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Marcia Landy on “Whose Eyes Are These?” Aesthetics and Politics in the Cinema of Alexander Sokurov
“Whose Eyes Are These?” Aesthetics and Politics in the Cinema of Alexander Sokurov
The biofilm has become a medium to explore conceptions of the self in post-realist media production. Philosophical, aesthetic, and affective encounters with cinema have largely laid naturalism and traditional historicizing to rest. This post-realist cinema blurs boundaries between biography and autobiography through different circuits of time, space, language, and sensation both visible and auditory. Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark (2002) and his “tetralogy of power” in Moloch 1999, Taurus (2001), The Sun (2005), and Faust (2011) are interventions in the form and content of biofilms. He alters the ritualistic conventions of the elegiac form in relation to the dying and the dead to investigate these figures of power through their private lives, portraying their lapse into “senility or a second childhood.” Sokurov's use of himself as auteur is evident through the use of ekphrasis, visually in painting and aurally in voiceover and music, to create an extravagance of detail and vividness in representation, and especially in the use of surrogates, in his own words, to “assume the perspective of a character . . . as a roundabout connection with my own perspective as author.” His conception of history challenges conventional treatments of time, past, present, and future.
Dr. Marcia Landy is Distinguished Professor Emerita in English/Film Studies with a secondary appointment in the French and Italian Department at the University of Pittsburgh. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Stockholm in 2016. Her books include Fascism in Film: The Italian Commercial Cinema 1931–1943; British Genres: Cinema and Society, 1930-1960; Imitations of Life: A Reader on Film and Television Melodrama; Film Politics, and Gramsci; Queen Christina (with Amy Villarejo); Cinematic Uses of the Past; The Folklore of Consensus: Theatricality in Italian Cinema; Italian Film; The Historical Film: History and Memory in Media; Stars: The Film Reader (with Lucy Fischer); Monty Python’s Flying Circus; Stardom Italian Style: Screen Performance and Personality in Italian Cinema; and Cinema and Counter-History. Her essays have appeared in anthologies and in such journals as Screen, French Review New German Critique. Journal of Romance Studies, Journal of Film, Radio, and Television Cinema Journal, Critical Quarterly, The Italianist, KinoKultura, boundary 2, and Film and History.
Image: Russian Ark. Directed by Alexander Sokurov, 2002.
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