The Undertaker: Gilberto Perez’s The Material Ghost: Films and their Medium

The Undertaker: Gilberto Perez’s The Material Ghost: Films and their Medium
(Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998)
ISBN 0 8018 5673 6
465 pp
(Review copy supplied by John Hopkins University Press)

Uploaded 12 November 1999

Obviously, there can be no criticism without theory, but it is equally the case that there can be no viable theory without a viable sense of the nature of the critical function. Theory, for the critic, is – or ought to be – the discoveries of relevant criticism expressed as principle, and criticism is at once the practice and the critique of theory, where “practice” consists in the attempt to define the value of objects whose significance cannot be construed in advance. [1]

In Gilberto Perez’s superb The Material Ghost, there is no formulation of a general theoretical principle of cinema that does not emerge from the reading – and is tested in the crucible – of a particular film.

What is point-of-view in cinema? We must observe the intricacies of Jean Renoir’s unfinished A Day in the Country (1936) where, from shot to shot, the implied perspectives of diverse characters tussle with each other, and with the “regard”, the camera-eye of the film-maker – as well as another viewpoint, above and outside them all, something like the eye or attitude of nature, the imperious natural world itself. [Perez’s very fine analysis of Renoir’s style and method here offered a way for me to understand the complex formal arrangement of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998).] From Renoir to Michelangelo Antonioni, via Buster Keaton, F.W. Murnau and Abbas Kiarostami, Perez always carefully attends to those moments – so constitutive of our thrill of pleasure or sense of revelation at the movies – when a camera framing or movement, an entry or exit or sudden turning away of an actor, breaks any simple correspondence between a character’s viewpoint and that of the film itself: in the space or interval opened up, the possibilities for mystery and investigation multiply.

What constitutes the logic of shot/reverse shot in cinema? In opposition to David Bordwell’s cognitivist conclusion that such a figure mimics the movements of natural, human perception, Perez advances the criterion of aesthetic, expressive appropriateness. Shot/reverse shot is an artifice, a construction as evident as any other in the language of film; and yet it is not – as per the structuralist-linguistic premise – merely “arbitrary”. An appealing or involving shot-reverse shot exchange must be telling in the way that it maps the internal dramatic or thematic logic of a scene. To prove this theory, Perez takes us persuasively through the absolute unlikeliest (because least “classical”) example – a series of intensely “Brechtian” dialogues in Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet’s History Lessons (1972). And in the course of that demonstration – the centrepiece of a chapter which is the best thing I have ever read in praise of Straub & Huillet – Perez manages also to powerfully rewrite some standard assumptions about what “Brecht in cinema” can actually mean or stand for.

Perez’s rumination on Bertolt Brecht keys us into the broader theoretical speculation underpinning The Material Ghost . Where Brecht’s political aesthetic has often been adapted, within film culture, as an anti-narrative approach, Perez apprehends it – according to Aristotle’s fundamental distinction between narrative and drama – as anti-dramatic. “It was not recognized that Brecht put a curb on dramatic illusion in order to generate a kind of narrative illusion, a kind of theater that would report rather than enact characters and events, that would represent a story no longer in the form of action but of narrative” (291). So, neither can Brecht be truimphantly hailed as anti-illusionist – and, at any rate (as Perez makes clear) the illusions of life or ideology are not the same thing as the aesthetic illusions created by stage or screen. Brecht was an artist, finally, and his theatrical art:

…clearly engaged the space of life from a space clearly marked out as a theater stage, the site of illusion rather than reality, the autonomous space of art. Maybe the autonomy of art is an illusion, but an illusion that allows space for standing back from what is and entertaining the alternative, constructing not just fantasies but the possible realities to which fantasies may lead. (291)

Illusions allow space – for thought, recognition, feeling, transformation. This might be one way of boiling down The Material Ghost. The substance of the book is devoted to detailing the aesthetic richness of cinematic illusions and cinematic stories – proposing general principles, but always with the will to honour the medium’s greatest achievements, its masterpieces and its masters. Perez is unapologetically a defender of the ideal of art (not “arthouse”, an awful, market-derived term) cinema. And he is quite naturally an auteurist – allowing himself the occasional, touching speculation on how the women in Renoir’s films may have secretly related to those in his life, or on the graceful, Franciscan devotion of Straub & Huillet to their austere, exacting vocation. [An austere lifestyle, perhaps, but not a minimalist cinema, as it is so often presented: “Films are surely not of the party of less is more that keep offering us more than we can assimilate” (319).]

