cj-film-studies151_Crone_Kubrick by alsayedmoha


									to this challenge in his final chapter, which proceeds from the fascinating pretext      original Look magazine negatives stored at the Library of Congress and at the
that “at the juncture of theatre and film lies a corpse.”                                Museum of the City of New York. The photographs are organized into thirty-one
      Loiselle draws heavily on Thérèse Malachy’s concept of the “cadavre                photographic stories and divided into four chapters (“Metropolitan Life,”
vivant,” which “proposes that the appearance of the cadaver in a fictional film          “Entertainment,” “Celebrities,” and “Human Behavior”). To provide a critical
always brings onto the screen the theatrical ambiguity of the living dead....            context for the photographs, Crone and fellow Iccarus members Petrus
While a corpse on film can be an actual corpse..., a corpse in a stage perfor-           Schaesberg and Alexandra von Stosch have each written a scholarly essay, in
mance is always a living cadaver.” Loiselle locates this operative contrast cen-         addition to brief introductory texts for the thirty-one photo-stories.
trally in his inventive readings of Being at Home with Claude (1985, 1992), Lilies             Studies of Kubrick’s cinema generally make only passing comments on his
(1987, 1996), Love and Human Remains (1989, 1993), Le Polygraphe (1988,                  training as a photographer, for reasons which may range from an auteurist prej-
1996), Possible Worlds (1990, 2000), and The Last Supper (1993, 1994). I found           udice against the collaborative and commercial natures of photojournalism and
this to be the most satisfying chapter of Stage-Bound, in large part because the         the authorial impurity of assigned work, to the fact that back issues of Look
increasing stylistic and thematic diversity of the plays and adaptations provide         magazine and the original negatives and contact sheets were not easily accessi-
considerably more resistance to the relatively stable analytical approach adopt-         ble. One exception is Vincent LoBrutto’s 1997 biography of Kubrick, which
ed throughout the earlier sections of the study. Firmly anchored in issues of cor-       devotes roughly fifty pages to Kubrick’s years at Look magazine. Prior to pub-
poreality through his focus on living—and dead—bodies, Loiselle’s navigation of          lishing Drama and Shadows, the Iccarus group had produced a traveling exhibit
these adaptations is more rowdy, less restrictive, and, for this reader, most            and a book of photographs published in 1999 by Schnell & Steiner. Entitled
rewarding.                                                                               Stanley Kubrick: Still Moving Pictures, Fotografien 1945-1950, this volume
      There is no question that Stage-Bound holds multiple rewards in terms of its       includes essays in German not found in Drama and Shadows. Crone and von
uncommon focus, its ambitious reach, its efforts to forge effective hybrid theo-         Stosch also co-authored an article (not included in Drama and Shadows), which
retical frameworks, and its close observation of detail and nuance. Ultimately,          was translated into English for the catalogue published in connection with the
the reservations I noted above are clearly outweighed by Loiselle’s deep knowl-          summer 2004 Stanley Kubrick exhibit at the Deutsches Filmmuseum in
edge of, and infectious fascination with, his topic—which, through this study,           Frankfurt.
