From the Editors, October 2016
At the 65th Melbourne International Film Festival in August 2016, a group of film critics discussed the past, present and future of cinephilia as part of a panel titled "What next, Cinephilia?" In this panel, UK critic David Jenkins was questioned about the opportunities of the digital era. In his response, he spoke to valuing new forms of criticism, especially when they are open to "different sorts of voices" and when "the form of film criticism can expand." This is what we aim for at Peephole Journal.
Since launching in 2013, Peephole Journal has pushed the boundaries of screen criticism by experimenting with ways of thinking and writing about the screen. In 2016, we welcomed two new editors into the fold as Belinda Glynn and Kate Warren joined founding editor Whitney Monaghan. We are incredibly excited to be working together to continue this project of experimentation, innovation and creativity. We’re certainly continuing to test the limits of criticism and have compiled a stellar issue for Peephole Journal #5!
Peephole Journal believes in the expansive possibilities for criticism that can be generated by beginning with a short, singular filmic moment. Even within a single film, the number of such potential moments can be broad, diverse and numerous. In this way, it is fitting that for our fifth issue, the range of articles published cover an incredibly diverse range of screen texts. Beginning their discussions with a single shot, the contributors carefully consider the interplay between elements of the frame.
Michelle Holden and Ruth Richards both consider examples that involve relations between humans, animals, nature (specifically the marine environment), and our attempts to represent these relations visually. Holden frames her article around a sensorial image of water upturned. Her discussion of Leviathan (Lucien Castain-Taylor & Verena Paravel, 2012) considers how such a sight is made possible by new technology and she examines the pleasures of getting lost in this new visual field. Richards analyses that arresting moment in Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard, 2012) where Marion Collitard stands in front of a whale tank, signalling to an orca. Richards' article evokes the connection and disconnection between animals and humans at the heart of Audiard's film.
Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Christian B. Long both consider works by iconic Hollywood directors, Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton, respectively. Heller-Nicholas once described criticism as "writing through the gut" and that is certainly what her piece does, as she muses on the lingering power of art across media. Connecting her experiences of the iconic trailer of Kubrick's The Shining (1980) and Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals (1958–9), Heller-Nicholas considers the affective power of the moment of art, rendered “sensorially intelligible and intellectually incomprehensible.” Long also makes fascinating connections between two different visual examples. He considers Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985) as an early example of Burton's suburban gothic signature, arguing that his identified scene perfectly explains why the then relatively unknown filmmaker was the logical choice to direct the later blockbuster, Batman (1989).
Although their choice of screen texts differ in medium and are separated by over six decades, Rachel Bellwoar and David Verdeure's articles are linked by the common theme of wind. Bellwoar's engaging discussion of SundanceTV's Rectify considers the figure of the inflatable air dancer in relation to a central character being tugged between past and present, acceptance and ostracism, homecoming and departure. Verdeure's article takes a slightly different approach, being framed around a cinemagraph rather than a gif. His image captures the subtle movement of Joan Fontaine's hair blowing in the wind in Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948), highlighting this as the most striking and telling motif in the film, despite its otherwise grandness of scale.
Finally, Robert Mills draws our attention to the possibilities for momentary (but powerful) establishment of complex political agendas. In his analysis of Stephen Winter's Chocolate Babies (1997), Mills highlights how the film responds to the white, middle class framing of the AIDS epidemic with "a powerful agenda of black queer militancy."
We hope you find this diverse set of articles to be entertaining and thought provoking. Our next issue will be festively themed around Christmas. Please check out our Call for Contributors and get in touch with us if you would like to contribute. We would love to hear from you.
Belinda, Kate & Whitney