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Congrats to the class of 2021!

Congratulations to our graduating Film Studies minors! This has been a exciting and challenging journey–this past year all the more challenging. We’re very proud of all of you, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Derek Ali
Wyatt Barczak
Haley Beckel
Lauren Bell
Mat Caceres
Rachel Foertsch
Jack Hamilton
Alex Katsanis
Lauren Lozano
Aidan Tourney
Violet West

Citizen Kane’s 100% Positive Status on Rotten Tomatoes ruined…by an 80 Year-Old Review

You may have seeing this story going around online. Rotten Tomatoes aggregates movie reviews (with what it calls its “Tomatometer”) and scores titles accordingly. For who knows how long, Orson Welles’s debut as a Hollywood director, the widely lauded (and widely taught) Citizen Kane (1941) has enjoyed a perfect score of 100%. That is, until someone posted a not-so-enthusiastic review that was published in the Chicago Tribune in 1941. The reviewer, going by the a-bit-too-cute pseudonym Mae Tinee, praised Welles’s acting, but said “meh” about everything else. The lighting was depressing (“I kept wishing they’d let a little sunshine in”), even a little creepy. On the whole, writes Mae Tinee, the film lacks “general entertainment value.”


Chirarscuro lighting in Citizen Kane, designed, very likely, by cinematographer Gregg Toland, in collaboration with Welles

This is actually not the first bad review of Citizen Kane to have an impact on the film’s reputation. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre had seen the film during a visit to New York City. Upon his return to Paris, he presented his opinion in the pages of the journal L’Ecran Français under the title “Quand Hollywood veut faire penser…Citizen Kane d’Orson Welles” (“When Hollywood Wants to Make Us Think…Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane). Wrote Sartre: “Kane might have been interesting for the Americans, [but] it is completely passé for us, because the whole film is based on a misconception of what cinema is all about. The film is in the past tense, whereas we all know that cinema has got to be in the present tense. ‘I am the man who is kissing, I am the girl who is being kissed, I am the Indian who is being pursued, I am the man pursuing the Indian.’ And film in the past tense is the antithesis of cinema. Therefore Citizen Kane is not cinema.”

When Sartre published his review in 1945, Citizen Kane had not yet been screened in Paris, because during WWII, occupying Germany had banned Hollywood films. So when it finally premiered in Paris in the summer of 1946, professional critics naturally sided with Sartre. Citizen Kane didn’t stand a chance.


Jean-Paul Sartre

It wasn’t until French film critic André Bazin began showing Citizen Kane in ciné clubs throughout Paris, following each screening with a passionate defense of the film (in particular, its use of deep focus photography–a technique in which objects in the foreground, middle ground, and background are equally in focus), that people began to open their eyes (and minds) and realize what an extraordinary achievement Kane is.

In an essay entitled “The Technique of Citizen Kane,” published in 1947 in the journal Les Temps Modernes, an exasperated Bazin writes: “Well, then, let’s talk once more about Citizen Kane. Today, as the last echoes from the critics seem to have faded away, we can take stock of their judgments.” He then went on to respond, one by one, to each point Kane‘s detractors had leveled, and he eviscerated them all. In regards to the criticism that Welles’s use of deep-focus photography was nothing new, that Keaton used it long before Welles did, Bazin reminded his readers that Keaton filmed outdoors. Kane, however, was shot on a sound stage at the RKO studio lot, which was not conducive to shooting in depth–it required special lighting, extra high speed film, and the wide angle lens of the new Mitchell BNC motion picture camera, which few in Hollywood, besides Toland, had any interest in using.


Toland (left) and Welles (right) on the set of Citizen Kane

Thanks to Bazin’s tireless efforts, the reputation of Citizen Kane–and Orson Welles–soared among critics and moviegoers. In France, at least. It would take another couple of decades before Kane was appreciated in the United States. Upon its initial release, RKO did little to promote the film, fearing backlash from the powerful newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, upon whom the tragically flawed character of Charles Foster Kane was modeled. The film went into relative obscurity.

