Monday, 5 March 2012

Screening and Discussion - Punishment Park

On March the 8th Punishment Park will be screened from 4.15 in the New Academic Building, 3.26. This will be followed by an informal discussion.

Peter Watkins' Punishment Park (1971) is a pseudo-documentary set in a detention camp in a near-future America, where young 'terrorists' are brought in front of a jury and convicted without much of a trial. Choosing three days in Punishment Park over lengthy jail sentences, the detainees gamble their freedom on an attempt to reach an American flag - on foot and without water - through the searing heat of the desert. What follows is a lethal, one-sided game of cat-and-mouse with a squad of heavily armed police and National Guardsmen.

The blurring of ficition and reality in Punishment Park is not only due to Watkins' cinema verite style , but also because the 'actors' are not so much acting as expressing their actual beliefs and emotions, as well as drawing on their own experiences. With this film, the techniques of improvisation employed in it and its multiple layers of reality, Watkins evolved something Joseph A. Gomez has called "a psychodrama for the participants, for himself and for the audience".

Watkins' film, made in the wake of the escalation of the Vietnam War, the campus riots at Berkeley, and the trial of the Chicago Seven, makes an interesting point about America's fascistic tendencies when facing inner (as well as international) conflict. It remains relevant in the current context of the continuous 'war on terror', laws of being able to detain without trial, and the bru
tal violence facing Wall Street protesters.


Monday, 20 February 2012

Screening and Discussion - Persona

On February the 23rd Persona will be screened at 4.15 in the New Academic Building LG02. This will be followed by an informal discussion.

Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966), widely recognized as his most extraordinary and influental film, is a rich and poetic study of womanhood and identity - not to mention of cinema itself. Elizabeth (Liv Ullman) is a famous actress who is suddenly taken ill and left without speech. While convalescing on the coast, she is cared for by Nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) and, silenced by her possibly psychosomatic illness, finds that her nurse does the talking for both of them. Gradually the two women's personalitites merge and the boundaries between their identities begin to blur.

Bergman later said about Persona; "Today I feel that in Persona, I had gone as far as far as I could go. And that in [this] instance when working in total freedom, I touched wordless secrets that only the cinema can discover". The film has been, and still is, subjected to a wide range o
f interpretations - Susan Sontag suggests that Persona is constructed as a series of variations on a theme of 'doubling' and proposes that the subject of the film is 'violence of the spirit' whilst film sholar Adam P. Sitney offers quite a different reading, arguing that "Persona covertly dramatizes a psychoanalysis from the point of view of a patient". Apart from this, the extremely minimalist and experimental style of the film makes it a special instance in the history of cinema - during filming Bergman wanted to call it "A Bit of Cinematography".


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Screening and Discussion - Network

On Thursday, February the 2nd, at 4.15 Network will be screened in the New Academic Building LG02. This will be followed by an informal discussion.

'Network' (1976) is a satirical comedy directed by Sidney Lumet. A television network, Union Broadcasting System (UBS) is struggling with poor ratings and, facing unemployment, their news-anchor loses it on live television - surprisingly causing ratings to rise again.

Network opens up questions about the power of television over large groups of people - especially thinking of the mob-like behaviour that accompanies the shows of Jerry Springer and the like - and the almost messianic aura that its presenters gain (think Oprah Winfrey). The film considers the importance of ‘good ratings’ within television, underlining that the media, even though claiming for itself official and objective information about society, essentially needs to sell itself (thus considering what people want to read becomes an issue – lowest common denominator?) - interesting to put in the context of today's Leveson Enquiry and Rupert Murdoch's approach to news-making.


Friday, 13 January 2012

Screening and Discussion - Platform

On Thursday, January the 19th, at 4.15 Platform will be screened (room to be announced). This will be followed by an informal discussion. More information coming soon!