Memory, Images, History
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Blog written by Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Last the Fall I wrote a blog about my professional mentors who had influenced me while I was a student. Since completing my PhD. more than 25 years ago, I have become a mentor to many of my own students. They are in many ways my proudest accomplishment. Publishing a book or restoring a film has nothing on the emotional kick I have gotten watching some of my students grow, develop, and succeed. I’m incredibly proud of them, like a mother hen with her brood.
Two of my former students are now themselves moving image archive directors with PhDs. Claude Bertemes has been the Director of the Cinémathque Luxembourg since 1997. He took a seminar with me as an undergraduate thirty years ago when I was at the beginning of my teaching career, myself still a doctoral candidate. He recently confessed to me that he was not very happy with the grade he received in my “Photography as Communication” seminar. Hayden Guest was my student at the School of Theater, Film & Television at UCLA ten years ago; He’s been Director of the Harvard Film Archive since 2006, where he has revitalized that institution. One of my interns, Dr. Sabine Lenk, was Director of the Düsseldorf Filmmusuem. And I guess I can take credit for training Dott. Paolo Cherchi Usai, whose illustrious film archive career spans three continents.
Among my UCLA Moving Image Archives students, many are ensconced in various film and digital archives, including: Karen Barcelona (Academy Film Archive), Gillian Borders (UCLA), Robert Dirig (Art Center Pasadena), Melissa Dollman (Schlesinger Library, Harvard), Zac Fink (Film Technologies), Dave Gibson (Library of Congess), May Haduong (Academy Film Archive), Benji Harry (Cooperstown), Steven Hill (UCLA Film & Television Archive), Leah Kerr (Mayme Clayton Library), Chris Lane (MGM), Oki Miyano (Kurosawa Project), Stephanie Sapienza (LA Filmforum), Amy Sloper (Harvard Film Archive), Julio Vera (Academy Film Archive).
There is a whole cohort of former graduate students from the University of Rochester who hold a special place in my heart. All of them took my film historiography seminar in the early 1990s, and are now themselves professors.
We’ve tried to get together regularly at the Society of Cinema and Media Studies Conference: Mark Lynn Anderson is a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of numerous articles and the forthcoming Twilight of the Idols: Hollywood and the Human Sciences in 1920's America. Mark Betz is a lecturer at King’s College, London, and recently published, Beyond the Subtitle: Remapping European Art Cinema (2009). Heather Hendershot is a Professor at Queens College, presently the editor of Cinema Journal, and the author of Saturday Morning Censors: Television Regulation before the V-Chip (1998) and Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture (2004). Amanda Howell is senior lecturer in media studies at Griffith University in Australia and has written widely on popular film and music. Laura U. Marks is Dena Wosk University Professor in Art and Culture Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and internationally known film programmer. She is the author of The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (2000) and Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (2002). Maggie McCarthy is an Associate Professor of German at Davidson College, and edited Light Motives: German Popular Film in Perspective.
Then, there are my more recent UCLA students, many of whom have now completed their PhDs. and have gotten their first or second teaching jobs: Jun Okada is an Assistant Professor at SUNY Geneseo; Michael Baskett is an Associate Professor at University of Kansas; Paul Macolm is a film programmer at UCLA Film & Television Archive; Ross Melnick is spending this next year on a post doc at Emory University; Qi Wang teaches at Georgia Institute of Technology. Lindy Leong is teaching at SUNY Purchase. Others completing their PhD.s include Snowden Becker (co-founder of Home Movie Day, UT, Austin), Emily Carmen (UCLA), Andrey Gordienko UCLA), Bill McClain (USC), Doron Galili (University of Chicago), Mary Samuelson (UCLA), Pauline Stakelon (UC Santa Barbara) and Noah Webster (UC Santa Barbara).
Sorry, if I forgot anyone.
Am I bragging? You bet I am.
I do hope to see a lot more students make good before I hang up my mortarboard.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Blog written by Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive
21 June, 10 AM, which happens to be 1 AM (California time), according to my body clock, and I’m standing in front of a group of eager film students. We are doing a one week academic seminar in and around PEOPLE ON SUNDAY to prepare five German film students (from the IFS) and five American film students from UCLA to spend the next five weeks making a film, which will be a portrait of Cologne, the way PEOPLE was a portrait of Berlin in 1929.
We start with an initial discussion of the film, made by Billy Wilder, Edgar Ulmer, Robert and Curt Siodmak, Eugene Schuefftan, Fred Zinnemann, and Seymour Nebenzahl, all of whom were exiled from Germany in 1933 and had high profile (or less substantial) Hollywood careers. Along with Prof. Dr. Gundolf Freyermuth (IFS) and Dr. Lisa Gotto (IFS), we discuss the incredible modernity of MENSCHEN AM SONNTAG, given its non-plot and hand-held camera, its amateur actors and documentary views of a vibrant city.
Next, I lecture on German speaking Jewish exiles in Hollywood, in order to provide a context for the week’s work to follow. As I told the students, over 1500 writers, directors, producers and other film workers were forced to leave Berlin, due to Hitler’s anti-Semitic blacklist. Interestingly, neither the German nor American students had any idea that some of Hollywood’s most famous directors were German born.
Screening Robert Siodmak’s CRY OF THE CITY (1948), starring Victor Mature, we see a film noir, but also a city film about New York. As we discover, Siodmak actually remade a shot from PEOPLE ON SUNDAY in CRY OF THE CITY. A productive discussion follows about the film’s moral ambiguity, so unlike American classical Hollywood narrative and so much like German films from the 1920s.
Our second day starts with my seminar on the history of the Weimar film industry, in order to place the production of PEOPLE ON SUNDAY into the proper historical context for the students. I’m surprised that most of the German film students know as little about Weimar cinema and history as the American students. Prof. Freyermuth lectures on documentary film, fiction film and what he termed “faction” film, the hybrid form that we are seeing with ever increasing frequency in the digital age. Lisa Gotto screens Edgar G. Ulmer’s DETOUR (1945), a classic film noir which fits into our thread on the makers of PEOPLE ON SUNDAY.
Wednesday’s lectures start with my presentation on American film noir and the role of German émigré directors, like Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, and Edgar G. Ulmer in creating that genre. In fact, we can see a direct connection between the crime films of the German Expressionist cinema and the American private eye movie in the work of these directors that goes beyond high contrast lighting and oblique camera angles to an atmosphere of dark fatalism and despair.
Gotto then lectures on the role of the city and urban space in not only German films, but also American films from the 1940s to the 1990s, ending with a recent rap video. Next, we screen Bill Wilder’s A FOREIGN AFFAIR (1948), a film that takes place in Berlin after World War II and features many location shots of Berlin in ruins.
On my final morning, Prof. Freyermuth lectures on stereotypical images of Germany and America, as found in the autobiographies of German émigrés in Hollywood. This is important for the students, because German American teams will have to work together on their films of Cologne in the coming weeks, so they need to know what kind of cultural prejudices each side is bringing to the project. Next, I lectured on German and European avant-garde films from the 1920s, since PEOPLE ON SUNDAY must be seen not only in the context of the Weimar film industry, but also in the context of the avant-garde, since it was made and released expressly as an independent and avant-garde film.
In the afternoon, we screen Billy Wilder’s ONE TO THREE (1961), another film about Berlin, but produced at the point when the Berlin wall was being constructed. It is a screamingly funny comedy about a Coca Cola executive in Berlin, winning the war the way we know best: with American consumer goods.
Now the students have to discuss their ideas for projects. I can’t wait to see the films.