- Annotated Bibliography
As an addendum to this issue of the velvet light trap, we present summaries of earlier articles from the journal that have focused on "dialogue(s)." MATTHEW CONNOLLY, NICHOLAS LAUREANO, CASEY LONG, ERICA MOULTON, and MATTHEW ST. JOHN parsed the Velvet Light Trap archives for a selection of relevant and significant contributions, found below. We sought to highlight studies of speech, voice, and the soundtrack in a literal or practical sense as well as investigations into the communication between larger entities: industrial, theoretical, pedagogical, and so on.
WILLIAM DONNELLY, "A THEORY OF THE COMEDY OF THE MARX BROTHERS," VELVET LIGHT TRAP 3 (WINTER 1971/72): 8–15
This article puts forth a unified theory of the films of the Marx brothers. Noting the shortcomings of previous critics' analyses of the brothers' oeuvre, Donnelly addresses aspects of the films that have been either framed as matters of critical dispute (authorship across the films, overall decline in quality) or dismissed as flaws within the films' structures (their reliance on romantic plots, their musical interludes). He particularly stresses the brothers' varying relationships to language as key to understanding their comedic worldview, with analyses of how Groucho, Chico, and Harpo each grounded their comedic persona in response to verbal communication or a lack thereof. Ultimately, Donnelly deems the brothers' filmography "the comedy of articulation" and argues that the humor surrounding dialogue and sound form the groundwork for their comedic assaults on societal hypocrisy.
MICHELLE CITRON, "FEMINIST CRITICISM: WHAT IT IS NOW; WHAT IT MUST BECOME," VELVET LIGHT TRAP 6 (FALL 1972): 43–44
Citron assesses the state of contemporary feminist film criticism before offering her own commentary on the burgeoning field. While noting the value of cataloging sexist elements seen within cinema, Citron sees this strain of feminist film criticism as ultimately limited in exposing the underlying structures of these persistent stereotypes. She proposes two methodological shifts for feminist film critics to considering adopting. First, she stresses historical context as key to more fully grasping the meanings of misogynist and sexist imagery within films across various eras. Second (and more centrally), Citron emphasizes the reactions of multiple female viewers as the valid basis for feminist analysis and evaluation of cinematic images. This [End Page 61] elevation of what Citron calls "the validity of collective subjective reaction" can be seen not only as an intervention into dialogues around feminist film criticism but as a rejoinder to the purportedly "objective" standards of film criticism more generally.
TOM FLINN, "OLD IRONSIDES: THE INFLUENCE OF SEAPOWER UPON HOLLYWOOD," VELVET LIGHT TRAP 8 (SPRING 1973): 3–6
This article recounts the production history of Old Ironsides, a nautical epic directed by Michael Curtiz and released in 1926. In the article's first section, Flinn details the US Navy's involvement in the production and publicity of Old Ironsides—efforts that corresponded with a nationwide fund-raising campaign to preserve the real-life USS Constitution, whose nickname doubles as the film's title. The remainder of Flinn's article then moves into an account of the film's shooting and postproduction, with emphasis placed upon Old Ironsides' use of Magnascope (an early wide-screen process) and Curtiz's various efforts to achieve historical verisimilitude. While it does not occupy the entirety of the article's focus, the examination of how the navy influenced the inception, development, and reception of the film proves particularly germane to investigations of the complex relationships between the film industry and military/governmental institutions.
MAUREEN TURIM, "THE AESTHETIC BECOMES POLITICAL: A HISTORY OF FILM CRITICISM IN CAHIERS DU CINÉMA," VELVET LIGHT TRAP 9 (SUMMER 1973): 13–17
Turim charts the shifting critical and ideological perspectives that shaped the editorial mission of legendary French film journal Cahiers du cinéma from its inception in 1951 to roughly the time of the article's publication in 1973. In particular, she analyzes two intertwining sets of discourses that helped transform the journal's approach to film criticism. First, she tracks how large-scale fluctuations in French politics in the mid- to late 1960s prompted Cahiers to move from a focus on auteurism and aesthetic analysis to an increasing emphasis on the...