Spirited Away

A significant section of this issue is devoted to the year just passed. It’s more then a little difficult, and somewhat misleading, to attempt a summary or generalisation about a year in film especially when one’s annual intake is so specific (influenced as it is by time, place, taste, and so on). With that qualification admitted, here a few observations. The US’s propensity in 2002 to remake ‘foreign’ classics, a trend Canadian programmer and critic Mark Peranson refers to as “the attack of the clones” in his 2002 wrap-up, is a concern especially when the remakes are all bad and miss the political, aesthetic, or philosophical contentions of their originals. Unsurprisingly, these examples highlight mainstream American cinema’s vulgar, crass commercialism and its naivety toward ‘art cinema’. In contrast, however, and thankfully, there existed impassioned, intelligent cinema in 2002: highly imaginative digital filmmaking from Michael Snow (*Corpus Callosum); a truly mind-blowing approach to found footage and the film medium itself by Peter Tscherkassky (Dream Work); engaging and intelligent documentary from Frederick Wiseman (Domestic Violence); and magical animation from Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away).

One of the most significant aspects of Australian cinema in 2002 was the spate of films concerned with Australia’s race relations and colonial past. This topic provoked a diverse range of styles and thematic foci – anti-realist aesthetic, the notion of ‘performance’ in race relations (The Tracker); universalising history (Rabbit-Proof Fence); social-realism with a ‘heart’ (Australian Rules); minimalist and allegorical (Beneath Clouds). The very number of these films also suggests an audience interested and willing to reflect on, discuss, and enter into dialogue about Australia’s race relations.

This issue offers an abundance of riches: from the ‘light reading’ of contributors’ 2002 favourites to Patricia MacCormack’s rigorous, highly original piece on Christopher Lee. Senses of Cinema‘s auteur-driven focus continues also with spotlights on Alfred Hitchcock, Fruit Chan, and Alex Cox. The continuing output of books on Hitch, to this very day, is a testament to a rich, complex and fascinating cinema. Several recent books are reviewed in this issue – most prominently the late Raymond Durgnat’s A Hard Look at ‘Psycho’, reviewed by Ken Mogg and Charles Barr separately. Tag Gallagher’s discussion highlights the genius of Hitch, in particular, the fine tension in his cinema between the expressionist and the experimental, and David Kelly, in a fine, highly informed piece, explores the dimension of the ‘tragic’ in Rope. From Hitch to Chan: the fact that Chan’s films have not made it to local festivals (let alone theatrical release) says enough about his cinema. However, he remains an innovative artist in contemporary world cinema, and so we felt it important to profile his latest film and earlier work. A substantial section is also devoted to Alex Cox, whose overlooked Walker is emerging as an ever-important work in today’s political climate.

And as the war drums beat ever louder, emanating as always from the US, cinema becomes more and more a multi-faceted ‘tool’: a means of consciousness-raising, as Bowling for Columbine (reviewed in this issue) illustrates in its own crass, sensationalist way; or a means of responding to world events and to delivering non-mainstream viewpoints, such as 11’09”01- September 11 (also reviewed in this issue). Within this climate and any other really, what’s crucial is that networks for the distribution of art and information remain open and available; that audiences are able to make fair choices about what they read and watch.

The Great Directors section, compiled editorially by Michelle Carey and presented design-wise by Albert Fung, also includes in this issue a range of exciting entries on, among others, Jean-Luc Godard, Orson Welles, Edgar G. Ulmer and Kenneth Anger.

Special thanks for this issue go to: Michelle Carey, Ken Mogg and Ray Privett.

Fiona A. Villella
General Editor

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