Sway of the Sea: Kathryn Bigelow’s Imperial Eco-eschatology

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This article expands on the condemnatory Leni Riefenstahl/Kathryn Bigelow association made by Naomi Wolf in 2013, through a consideration of aesthetics, landscapes and ecology, and potential parallels between Bigelow‘s work and Riefenstahl‘s earlier ‘Mountain Films’ period. Bigelow reaches for a feminised, New Age mysticism through which her characters are momentarily lifted out of their mundane earthly concerns to commune with the wider universe. This is considered particularly with respect to Point Break. In Last Days of Ivory, Bigelow advocates for military action in the name of conservation, on the disputed grounds that the illegal ivory trade funds Al-Shabaab. The blatantness of Bigelow’s propaganda in Last Days of Ivory, which chimed with Hillary Clinton’s position on the same (a greenwashed liberal interventionism), is lent the approval of elephants, and of the wider ecology, in Bigelow’s film. In the same way that Riefenstahl once repurposed German Romanticism for a sequence of Hitler descending in an aeroplane from the clouds, as though the saviour of Germany from its enemies, Bigelow now reworks such Romanticism in the name of the ‘white woman’s burden’: the Western imperial feminist speaks out on the part of the oppressed, and summons the ecosphere as her witness.

New Review of Film and Television Studies (Taylor & Francis); 2021, Vol. 19, No. 3, 295–310.


Guest Worker:

Makavejev’s Capitalist Phase 


Chapter for Dusan Makavejev: Eros, Idology, Montage (Litteraria Pragensia, 2018; chapter first published online in 2013).

Link to the book: https://litterariapragensia.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/dusan-makavejev/

PDF of chapter: MakavejevGuestWorker

Idylls of Socialism:

The Sarajevo Documentary School and the Problem of the Bosnian Subproletariat


Prepared while at the 2009 Oberhausen Film Festival, which had recovered and presented a programme of short films from the Sarajevo Documentary School – everything from urging lorry drivers to give walking children lifts to school in the morning, to moving rural families into city centre flats, to preparations for the Sarajevo Winter Olympics of 1984. Thanks to my Cologne cinephile familiar, Olaf Möller, for the conversations and the shaping of ideas. I was in Yugoslavia alot before 1989, and this isn’t the only piece I’ve written on the cinema of an ex-country.

Article published in Studies in East European Cinema (Intellect Journals), Autumn 2010.

Journal link: https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/reec20/1/2?nav=tocList

PDF of article: Idylls_of_Socialism_The_Sarajevo_Documen

The Autumn in Germany:

A Dialogue on Fassbinder and Terrorism


Chapter co-written with Michael Goddard, in Pasolini and Fassbinder: the European Legacy between Utopia and Nihilism, eds. Alexis Nuselovici and Fabio Vighi, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010.

Link to the book: http://www.cambridgescholars.com/pasolini-fassbinder-and-europe-16

PDF of chapter: The_Autumn_in_Germany_A_Dialogue_on_Fass

On Tarkovsky’s Aesthetic Strategies


Chapter from Through the Mirror: Reflections on the Films of Andrei Tarkovsky, eds. G. A. Jónsson and T. Óttarsson, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007.

Link to the book: http://www.cambridgescholars.com/through-the-mirror-18

PDF of chapter: Tarkovsky_s_Aesthetic_Strategies

Disco Galactica: Futures Past and Present


Chapter from Battlestar Galactica: Investigating Flesh, Spirit and Steel, eds. Roz Kaveney and Jennifer Stoy, I. B. Tauris (and then Bloomsbury), 2010.

Comparative consideration of disco-era free love sci-fi visions and contemporary neoliberal imaginings of future war, grounded in the New Hollywood cinema of the ’70s, and its blockbuster outriders, versus the fracturing, multiplatform sprawl of contemporary quality television.

Link to the book: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/battlestar-galactica-9781848853737/

PDF of chapter: Disco_Galactica_Futures_Past_and_Present (1)

Film Dossier: Castle of the Living Dead


This is the booklet I wrote for the DVD release of Il Castello dei Morti Vivi (Castle of the Living Dead): a very cheap Italian horror with Christopher Lee, shot in a few weeks in 1964 around Castello Orsini-Odescalchi, and with some involvement (and a cameo) from the young Michael Reeves — his first professional film credit. My critical biography of Reeves was published in 2003.

Writing this led to reconnecting with Paul Mazursky after about ten years since we first talked, and talking with Paul is always a rich experience – he said that as the years go by (he’s been a very successful Hollywood producer for some decades), the memories of his time in Italy in the 1960s making films on the fly have become sharper and fonder. The published booklet stripped the endnote numbers out, so you’ll find random additional information at the end. Still, I suspect this booklet is more coherent than my various DVD commentaries, also for this company.

PDF of the booklet: CastleoftheLivingDead

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