Hello, my name is Philip Leventhal, and I acquire new books in film and media studies at Columbia University Press. SCMS is always one of my favorite conferences, so it is particularly disappointing not to be able to attend this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. I will miss the many fun and stimulating conversations I have at SCMS and the meeting’s sense of community. While one cannot replicate the experience of browsing a press’s booth, we hope this virtual booth gives you a sense of some of the exciting new books we’ve published since last year’s conference. Over the next three days, we will also take advantage of the online nature of the virtual exhibit by posting clips and photos from books as we include some blog posts from authors, along with some much-needed film recommendations for our days of quarantine.
In this brief note, I will talk about some of the new books in our Film and Culture Series. I will focus on other film books in one of tomorrow’s posts, and please feel free to take a look back at our full list of film and media studies titles, including those from our distributed presses, all of which will be discounted 30 percent with the coupon code SCMS20.
The books below and in subsequent posts encompass a range of topics and time periods. Taken as a whole, these books reflect how film as both an art form and an industry helps us understand various political, cultural, and technological contexts in new ways. At the same time, they also highlight some of the joys and rewards of watching films.
Finally, a big thanks to the authors of these books. While this might not be the anticipated showcase for their work, I look forward to these books making their way out into the world. So let’s get started:
Can our love of cinema ever be extricated from our anxiety about the medium? That’s the question Sarah Keller takes up in her new book Anxious Cinephilia: Pleasure and Peril at the Movies. Keller’s historical account of cinephilia examines how our love of cinema has changed over time from the earliest days of cinema to the midcentury boom of Cahiers du Cinema to our streaming present, when the idea of the cinema is very much in question. The book also looks at how cinema causes anxiety in viewers, whether through the fear of being captured on film or through on-screen depictions of the apocalypse.
For something perhaps a bit less anxiety-producing, there is Malcolm Turvey’s fantastic new study of Jacques Tati’s films, Play Time: Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism. Turvey provides exciting new readings of individual films but also places Tati’s comedy in the context of the modern avant-garde. This is one of those books that will make you want to watch or rewatchthe films under discussion. To get you in the mood, here is a clip from Play Time.
How we watch a film on a screen is the subject of two new books in the Film and Culture series. First is Nick Jones’s Spaces Mapped and Monstrous: Digital 3D Cinema and Visual Culture. It’s easy to dismiss 3-D as a gimmick, but Jones persuasively shows it’s important role in film history as well as contemporary visual culture more broadly. Jones also considers less benign or cinematic uses in his discussion about 3D as a tool for producing, controlling, and distorting space within systems of surveillance, corporatization, and militarization.
Innovation and diversity in screen technologies is very much a contemporary phenomenon, but it’s also been with us for quite a while. In a book that reminds us that our present-day cinematic and technological world shares elements of those in the past, On the Screen: Displaying the Moving Image, 1926-1942, by Ariel Rogers, charts the surprising history of how we watched movies during the height of classical Hollywood.