carson for no reason. Afterwards she smiles sweetly and replies to his asking her why she did it that ‘I do that in all my movies’. As with the assumption that Crawford ‘always’ played shop girls, this action which’ does in all her movies’ is in fact very specific. Crawford does not perform such an action in all, or even most, of her films.  Indeed it is largely a reference to Mildred Pierce. It is significant that a few years after the film’s release another film from the same studio posits such an action as an essential part of her star image.

We rounded up discussion with a mention of Johnny Guitar (1954). Significantly in Nicholas Ray’s film Crawford starred with the actress Mercedes McCambridge – with whom she reportedly feuded. This of course prompted thoughts on Bette Davis.  Ann-Marie provided some great behind the scenes information on the next film we will screen – The Old Maid (1939- see the next post!) and Davis’ feud with an actress other than Crawford: Miriam Hopkins.

Works Cited

Jeanine Basinger, A Woman’s View, New York: Knopf, 1993.

Pam Cook, “Duplicity in Mildred Pierce”, Women In Film Noir, London: BFI 1978.

Claudia Gorbman, “The Drama’s Melos: Max Steiner and Mildred Pierce”, The Velvet Light Trap, No. 19, 1982.

Steve Neale, “Melo Talk: On the Meaning and Use of the Term ‘Melodrama’ in the American Trade Press”, The Velvet Light Trap, No. 32, 1993.

Linda Williams “Melodrama Revised” in Nick Browne, ed, Refiguring American Film Genres: History and Theory, University of California Press, 1998: 42-88.

A clip of Crawford in It’s a Great Feeling:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trGF6KrMAbA

Many thanks to Tamar for organising the screening and providing an excellent introduction.

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

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012) on BBCiPlayer until Saturday evening

 

Posted by Sarah

 

maternal melodrama

Just to let you know that you can catch We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012), an important film for the forthcoming maternal melodrama symposium, on BBC iplayer until Saturday Evening: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01p241z/We_Need_to_Talk_About_Kevin/

Coraline showing at the Gulbenkian Cinema on the 22nd of March

Posted by Sarah

The sixth film in the Gulbenkian  Cinema’s Gothic Season –  Henry Selick’s Coraline (2009) – screens on Saturday the 22nd of March at 3pm. The 3D film will be introduced by the Melodrama Research Group’s Frances Kamm.

Coraline

 The Gulbenkian Cinema’s description of the film:

Henry Selick | US | 2009 | 100mins | Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman (voice cast)

Henry Selick’s (James and the Giant Peach) beautiful, spiky stop-motion animation,  halfway between horror and fantasy, has become a bona fide classic. Coraline is  the young girl who, moving from their beloved Michigan home to the Pink Palace  apartment building in Oregon, finds herself lonely – despite her new, eccentric  neighbours – as her parents fuss over their new home. Exploring the building,  Coraline finds a small door which at night, becomes a corridor into a  fantastical parallel universe, in which versions of her parents and her  neighbours – with, disquietingly, buttons for eyes – live.

Basking in their attention and the  excitement of this magical place, Coraline overlooks its more troubling  elements; until one night, she can’t get back home…

“Combines  stunning visuals – there are scenes of incredible beauty – with good  old-fashioned storytelling that is funny, inventive and at times scary.  Destined to be a classic.” Cosmo Landesman, The Times

“A  gorgeously hand-crafted and pleasurably detailed piece of work. It’s also  genuinely strange, creepy and arresting.” Tim Robey, The Daily  Telegraph

 For more information and to book your ticket please go to: http://www.thegulbenkian.co.uk/events/cinema/2014/March/2014-03-coraline-3d.html

Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder (1954) Showing at Gulbenkian Cinema on 1st of Feb

Posted by Sarah

The second film in the Gulbenkian Cinema’s Gothic Season – Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder (1954) – will screen on Saturday the 1st of Feb at 2.30 pm.

Dial M

The Gulbenkian Cinema description of the film:

Alfred Hitchcock | US  | 1954 | 105mins | Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings

Originally shot in 3D and newly remastered and restored,  Alfred Hitchcock’s screen version of Frederick Knott’s stage hit Dial M for Murder is a tasty blend of  elegance and suspense casting Grace Kelly, Ray Milland and Robert Cummings as  the points of a romantic triangle.

Kelly won the New York Film Critics and National Board of  Review Best Actress Awards for this and two other acclaimed 1954 performances.  She loves Cummings; her husband Milland plots her murder. But when he dials a  Mayfair exchange to set the plot in motion, his right number gets the wrong  answer – and gleaming scissors become a deadly weapon. Dial “M” for  the Master of Suspense at his most stylish.

“Alfred  Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller is a precision-engineered delight” – The Telegraph

For more information and to book your ticket please go to:

http://www.thegulbenkian.co.uk/events/cinema/2014/February/2014-02-dial-m-for-murder.html

Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) showing at the Gulbenkian on the 26th of Jan

Posted by Sarah

As mentioned earlier on the blog, the Gulbenkian Cinema, located on the University of Kent campus, is screening a series of Gothic films between January and March.

The first is Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) on the 26th of January at 2.30 pm.