The book is truly disarming in its indifference to many current intellectual pursuits – postcolonial, queer, even feminist theory (beyond the obligatory querying of canonical mid ’70s Laura Mulvey) – and its splendid ease with films (by Murnau, Jean-Luc Godard, Renoir, Antonioni) that forge their deepest, most intricately formalised poetry from the physical, emotional and spiritual differences between men and women, and the agonising, absorbing drama of “the couple” thus constituted or broken.

In the ’70s, Noel Burch looked forward to the critical elaboration of “a composite cinema (abstract-concrete, formal-narrative)”. [2] On many levels, The Material Ghost  pursues and achieves this task of synthesis. At the level of theory, Perez elaborates the fundamental “doubleness” of film as a photographic medium – he adopts the Straub & Huillet maxim that the “greatness of film is the humbleness of being condemned to photography” (285) – being both an imprint of something once real, and an expressive framing and shaping of a gaze, an attitude, a question about what now remains as a contextualised trace on screen. Hence cinema’s inherently paradoxical, unstable and multifactorial status as the “material ghost”.

This leads Perez to a further examination of an extremely complex doubleness in cinema – that of documentary and fiction. Perez unravels this by now old and familiar duo with a subtlety and sophistication which is consistently surprising and illuminating: he finds both documentary and fiction at work in the places, the nodes, where one would least expect to find them; and he is equal to the mind-boggling but limpidly presented knots of documentary-within-fiction and vice versa woven by Kiarostami in films such as Close-up (1990).

In some ways, Perez’s book reminds me of two other fine film books, George Wilson’s Narration in Light and Victor Perkins’Film as Film  [3] – not least in the way that it is so clearly the result of years of teaching, refining ideas over time within the special give-and-take dialogue of the classroom. Yet, where Perez’s book manages to go beyond those earlier milestones is in its version of, and exploration into, film modernism. Some of the best critics of mise en scène , narration and theme have essentially restricted themselves to a classical canon; Perez takes on (as does Alain Masson[4] ) cinema’s great modernist period of the ’60s and ’70s. The Material Ghost refuses to regard modernism as either absolutely anti-realist/naturalist, or anti-expressive. Cinematic modernism for Perez is (or can be, in its richest incarnations) poetically coherent, even as it takes for its subject notions of incoherence, absence, loss of meaning, decentredness, and so on. With Antonioni, for instance, Perez attempts a synthesis that is more complete than either (as he puts it) Seymour Chatman’s tendency to “solemnly … impose meaning” or Sam Rohdie’s tendency to “cheerfully … abolish it” (407).

By not moving to immediately evacuate the residual “classical” elements (character, sentiment, theme) of cinema’s modernist masterpieces (Antonioni’s Monica Vitti trilogy, Godard’s Vivre sa vie [1962], History Lessons ) – Perez maintains and traces the tension between fullness and emptiness which is a hallmark of modernist film. It is intriguing to judge, for example, how his resolutely poetic approach to Vivre sa vie  is able to go further than Perkins’ account in the 1967 The Films of Jean-Luc Godard , which tested the film against various interpretative criteria and judged it as ultimately an incoherent bundle of sorties in the direction of theme or meaning or mood – precisely an anti-organic, modernist collage on the tender brink of falling apart, as so many Godardians have been blissfully happy to claim for most of his films. [5]  Because he does not oppose modernism to aesthetic organicism, Perez’s analyses of these films enliven what was fast becoming the laziest game in town – allegorical reading.

