I thought that our presentation this week (along with the other groups) was much stronger in terms of finding the cinematic relevance and comparison with the locations and embedding some of the literature that we are now familiar with from class. I found this much harder to do at our Tuschinski location as there didn’t appear to be much change over time (renovation to original obviously important though), but also due to it being more of a exhibition venue rather than shooting venue material was harder to find. It also did not appear on many of the archive sites apart from promotional footage of premieres/events etc. The Cinetone location countered this and I think we provided a detailed presentation of its background, use and how it represented itself and areas of Amsterdam through film. Hollands Hollywood – the ‘film within a film’ – was a useful clip to show how the new studio was sold, and the juxtaposition of glamourous Hollywood with the countryside of Duivendrecht as discussed in our presentation.
I had much more luck on a range of research sources to discover information in this area as the Cinetone marked a particular high in Dutch feature film making from the arrival of sound technology. Film in Nederlands was particularly useful for contextual information on the development of sound and the Jordaan film genre. The photographs on the Stadsarcheif archive showed the studio interior which was useful as we could only enter the converted cafe area. I was glad that I loaded these up on the Ipad beforehand as the wifi connection did not work on the others for some reason. This was also a shame as I had the opening sequences to De Jantjes and Bleeke Bet to show to demonstrate the sets in action, but to be fair we did also use up our time slot so this perhaps would have been too long. The opening to De Jantjes is interesting though and I forgot to mention how well received the authentic ‘on location’ shots of the opening sequence that show the canals and streets of Amsterdam were, demonstrating that a blend between studio and location footage was successful, mixing the best of both worlds – the construction of the studio to your desired appearance and the authenticity lent by shots of the beauty of the ‘actual’ city.
The short lived boom of the ‘Jordaan films’ provided particularly interesting comparison, and demonstrated the capabilities of the truly ‘built’ environment the studio can offer- the city within a city. We discussed this fairly thoroughly in our presentation thus I will not repeat it here, but I found it interesting how romanticised the community was made to appear in contrast to the social antagonism of the time in the very same area (mass unemployment and benefit cuts – riots etc). This is clearly idealist and promotional – selling a ‘vision’ of the Jordaan that did not quite exist, but appealed to ‘the Dutch heart’.
The set photographs and postcard/powerpoint slides also illustrated our points nicely (although perhaps overwhelmed our audience in terms of volume, maybe less would have been more in this short presentation). I think booking the table in the Cinetone was a nice touch, and the mint tea was nice 🙂
The kogeto cameras are great tools for this 360 view of a discussion – as a teacher I am considering getting my College to invest in them also to record group discussions. It is useful to see them now for reflection but perhaps this would have been good to see a little earlier in the course, so that we could apply the results of other discussions in our presentations along the way if relevant. The discussions do involve descriptions of the works rather than full analysis at all times, but when in the discussion this is a necessary phase -it is hard to condense a 30 page academic article into quick terms for a group, but this is a skill to develop. I did try as much as possible to make links between the works and on reflection, perhaps need to pose questions to others more in order to draw out further points from their texts rather than talking over my texts. The mix of texts in the second discussion was interesting, but some harder to link than others – I did not get a good grasp of Shiel’s text, Ada noting that it applied a very different approach in analysing theoretical frameworks rather than illustrative examples of films that represent the city in certain ways. I would have liked to have understood this text in more detail in the discussion.
In response to some of the questions posed on the comments to my discussions – in relation to De Certeau and Sanders, we certainly identified that the Sanders text was easier to digest as the writing style is more straightforward and the content less challenging. To me, it was more of an illustrated comparative account rather than a proposal of a new theoretical approach, which is I think what De Certeau was aiming for – a new way of comprehending the experience of the city. A text that is less challenging is not necessarily better, as it may not be offering as sophisticated or interesting analysis however a text that loses its readers is also not effective. I think we all got lost around the same area – the underlying points were clear in places i.e. the subjective experience of the city can only be gained from the ground, this is where subversive practices to the uniformity of the city structure and organisation occur. Only then do the stories and meanings of the city truly be constructed – to the individual walking the city streets. I can only speak for myself, but perhaps did not have the literary theoretical luggage to comment upon whether his links to the structure of language etc apply to the city walker experience. I thought that this was strained but as I have noted before, showed De Certeau perhaps trying to reflect the poetics of walking through the poetics of his writing (medium is the message).
The other discussions in the group were fruitful and although descriptive as noted by Ivo, were helpful post-class to get an overview of the texts that I had not read/did not appear in my discussion groups. Links to the reading of the Intermedialities course were also interesting, and not something that popped up in my discussions.