Cinema across media: the 1920s

Conference image for Cinema Across Media, showing the construction of miniatures for Metropolis

Cinema Across Media: The 1920s is the title of what is promisingly advertised as the First International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema. It takes place 24–26 February 2011 at the University of California, Berkeley, and describes itself as follows:

Cinema’s institutional consolidation in the 1920s enlisted practitioners from many other fields and transformed the entire ensemble of established media. Avant-garde cinemas borrowed extensively from a variety of artistic practices, while the “cinematic” became the new standard for both modernist aesthetics and popular culture. Today’s multimedia environment brings cinema of the 1920s into new focus as the site of rich intermedial traffic, especially if the term “media” encompasses not only recording technologies and mass media, such as photography, phonography, radio, and illustrated press, but also the physical materials used for aesthetic expression, such as paint, print, plaster, stone, voice, and bodies.

Indeed what do they know of silent cinema who only silent cinema know. The starry line-up of plenary speakers will be Thomas Elsaesser (University of Amsterdam), Tom Gunning (University of Chicago), Gertrud Koch(Free University of Berlin), Paolo Cherchi Usai (Haghefilm Foundation) and Anthony Vidler (Cooper Union), and the full conference schedule has been issued, plus screenings (at the Pacific Film Archive Theater), as follows:

Saturday, Feb 19th

Pre-conference screening at 6.00pm of The Complete Metropolis, Fritz Lang (Germany, 1926)

Wednesday, Feb 23rd

Pre-conference screening at 7:30 pm of Rien que les heures, Alberto Cavalcanti (France, 1926)

Introduced by Anne Nesbet, Judith Rosenberg on Piano

Preceded by
Architecture d’aujourdhui (Pierre Chenal, France, 1930)
Die Neue Wohnung (Hans Richter, Switzerland, 1930)

Thursday, Feb 24th

4–5:30 pm

Tom Gunning, From the Cinema of Attractions to the Montage of Attractions: The Art of Running Film History Backwards

7–9:30 pm

Screening of L’Inhumaine (Marcel L’Herbier, 1924)
Introduction by Gertrud Koch
Judith Rosenberg on Piano

Friday, Feb 25th

9–10:30 am

Gertrud Koch, Off/On/In: Configurations of voice, body and apparatus

11 am–12:30 pm

“Local” Aesthetics and the Aesthetics of Location

Sarah Keller, Approaches to Truth: Jean Epstein and Intermedial Revelations of the 1920s

Luciana Corrêa de Araújo, Movie prologues in Rio de Janeiro (1926–1927)

Laura Isabel Serna, Picturing la patria: Ethnography, Costumbrismo, and Mexican Feature Film Production in the 1920s

The Body: Forms, Models, Constructions

Weihong Bao, Plastic Cinema, Flexible Media: Dan Duyu’s Amateur Art of Beauty and the Politics of Intermedial Embodiment in 1920s China

Kaveh Askari, Sculpture, Modeling, and Motion-Picture Craft: Promoting Rex Ingram at Metro

Mark Lynn Anderson, Deserts of Modernity: Valentino and The National Geographic

2–3:30 pm

Cinema, Light, Architecture

Megan Luke, Film-Space, Light-Architecture: Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters

Brian Jacobson, Producing Cinema and Industrial Modernity at the Cité Elgé, 1919–1929

Noam Elcott, Invisible Architectures

Media Consolidation and Conglomeration

André Gaudreault & Louis Pelletier, From Photoplays to Pictures: An Intermedial Perspective on the Names for “Moving Pictures” in the Late Silent Era

Charlie Keil, Inventing Hollywood for the 1920s

Ross Melnick, The Emergence of Convergence: Intermediality and the Convergence of Film, Broadcasting, and Music Publishing and Recording in the 1920s

4–5:30 pm

Anthony Vidler, The Promenade Architecturale: Space and Movement in 1930s Modernism from Eisenstein to Le Corbusier

7–8:45 pm

Paolo Cherchi Usai, The Unbearable Lightness of Canon: Silent Comedies in the 1920s

Pass the Gravy (Fred L. Guiol, 1928)
Springtime Saps (Les Goodwin, 1927)
Should Men Walk Home? (Leo McCarey, 1927)
Judith Rosenberg on Piano

Saturday, Feb 26th

9–11 am

Mobilizing the Archive: Projectors, Exhibitors, Industries

Plenary Roundtable

Haidee Wasson, Suitcase Cinema: The Case of the Portable Film Projector

Dino Everett, Old Dog New Tricks: Using 9.5mm films to revisit the final films of Vitagraph

Masaki Daibo, Umbilical links or discontinuities—Reconsidering the Early Japanese Sound Cinema in terms of Phonofilms

Kim Tomadjoglou, Itinerant Exhibitors Felix and Edmundo Padilla

David Wood, Sound, Colour and Intertitles in Silent Black and White Films: On Originality and Performance in 1920s Mexican Cinema

Jan-Christopher Horak, The Czech Film Industry in the 1920s: Questioning National Cinema

11:30 am–1 pm

Film Artistry and Multimedia Practice

Tami Williams, The Musicality of Gesture in the Cinema of Germaine Dulac

Oksana Bulgakowa, Eisenstein as multimedia artist, Peter Greenaway as his curator

Lucy Fischer, La Roue (The Rail), Silent Cinema and the “Wheels of Consciousness”

Theory, Performance, Fantasy

Johannes von Moltke, Classical Film Theory: A Novel

Jason McGrath, From Semiosis to Mimesis: Performance in Chinese Drama and Film Theory of the 1920s

Doron Galili & Yuri Tsivian, The Skybook: A Ubiquitous Media Fantasy

2:30–4 pm

Intermediary Zones: Film and the Avant-Gardes

Jennifer Wild, Reproductive Reception: The case of Francis—Marcel

Diane Wei Lewis, Words on Film: Avant-Garde Artist Murayama Tomoyoshi in “The Film Age”

Michael Cowan, The Moving Surface of Design: Abstraction and the Weimar Advertising Film

Sound, Aesthetics, Technology

Michael Raine, The limits of silent cinema: Ozu Yasujiro and the “neo-film sans silence”

Anupama Kapse, Song and Dance in the Indian Silent Film

Rob King, Stultification and Sensation: The Impact of Sound on the American Slapstick Tradition, 1928–1929

4:30–6:30 pm

Thomas Elsaesser, Cinema Across Media: Expanding the Avant-Garde beyond the Political Divide

Plenary Roundtable:
Thomas Elsaesser, Tom Gunning, Gertrud Koch, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Anthony Vidler

Well, that’s a heady line-up of speakers and subjects, while showing that silent film conferences are always going to have a clear advantage over any other kind of academic conference because you can get to do something like screening Pass the Gravy. It shows how dynamic the field is these days, and how much rich and genuinely international work is going, particularly looking at the interconnections between cinema and other media with which it always was so closely intertwined.

The conference site has details of speakers, locations, registration (it’s all free) and accommodation. It looks like the major event it has set out to be, and it will be very interesting to see what outputs derive from the conference and whether it does become the first in a series. If any Bioscopist is going to the conference and can report on some or all of it, do get in touch. I certainly wish I could be there – but I can’t.

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