How often have we read, of late, that a particular cultural condition (such as the onset of industrial modernity) can be seen handily reflected in the basic plot moves and formal mechanisms (involving “shocks” suffered by a character, for instance, or some similarly disoriented experience of an audiovisual environment) of a representative film from some crucial historical transit-point? Perez traces through his proposed allegories on deeper and more organic levels. After delineating Vivre sa vie as the complex interplay between an enchanted documentary “song” (about Anna Karina) and a grimmer, fictive “story” (about a doomed prostitute) – an interplay that pinpoints in its movement “the possibilities of love and freedom, the difficulties of power and prevailing circumstance” – Perez concludes: “In the end, the film, song and story and everything else, asks to be taken figuratively, allegorically: the lyricism celebrates the triumph, the pathos laments the defeat of the soul that would assert itself, the tenderness that would gain embodiment, the freedom that would achieve realization on the ground of recognised necessity” (351-2). Similarly, History Lessons  is “an allegory of revolutionary consciousness” (323); and Godard’s Alphaville (1965) addresses “the making of art, not as art’s chief subject, but as an allegory of the ordering of life” (357).

In his treatment of modernist cinema, Perez tries to grasp a deep logic of articulations between elements of form and content, between the sensibility of a film and its activation of specific, essential properties of the cinema as a medium. In this gesture – in the appeal, for instance, to the relation between a film’s careful play of light values and the primal, underlying mechanism of both the camera lens that imprints such light and the flickering projector that beams it – Perez’s work meets the “figural” analyses proposed in recent years by Nicole Brenez. [6]  In both Perez and Brenez, the temporal unfolding of a film – its introduction, modulation, transformation, reversal of pertinent elements – the true “journey” or drama of all that is significant and eventful down to the smallest cut or performed, bodily reflex: a vast advance on those modernist readings which could only ever gesture, in a vague, amorphous way, to the “transgression of the classical norm” enacted by any and every stylistic “violation”, be it a 180 degree cut, an unmotivated wash of colour dye or an illicit glance into the camera.

There is a limit to what Perez can address, and how far he can go. James Naremore, in his Cineaste review, notes how Perez “favours ‘democratic’ uses of the medium as theorized by Bazin”.[7]  And, indeed, Perez entertains an almost nostalgic kinship with André Bazin and his theories or principles of open-field mise en scène and the inherent, phenomenological richness of the photographic image that takes in pieces of the natural world. Nostalgic, because the age of digital reproduction threatens (as we are constantly told at present) to make such transmission of reality-to-celluloid obsolete.

Perez’s position may not, however, be this simple. James Morrison, reviewing this book in Screen , provides a deft summary of the author’s project: “… he negotiates a kind of reconstructed Bazinian realism with a modernist consciousness of artifice”.[8]  Is Perez’s book thus an expression of what Brenez found crucial in the most vital work of recent years, “the Bazinian exigency maintained in the heart of a type of non-Bazinian analysis that no longer takes the real as second nature or as the second nature of film”?[9]  Not quite. The problem or limit is not exactly that Perez fails to grapple with the technological “movie mutations” of our time; for me, there is another, underlying, perhaps more fundamental block.

Perez is a poet of place – and many films he loves, from The Crime of Monsieur Lange  (1935) and Not reconciled  (1965) to Ulee’s Gold (1997), are sensitive reponses to the texture, geography and associations of a real, dwelling place. [10]  This is a “taste” – and an aesthetic politics – we find in many of the best contemporary critics, including Rosenbaum (who has objected to the abstraction of place in Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Gabbeh [1995] and The Thin Red Line) and Kent Jones. Perez raises this disposition, however, into virtually a system. Almost every film he chooses for this project is one that includes, fulsomely, the presence of nature – whether the fusion of human sensation and natural flux celebrated in Alexander Dovzhenko’s 1930 Earth (one of the book’s best passages), or the haunted, incomplete syntheses of nature and culture probed delicately by Antonioni.