assumes a role of unanticipated significance within Canadian cinema.                           An in-depth critical assessment of the photographs in this attractive volume
                                                                                         may have important implications for Kubrick scholarship. In the book’s
University of Toronto                                                                    Foreword, Crone modestly issues a disclaimer by stating that the book does not
                                                                                         seek to make “connections between Kubrick’s photographic style and his
                                                                                         movies.” Not surprisingly however, the authors of the critical articles cannot help
STANLEY KUBRICK DRAMA AND SHADOWS: PHOTOGRAPHS 1945-1950                                 but discuss Kubrick’s films on several occasions, in addition to which the art his-
Edited by Rainer Crone                                                                   torical and ideological contexts which they provide will undoubtedly assist film
London: Phaidon Press, 2005, 255 pp.                                                     scholars in establishing relevant links between the filmmaker’s photo-essays,
                                                                                         documentary shorts, and feature films. For example, Schaesberg links three key
Reviewed by Philippe Mather                                                              texts that constitute a visual and thematic focal point of Kubrick’s early career,
\While the critical literature on Stanley Kubrick’s fiction films is fairly extensive,   namely the dramatic aspects of boxing. Although Schaesberg doesn’t engage in
his documentary films and photojournalistic career remain relatively unknown.            the comparative textual analysis himself, he points to a 1949 photo-essay enti-
Kubrick’s production during his five-year tenure at Look magazine includes over          tled “Prizefighter,” the 1951 documentary short Day of the Fight, and scenes from
nine hundred published photographs. It is reasonable to assume that a closer             Kubrick’s 1955 feature film Killer’s Kiss. The focus on boxing demonstrates a
examination of this considerable body of work may shed light on the aesthetic            consistent use of narrative, rhetorical and visual tropes that can be shown to
and ideological factors which shaped the development of Kubrick’s artistic voice.        originate in Look magazine’s photojournalistic methods.
The book under review is the end result of an important curatorial effort con-                 The Iccarus group’s art-historical perspective tends to highlight certain fea-
ducted since 1998 by the Iccarus group, based in Munich at Ludwig-Maximilian             tures at the expense of others. Two issues in particular arise from the group’s
University’s Institute of Art. Edited by Iccarus founder Rainer Crone, Drama and         underlying philosophy of art: the nature of Kubrick’s Look photographs as a cor-
Shadows presents approximately four hundred photographs printed from the                 pus and the types of influences considered worthy of analysis. Concerning

100 Volume 15 No. 1                                                                                                                    B OO K RE V IE WS • C O MPTES R EN DUS 101
Kubrick’s corpus of photographs, an exclusive focus on the individual artist’s          from a film studies perspective is that in dismantling the magazine layouts,
personal expression renders the journalistic nature of this work problematic.           Drama and Shadows tends to isolate the photographs from their narrative con-
Because the collaborative nature of a photo magazine’s editorial process may be         text. The volume ignores the original decisions in selecting and editing multiple
seen to limit the unique contribution of any of its team members, Iccarus’s             images in print layouts that Kubrick would have been acutely aware of, if not
modus operandi has been to recontextualize Kubrick’s work by ignoring the orig-         intimately involved in. Kubrick’s photos were designed to be published in a
inal layouts of Look magazine’s photo-essays. Their curatorial decisions effec-         magazine where they interacted with a written text, which is fairly important if
tively recover-or create-a voice assumed to be compromised by the commercial            we are to properly assess Kubrick’s development as a visual storyteller. This
context of photojournalism. This assumption overlooks the exact nature of the           information is lost in Drama and Shadows.
editorial process at Look magazine, where, according to Look photographer                     Perhaps the most interesting theme appearing in all three articles included
Douglas Kirkland, staff photographers, whenever available, were in fact encour-         in Drama and Shadows that can be usefully applied to Kubrick’s film work, is
aged to participate in layout conferences with the editorial art director.              the stylistic tension between documentary and fiction and how Kubrick seems to
      The Iccarus group’s recontextualization of Kubrick’s photojournalistic work       have staked out an intriguing, ambiguous, middle ground. Schaesberg quotes
in Drama and Shadows may be described as a kind of “substitute authorship”              Thomas Allen Nelson on Kubrick’s style which “lends an unfamiliarity to the
wherein curators make editorial decisions in the photographer’s absence. Their          real and an empirical life to the surreal.” This is a useful characterization, yet
decision to include photographs that were not published by Look magazine, but           both Schaesberg and Crone focus only on the first half of that equation, in an
left on the cutting room floor, presumes that these excisions were made against         apparent drive to distinguish Kubrick’s style from the documentary norm estab -
the photographer’s will. The corpus has expanded from nine hundred published            lished by Farm Security Administration photographers in the thirties. In the
photographs to approximately twelve thousand archived negatives and prints.             process, they overlook a photojournalistic norm that welcomed “dramaturgical”
The editors of Drama and Shadows do not indicate which photographs were                 enhancements, particularly staged photographs designed to accompany the
published in Look, nor do they describe the original layouts, making only occa-         didactic how-to articles that were popular at the time. Schaesberg never elabo-
sional references to the captions contained in Kubrick’s photo-essays. On the           rates on the second half of Nelson’s equation, despite his own observation that
basis of a comparison between original issues of Look magazine and Drama and            films such as Dr. Strangelove, while adopting a tone of comedic satire, are
Shadows’ presentation, it is clear that Rainer Crone’s goal is to unearth aesthet-      grounded in documentary accuracy.
