Descriptions of new books relating to moving images go up on the Books pages all the time.
Today, for instance, new July 2011 books are summarized that deal with film and Canadian national identity, animation and comedy in Hollywood, and images of black masculinity in television.
Some of the additions to the pages are for books that are not brand new, but new enough. One such entry, today, is for a fascinating book that appeared back in April, The Filming of Modern Life: European Avant-Garde Film of the 1920s, by Malcolm Turvey (MIT Press). The professor of film history at Sarah Lawrence College, editor of October, and author of Doubting Vision: Film and the Revelationist Tradition writes of the European avant-garde’s embrace of cinema in the 1920s. He examines such painters as Hans Richter and Fernand Leger and their collaborations with filmmakers from such movements as Dada and surrealism. He focuses on the nature and affiliations of five films from the avant-garde canon: Rhythm 21 (Hans Richter, 1921), Ballet mecanique (Dudley Murphy and Fernand Léger, 1924), Entr’acte (Francis Picabia and René Clair, 1924), Un chien Andalou (Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel, 1929), and Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929). He explains their relations to the dislocations of modernization.
Turvey’s previous book, Doubting Vision: Film and the Revelationist Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2008), argued that the film theories of Jean Epstein, Dziga Vertov, Béla Balázs, and Siegfried Kracauer constituted a tradition – revelationism – distinct from modernism and realism. Turvey will spend academic 2011-12 as a fellow at The Stanford Humanities Center at Stanford University researching and writing another book, Play Time: Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism, which looks like being the first book about the films of Jacques Tati (1907-1982) by an English-language scholar in over 25 years. It will analyze Tati’s aesthetic as a response to then-modern life and focus on Tati’s innovative synthesis of his modernist aesthetic and comedian comedy.
Turvey, who is an editor of MIT Press’s quarterly arts journal October, is also working with NYU’s Richard Allen on a book about “film and mind,” examining the tradition of theorizing about their relations. According to a Sarah Lawrence College statement, Turvey and Allen “excavate this tradition and point out its flaws, such as the loose nature of the analogies that are drawn between film and mental phenomena.” They also try “to clarify certain core psychological concepts in film theory, drawing on the ordinary-language philosophical tradition of Wittgenstein, Austin, and Ryle. They define terms such as ‘imagination,’ ‘see,’ and ‘think’ – concepts which most film theorists misunderstand and misuse.”