The Limina Award for Best International Film Studies Book is awarded by the Editorial Board of Cinéma&Cie. International Film Studies Journal on the occasion of the FilmForum festival
Noa Steimatsky, The Face on Film, Oxford University Press, 2017
The study through which the author brilliantly leads us develops through a persuasive theoretical reflection, a series of precise reconstructions of historical contexts and a number of exemplary case studies, chosen from cinematographic modernity and postmodernity, exploring the topic of facial representation on film. Going from Antonioni to Bresson, from Hitchcock and Warhol to Roland Barthes’ considerations on the close ups of the stars, this book demonstrates how the filmic image manifests a desire of complete legibility and transparency towards the human face, while paradoxically covering it with ambiguity and opacity. While the face on screen conjugates an immediate spectacular impact with a surprising aura of ineffability and reticence, the author gives us instead a rich and articulate contribution to reconsider and deepen our comprehension of such an important theme. For these reasons, the Limina Award for Best international film studies book is assigned to Noa Steimatsky for The Face on Film.
Anton Kaes, Nicholas Baer, Michael Cowan, The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory, 1907–1933, California University Press, Oakland 2016
From the early days of cinema, German thinkers and critics engaged enthusiastically in formulating ideas and raising questions in order to investigate and problematize this new form of expression. This vast realm of reflections is a goldmine that has remained for long almost ignored, but deserves indeed to be widely known and studied. Anton Kaes, Nicholas Baer and Micheal Cowan have gathered and edited with patience, philological consciousness and an extremely accurate archive research a vast corpus of articles and essays, mostly unknown, dating from 1907 to 1933, thus providing the reader with an exceptionally precious tool of knowledge and critical thinking for the story and the theory of film. Therefore, The Promise of Cinema offers a compelling new vision of film theory—not as a fixed body of canonical texts, but as a dynamic set of reflections on the very idea of cinema and the possibilities associated with it.
Francesco Casetti, The Lumière Galaxy. Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come, Columbia University Press, New York 2015
The Lumière Galaxy is a compelling, outstanding, and inspiring book on what cinema became today and what tomorrow may bring, and for many a reason. Among these, to be certainly named are its fertile conciseness, its brave openness to an upcoming, and yet unforeseeable future, and its refined style. The volume summons up an impressing range of theoretical references, putting in a productive tension classical and contemporary film theory, media studies and media archaeology, cultural and critical studies and poststructuralist thinkers. This swirling movement embraces also different cultural traditions, and builds a bridge between American and European reflection. It is no surprise that the work declared source of inspiration is Walter Benjamin, as his crucial notion of « dialectic image » might be considered in the case in point not only an abstract concept, but a very substantial way to approach and scrutinise contemporary media issues. Furthermore, The Lumière Galaxy faces openly the drastic changes cinema and its apparatuses underwent in recent times. While never overlooking such shifts, the book points out a persistence: despite transformations, cinema perpetuates its existence in a scattered way, bringing about new forms of viewing, screening, circulating, sharing. This new life is still cinematic, as a cinematic identity persists. The Lumière Galaxy takes up the gauntlet to understand and describe this multiple existence, and instead of giving in and looking in sorrow to a lost past, attempts at diagnosing a possible future. Finally, Francesco Casetti offers here an unequalled proof of the art of rhetorics, in the most noble meaning of the word. By choosing seven keywords to look at what is cinema today, seven concepts to talk about our cinematic experience today, he provides his readership with main entrances to understanding, and seven tools to grasp and define what the “homo cinematicus” is and will be.
Malte Hagener (ed. by), The Emergence of Film Culture: Knowledge Production, Institution Building, and the Fate of the Avant-garde in Europe, 1919-1945, Berghahn Books, New York-Oxford 2014
Michael Witt, Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian, Indiana University Press, 2013
If we think of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Histoire(s) du cinéma” not so much as an autonomous work of art but rather, as German critic Philip Stadelmaier suggests, as a long and learned commentary on the history of cinema, and if we think of the crititical commentary not just as an intellectual excercise but as the prolongation of the art work by other means, or rather as the “Vollendung des Kunstwerks”, as the German romantics would say, then Godard and his “Histoire(s) have found their match in Michael Witt ans his book “Jean-Luc Godard. Cinema Historian”. The fruit of a decades-long engagement with Godard’s most difficult and challenging works, Witt’s beautifully produced and profusely and intelligently illustrated book offers the most penetrating analysis of the “Histoire(s) du cinéma” to date and stands a model for learned commentary in film scholarship. “Vollendung des Kunstwerks” indeed.
Ramon Lobato, Shadow Economies of Cinema, BFI, London 2012
Shadow Economies of Cinema examines how films travel through time and space, both inside and outside established circuits of audiovisual trade. Combining industrial and cultural analysis, this book looks at distribution circuits from across the Americas, Africa and the Asia-Pacific, and explains how they shape film culture in their own image.
Miriam Hansen, Cinema and Experience. Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno, University of California, 2011
Miriam Hansen passed away after a long battle with cancer in February 2011, at the age of 61. The Limina Award 2012 conferred on her last book is also a posthumous homage for her whole work, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the development of cinema and media studies during the last two decades while she was professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago. Beginning with Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship and American Silent Film, published in 1991, she expanded film history, which traditionally had generally been limited to an analytic approach to film, by looking at (female) spectatorship and the cultural implications of early cinema. She defined cinema as a form of “vernacular modernism” comprising democratic and even subversive elements. Doing so she set a new standard for film historiography and film theory.