But by the late 1960s and early 1970s, Citizen Kane began to emerge from obscurity, thanks in part to American film critic Andrew Sarris, who brought French film criticism into vogue. Kane was especially popular among college students, as the film was screened on campuses across the country. Its cult status was not lost on cartoonist Charles Schultz, who devoted a number of panels to the film. In the September 12, 1971 Sunday strip, Snoopy, posing as the hipster “Joe Cool,” stops by a student union bulletin board to check out the campus events and sees an ad for a screening of Citizen Kane (“I’ve only seen it twenty-three times,” he says to himself).


Snoopy as “Joe Cool” in Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts”

Today, Citizen Kane is no longer just a French thing (like Jerry lewis or Mickey Rourke), nor is it a cult favorite (like, say, Welles’s other masterpiece, the 1958 noir-thriller Touch of Evil). It is rightly recognized as a landmark achievement in movie history–“a dialectical leap forward in the evolution of the language of cinema,” as Bazin put it. Only Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 romance-thriller Vertigo is regarded more highly than Kane. It stole the #1 spot from Kane in the BFI’s 2012 list of the 100 Greatest Films of All Time (the next BFI list is due in 2022–we’ll see if Kane stays at #2).

One wonders if the true identity of that lone Rotten Tomatoes reviewer will ever be revealed. Who knows? Maybe Mae Tinee was none other than…Jean-Paul Sartre.

 

Congratulations to Chloé Zhao, the first woman of color to win the Oscar for Best Director (“Nomadland”).

Chloé Zhao was the first woman of color to win the Oscar for Best Director, with her 2020 film Nomadland. She was only the second woman in history to receive the award (Kathryn Bigelow won in 2010 for The Hurt Locker). In addition to Best Director, Zhao earned an Oscar for Best Picture, along with her co-producers, including Frances McDormand, who also won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Zhao’s win was celebrated throughout China (her native country) before all social media posts were deleted by the Chinese government. During her acceptance speech, Zhao said “This is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves and to hold onto the goodness in each other.” In her acceptance speech for Best Actress, Frances McDormand urged everyone to see all the nominated films on the biggest screen possible, when it is finally safe to do so. Amen to both.

In Memoriam: Richard Nunan, Professor of Philosophy, Gender Studies, and Film Studies

It is with great sadness to post here the news of the passing of Dr. Richard Nunan, Professor of Philosophy, Gender Studies, and Film Studies. Richard was a valued member of the Film Studies roster faculty, and he regularly offered courses on Philosophy & Film, and Queer Looks: Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Portrayals in the Cinema. His passion for film was infectious, and his courses were favorites among our film students. He was also an incredibly passionate advocate of fairness and equity here at the College, as well as a leading voice in faculty self-governance–a true Lion of the Senate, so to speak. I include below the moving statement from Dr. Larry Krasnoff, Chair of the Department of Philosophy:

It is my very sad duty to report that my friend and colleague Richard Nunan, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, died last night. He had been ill with brain cancer since early last summer, and retired from the College in December 2020.

Richard came to the College in 1984, and taught here for 36 years. Though his parents were Irish, he grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. He received his B.A. in mathematics from Vassar College and his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He specialized in political philosophy and especially philosophy of law, and he served as the editor of the American Philosophical Association’s newsletter on philosophy of law for many years. But his scholarship was wide-ranging: his more than 35 published articles also included significant essays in gender studies and in film studies.

His teaching was equally versatile. Though he was happy to teach philosophy of law, he was just as happy to teach classes on such topics as symbolic and modal logic, the representation of LGBT individuals in film, medieval philosophy, and time travel in philosophy, physics, and film. He taught for many years in the Honors Western Civilization colloquium, and there lectured frequently not just on moral and political philosophy but also on the history and philosophy of science.

