Last Friday afternoon, film scholars and enthusiasts alike commingled at Café 58 in Irvine Auditorium to talk about the new directions in American cinema.
Organized by the SAS Office of Advancement, “Cinema of the 2000s: Old Directions, New Directions,” was part of the office’s larger goal to “create events that expose Penn’s community to the wonderful research by the faculty,” said Juliana Walker, its associate director.
With such objectives, professor of English and cinema studies Timothy Corrigan and professor of art history Karen Beckman offered their perspectives on the opportunities — and challenges — facing American cinema today.
The professors began by talking about a book that Corrigan edited and to which Beckman contributed an essay, “Cinema of the 2000s: Old Directions, New Directions.”
This book “created cross sections of the American culture in time and examined the technological and sociological implications of movies,” Corrigan said.
“We saw in this decade preservation of traditions,” he added on the subject of filmmaking, “but also some breaking away of traditions that have been kept decades before it.”
Among the changes that Corrigan addressed was the arrival of technologies that changed the world of cinema, championed by companies such as YouTube and Netflix.
These companies produce and distribute new films in a nontheatrical setting, thus impacting how we enjoy them, Corrigan said.
However, “movies also adapt to these new technologies.”
Another change he observed was the increasing popularity of television series.
“Some high-level television series are replacing the narrative arc of movies,” he said. “Even blockbusters move in a serial format, defining a tendency in this decade.”
For her part, Beckman discussed her difficulties in writing for Corrigan’s book. The editors of the “Screen Decades Series” — of which “Themes and Variations” was the newest installment — had many guidelines that constrained her writing, she said.
“The editors were not happy [with] my choice of films, as they thought they were too unknown,” Beckman explained. “But how will people know about them unless I write about them?”
She saw these challenges as a “real question of intellectual freedom.” She described her difficulties writing her essay — titled “2005: Movies, Terror and the American Family” — to “give people a little behind-the-scenes look at some of the struggles that occur in the publishing process.”
The speakers then invited the audience to ask questions about American cinema in general. A few of the students in the crowd had taken classes in the cinema studies department and wanted to learn more.
Specifically, they asked about certain new developments in film that drew opinionated responses from the speakers.
On 3-D technology, for example, Corrigan asserted how most 3-D movies did not impress him, as they did not “complicate how we see space and time.”
Beckman said shehopes the future of American cinema will include more women’s voices.
Claudia Consolati, a doctoral student in Italian, Cinema and Gender Studies, offered her thoughts at the end of the event.
“I heard the speakers were good in this field,” she said, “and I found I share a lot of the values they have on cinema today.”