ic masterpieces, and to collect the photographs as works of art. The book offers              Taking a cue from Nelson and even quoting Kubrick himself on the idea of
no clues as to how the Look editorial staff selected from the hundreds of pho-          “truthful ambiguity,” Crone describes the Kubrickian middle ground as an aes-
tographs that were taken on a given assignment to produce layouts running to            thetics of ambiguity, which is a standard trope of art cinema. Schaesberg prefers
six-pages, each containing perhaps fifteen pictures. This process is likely to have     to explore the source of Kubrick’s satirical approach: he argues for a complicat-
influenced Kubrick’s own sensibility and practice of identifying and editing            ed trail which begins with the nineteenth century social satirist Honoré Daumier,
images that carry a visual and thematic impact.                                         who inspired FSA photographer Walker Evans, whose colleague Ben Shahn
      Given that Kubrick was at a formative stage in his career, the Iccarus group      focused on the disenfranchised and who in turn inspired Austrian painter Henry
had to devise a strategy to account for the issue of artistic influences. Their first   Koerner, whom Kubrick met and photographed in 1948. Nowhere is there any
step is to acknowledge only appropriate artistic mentorships by comparing               mention of Look magazine’s Photo Department Head Arthur Rothstein, who was
Kubrick with established art photographers such as Henri-Cartier Bresson,               a former FSA photographer known for enhancing his documentary photographs,
Walker Evans, and Robert Frank, rather than his colleagues at Look magazine.            and was paired with Kubrick on at least half a dozen assignments in the late for-
The second step is to dismiss any influences which might be perceived to under-         ties. Alexandra von Stosch’s solution to reading Kubrick’s combination of fiction
mine their conception of Kubrick’s world view. The third step is to imply that          and documentary is to suggest that in rejecting pure objectivity and pure sub-
this worldview distinguished itself specifically in opposition to the magazine          jectivity, he favored an intersubjective approach in which different readings are
context’s conventional nature.                                                          possible. Von Stosch adds that the fundamental tension in photography between
      Crone is careful to mention that he was given permission by Kubrick in 1998       subjective viewer and objective light hitting the photosensitive surface perfectly
to “research, exhibit and publicize his photographs.” This doesn’t change the           suits Kubrick’s multiplicity of perspectives, producing a kaleidoscope of reality
fact that Kubrick himself never organized exhibits or published his photograph-         which sums up his modern world view.
ic work during his lifetime. The main drawback to Crone’s curatorial approach                 The publication of Drama and Shadows is a happy event for Kubrick schol-

102 Volume 15 No. 1                                                                                                                  B OOK RE V IE WS • C O MPTES R EN DUS 103
ars, to the extent that it introduces a little known yet interesting body of work to    insights of his book, and he is able to introduce the reader to elements that are gen-
a large audience, in a format which is visually pleasing. The Iccarus group’s           erally overlooked in the standard works on French cinema. Masterpieces are cer-
efforts in the last eight years may very well have influenced the Library of            tainly of great interest, but comprehensive historical work requires including the
Congress and the Museum of the City of New York’s decision to properly cata-            popular cinema, B films, and serials. O’Brien’s study is a model of thoroughness.
logue and rehouse their collections of Look magazine photographs. Given the                   Cinema’s Conversion to Sound is organized with an awareness of contem-
enduring interest in Kubrick’s work, there is every reason to believe that schol -      porary reading habits. The Introduction has a summary of each chapter; at the
ars will now be encouraged to consult back issues of Look magazine, and                 start of each chapter the author tells the reader what he will be discussing; and
research the original negatives. One may disagree with Rainer Crone’s use of the        at the end of the chapter there is a reminder about what has just been done.
