Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Art in the Cinematic Imagination

Art in the Cinematic Imagination

  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Art in the Cinematic Imagination
    Book Description:

    Bringing an art historical perspective to the realm of American and European film,Art in the Cinematic Imaginationexamines the ways in which films have used works of art and artists themselves as cinematic and narrative motifs. From the use of portraits inVertigoto the cinematic depiction of women artists inArtemisiaandCamille Claudel, Susan Felleman incorporates feminist and psychoanalytic criticism to reveal individual and collective perspectives on sex, gender, identity, commerce, and class.

    Probing more than twenty films from the postwar era through contemporary times,Art in the Cinematic Imaginationconsiders a range of structurally significant art objects, artist characters, and art-world settings to explore how the medium of film can amplify, reinvent, or recontextualize the other visual arts. Fluently speaking across disciplines, Felleman's study brings a broad array of methodologies to bear on questions such as the evolution of the "Hollywood Love Goddess" and the pairing of the feminine with death on screen.

    A persuasive approach to an engaging body of films,Art in the Cinematic Imaginationilluminates a compelling and significant facet of the cinematic experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79665-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Baring the Device
    (pp. 1-13)

    Art (and by this I mean the “other” visual and plastic arts: painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, etc.) has been reflected and represented in, thematized by and structured into narrative films in myriad ways throughout the history of cinema. This book considers a range of such incorporations, drawn from the postwar classical and contemporary narrative cinema—European and American. I am particularly interested in attending to patterns relating to the signification and symptomatization of sex, gender, sexuality, and psyche in the way art and artists figure in film, as I believe these to be the basic problems from which much else...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Moving Picture Gallery
    (pp. 14-24)

    We cannot remain unaware of this aspect of moving pictures. The flesh of Katharine Hepburn and Gregory Peck has now gone to earth, yet their beautiful traces haunt our movie screens and fly as signals out into the universe.¹

    This death-defying magic wrought by moving pictures is not strictly a function of technology. It is representation itself that can raise the dead, as was observed long before photography by Leon Battista Alberti: “Painting has a divine power,” he wrote in “Della Pittura,” “being not only able to make the absent seem present, as friendship is said to do, but even...

  6. CHAPTER 2 A Form of Necrophilia (The Moving Picture Gallery Revisited)
    (pp. 25-55)

    In this remark, made in an interview with François Truffaut and discussing the plot of his 1958 filmVertigo,¹ Alfred Hitchcock casually mentions what is not onlyVertigo’s rather unsettling central proposition, but also, I shall argue, an important psychosexual characteristic of the cinematic experience generally. Using Hitchcock’s observation as a starting (and perhaps ending) point, I shall examine several films, includingVertigo, that share a peculiar narrative theme: in each,men encounter—or reencounter—women who are uncannily like the dead women on whom they remain erotically and guiltily fixated—doppelgängers of their dead love objects. An analysis of similarities...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Birth, Death, and Apotheosis of a Hollywood Love Goddess
    (pp. 56-73)

    Ava Gardner’s stardom is fascinating. Although, as Richard Lippe points out, she appeared in more than twenty-five films during the 1940s, “her screen identity did not really emerge until the 1950s.” Under long-term contract at MGM in the early 1940s, she played minor roles before winning acclaim in Robert Siodmak’sThe Killers, and, Lippe notes, “she is a radiant presence inThe Hucksters, Singapore, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, andShowboat, among others. To an extent, the studio succeeded in promoting her as a sex goddess because of her extraordinary beauty and sensuality.”¹ And, indeed, despite uneven reviews of her...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Survivors of the Shipwreck of Modernity
    (pp. 74-99)

    At the end ofThe Barefoot Contessawe are left standing at the graveside of Maria d’Amata and, according to some of the film’s and its star’s ardent admirers of the period, the apotheosis of Ava Gardner and the death of the classical Hollywood cinema of which it arises are imminent. Let us imagine, then, that among the mourners—offscreen—at that cinematic graveyard are not only Claude Gauteur and Jacques Siclier, but also their contemporary and fellow cineaste Jean-Luc Godard. Godard’sLe Mépris/Contempt(1963) has been described as a eulogy for the classical cinema, so perhaps this image is...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Out of Her Element
    (pp. 100-122)

    The image of woman that emerged symptomatically on the incomplete and unseen canvases of Jacques Rivette’sLa Belle Noiseusewas that of what Barbara Creed has called the monstrous-feminine, of “what about woman that is shocking, terrifying, horrific, abject.”¹ Rivette’s classic art film, with its nineteenth-century literary source, its contemplative durée, its impressionist scenes of plein air meals in the placid summer landscape of the Languedoc, and its long hard look at artistic facture, does not look like a horror film of the sort that interests Creed. Such films rarely win the Grand Prix at Cannes. But just below its...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Playing with Fire
    (pp. 123-139)

    Martin Scorsese’s contribution to the 1989 anthology filmNew York Storiescleverly acknowledged its director’s digression from the kind of wise guy theme for which he was, fairly or not, becoming known. The credit sequence ofLife Lessons, his story of the relationship between two painters set in the somewhat rarefied New York City art world of the 1980s, runs over the image of “splattered” paint. This splatter simultaneously references the kind of visceral process-painting (à la Jackson Pollock) executed by the film’s protagonist, painter Lionel Dobie (Nick Nolte), and the kind of viscera associated with “execution” of a different...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Dirty Pictures, Mud Lust, and Abject Desire: Myths of Origin and the Cinematic Object
    (pp. 140-158)

    If it is interesting to contemplate the ways in which the representation of art in films tends to allegorize the medium as art, and the way in which the artist figure tends to constitute either a self-portrait or a kind of negative version thereof, then it might be doubly interesting to consider the representation of artist couples in film. The sexual relationship between two artists offers another permutation in cinematic self-reflection. In three contemporary films—Artemisia(1997),Camille Claudel(1988), andLife Lessons(1989)—not only are art and artistic process thematized, but cinema (the one art, according to André...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 159-178)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-188)
  14. Index
    (pp. 189-199)