Colloquium | Lucy Fischer

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 12:00pm

Lucy Fischer

Modernity, Machine, Movies, Mind:  Abel Gance’s La Roue (1923)

A discussion of French director Abel Gance‘s film La Roue (The Wheel / 1923), viewed as a pinnacle work of the silent cinema. Jean Cocteau agreed, stating: “There is the cinema before and after La Roue as there is painting before and after Picasso.” The film is a watershed modernist text because it makes innovative use of all the elements of cinematic discourse at this time—tinting, matting, the close-up, intertitles, but especially montage. Beyond the film’s innovative formal attributes, I will focus specifically on two issues. First is the film’s valorization of the machine (here, the railroad system) --an icon of modernity and a new subject of art (e.g. in Futurist painting and in photography). Secondly, I explore how La Roue, fashions various modes for presenting human consciousness—another concern of modernity in this era, as sparked by the writings of Freud and others.

Lucy Fischer is Distinguished Professor of English and Film Studies as well as director of the Film Studies Program. She is the author of ten books: Jacques Tati (G.K. Hall, 1983), Shot/Countershot: Film Tradition and Women's Cinema (Princeton, 1989), Imitation of Life (Rutgers, 1991), Cinematernity: Film, Motherhood, Genre (Princeton University Press, 1996), Sunrise (British Film Institute, 1998),  Designing Women: Art Deco, Cinema and the Female Form (Columbia University Press, 2003),  Stars: The Film Reader (co-edited with Marcia Landy, Rutgers University Press, 2004), Teaching Film (coedited with Patrice Petro, forthcoming MLA, 2012 and Body Double: The Author Incarnate in the Cinema (forthcoming, Rutgers University Press, 2013).  She has published extensively on issues of film history, theory, and criticism in such journals as Screen, Sight and Sound, Camera Obscura, Wide Angle, Cinema Journal, Journal of Film and Video, Film Criticism, Women and Performance, Frauen und Film, and Film Quarterly. Her essays have been anthologized 27 times in volumes of film history, criticism, and/or theory.  She has held curatorial positions at The Museum of Modern Art (New York City) and The Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh), and has written catalog essays for exhibits at the Wight Gallery (Los Angeles) and the Neuberger Museum (Purchase, NY). She has been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Art Critics Fellowship as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Professors.  She has lectured internationally in Tel Aviv, Israel; Amsterdam, Holland; Vienna, Austria; Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain, and Adelaide, Australia and has taught abroad in Ausgburg, Germany; Stockholm, Sweden; and on the Semester at Sea program of the University of Pittsburgh (which traveled around the world).  Lucy Fischer has served as president of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (2001–03) and has also served as the organization's vice president. As its Conference Program Committee chair, she has twice hosted and organized its annual national conference in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, she has served as chair of the Film Executive Committee of the Modern Language Association and has been a delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies.

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