At the point in Olivier Assayas’s excellent Clouds of Sils Maria when Kristen Stewart’s character Valentine, ‘Val’, young assistant to Juliette Binoche’s middle-aged, burnt-out actress Maria Enders, suddenly disappears, I was reminded not only of the new vogue of disappearing women but of an old philosophical joke: Descartes is sitting in a bar, having a drink. The bartender asks him if he would like another. “I think not,” he says and vanishes in a puff of logic. There is no such cause-and-effect logic to Val’s disappearance, and as such it’s of a piece with the filmmaker’s oft-repeated qualification of his screenwriting as intuitive and strictly non-rational. But the existentialist state of uncertainty sure does make for good after-movie dinner conversation amongst the chattering classes. In Marisha Pessl’s debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the main character is a film-obsessed college student whose arrogant academic father, Gareth van Meer, offers a good example of the type of conversation that could be had about this device –which Andras Balint Kovacs, in his book Screening Modernism, calls ‘the drama of vanishing,’ a Sartrean ‘dynamics of disappearance’ based on emptiness, lack, or nothingness – that will forever be associated with the disappearance of Anna in L’Avventura:
L’Avventura,” Dad said, “has the sort of ellipsis ending most American audiences would rather undergo a root canal than be left with…And the idea that none of us can truly know anything at all —not the lives of our friends or family, not even ourselves—is a thought they'd rather be shot in the arm with their own semi-automatic rifle than face head on. Personally, I think there's something terrific about not knowing, relinquishing man's feeble attempt to control. When you throw up your hands, say, 'Who knows?' you can get on with the sheer gift of being alive.
For Gareth van Meer the film’s ambiguity is fundamentally a form of realism, life being all about loose ends. But realism is but one half of the art film’s aesthetic, as David Bordwell has argued in his seminal piece, “The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice”. The other half is authorial expressivity. So another conversation – equally rich in cultural capital – could be had about L’Avventura that’s less about how the film is like life than about how its loose ends express Antonioni’s vision of life. Perhaps Assayas decided to have Kristen Stewart disappear because he was thinking ahead to both conversations – the kind that always sounds better in French anyway. Sadly, it was not to be; the hot conversational topic at Cannes this year was not why Val was swallowed up by the serpentine clouds of Sils Maria, but whether Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s eventual Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep was too long, the kind of thing only the most unsophisticated conversation on ‘antonioniennui’ would ever dare raise.
One Way Gone: Postcard from the Alps (Wish You Were Here)
In a strange carte postale that Assayas sent Kristen Stewart while on a trip with his partner Mia Hansen-Love and Cahiers confrère Serge Toubiana in the Swiss Alps décor where the film was shot, the director addresses his star’s frustration with her character’s sudden disappearance: ‘Je sais que tu n’as pas très bien compris pourquoi je t’ai fait disparaître si soudaiement dans le film au moment où surgissent les nuages au sommet du col de Maloja.’ The postcard is strange because it seems to continue the movie’s self-conscious conflation of player and part as Assayas reminisces about the lake where Kristen and Juliette used to go swimming and the chalet where they all drank good wine together, or when he writes that she can watch the pictures Mia took later on her i-pad, and that Juliette went to see Guardians of the Galaxy in Paris on her recommendation. In the movie, the plot of the play, Maloja Snake, written by the great Wilhelm Melchior, about a burnt-out middle-aged woman who’s driven to suicide when her place in her marriage and in her professional life is usurped by the younger woman she fell in love with, starts to materialize in the actress’ ‘real life’ when she is offered the part of the older woman in a new production of the play opposite a fresh young face of the youtube and Twilight generation (Chloë Grace Moretz). Meanwhile, in ‘real life,’ Clouds of Sils Maria was presented by Assayas as a gift to Juliette Binoche, now a grande dame of French cinema but once the young ingénue of André Téchiné’s Rendez-Vous (1984), a movie based on one of Assayas’ earliest screenplays. Ostensibly about the theatre, Clouds of Sils Maria, it appears, is more about movies.