Rebecca poster

The Gulbenkian Cinema description of the film:

Alfred Hitchcock | US | 1940 | 130mins | Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith  Anderson

Alfred Hitchcock’s superlative psychological thriller  adapts Daphne du Maurier’s haunting tale of a naive young woman (Joan Fontaine)  who meets handsome, aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) on  holiday in Monte Carlo and is swept off her feet by his whirlwind courtship.

Following their wedding, they move to his Cornish estate Manderley, where the  brooding Maxim once lived with his first wife, Rebecca, and where sinister  housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) who is fiercely devoted to the memory  of her dead mistress, undermines Maxim’s new wife at every turn.

A beautifully  nuanced study in guilt and anxiety about sex, money and class, Rebecca continues to hold audiences  spellbound with its beguiling blend of lush romanticism and bleakly oppressive  suspense.

“A gorgeous treat from one of cinema’s masters. Not to be  missed.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 5  stars

“Tense, engrossing and deliciously deceitful.” David Parkinson, Empire Magazine

For more information and to book your ticket please go to:

http://www.thegulbenkian.co.uk/events/cinema/2014/January/2014-01-rebecca.html

Gone With the Wind (1939) screening at the Gulbenkian Cinema on Sunday 12th of January

Posted by Sarah

The Gulbenkian Cinema, located on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus, is screening the classic Hollywood melodrama Gone With the Wind (1939) on Sunday the 12th of January from 1.30 pm – 5.30 pm.

gone with the wind

The following is from the Gulbenkian Cinema’s website http://www.thegulbenkian.co.uk/events/cinema/2014/January/2014-01-gone-with-the-wind.html where you can also book your ticket.

Victor Fleming | USA | 1939/2013 | 233mins | Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Thomas Mitchell

Often considered the greatest films of all time – the pinnacle of polished Hollywood storytelling – this truly epic screen adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s seminal work of American literature bristles with energy and passion and demands to be seen on the big screen following a 4K digital restoration.

It is 1861 on a palatial Southern estate, where Scarlett O’Hara (Leigh) hears that her casual beau Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) plans to marry Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland). Despite warnings from her father (Thomas Mitchell) and her faithful servant Mammy (Hattie McDaniel), Scarlett intends to throw herself at Ashley at an upcoming social event. Alone with Ashley, she goes into a fit of histrionics, all of which is witnessed by roguish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), the black sheep of a wealthy Charleston family, who is instantly fascinated by the feisty, thoroughly self-centred Scarlett…

“It’s impossible not to be carried away by the rich arterial force of this storytelling.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

Tickets: Full £7.50 / Concessions £6.50/ GulbCard Members £5.50 / Students £4.50 / GulbCard Students £4

This will be a great opportunity to see a beautifully restored version of the film on the big screen.

 

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 11th of December, Keynes Seminar Room 6, 4-7 pm

Posted by Sarah

All are welcome to attend the seventh of this term’s screening and discussion sessions which will take place on the 11th of December in Keynes Seminar Room 6, from 4pm to 7pm.

We will be screening a joint choice: The Skin I Live In (2011, Pedro Almodovar, Spain, 120 mins).

Kat has very kindly provided the following introduction:

skin i live in

 

Released in 2011, Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, is an exploration of the nature of human identity. It visits most of the preoccupations of Almodovar’s work over the past thirty years, from maternal devotion through sexual identity to obsessional activity.

The film is based on the French novel, Mygale (published in this country as Tarantula), in which an eminent French plastic surgeon has a practice at a public hospital in Paris, a private clinic in Boulogne, a secret operating theatre in the basement of his suburban mansion, a beautiful, submissive partner called Eve whom he keeps under lock and key, and a teenage daughter in an asylum. Almodovar has relocated the narrative to Toledo, a city south of Madrid and played with the relationships. In the film, Antonio Banderas plays the part of plastic surgeon, Robert Ledgard, who lives a stylish life with a devoted housekeeper to look after his beautiful mysterious prisoner, whose name has been changed from Eve (from the novel) to the more ambiguous Vera. Robert’s principal public project, inspired by his late wife’s destruction in a motor accident, is the development of a new form of skin that will be sensitive to the touch but resistant to fire. However, he’s also involved in secret activities of a more dangerous nature. They’re to do with revenge at a personal level and, on a cosmic plane, with challenging the very character of human identity.

The film is rich, complex, and is a skilful piece of storytelling that reorganises time and, in characteristic Almodovar fashion, challenges our preconceptions about everyday life and personal conduct. Beyond that, I do not wish to give away any more plot spoilers for those who have not seen it!

The reason why I thought this would make an apt screening for the melodrama group is in how the film plays with conventions and plot structures associated with the Gothic melodrama. Indeed, the film critic for The Observer, Philip French, described the film as ‘a combination of dark thriller, gothic horror story and poetic myth’. There is much that can be discussed regarding gender, identity, melodrama and the Gothic in relation to The Skin I Live In.

Below is a link to an article, in which Paul Smith, Professor in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages at CUNY, discusses the film with the editor of Film Quarterly, Rob White. Although the article isn’t overly warm towards the film, it does touch upon some of the more interesting themes and concerns of The Skin I Live In.

http://www.filmquarterly.org/2011/10/escape-artistry-debating-the-skin-i-live-in/

Do Join us, if you can, for Keeley’s introduction on the day and, of course the film itself!