I imagined at moments that The Material Ghost is, secretly, about a cinema of nature, of the primal elements and the environment (understood in all its forms, meanings and combinations, god-given or man-made), and a homage to those film-makers who could well be called nature directors (from Renoir and Murnau to – my extrapolation – John Boorman and Malick). And, although many of Perez’s ruminations about cinematic theory and aesthetic principle are indeed devoted to the concept of artifice, it is precisely a cinema of literal artifice – studio-set cinema from Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger through Vincente Minnelli and Max Ophuls to postmodern mannerists like Tim Burton and Pedro Almodovar – which, by definition, escapes his regard.

Having written that, I find myself uncomfortable with the thought that it’s meant to constitute a point of “critique” of Perez’s book. Often, such critical statements – particularly of the kind “the author fails to address x, y and z” – would be, if they weren’t offered as judgments, simply a way of making explicit, of delineating a book’s project. No one book can talk about every aspect, every context of cinema (or even every aspect or context of a small piece of cinema) – although reviewers often behave as if it should, and somehow could. “Limits” don’t have to count as lacks, and absences shouldn’t always be brought to the bar as time-bombs about to auto-destruct the work in question. The Material Ghost  is artfully constructed as a piece of literature – it’s coherent, elegant, satisfying within its terms. It creates its own world, its own discourse, its own frame of reference, rather as a good film does. Perhaps a useful question bigger than any one volume is: is it generative, does it open up areas for further work (by that critic, or other critics) or close them down, does it lever open some space for the future? I think The Material Ghostindeed does this – bringing me back now to my starting point: the relation between theory and criticism.

Theory and criticism, like Jorge Luis Borges’ theme of traitor and hero, are intimately intertwined and potentially even reversible, but more usually (especially today) locked in a sombre dance of death that threatens to only ever leave one of them standing. Beyond the brilliance of its analyses, the crisp, poetic lyricism of its writing, and the wonderful essayistic movement and gradual evolution of its ideas, The Material Ghost makes a significant intervention at a time when the worlds of theory and criticism seem more hopelessly detached from each other than they have ever been. It is an issue that Perez addresses in his own way in the introduction, where he wittily likens film study’s ideal theory-criticism relation to that between theoretical and experimental physics:

I am drawn to film theory as I was drawn to theoretical physics; I believe that film criticism and experimental physics – whether they know it or not, and better if they know it – alike depend on theory to guide and make sense of their practice, theory with the focus and structure it provides, the scheme of assumptions it constructs about what to look for and what to make of it. But I also believe that theory that applies to experience in its turn rests on experience; it must not take off into a realm of its own but must instead construct its schemes in vital give and take with concrete reality (…) This is a book of film criticism consistently drawn to theory but as consistently skeptical of what these days is called “theory”. (15)

These days, we do not often (it seems) go to the best, the most vital film criticism or reviewing for even the seed (much less the fruit) of theoretical reflection. A case in point: reviews by Jonathan Rosenbaum of Irma Vep (1996, dir: Olivier Assayas) and Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1998, dir. Julio Medem) raise intriguing and new issues about how cinema works – about a “narrative unconscious” at work in crazy, ambiguous scenes in the Assayas, or a “conditional tense” that structures certain dream-like event-apparitions in the Medem. [11] These are ideas specific to these movies, but they are also, in embryo, general reflections on film as a medium, an “apparatus” even. (And that is what I take film theory to meaningfully, usefully be: a speculation towards establishing constitutive, general properties of the cinematic medium in its various essential forms, such as narrative filmmaking).

Whether Rosenbaum ever writes specific essays on these interesting theoretical speculations probably depends on whether anyone (an editor or publisher) ever asks him to. But, working as a weekly critic, they emerge for him in the give-and-take flow of obligatory reportage and evaluation – as “matters arising”, to use Raymond Durgnat’s apt term. It is our loss, as readers or practitioners in the fields of theory and criticism, if we can’t ever run with these ideas, if we miss the open opportunity to somehow appropriate and extend them. But it seems a very long time since criticism “served” theory in this generative way.