Richard’s record of service was extensive. He served as chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, as interim chair of the Department of Religious Studies, as pre-law advisor, and as chair of seven different faculty committees. On all of these committees, as a faculty senator, and as the AAUP representative, he was a tireless advocate for the quality of our institution and the importance of shared governance.

In everything he talked and wrote about, Richard combined a skeptical realism about how institutions actually work with an unstinting idealism about how they ought to work. It was an unsettling combination, and Richard was unsparing when things fell short of moral standards, as they so often do. But for all of that, Richard was one of the gentlest and kindest men I have ever met. His contributions to our program and our institution were extraordinary, and he will be very badly missed.

Richard is survived by his wife, Victoria West, his two daughters, Rebecca and Alix, and Rebecca’s husband and children. Given the ongoing pandemic, there are no immediate plans for a memorial service. Contributions in Richard’s memory should be sent to the Scholarship Enrichment Fund here at the College. Notes to Victoria should be sent to 612 McCants Drive, Mt. Pleasant SC 29464.

Schedule of Summer 2021 Courses

Here’s a preliminary list of courses offered Summer 2021 that will count toward FMST credit. Click highlighted text for course description (if available). Check back frequently for updates and additions.

ENGL 212
Cinema: History & Criticism*
Dr. Glenn
Maymester
ONLINE

CLAS 270.01
Classics in Cinema**
Dr. Zeiner-Carmichael
Maymester
ONLINE
CLAS 270.02
Classics in Cinema**
Dr. Zeiner-Carmichael
Maymester
ONLINE
RELS 280
Religion & Film***
Dr. Siegler
TR 11:00 – 12:15
Maymester
ONLINE
LTRS 270
Studies in Russian Film**
Dr. Erman
Maymester
ONLINE

* meets the requirement for Cluster 1 of the FMST minor
** meets the requirement for Cluster 2 of the FMST minor
*** meets the requirement for Cluster 3 of the FMST minor

The Gibbes Museum of Art Announces Its Film in Focus Series, Beginning March 25

The Gibbes Museum of Art will launch its “Film in Focus” series tomorrow (Thursday, March 25) at 6:00pm with a screening of A Streetcar Named Desire (dir. Elia Kazan, 1951). Advertised as a limited engagement film series focusing on representations of the Southern Gothic in cinema, Film in Focus will continue April 22 with Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991). The screenings will be held in the spacious lecture hall with socially distanced seating. Masks will be required. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $5 for students and faculty with valid ID.

A Streetcar Named Desire was a breakout film for Marlon Brando, who plays Stanley Kowalski, the flawed hero of Tennessee Williams’s award-winning Broadway play. Set in the French Quarter in New Orleans, this Southern Gothic also stars Vivien Leigh (star of another well-known Southern Gothic, Gone With the Wind) as Blanche DuBois, Kim Hunter as Stella, and Karl Malden as Mitch. The film earned a whopping 12 Academy Award nominations, with four wins, including Best Actress (Leigh), Best Supporting Actress (Hunter), and Best Supporting Actor (Malden).

Congratulations to Our Colleague Giovanna De Luca, Who Has Been Promoted to Full Professor!

Giovanna De Luca, Associate Professor and Director of the Italian Studies Program, and our colleague in Film Studies (have you taken her “Mafia and Movies” class yet?), has been promoted to full Professor! The promotion will take effect beginning in August. Giovanna arrived at the college in 2004, and quickly transformed it into a hub of Italian and Italian American culture. In particular, she founded the Italian Film Festival, now known as Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival–a regular recipient of grant support from multiple organizations, including the Henry and Sylvia Yaschik Foundation and the Humanities Council of South Carolina. She regularly offers courses in Italian cinema, including the aforementioned “Mafia and Movies.” Her publications include numerous scholarly essays, a book on the Mafia in Italian cinema and television, and a co-authored book on the contemporary cinema of Naples. A well-deserved recognition of her tireless and invaluable contributions to the College, and to her field. BRAVISSIMA!

