Sunday, 12 April 2015

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 111: Tue Apr 21

Penthesilea (Mulvey/Wollen, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.40pm


This is part of the Cinema Born Again: Radical Film from the 70s season. This is preceded at 6.20pm in NFT1 by a discussion involving Laura Mulvey and a panel of fellow critics who will reflect on her groundbreaking essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.’

This is the BFI introduction:
Newsreel footage of the suffragette movement, manipulated and cut-up, forms just one sequence in which theorists Mulvey and Wollen consider the speculative archetype of the warrior Penthesilea and her manifestation in different media. A stylish 70s Wonder Woman comic plus the very film being made are also reflected upon, with the filmmakers resisting the idea of the authoritative statement.

Time Out review:
Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen's film opens with a mime performance of Kleist's play about the Queen of the Amazons, and then proceeds through a suite of four further sequences designed to tease out some of the main implications in this opening 'statement'. Feminist issues loom large, not surprisingly, but the film embraces many other things, from Kleist's bizarre personal history to the way an actor feels in assuming a role. It's constructed as an exploration of relationships, real or potential, rather than as an argument or a single line of thought: it's interested in the link that may exist between a Greek vase-painting of a warrior woman and the Suffragettes, or, more formally, between a specific sound and a specific image. As such, it's a kind of scrapbook with a polemic kick. And it's also something of a milestone in dragging the moribund British cinema into an era long inhabited by Godard and Straub.
Tony Rayns

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