We know what happens when theory loses all touch with criticism. From Peter Wollen’s structuralism of the ’60s to Slavoj Zizek’s Lacanism today, grinds selective bits of films (and not many of them at that) through theory, an apparatus that ends up gloriously reaffirmed, unchanged, in all its facets. It (seemingly unknowingly) re-introduces evaluation (this film is good/progressive, this film is bad/reactionary) – but without any of the old-style critical logic or argument that might actually back up such snap judgments. It indulges in self-flattering, wholesale dismissal of anything that it judges pre-theoretical, non-theoretical or anti-theoretical: which turns out to be almost everything other than itself.

Is this exaggeration, caricature? I wonder. James Morrison’s lengthy, highly critical review of Perez’s book concludes: “As a manifestation of exceptionalism, Perez’s bridging of the divide between theory and practice merely reinforces that divide”.[12]  There is room to wonder, however, whether it is Morrison’s own way of putting the issue that does not reinforce the divide. He begins from the premise that, “[w]ith rare, though sometimes notable, exceptions, serious writing on film today originates in the academy”.[13]  This is a questionable claim as regards all those spaces beyond the academy. Morrison’s statement may be truer of America than other places, but I am not even convinced of that.

Of course, the annals of newspaper, magazine and journal reviewing/criticism today, as ever, contain much that is bad, banal, useless and entirely ephemeral; but don’t the pages of Sight & Sound, Film CommentCahiers du cinémaCinemayaMeteor and Close-up – among others – contain a decent amount of worthy, serious criticism that does not originate in the academy? Aren’t there still, in parts of Europe and Asia particularly, manifestations of intellectual cinephilia that pass through the circuit of film festivals, specialist programming and small-scale publishing rather than the academy (and sometimes, of course, in collaborations with the academy)? Between the staff journo and the departmental academic there is, after all, the freelance critic – the passeur, as Serge Daney dubbed this hopefully hybrid figure.

Morrison accepts (I think it is fair to say) a post-Foucauldian way of differentiating the institutional constraints of academic work (which demands repetition, regurgitation, the proving of theses, etc, within contractual relations of academic “performance”) from the old-fashioned, essayistic discourse that once appeared in “quality” magazines, the kind of writing which he situates in a belles lettres tradition. For Morrison, this literary discourse is no less a binding, determining institution. So he brackets Perez with lettristes including Jonathan Baumbach, Charles Thomas Samuels and Alan Speigel, as “a holdover from an earlier breed of critic from whom the practice of criticism was understood not primarily as an instrument for the analysis of culture, as the spur to politics or simply as an aid to pedagogy, but as an exercise in civilised sensibility, implicitly intended to preserve endangered values”.[14]

One hears an echo here of the historical, institutional account of “humanist” critical writing that we find today in the work of Ian Hunter, Dugald Williamson, Toby Miller et al, which characterises such writing (today as yesterday) as an ideological exercise in “constructing the ethical subject/self” via the alibis of aesthetic evaluation and the romantic cult of the artist/auteur as genius. [15] Clearly, this analysis has provided a much-needed corrective to the simplistic assumption that belles lettres commentary is an unconstrained effusion from a well-trained individual sensibility. But, for a random, typical, degraded example of this sort of attack on critics and criticism launched from the Olympian heights of academically-placed theory, consider a recent blow rained upon defenders (myself included) of the provocative films of David Cronenberg: we are the villains who apparently “augment” this director’s “cultural prestige” by casting him “as a mentally complex, profound and tortured rebel-outsider”.[16]

Mentally complex? – as in, maybe, “smart”? Profound, as in artistically, culturally insightful and powerful? (Any fools proclaiming the existence of “tortured rebel-outsiders”, on the other hand, would indeed deserve all the abuse they get.) Since when were intelligence, persuasive force and (a rarer thing) wisdom in cultural works ruled out as idelogical delusions, social non-entities, dead, sick, insidious values no longer to be aspired to in any way, shape or form?

