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Jose Arroyo (University of Warwick) Queer Cinema and Cultural Translation: Almodóvar’s The Law of Desire (1987)
Law of Desire is a gay triangle in the melodramatic mode but shot through with camp so as to be both distancing and emotionally involving, eliciting laughter AND tears. It is a landmark film in the lgbtq cannon, eschewing any reference to the AIDS pandemic which blighted so many lives in the 80s and 90s, but embodying fluid and inclusive representations of gender and desire that predate — and are much more optimistic and cheerful than — the New Queer Cinema that would quickly follow. How does such a film become one of the most popular films of its year in a country only recently out of a dictatorship that proscribed rigid gender roles and forbade the representation of homosexuality except in the most coded and derisory ways? In this talk I will talk about the film’s opening scene and how it creates a particular ‘primacy’ effect that sets and negotiates a horizon of expectations; I will explore the film’s structure and how it re-distributes characteristics inverting the expected, the effects of the casting on the reading of key roles, how camp in the film functions to convey meaning and feeling, and the way these different elements were variously understood in a Spanish Context and in a broadly Anglo-American context. Lastly, I will at least question how processes of culture translation occur not only between and amongst cultures but also between past and present.
Dr. Ho Lok Victor Fan (Kings College London ) Free-Indirect-Discourse Reboot: Beijing Queer Independent Cinema as a Mediating Environment
In my presentation, I will first introduce the background of queer independent filmmaking in Beijing––in theory and practice––and its uneasy, if not outright antagonistic, relationship with a state authority that has compelled filmmakers, festival curators, and critics to rethink and reconstruct queer cinema, as what Weihong Bao would call a mediating environment. I will then turn to two films made by Kokoka, Huoxing zonghezheng (Martian Syndrome, 2013) and Canfei kehuan (Deformity Sci-fi, 2013). I argue that these two films exemplify a cinematic experience that refuses to ground itself in any form of subjective positionality; yet in so doing, the cinematographic image oddly embodies a highly subjective sensorium of someone who has lived through such experiences of physical and social violence. Such a strategy resonates with what Pier Paolo Pasolini would call a free-indirect discourse, i.e. a poetry of im-signs that defies grammatical logic, yet derived from the unconscious deposit of fear, anxiety, desire and pleasure, which directly engages the spectators to work through their sociopolitical traumas. By reconfiguring queer cinema as a free-indirect discourse, these films critique the conflicting senses of fear, alienation, nihilism, self-hate and sadomasochism of those queer subjects under state violence and surveillance. In so doing, they make visible, or in fact, sensible, the dispositif that informs the spectators’ sense certainty, allowing them to rewrite the established understanding between the sociopolitical norm and queerness.
Dr. Robin Griffiths (University of Gloucestershire) – Just anotherWeekend in the country? Landscaping identity in contemporary British queer cinema
This presentation will draw from ongoing research that explores the place of contemporary British-based queer film-making in an era wherein the struggles and oppressions that were so key to the radical currency of earlier work, apparently no longer hold the same cultural and political charge. In what way did the characteristically defiant eroticism and renewed sexual politics of British queer cinema throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, shape the direction of a new cycle of films that has recently emerged from within a contemporary milieu seemingly steeped in the neoliberal politics of ‘homonormativity’? And more specifically, how does the “very British” yet decidedly bleak poetic realism of such acclaimed films as Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011) or Francis Lee’s God’s Own County (2017), for example, not only ‘remap’ notions of queer identity, desire and the politics of screen representation, but more importantly, proffer some productive new parameters for further research towards the critical and conceptual development of a queer historiography of British cinema.
About the speakers:
Jose Arroyo is Principal Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick. He is co-founder of The Montreal Mirror and was awarded the AQEC-Oliveri Prize for Best Text Written on Film in 1989 for ‘John Grierson and the War for Men’s Minds’. He has been a columnist on gay culture for Angles in Vancouver and ‘The Wide Lens’ column for The Conversation. He has contributed film criticism to a range of media outlets including Sight and Sound magazine, Front Row on Radio 4, The Cinema Show/ The DVD Collection for BBC TV and many others. He is the author of Action/Spectacle: A Sight and Sound Reader (ed.) (London, BFI, 2000) and currently blogs on film and culture at Notesonfilm1.com
Dr. Victor Fan is Senior Lecturer at Film Studies, King’s College London and Film Consultant of the Chinese Visual Festival. His articles appeared in journals including Camera Obscura, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Screen and Film History: An International Journal.His book Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theorywas published in 2015 by the University of Minnesota Press.
Dr. Robin Griffiths is Postgraduate Research Lead and Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the School of Liberal and Performing Arts, University of Gloucestershire. He is the editor of British Queer Cinema (Routledge, 2006) and Queer Cinema in Europe (Intellect, 2008).