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A Lecture by Tom Gunning

From its beginnings, popular dramatic cinema drew on the domestic melodramatic tradition, particularly on it central theme of emotional expressiveness triumphing over repressive forces. The theme of the persecuted innocent was central to this tradition. However, if the cinema was inspired by the overt theatrical gestures of this stage tradition, it also discovered the possibilities that the cinema offered of emotional intimacy and sentiment through the devices especially of the close-up and psychological editing. This lecture will explore the ways that the silent film in particular redefined the melodramatic tradition of emotional expressive in terms of the intimacy between a romantic couple and the experience of tears.

Tom Gunning works on problems of film style and interpretation, film history and film culture. His published work (approximately one hundred publications) has concentrated on early cinema (from its origins to the WW I) as well as on the culture of modernity from which cinema arose (relating it to still photography, stage melodrama, magic lantern shows, as well as wider cultural concerns such as the tracking of criminals, the World Expositions, and Spiritualism). His concept of the “cinema of attractions” has tried to relate the development of cinema to other forces than storytelling, such as new experiences of space and time in modernity, and an emerging modern visual culture. His book D.W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film traces the ways film style interacted with new economic structures in the early American film industry and with new tasks of story telling. His forthcoming book on Fritz Lang deals with the systematic nature of the director’s oeuvre and the processes of interpretation. He has written on the Avant-Garde film, both in its European pre-World War I manifestations and the American Avant-Garde film up to the present day. He also also written on genre in Hollywood cinema and on the relation between cinema and technology. The issues of film culture, the historical factors of exhibition and criticism and spectator’s experience throughout film history are recurrent themes in his work.

This event is free and open to the public.

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