Now, to be fair about Morrison’s critique, there is something occasionally a bit annoying in the texture and argumentation of The Material Ghost, and not only to those who would want to identify themselves as at the vanguard of “what these days is called ‘theory'”. The book displays a certain haughtiness and insularity that can only be called Cavellian, with all due respect to Stan the Man. Perez does not call upon numerous other toilers in the fields of criticism and theory – Gilles Deleuze, Thomas Elsaesser, Britton, Daney, Ronnie Scheib, Masson, Perkins, Durgnat, Dudley Andrew, to name just a few – whose work could easily be used to echo and reinforce his own. I admire Perez’s evident confidence in his own voice and insight as writer and critic, those disarmingly direct inclusions and exclusions of subject matter I have already mentioned, even the assertions of his own filmic interpretations as the best and fullest. But sometimes he does come across – unnecessarily, I feel – as a self-styled loner in the wilderness, a Simon of the Desert with only lovely old volumes of William Pechter and Vernon Young to guide and aid him (how long has it been since you have seen either of those quoted in a serious volume of film studies?).

For Perez to do otherwise would disturb one of the key rhetorical strategies of his prose: a withering, retrospective look at the “Screen heyday”, in which half-baked notions of suture, “radical practice”, renaissance perspective, anti-illusionism, narrative homogeneity and the like, reigned over seemingly every cinema department in every University around the globe. Now, of course, this is akin to beating up an artificially inflated straw man, especially after so many years have elapsed – and what it elides is how, across those years, ideas and theories were actually critiqued and developed, both from within and without. [17] Perez has nothing at all to say, for instance, about the “historicist turn” of much cinema studies both in Anglo cultures and in Europe beginning about 1987, and the sharp reconsideration of psychoanalysis that it entailed. What draws his attention from the current period, instead, is a rather vaguely sketched evil demon of “postmodernism”, which tends to display the same adolescent behaviour imputed to it by most ill-informed, defensive, hysterical, conservative commentators in the press: denial of truth, embrace of the eternal now, rampant relativism, satisfaction with a chaosmosis of fragments. Like Morrison, you do have to wonder at points just what Perez has been reading – and whether he has been reading quite widely enough. [18]

There are certainly good reasons for the continued appearance of ideologically pointed exposés of the humanist truisms, lazy impressionism, soggy theorising, and apolitical waffling (in the name of spirit, zeitgeist, national soul, etc) that are still to be found in much critical writing of “literary” ambition. But, quite simply, I wonder whether such attacks are strangling the potential of criticism as a form that exists outside, around – and sometimes even inside – the academy; and whether what is good and valuable in such work is being recognised and extended by all those with a serious interest in this ghostly medium. Perhaps I should phrase that neither as anxiety nor lament; as it happens, there are already happy signs of a new merger between theory and criticism, such as Naremore’s More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts, [19]  which forcefully and persuasively combines a recognisably “cultural studies” approach to a complex popular genre with critical accounts of individual films that do not shy from the task of actually evaluating them on aesthetic as much as social levels.

I value Perez’s book much more highly than Morrison, finally, because I believe it contains possibilities that offer the potential to renew both film criticism and film theory. Naremore, in his review, puts it well:

In my view, present-day film studies needs to give far more attention to the progressive, potentially utopian dimension of esthetics (…) We ought to view the making of art not only as ‘cultural production’, but also as something that transforms consciousness and contributes to understanding in positive ways. [20]

For Perez’s part, the site where such transformation – fragile though its likelihood always will be – is apt to occur is in that unsettled, vibrating, suspended space where a film undertakes something in an open, questing spirit. “Kiarostami believes in beauty as he believes in truth”, he writes, “not as a conclusion but as an undertaking” (272).