If Clouds of Sils Maria is a movie about movies, is it then true to say that Kristen Stewart’s disappearance, at the point in the story when Moretz’s Jo-Ann Ellis, fresh off a teen-oriented X-Men-esque sci-fi hit, takes center stage, is a reflection on her real-life status as Twilight queen? Assayas sees other reasons, other movies: ‘Je sais que tu n’as pas très bien compris pourquoi je t’ai fait disparaître si soudaiement dans le film…: ce n’était pas seulement pour citer L’Avventura d’Antonioni.’ Pas seulement. What other reasons can be given?
In her book on neoformalist film analysis, Breaking the Glass Armor, Kristin Thompson distinguishes between different motivations that explain why a specific ‘device’ – that is, ‘any single element or structure that plays a role in the artwork’ – occurs. ‘Citer L’Avventura’ is a form of what Thompson calls ‘transtextual motivation’: ‘the work introduces a device that is not motivated adequately within its own terms, but that depends on our recognition of the device from past experiences.’ These past experiences, in this case, include our familiarity with the Antonioni film. But if Val’s disappearance from the film is meant to bring to mind Anna’s from L’Avventura, there are other exits to be considered.
Two Ways Gone: Exit via Bergman and Cassavetes
In his obituary for Antonioni, David Thomson thinks up the following routine between the Italian master and his Swedish counterpart, Ingmar Bergman: ‘I suspect that if you had reproached them both with Not too many jokes, Ingo? Mikey? they would have sighed and agreed and said, "Not yet. But suppose we exit at the same moment. The obituarists may hear us laughing."’
In Rendez-Vous,Binoche’s young actress Nina has a platonic relationship with an elderly theatre director, Scrutzler, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant. In Sils Maria, Scrutzler appears again as Wilhelm Melchior, the father figure who offered Maria her breakthrough role as the young temptress Sigrid in Maloja Snake and who has committed suicide at the beginning of the film. It has been argued that Melchior – the archetype of the reclusive, neurotic, self-destructive artist – was modelled on and is supposed to evoke Rainer-Werner Fassbinder (whose Bitter Tears of Petra Kant is another movie hidden beneath the surface in Sils Maria)or even Brecht, but my money is on Bergman. Assayas conducted a series of interviews with Bergman in collaboration with the Swedish filmmaker Stig Björkman that resulted in a book, Conversations avec Bergman (1990). And it’s is not hard to imagine the Bergman seal of approval on Assayas’ intimate chamber pieces that derive to a large extent from the life stories of the talent involved, on his studied framings that nevertheless give the impression of handheld improvisation allowing for a distinct effect of presence and immediacy, and on his love of the actor’s face as the most expressive tool in the director’s kit. Compare the easy intimacy Assayas creates in the scenes between Binoche and Stewart sojourning in the Melchiors’ house in Sils Maria to similar Scenes from a Marriage and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Obviously, the Bergman film that is most important to Sils Maria is Persona (1966), from which derives the theme of role-playing and the plot of the neurotic actress vampirically feeding off her younger caretaker. The Indian Summer atmosphere of Bergman’s film is most felt in the scenes in which Maria and Val go on nature hikes or go lake swimming; it’s in these scenes also that the Alpine setting most starts to resemble that of Bergman’s remote island Farö. (As an aside, let’s note the more general revival of Bergmanism in contemporary art cinema: late Haneke, for instance, is unthinkable without the Bergman of Winter Light and Cries and Whispers; in the recent documentary, Trespassing Bergman, the Austrian auteur can be seen traipsing around the Bergman estate, smiling contentedly when he discovers a copy of La Pianiste amongst the Swede’s video collection.) Would it be wrong to argue that Val disappears because Bibi Anderson’s Alma seems to disappear at the end of Persona? Becauseher persona has blended with that of Maria? Or did she vanish because she was a figment of Maria’s imagination all along, a product of her need for a minder, a companion and a new role?
