Tag Archives: laura mulvey

Mulvey On Ophüls

We’re used to talking about legends on the show, but it’s pretty cool to have a legend as our guest. Laura Mulvey is one of film theory’s biggest names, probably best known for coining the phrase “the male gaze” in her highly influential 1973 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”. Last week, we gathered in Laura’s office at Birbeck, University of London, to talk some film.

Sophie and Lee begin by talking about some key new releases, including Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, and Grimur Hákonarson’s Rams. Laura, who hasn’t seen any of these, then discusses the fact that she generally watches older films over newer films, and we look at the concept of new release fatigue. Is it just us, or are technology and changing viewing habits having an effect?

Then Laura takes us into the biography, career and filmography of the amazing German director Max Ophüls.

If this gets you keyed up to find out more about Ophüls – and it should – then you’ll want to check out Max Ophuls in the Hollywood Studios by Lutz Bacher, which Laura refers to during the show.

Outro music: score from The Earrings of Madame De… (1953), composed by Oscar Straus and Georges Van Parys

Sophie Laura Lee

Hell Is For Hyphenates – February 2016

Filmmaker, academic and film theorist Laura Mulvey joins the Hyphenates as they look over some of the key new releases of February 2016, including 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI, A BIGGER SPLASH and RAMS. Laura, Sophie and Lee then look at why they are feeling a fatigue with new releases, and how changing technology may play a part. Finally, Laura takes us through the biography, career and films of the great German director Max Ophüls.

The Max Ophüls Cheat Sheet

Max Ophüls Directing

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

MO Films

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) and La Ronde (1950)

Max Ophüls never stopped moving. But he’s been called a “Viennese” filmmaker, for the sophisticated sensibility, sensuality and psychology exemplified by these two exquisite films set in the city in 1900 (although shot in the US and France). Stanley Kubrick paid tribute to his filmmaking hero with Eyes Wide Shut, his contemporary ‘take’ on Arthur Schnitzler’s novella Traumnovelle, and Ophüls’ adaption of Schnitzler’s play Reigen is equally ingenious: a merry-go-round musical of interlocking love stories light as a feather and deep as a dream. Letter… replays La Ronde’s comedy as tragedy through the contrasting perspectives of its dashing composer protagonist (Louis Jourdan) and the lovelorn female narrator (Joan Fontaine) whose love he longs for and carelessly lost. Sofa, snacks, swoon.

Substitutions: Upper-class ultra-romantic drama Madame de… (1953) might be the closest cinema ever got to the great nineteenth-century novels, but in the purest of film form (how does the camera navigate the tiny jewellers’ shop?), while love/hate career closer Lola Montès (1955) (look for the 2008 restoration) is a theatrical fever dream, the century-sweeping story of the titular dancer/muse/lover, and tone-poem to Eastmancolor.

The Hidden Gem: For an early and inventive working of classic Ophüls style and themes (and staircases), choose La signora di tutti (1934). It made Isa Miranda a star – even as it told the story of the fall of glamorous, haunted film star Gaby Doriot. It’s the only film Ophüls made in Italy, and as gloriously operatic as you’d imagine.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Laura Mulvey talking Max Ophüls, will be released on February 29, 2016.

Our Next Hyphenate Laura Mulvey

Laura Mulvey
Theorist, professor and February 2016 Hyphenate Laura Mulvey

If you’ve ever used the term “the male gaze”, then you have our next guest to thank.

Laura Mulvey coined the term in her 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, published in the film journal Screen, and the phrase has become firmly embedded in the collective psyche.

This isn’t her only contribution to pop culture, but it’s a hell of an opening.

She is professor of film and media studies at Birkbeck, University of London, and has penned countless essays and articles, as well as books such as Douglas Sirk (1972), Citizen Kane (1992) and Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (2006). She is also a filmmaker, co-directing with Peter Wollen films such as Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons (1974), Riddles of the Sphynx (1977), AMY! (1980), Crystal Gazing (1982), Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti (1982) and The Bad Sister (1983), and co-directing with Mark Lewis Disgraced Monuments (1991) and 23rd August 2008 (2013). For those in London, there will be a retrospective of her work at the Whitechapel Gallery this Spring.

But the really exciting part of her career? Becoming the very next guest on Hell Is For Hyphenates!

So which filmmaker has Laura chosen to discuss on the show?

None other than German director Max Ophüls!

Un film de Max Ophuls

Ophüls began his career in Germany, before fleeing the country due to the rise of the Nazis. He directed films in Germany, France and Hollywood, and is best known for the latter phase of his career, where he made works such as Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948), The Earrings of Madame de… (1953) and Lola Montès (1955).

His films influenced everyone from Preston Sturges to Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson, and even inspired James Mason to write a poem about his love of tracking shots:

A shot that does not call for tracks

Is agony for poor old Max,

Who, separated from his dolly,

Is wrapped in deepest melancholy.

Once, when they took away his crane,

I thought he’d never smile again.

So what is it about the films of Max Ophüls that influenced Kubrick, inspired James Mason to poetry, and – most importantly – fascinates Laura Mulvey?

Check back with Hell Is For Hyphenates on February 29 to find out!

Max Ophuls
Our next filmmaker of the month, Max Ophüls