This sentiment is expressed in many different ways and forms throughout The Material Ghost. We do not go to movies for answers, for statements, for moral or political proverbs. (And again I think of The Thin Red Line: a film damned by some for its supposed “statements” – get back to the pre-civilised garden, believe in romantic love, embrace the glory of the beyond, grasp that nature is both Good and Evil – when the mode of that film, from start to end, and on every level, is an incessant questioning.) We go for the thrill, the shock, and the make-over, of an undertaking. Film theory and criticism alike might do well to imagine their own projects in that same spirit – especially since The Material Ghost, in itself and in its reception, offers its own allegory of “the possibilities of love and freedom, the difficulties of power and prevailing circumstance” in those fuzzy realms where one thinks and writes about cinema these days.

Footnotes:
[1] Andrew Britton, “In defense of criticism”, CineAction! 3-4 (January 1986): 5.
[2] Noel Burch, “Fritz Lang: German period”, in Richard Roud (ed), Cinema: A Critical Dictionary (London: Secker & Warburg, 1980), 592.
[3] George Wilson, Narration in Light: A Study in Cinematic Point-of-View (Baltimore: John Hopkins Univerity Press, 1986); V.F.Perkins, Film as Film (Middlesex: Penguin, 1972).
[4] Alain Masson, Le récit au cinéma (Paris: Editions de l’Etoile, 1994).
[5] V. F. Perkins, “Vivre sa vie“, in Ian Cameron (ed), The Films of Jean-Luc Godard (London: Studio Vista, revised edition 1969), 32-9. Perez’s account of the film can in turn be usefully compared to Masson’s in Le récit au cinéma, 2-3, 57-60, 68-9, 87-9, 95-6, 111-5, 130-2.
[6] Nicole Brenez, “The ultimate journey: remarks on contemporary theory”, Screening The Past 2 (November 1997).
[7] James Naremore, “The material ghost: films and their medium”, Cineaste XXIV, no. 4 (1999): 56.
[8] James Morrison, “The material ghost: films and their medium “, Screen  40, no. 1 (Spring 1999): 109.
[9] Brenez
[10] On Ulee’s Gold , see Gilberto Perez, “L’or et le miel”, Trafic  28 (Hiver 1998): 20-9.
[11]  Chicago Reader,http://www.chireader.com/movies/archive.html, 13 June 1997 (Irma Vep); 14 May, 1999 (Lovers of the Arctic Circle).
[12] Morrison, 114.
[13] Morrison, 103.
[14] Morrison, 113-4.
[15] See, for instance, Dugald Williamson, Authorship and Criticism, Occasional Paper no. 7 (Sydney: Local Consumption, 1986).
[16] Mark Nicholls, “SomeThing for the man who has everything: melancholia and the films of Martin Scorsese”, in Katherine Biber, Tom Sear & Dave Trudinger (eds), Playing the Man: New Approaches to Masculinity (Annandale: Pluto Press, 1999), 40.
[17] For a diametrically opposed perspective on Screen in the 1970s, the international, intellectual community it helped forge, and the current relevance of that period’s legacy, cf. Janet Bergstrom’s introduction to her anthology, Endless Night: Cinema and Psychoanalysis, Parallel Histories (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
[18] Philip Lopate – in another recent book that feels a little like the simpler, less ambitious cousin to The Material Ghost, but formed inside much the same culture and sensibility – offers an even more candid and disarming admission: “It isn’t that I’m opposed to film theory; actually, I’ve read lots of it, and even been quite stimulated by it (when I wasn’t bored silly), but I can’t seem to make it a permanent part of my brain”. [Totally, Tenderly, Tragically: Essays and Criticism from a Lifelong Love Affair with the Movies (New York: Doubleday, 1998), xiii]
[19] (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998)
[20] Naremore, Cinéaste 1999, 56-7.

About the Author

Adrian Martin

About the Author


Adrian Martin

Adrian Martin is a film and arts critic based in Vilassar de Mar (Spain). He is the author of eight books on cinema, including the forthcoming essay collection Mysteries of Cinema (Amsterdam University Press). His ongoing archive website of film reviews, covering 40 years of writing, is at http://www.filmcritic.com.au.View all posts by Adrian Martin →