Rendez-Vous provides another clue to solving the mystery of Val’s disappearance, as it borrows several plot lines from Cassavetes’ Opening Night (1977) – another Assayas favourite –notably the scene in which Nina’s self-destructive lover Quentin (Lambert Wilson) is run over by a car in what appears to be a suicide. In Opening Night it’s a young fan of aging Broadway star Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) who gets run over and then, like Quentin, starts putting in ghostlike appearances (Opening Night’s DNA is also all over Cronenberg’s Maps To The Stars, another story about aging in public). There is a car accident in Sils Maria that can be read as a suicide, although it’s perhaps less central to the plot than in the other two films: Maria’s co-star in Maloja Snake, the actress who played ‘the older woman,’died in a car crash a year after they did the film adaptation, and her spirit is another one that haunts Maria and the movie. The theme of actorly insecurity and aging on stage, the fear of being surpassed by the young, is of course most of all associated with All About Eve, but for Assayas Cassavetes’ is clearly the wiser reflection. Mankiewicz was a favourite of first-generation Cahiers cinephiles, but classical Hollywood has never meant much to a director intent on breaking with the cinephile tradition. So, finally, does Val disappear because the filmmaker was thinking about Laura Johnson’s aetherial fan in Opening Night?
Enders Game: Jeu des formes
If there is no ‘realistic’ or ‘compositional’ motivation for Val’s exit from the movie, no reason the device plays in the development of the plot, perhaps there is what Kristin Thompson calls ‘artistic motivation’: a shift of attention to the aesthetic qualities of the work’s texture once other motivations are more or less disabled. Assayas confirms: ‘‘Je sais que tu n’as pas très bien compris pourquoi je t’ai fait disparaître si soudaiement dans le film…ce n’était pas seulement pour citer L’Avventura d’Antonioni, c’était aussi pour indiquer que ton personnage, pris dans le jeu infini des formes de ce monde – et de mon film – devait sortir du champ en douceur, comme emporté par le mouvement serpentin des nuages.’ ‘Le jeu infini des formes de ce monde – et de mon film.’ Let’s take the forms of the world first. The serpentine form of the clouds in Switzerland inspired the director to take up Nietzsche, whose idea of eternal recurrence (Heraclitus’ ‘everything flows’) he discussed with the cast members during the shooting. The cloud pictures Assayas evokes refer to painting, the romantic painting of Turner and Caspar David Friedrich in particular, but the filmmaker’s agenda here seems to be more ontological than pictorial. Does Val disappear because there is no being only becoming?
In his Regis dialogue with critic Kent Jones for the Walker Art Center, Assayas once again tries to distance himself from the legacy of the nouvelle vague and the auteur-oriented cinema he is commonly associated with, mainly because he was a critic at Cahiers du Cinéma before becoming a filmmaker. Especially in their formative years, he argues (rather narrowly), the nouvelle vague cinéastes were concerned only with movies, with cinephilia and the possibilities of the new art form. The idea of being nourished as an artist only by movies, of wanting to make movies that look like movies about movies, terrifies him, he confesses. His desire as an artist is primarily to reflect on his being, on his relation to the world, or less metaphysically, his position on the Zeitgeist. There certainly is that ambition in Assayas’ cinema, to be pertinent, to say something meaningful about the contemporary world. Call it the Serge Daney version of auteurism with a socio-political bent: movies like Demonlover, Boarding Gate and Carlos explicitly deal with the new global economies and media systems and socially constructed ontologies, while l’Eau froide, L’Heure d’été and Après Mai, although rooted in the spirit of the late sixties and seventies, the time of Assayas’ own youth, all want to speak for the youth of today, much in the way of Bresson’s late masterpiece Le Diable probablement, another crucial film.
