OPEN STACKS | #35 Filmic Renditions of Life: Noa Steimatsky, Robert Pippin, & Carl Skoggard

January 21st, 2018

This week on Open Stacks, signs of life in film and filmic renditions of life. Noa Steimatsky, Robert Pippin, and Carl Skoggard share in the cinematic tradition of building and relaying stories and worlds with the smallest of details. 

Steimatsky guides us through the power of the human visage as it is wielded on the screen. Not mentioned in this clip, but given ample attention in her book is Carl Dreyer's gem of a silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s performance in the movie is often applauded due to the actress's remarkably expressive face. For example:

Steimatsky writes on the film (which you can read more fully in the book): "How and why should one stare into a mouth twisting open in inaudible speech? This was already parodied in the earliest cinema with The Big Swallow (James Williamson, 1901) where the oral movements of speech, magnified, evolve into the mock-monstrous swallow. Surely, if Joan is so spiritually or psychologically saturated—as viewers maintain—one should not be gaping into her mouth quite so directly and so extensively. Yet between numerous inter titles, Dreyer often leads us to do just that! How to navigate between the physical gesticulating mouth; the muted charge of speech, crying, pleading, breathing; and the intertitle quotes from historical documents? The face flutters somewhere in-between these elements in The Passion of Joan of Arc."


"Although it was a box office flop when it was originally released in 1958, Vertigo has become one of the most analyzed films in cinematic history. Pippin is not the first, nor will he be the last philosopher to weigh in on its significance (putting his reading of the film up against Slavoj Žižek’s, for example, would make for an interesting debate.) But one of the many virtues of The Philosophical Hitchcock is the way it provides an original interpretation of Vertigo while also offering a detailed survey of all things Hitchcockian. In other words, The Philosophical Hitchcock can be read profitably as a primer on the vast secondary literature that has accrued around both the film and its director. Pippin’s footnotes map out pathways into all kinds of interesting intellectual terrain if you are inclined to explore them." —Martin Woessner (read the full review of Pippin's book here)

Kracauer post-journalist days, in Klosters, Switzerland (1960).