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The University of Southampton
Centre for International Film Research

CIFR ll - Performing Film Event

10:30 - 17:30
17 June 2017
The Cinema Museum Dugard Way London SE11 4TH

For more information regarding this event, please email Dr Beth Carroll at .

Event details

We’re pleased to invite you to the University of Southampton’s second CIFR (Centre for International Film Research) event run by the Film Department. The event, titled Performing Film, takes place at the Cinema Museum, London. The day explores the different ways that audiences and performers can interact and engage with film, questioning notions of the ‘original,’ fidelity and truthfulness. The event is free and open to all.

Draft Schedule

10:30 – 10:45 : Registration

10:45 – 11:00 : Welcome

11:00 – 12:30 : Panel I – Today’s Sounds for Yesterday’s Films

12:30 – 1:30 : Lunch

1:30 – 14:30 : Film screening

14:30 – 15:00 – Tea Break

15:00 – 16:30: Panel 2 – Performance, Truth, & Post-Truth

16:30 – Concluding discussion

17:00 - To the pub!

Abstracts for Research Talks

Flog It: Performance anxiety and neoliberalism in contemporary Hollywood

Dr Louis Bayman

This paper will consider film texts in relation to the developing critique of neoliberal subjectivities. It distinguishes a group of Hollywood films from the last two years including Steve Jobs, Gone Girl, Joy, Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, Whiplash, Birdman, Her, The Neon Demon, Money Monster and Fifty Shades of Grey, which, despite their differences, each broach topical issues of pleasure, work and sexual politics in ways which engage with experiences of neoliberalism in mainstream, quality cinema. Each of the films feature characters employed in some kind of performance-based role (in the media, sport or entertainment) through which are staged abusive or exploitative relationships. The paper will consider these films in light of recent understandings of neoliberalism which focus on how the self is performed according to ideals of self-realization and subject to internalised forms of discipline, productivity and above all competition. Drawing especially on Philip Mirowski’s notions of ‘everyday neoliberalism’ and on ideas of governmentality, the paper will seek ultimately to discuss the films as dramatic realisations of dynamics that are coming to be accepted as central to our current social system.

Soviet Fidelity and the Pet Shop Boys

Dr Beth Carroll

Through a focus on reviews of the Pet Shop Boys’ soundtrack album to Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) alongside reviews of their live performance, which accompanied screenings of the film, this paper will explore issues surrounding the notion of fidelity. It will examine whether there were any differences in reception between the album as a standalone creative work and when accompanied by the film and experienced as an audio-visual event. It will place the reviewers’ discourse within the context of Eisenstein’s own writings on sound, issues of adaptation and the understanding of the canon. These theories of adaptation will explore how meaning and representation is ‘transcoded’ (Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation) from the visual to the aural realm. I will argue that the soundtrack’s musical style illustrates a parallel between the Pet Shop Boys’ music more widely (and the soundtrack more specifically) and the thematic and aesthetic qualities of not only Battleship Potemkin but also Eisenstein’s filmography more generally. Comparisons between reviews of the album as standalone material and as a soundtrack highlight the accessing of different discourses and priorities by critics that I will elucidate. Finally, using both critical material and an interview with the Pet Shop Boys, I will address the question: to what should the Pet Shop Boys remain ‘faithful’?

Blind Musicianship and Film

Dr K. J. Donnelly

Silent cinema has become more prominent than it had been since the 1920s. Festivals and archival showing abound, and silent films are part of education, entertainment and art. Since the millennium a culture has burgeoned, that of providing new music for old silent films. This proliferation of new music for silent film in some cases utterly ignores traditions and aesthetic requirements. This presentation will include some original musical accompaniment to a film, as illustrative of processes currently evident and poetic options available for the marriage of new music and old silent film.