Brechtian notion of Gestus or Roland Barthes’ punctum in analyzing Kubrick’s            While one might think the reader should be perceptive enough to read a book
photographs, but he cannot be faulted for his enthusiasm in sharing the fruits of       chapter by chapter and understand the points without this much assistance, this
his research.                                                                           can be taken as a reasonable approach by an author who has come to under-
                                                                                        stand how most books are actually read. Readers normally look to the summary
Campion College, University of Regina                                                   to find a way of not actually having to read the book or to be directed to the parts
                                                                                        which hold the most interest. Thus, when readers actually get to the chapter,
                                                                                        then often read so quickly that they need to have reminders of the chapter’s main
CINEMA’S CONVERSION TO SOUND TECHNOLOGY AND F ILM STYLE IN                              points. I see these summaries not as repetition, but as O’Brien’s serious effort to
FRANCE AND THE U.S.                                                                     have his points understood. It is a realistic strategy.
Charles O’Brien                                                                               What are the points in the book? The central one has to do with the use of
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005, 200 pp.                                    direct sound in French cinema. Early Hollywood sound films used direct sound
                                                                                        at first, but very quickly incorporated mixing boards to add and manipulate
Reviewed by John W. Locke                                                               sound, effects, and music after shooting. As O’Brien watched early French sound
Cinema’s Conversion to Sound fills a significant gap in film studies scholarship.       films aimed at popular audiences, he observed that using long takes with direct
Someone interested in the development of sound in American films can be                 sound was the standard method. A casual viewer seeing one of these French
directed to numerous books, as well as the Journal of the Society of Motion             films from the early 1930s might think that it had the appearance of Hollywood
Picture and Television Engineers, and the resources held by the library of the          sound films from perhaps 1928 and thus that French cinema was just slow in
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but previously it was not clear            coming up to the sound sophistication level found in Hollywood. O’Brien looked
where to direct someone interested in the development of sound in French cine-          at enough of these French films and read enough of the original technical and
ma. Charles O’Brien has provided an excellent history of early sound in French          critical literature to understand this direct-sound/long-take method differently.
cinema, and convincingly argues for its unique place in the international spec-         He sees it as a system designed to record the actual performances in a continu-
trum of early sound films.                                                              ous manner. He then did extensive research to confirm that this practice of
     The full title of this book indicates that it is about sound technology in both    recording particular performances appealed to French audiences and was reflect-
France and the United States. However, the focus of the work is on French cine-         ed in the success of the French popular cinema of the period. He also makes the
ma. O’Brien describes it as “a study situating French practices relative to con-        point that the French popular cinema was designed for the French national mar-
temporaneous practices in the United States and Germany,” but while readers             ket. It was not an export product, and the producers were satisfied with nation-
will gain a better understanding of the development of early sound film outside         al success. This further distinguishes French cinema of the period from many
France, this is not the best resource on this history for either the U.S. or            other national cinemas. It has a particular sound style and was truly for the
Germany. It is, however, definitely the book to read for the history of the devel-      French market.
opment of sound film in France.                                                               O’Brien uses his extensive research to support a well developed thesis.
     It is admirable that O’Brien distances his work from traditional approaches that   Obviously his points are made in greater depth than I have just indicated, but it
exclusively view national cinemas in terms of works produced by a small number          should be clear from my comments that he has a unique approach to the peri-
of high-profile directors. Rather than just look at auteur films, he places equal       od. Most relevant publications in English and French written on this period tend
emphasis on mainstream popular cinema. By doing so, he is led to the central            to focus on developments in American sound technology or only on the most

104 Volume 15 No. 1                                                                                                                    B OO K RE V IE WS • C OM PTES RENDUS 105

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