New season

The Crowd (King Vidor 1928)

Not only do we have the opening of the new cultural season in Amsterdam tonight, with a two-day cultural market this weekend, though probably sprinkled by our usual water from heaven. The academic season is also about to begin. This year our Master Comparative Arts & Media Studies has a mega-number of inscribed students, which clearly shows the success of this master, but it’s also a little bit frightening, in particular for my fellow colleagues teaching in the First Semester. Next Friday I’ll be welcoming the new students at our Master’s Introduction. Let’s see if we’ll burst out of the room or not. And of course soon inscription for the courses closes, so that also helps getting insight in the real numbers. This Fall our Head of Department Ginette Verstraete is away on sabbatical, so my colleague Sven Lütticken will run the Reading Concepts course, while Connie Veugen teaches the Trans-media Storytelling course. Luckily they’ll have teaching assistants to help them. Anyway, to all new students to our Master and Bachelor: welcome!

Roman Holiday (William Wyler 1953)

My own teachings start in November again, September-October is my Research Term. Still, I’ll be teaching in September anyhow, but in Rome. The Royal Dutch Institute in Rome (Arthur Weststeijn) and the VU University (myself) are organizing a two-week BA course ‘Rome in Film/Film in Rome’, in collaboration with art historian Marieke van den Doel, staff member of the Dutch Institute, and Gerdien Smit, expert in contemporary Italian cinema. We’ll also have a presentation by Italian documentary maker Marco Bertozzi, who recently made a film on Cinecittà as refugee camp. We have experimented with web 2.0 knowledge clips, me lecturing in front of a greenscreen. We will use a purposefully designed multi-layered and geo-referenced map of Rome (containing layers from different decades), made in the VU Geoplaza, in collaboration with SPINlab and the VU Library. We will use iPads to be able to compare ‘in situ’ the film clips and the multi-layered map of Rome with the real locations. And thanks to digital repositories such as Roma Sparita we can also compare with historical photographs. The app Galileo will be useful for students to make bookmarks while exploring the locations. Presentations will first be made in Google Maps, but data can afterwards be exported as well to the Geoplaza site. These experiments are of course grounded in scientific literature (Michel de Certeau, Jeffrey Klenotic, David Bass, and others) read before the start of the course in Rome. I am very curious how students will pick this up, work with the new tools and come up with refreshing and valuable results.

L’atleta fantasma (Raimondo Scotti 1919) with Ausonia/Mario Guaita

In the mean time I’ll be also doing research in Rome, and later on in October in Northern Italy as well, on the next stage in my research on Italian silent cinema. After recent investgations in the visual roots of the iconography of the diva and the representation of painters and sculptors in Italian silent cinema, and after older researches on epic cinema and 19th century painting, comedy and seriality, and travelogues and the picturesque, it seemed that one typical genre was still unexplored. That of the forzuti: the strong men and acrobats. Think of Maciste (Bartolomeo Pagano), Ursus (Bruto Castellani), Ausonia (Mario Guaita), Ajax (Carlo Aldini), Sansone (Luciano Albertini), Saetta (Domenico Gambino) and others. Talking to experts I first had the impression that the genre had been so successful in the late 1910s and early 1920s that very few films remained. That proved to be untrue. Investigating in various Italian and foreign archives, many film titles popped up. So in addition to the Maciste-films in Turin and a handful of prints in Milan, Rome proved to have the highest number of the forzuti-films, while Bologna has many digital copies from prints from elsewhere or from prints from the own archive. I’ll embed the genre within a larger framework of popular culture (wrestling, bodybuilding, gymnastics, vaudeville, circus) in late 19th century and early 20th century. After a first presentation of my research somewhere next Spring (invitations anyone?), I’ll start working on turning my research into a volume as of next Summer.

Postcard for the lost film La Gioconda (Eleuterio Rodolfi 1917) with Elena Makowska

More coming up: I wrote an article on the history and the exposure of the Desmet Collection, which will appear this Fall in the Journal of Film Preservation of the FIAF. I also wrote a text on the availability of Italian silent cinema, for a volume edited by Giorgio Bertellini for John Libbey. I gave Richard Abel permission to republish my article on the 1913 version of Quo vadis? and the work of Jean-Léon Gérôme plus the introduction of my book Jean Desmet and the Early Dutch Film Trade, for a mega-project on early cinema, edited by Richard Abel for Routledge. For a volume on Death in Venice edited by Francesco Bono I wrote an article on the use of photography and painting in the film. And I reworked my lecture from the conference Cinema of Sensations (Cluj, Romania) of last May, a lecture on conventions and truths in the representation of artist in Italian silent cinema. Soon I will turn my lecture at the Brighton Domitor conference of last June, on diva Lyda Borelli amidst theatre, painting and photography into a publishable article. Finally, with Bregt Lameris I am co-editing a special issue on madness & media for TMG (Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis), which will appear next Summer. TMG, by the way, is going digital and October the 3th the launch of the digital version will be presented. This means actual but also previous issues will be easily available, in Open Access. Anyway, my boss cannot explain about output 😉 And, by the way, if some Italians would speed up a bit (articles still in the pipeline for a long time: hint!), my rate of publications could even be bigger.

~ by Ivo Blom on August 24, 2012.

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