As part of the BFI’s series profiling cutting-edge new work in film studies, John David Rhodes and Emma Widdis from University of Cambridge will explore connections between their new books, Spectacle of Property: The House in American Film and Socialist Senses: Film, Feeling, and the Soviet Subject, 1917-1940. Both scholars are particularly interested in how differ the films produced in capitalist and socialist contexts What kind of spectators do they imagine, and create? Is the very act of looking political? Following illustrated presentations, Widdis and Rhodes will be joined in conversation by scholars Ian Christie (Birkbeck) and Laura Marcus (Oxford).
The event will also be launching Emma Widdis’s pioneering new book, Socialist Senses: Film, Feeling, and the Soviet Subject, 1917–1940, published by Indiana University Press.
John David Rhodes’ Spectacle of Property brings together film history, film theory and architectural history to examine the home in the movies. Arguing that in cinema we pay to occupy spaces in order to look at space we cannot occupy, John David Rhodes explores how the house in cinema both structures and criticises fantasies of property and ownership, with reference to a diverse range of films, such as Gone with the Wind, Psycho, Grey Gardens and Meshes of the Afternoon.
Rhodes teaches at the University of Cambridge, where he is director of the Centre for Film and Screen. He is author of Stupendous, Miserable City: Pasolini’s Rome and co-editor of Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image.
Emma Widdis’s Socialist Senses traces cinema’s role in the attempt to bring about a ‘sensory revolution’ to accompany social and political change after 1917. Still a new medium, film seemed able both to discover the world afresh and to model a new way of living in it. Showing how filmmakers operated in dialogue with psychological science, architecture and design, Widdis shows how early Soviet cinema’s focus on touch and sensation anticipated many of the concerns that shape film theory today.
Widdis is Reader in Russian Studies at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity College. She is author of Visions of a New Land: Soviet Cinema from the Revolution to the Second World War and Alexander Medvedkin, and is editor (with Simon Franklin) of National Identity in Russian Culture.