The award goes directly to her last book edited posthumously by Edward Dimenberg: Cinema and Experience. Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno. In this masterpiece she reconstructs the reflections of the three ‘founding fathers’ of the Frankfurt School and Critical Theory on mass media and cinema, bringing her analytic results together in highly original insights into media esthetics and the theory of experience. In a certain way this also represents a return to her origins: born in Offenbach in 1949, she studied at Frankfurt University during the turbulent times around 1970 and always kept the tradition of Critical Theory in mind.
Francois Albera, Maria Tortajada, Cinema Beyond Film. Media Epistemology in the Modern Era, Amsterdam University Press, 2010
Cinema Beyond Film elaborates on the theoretical uses of two key terms—dispositif and episteme—in order to examine their relationship as well as their larger connections to film, technology, and modernity. Although both terms originate in the work of Foucault, dispositif (“device”) intrinsically links itself to the mechanics of movement and speed behind cinematics, while more generally referring to the mechanisms and structures that hold power in place. Episteme (“to know”), on the other hand, refers to the conditions and possibilities of knowledge and reception, more than to technological innovation. Each term is explored here in relation to the other, allowing this edited collection to assess the wide array of potential materialities that arise from the mechanics behind cinema and the changing face of its technology.
Anton Kaes, Shell Shock Cinema. Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War, Princeton University Press, 2009
This work is the crowning achievement of Anton Kaes’ long-time interest for and deep research on Weimar cinema and culture. It offers a fresh perspective on those films and mediatic culture we believed to know in detail. At the same time with a theoretical and historiographic method, Kaes manages to marry two trends that nowadays often appear to have parted away. While Siegfried Kracauer related Weimar cinema to its aftermath in Nazism, Kaes moves in the opposite direction, evoking the foundational trauma of modernity, World War One, as a key influence on Weimar film fulture, therefore moving backwards, in order to open new, fascinating research areas and pathways.
András Bálint Kovács, Screening Modernism. European Art Cinema, 1950-1980, The University of Chicago Press, 2008
Casting fresh light on the renowned productions of auteurs like Antonioni, Fellini, and Bresson and drawing out from the shadows a range of important but lesser-known works, Screening Modernism is the first comprehensive study of European art cinema’s postwar heyday. Spanning from the 1950s to the 1970s, András Bálint Kovács’s encyclopedic work argues that cinematic modernism was not a unified movement with a handful of styles and themes but rather a stunning range of variations on the core principles of modern art. Illustrating how the concepts of modernism and the avant-garde variously manifest themselves in film, Kovács begins by tracing the emergence of art cinema as a historical category. He then explains the main formal characteristics of modern styles and forms as well as their intellectual foundation. Finally, drawing on modernist theory and philosophy along the way, he provides an innovative history of the evolution of modern European art cinema. Exploring not only modernism’s origins but also its stylistic, thematic, and cultural avatars, Screening Modernism ultimately lays out creative new ways to think about the historical periods that comprise this golden age of film.
Sylvie Lindeperg, Nuit et brouillard. Un film dans l’histoire, Odile Jacobs, 2007
“C’est par le cinéma que je sus que le pire venait juste d’avoir lieu “, écrivait le critique Serge Daney. Plus précisément, grâce à Nuit et Brouillard, le film d’Alain Resnais sorti en 1956. Walter Benjamin incitait l’historien à “découvrir dans l’analyse du petit moment singulier le cristal de l’événement total”. C’est ce que propose Sylvie Lindeperg dans cette microhistoire du court-métrage qui a marqué profondément notre imaginaire des camps nazis. À partir d’archives inédites, elle reconstitue la genèse et les enjeux du film. Elle s’interroge sur les lectures et les usages, parfois inattendus ou contradictoires, dont Nuit et Brouillard a fait l’objet en France comme à l’étranger. Elle retrace le destin singulier de ce “lieu de mémoire” en suivant l’évolution des regards portés sur les images et sur l’événement depuis cinquante ans. Elle pose, dans toute son actualité, la question du rapport entre l’archive et la représentation des camps.
Thomas Elsaesser, European Cinema. Face to Face with Hollywood, Amsterdam University Press, 2006
Has European cinema, in the age of globalization, lost contact not only with the world at large, but with its own audiences? Between the thriving festival circuit and the obligatory late-night television slot, is there still a public or a public sphere for European films? Can the cinema be the appropriate medium for a multicultural Europe and its migrating multitudes?
Is there a division of representational labor, with Hollywood providing stars and spectacle, the Asian countries exotic color and choreographed action, and Europe a sense of history, place and memory? This collection of essays by an acclaimed film scholar examines how independent filmmaking in Europe has been reinventing itself since the 1990s, faced by renewed competition from Hollywood and the challenges posed to national cinemas by the fall of the Wall in 1989.
Elsaesser reassesses the debates and presents a broader framework for understanding the forces at work since the 1960s. These include the interface of “world cinema” and the rise of Asian cinemas, the importance of the international film festival circuit, the role of television, and the changing aesthetics of auteur cinema. New audiences have different allegiances, and new technologies enable networks to reshape identities, but European cinema still has an important function in setting critical and creative agendas, even as its economic and institutional bases are in transition.
David Bordwell, Figures Traced in Light, University of California Press, 2005
Un film racconta la sua storia non solo attraverso il dialogo e le performance degli attori ma anche attraverso il controllo del movimento e della fotografia da parte del regista. Figures Traced in Light è una dettagliata considerazione di come lo stage cinematico supporta la storia, esprime le emozioni e come conduce lo spettatore attraverso composizioni pittoriche.