Giovanna with Bill Murray, at the Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival

Oscar Nominations Released, With Two Women Nominated for Best Director for the First Time

Whether or not you’re into awards season (Golden Globes, Grammys, Oscars, etc.), it does give everyone an opportunity to discuss diversity and inclusion–or lack thereof (the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which oversees the Golden Globes, recently stated that it has not had any Black members in over two decades). This year, the Oscar nominees for Best Director include, for the first time ever, two women. In its long history, the Academy has nominated just five women for Best Director: Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1976), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), Sophia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003), Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2009), and Great Gerwig for Lady Bird (2017). Only Bigelow has won the award. This year, the Academy has nominated Chloé Zhao (Nomdaland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) for Best Director, and they are among a group of five nominees total–the others include male directors Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round, David Fincher for Mank, and Lee Isaac Chung for Minari. Arguably the most diverse selection of Best Directors in the Academy’s history. You can read more about the selection here. The Oscars ceremony is April 25.

Schedule of Fall 2021 Film Courses

Here’s a preliminary list of courses offered Fall 2021 that will count toward FMST credit. Please check back frequently for updates/changes. Click highlighted text for course description (if available).

ENGL 212.01
Cinema: History & Criticism*
Dr. Bruns
TR 10:50 – 12:05
RSS 251

ENGL 212.02
Cinema: History & Criticism*
Dr. Bruns
TR 12:15 -1:30
RSS 251
ENGL 212.03
Cinema: History & Criticism*
Dr. Glenn
MW 2:00 – 3:15
RSS 235
ENGL 212.05
Cinema: History & Criticism*
Dr. Glenn
MW 3:30 – 4:45
RSS 235
ENGL 351
Studies in American Film:
Hollywood Genres*
Dr. Bruns
TR 1:40 -2:55
RSS 251

ENGL 390
Special Topics in Film:
Slow Cinema***
Dr. Glenn
ONLINE
COMM 410
Special Topics: Examining
Hollywood Film***
Caroline Guthrie
MWF 12:00  – 12:50
M 1:00 – 1:50
RSS 103
The pre-req for this course
may be waived

FREN 335
Interpreting French
Literature and Film**
MWF 1:00  – 1:50
Katharine Hargrave
Room TBA
This course is taught in French
GRMN 390
Special Topics: Understanding
20th Century German
History through Popular Culture: Songs,
Television, and Film**
MW 3:25 – 4:40
Ruth Damwerth
MYBK 222
This course is taught in German
GRST 271
German Cinema in Exile:
Film Noir
**
MW 3:25 – 4:40
Dr. Nenno
JSC 237

LACS 332
Latin American Politics
and Society in Film**
Dr. Carillo-Arciniega
TR 10:50 – 12:05
ONLINE
LTIT 370
Studies in Italian Cinema:
Politics and Ideology
**
Katherine Greenberg
MW 3:25 – 4:40
Bell 412
LTPO 270
Studies in Brazilian Film**
Dr. Moreira
TR 1:40 – 2:55
LONG 336
THTR 350
Selected Topics in
Communication Production:
Screenwriting I***
Rodney Paul Rogers
TR 9:25 – 10:40
ONLINE

THTR 488
Selected Topics II:
Lit & Criticism: Screenwriting II***
Rodney Paul Rogers
TR 10:50 – 12:05
ONLINE

* meets the requirement for Cluster 1 of the FMST minor
** meets the requirement for Cluster 2 of the FMST minor
*** meets the requirement for Cluster 3 of the FMST minor

Announcing the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Grant, Application Deadline is March 1

The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum offers filmmakers an $8,000 grant to develop a documentary, narrative, fiction, or non-fiction film that explores some aspect of the Italian American experience. News of the grant came to us in Film Studies late, as the deadline to apply is March 1. But if you have a project in mind, there’s reason not to apply. The Russo Brothers have impressive resumés. Anthony Russo has directed several films for Marvel, including Avengers: Endgame (2019) which he co-directed with his brother, Joe Russo. For more information (application instructions, etc.), click here.