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Between graphic arrangement and film: Thom Andersen’s Flicker
Polonyi Eszter, 2021, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: When the California-based filmmaker Thom Andersen made his documentary Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer in 1973-4, he recovered an aspect of Muybridge’s work that most viewers had not seen before. Projected on the screen at the top of the theater, these iconic nineteenth-century chronophotographs were allegedly first seen in movement. Viewers could watch as his half-clad and nude subjects lifted water buckets, walked up and down stairs, ran, stood, heaved, threw, jumped, crawled and kicked. Throughout the film, Andersen shows each action multiple times, so that an athlete, for instance, leaps his hurdle firstly slowly, then at increasing speeds. Almost none of the sequences appear in the tempo in which they might have taken place in front of the camera. And, despite this being omitted from reviews, many of the passages drop to frame rates below the minimum necessary to sustain the illusion of motion, dissolving Muybridge’s images in a pulsing, jagged flicker. If Andersen’s recovery of Muybridge’s image sequences continue to appear spectacular, this is because watching the motion studies suddenly lurch into moving images proves just how little their “movement” can be explained by a history of the “movies.” This paper examines Andersen’s film as a way into an alternate genealogy of the moving image provided through the phenomenon of the flicker. As has become increasingly clear with the publication of a recent anthology of his critical writings (Visible Press, 2017), Andersen was part of a generation of North American filmmaker whose practice and writing resonated with the academic critique of the film apparatus as it began to emerge from France in the 1960s and 1970s. The fixed temporal parameters of film consumption constituted a recurring consideration for Andersen, for whom “clocked” time literalized the destructiveness of capitalism’s “eternal present” (review of Christian Marclay’s The Clock, 2011). His recovery of Muybridge, for which a frame-by-frame projector allows Andersen to reconstruct what were this pre-cinematic recording systems’s famously arbitrary time intervals, is read within the context of such a critique but also of an emerging tradition of expanded cinema practice. To this effect, comparison is made between Andersen’s process and the efforts of Tony Conrad in the 1960s to research the frequencies at which human vision registers photocelluloid film’s flicker. Conrad’s ability to produce the flicker is ensured not by modification of the projector’s microtemporalities, which would have restricted the number of projectors on which he could show his flicker film, but through alterations at the level of the photocelluloid. Both Andersen and Conrad are shown to turn the basic apparatus into a rhythmic instrument by accessing its frame rates through what I argue is a graphic rather than filmic method.
Keywords: History of American cinema, avant-garde art, media archaeology, Eadweard Muybridge, Thom Andersen
Published in RUNG: 13.01.2023; Views: 1252; Downloads: 0
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Red modernism : the films of Miklos Jansco
2022, radio or television broadcast, podcast, interview, press conference

Abstract: One of the most acclaimed Eastern European directors of the late 1960s, Miklos Jancsó became known for his abstract long-take style which explored the intersections of power, politics, history, and myth. (“Radical form in the service of radical content,” as the Village Voice film critic, James Hoberman, put it back then.) Now that the Beacon Cinema in Columbia City is hosting a retrospective of six of his films (including Red Psalm, which won him the best director prize at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival), Red May has invited three film scholars--Eszter Polonyi, Zoran Samardzija, and Steven Shaviro—to discuss Jancsó’s boldly stylized film language with Tommy Swenson, Film Curator of the Beacon Cinema
Keywords: Film history, East-Central cinemas, political cinema, art history
Published in RUNG: 31.05.2022; Views: 1919; Downloads: 8
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'The Tragedy is Anatomical': Microscopes and Faces in Jean Epstein and Béla Balázs
Eszter Polonyi, unpublished conference contribution

Keywords: film theory, media studies, science and technology studies, silent cinema, biology
Published in RUNG: 11.12.2020; Views: 2486; Downloads: 0
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Béla Balázs and the Bergfilm
Eszter Polonyi, unpublished conference contribution

Keywords: film studies, Weimar cinema, Leni Riefenstahl, vitalism, media studies
Published in RUNG: 11.12.2020; Views: 2418; Downloads: 0
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Gesture as practice of theory in Balázs and Benjamin
Eszter Polonyi, unpublished conference contribution

Keywords: film theory, Lebensreform movement, critical theory, Weimar cinema
Published in RUNG: 11.12.2020; Views: 2442; Downloads: 0
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Béla Balázs and the Haunting of Weimar Film
Eszter Polonyi, unpublished invited conference lecture

Abstract: We can all list the name of film actresses and film directors. Few of us will remember the name of a scenarist. And yet, the sce- narist might be responsible for every cut of every shot of every scene of a film. This talk is about the Weimar-era Béla Balázs, arguably the world’s most misunderstood film scenarist. In high demand for his world renowned theoretical understanding of the image, Balázs nevertheless is almost entirely unknown for his work in the film studio. Drawing on actual films by Balázs I have retrieved from archives, this talk hopes to recover not just the travails of the scenarist, but the aspects of the film image that he or she haunts.
Keywords: Weimar cinema, industry ephemera, media studies
Published in RUNG: 11.12.2020; Views: 2331; Downloads: 0
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Béla Balázs and the Eye of the Microscope
Eszter Polonyi, 2012, original scientific article

Abstract: This study explores the significance of the cinematic close-up to one of the earliest theories of film, produced by Béla Balázs, on the basis of a widespread technique of microscopy in the life sciences, notably in the work of his brother Evin Bauer, a theorist of microbiology. Balázs imagines that silent film records life in its immanence and spontaneity by virtue of what he calls the “physiognomic” nature of its signs. Rather than generating signs that must be passed through an alphabetic cipher, as had been required under the regime of the written or literary, Balázs presents film as liberating our access to the flow of optical data. Interestingly, however, Balázs retains the need otherwise characteristic of scientific analysis for dividing up the image into semiotic units, what he describes as “atomization.” He insists on returning the real to a symbolic order and making film into a language.
Keywords: film history, media studies, science and technology studies, Weimar cinema, media archaeology
Published in RUNG: 10.12.2020; Views: 2817; Downloads: 0
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Lautstrom 32 Gal Kirn on Alexander Medvekin
Gal Kirn, radio or television event

Keywords: medvedkin, early avant-garde film, cinema-train, happiness, critique of Stalinism
Published in RUNG: 18.09.2020; Views: 2701; Downloads: 0
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Awakening in films after October
Gal Kirn, invited lecture at foreign university

Keywords: Medvedkin, Vertov, early Soviet cinema, between politics, art and life, last Bolsheviks
Published in RUNG: 20.08.2020; Views: 2594; Downloads: 0
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