Cowboys, Beggars and the Deep Ellum Blues: Playing Authentic to Silent Films

Dr. Michael Hammond

With the recovery and restoration of silent films over the past decades has come the challenge of providing live musical accompaniment. Should musicians address their contemporary audience or try to offer an ‘authentic’ experience? In this paper I will combine my experience of playing to silent films with my work on cinema culture and audiences to address the implications of having a sense of the historical contexts of the films and their original performance conditions and approaches has for the live performance to silent cinema in the early Twenty-first century. In the 1920s recommendations for the appropriate musical accompaniment to films found in the trade press indicate that there was a divergent range of experiences in the cinemas across the United States. There is a rich diversity of music evident by virtue of what these contemporary critics and advisors are condemning. The Palace and The Grand Central movie theatres in the section of Dallas Texas known as Deep Ellum was itself a combination of rural and urban blues, jazz and hokum styles that existed in a communal dialogue that criss-crossed each other and this musical and performance ‘landscape’ gives some indication of the probablechoices the musicians made to accompany the films. In the 1920s Chicago acts such as like Duke Ellington and Ida Cox also played Deep Ellum’s vaudeville theatres and dance halls. By focusing on the African American entertainment culture in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas Texas this paper seeks to revive these historical experiences from the secret history that the standardising discourse of regulation suppressed.

Performing Bodies in the Documentary Films of Asif Kapadia

Adam Vaughan

This paper will examine the different ways performance can be understood in two types of documentary film; those that feature sports and music subjects. Senna (2010) and Amy (2015), two films by British-Iranian director Asif Kapadia, serve as case studies through which issues related to the performing body and how one measures performance differently in each film will be discussed.

Amy has as its subject someone who is defined by her ability to engage in a direct performance. The documentary goes to great lengths to explain how Winehouse’s performance style makes her ‘special’ or ‘a star’. The quality of each performance is therefore inextricably bound to the singer’s worth or identity. Performance means something different in Senna. Whereas musical performers engage in what we might call qualitative performance, where they seek to create a particular effect, we could say that sports personalities perform quantitatively, that is, measured against a set of values that will determine if they succeed or fail.

Therefore, each film’s narrative centres on the performing body as a site of value and pain. The way Kapadia represents his documentary subjects can be seen as a commentary on how identity is commodified in contemporary society.

‘I  dream in #mycalvins’: Sculptural Longing and Celebrity Poses from Gloria Swanson to Justin Bieber

Dr Michael Williams

Calvin Klein’s Spring 2016 advertising campaign prominently featured musician Justin Bieber in one of two images in which the models were posed next to classical sculpture. Beneath the tagline ‘I flaunt in #mycalvins’, Bieber leans against a female classical nude, echoing her pose. While serving their function as ephemeral advertising, it is the juxtaposition of modern and ancient idols that interests me. This taps into a long nostalgic tradition of placing contemporary figures on a pedestal – literal or figurative – that frames them within the reflected past. In many of these images, the past is embodied by sculpture, a remnant whose patinated survival from the past adds cultural aura to the present. The same mechanism has been operating within Hollywood stardom since the silent era. As well as providing mythic inspiration for its narratives, and Pygmalionesque metaphors that speak of cinema’s ability to bring the past ‘to life’, the ancient world could provide a readymade discourse of ‘gods and goddesses’, to promote its stars to fans as symbols of desire and aspiration.

This paper traces a backwards chronology from the images of Bieber to explore the nostalgic relationship to the past that underscores similar star images from earlier eras. I discuss a series of images ranging from the present day back to the likes of the Apolline Olympian body promoted by American swimmer and star Buster Crabbe in the 1930s, and Gloria Swanson’s poses with a statuette of the Venus de Milo in the 1920s. The paper draws from archival research into film fan-magazines, as well as advertising and other online promotional material. These sources also tell us about the modern world’s performance of the past, in often implicit and oblique ways, a cultural history that is filtered through innumerable receptions and mediations on its way to us.

Run by the Film department at the University of Southampton, the Centre for International Film Research (CIFR) is a research centre that provides an interdisciplinary forum for research into film. The CIFR showcases the university’s research excellence while engaging wider communities through public events, visiting speakers and research initiatives.

For details of CIFR’s inaugural event, ‘Border Crossings’, held in July 2016 click here

For information about CIFR’s research seminar series click here

For information about CIFR members’ research click here

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