But Bresson was one of few filmmakers who succeeded in creating an entirely unique, idiosyncratic film style, one that is much on Thompson’s mind when she speaks about the artwork’s ‘artistic motivation’ taking precedence over those other types. The basis for Bresson’s originality, I would hasard, is that he was not a cinephile, and that he discovered his style while trying to come up with a cinematic equivalent or counterpoint for the literary style of two writers he adored and frequently adapted, Bernanos and Dostoevsky. Assayas can to a certain extent be seen to want to mimic this process, stressing that his filmmaking is constructed more around painting and the French post-experimental narrative literature of Mauriac, Green, and Chardonne, than in reference to the film auteurs of the past. If he does mention any influence from a filmmaker on his work besides Bresson, it’s the experimental cinema of Garrel and Debord, again because of their advantage qua immediacy. Assayas may insist upon the primacy of ideas, intuitions and feelings, but since he works in narrative cinema, his reflections about the world still have to be conveyed through devices that make them sufficiently salient and interesting to the viewer. In many cases, these devices derive from the same auteur cinema Assayas ostensibly wants to counter with a more immediate form of cinema. Unlike Bresson, he cannot but be a cinephile. He may disparage this year’s Palme d’Or winner in an attempt to assuage Kristen Stewart’s disappointment in their film’s reception at Cannes – ‘Je sais que tu ne gardes pas un très bon souvenir de notre passage à Cannes, que tu espérais mieux, mais nous n'avons pas eu de chance cette année: un film turc de trois heures, citant aussi Bergman et Tchekhov, a impressionné le jury’ – but, in the end, their approach is pretty similar, and perhaps what the comment expresses first of all is disappointment that the other Bergman-inspired film in the selection took home the main prize.
Where Does It All Come From? (And Where Did It Go?)
And where am I going with all of this? There are two points I want to make, the first of which I will not develop and finally only has a tangential relation to this essay. My question is this: if cinematic modernism had run its course by the late seventies, as the form’s most important chronicler Andras Balint Kovacs has argued, then why are its devices at the level of both narrative and visual style – elliptical narration and narrative ambiguity; alienation as a major theme; dominance of ‘realism’ as a stylistic effect; foregrounding of the author as shaping consciousness; the idea of the film belonging to an ‘oeuvre’; autobiographical inspiration etc. – still so prominently on display in today’s art cinema and do we see many of today’s auteurs, both Western and non-Western,self-consciously inscribe themselves in that tradition? In other words, are today’s ‘new’ cinemas a continuation of rather than a break with postwar European modernist cinema? Let’s put a pin in that one for now. My second question is more immediately relevant to the problem raised by Assayas’ distinction between a cinephile cinema that finds its inspiration in other movies and a personal cinema that is true to life and pertinent to contemporary reality. It is this: if an auteur cinema is supposed to start from an original perception of and reflection on the world, how does the auteur create the content through which these perceptions and reflections can be made salient?
In Breaking the Glass Armor, Kristin Thompson makes the crucial point that ‘most meanings that are used in films will of necessity be existing ones.’ Thompson is not making a general claim about a supposed postmodern culture of recyclage or pastiche. She is merely making the common-sense observation that, if we accept that it is rare for truly new ideas to emerge in philosophy or natural science, ‘we can hardly expect great artists to be great and original thinkers as well.’ While the Russian formalists considered the artist as a highly skilled craftsman, most auteurist critics expect filmmakers, especially those working in the art film idiom, to be a sort of philosopher. Even Bergman was frustrated that he wasn’t a great writer or philosopher. But at least he did a good job of presenting himself as one. One reason Thompson’s self-evident maxim has been largely ignored is that filmmakers themselves keep insisting on the importance of their ideas that claim a much broader relevance than merely the cinematic, whether it’s Haneke flaunting his knowledge of Baudrillard, Augé and Deleuze, or Assayas claiming to be in touch with the phenomenology of modern existence.
When the latter says that he’s afraid of being inspired only by movies, or by the conventions and devices of movies, this is usually followed by pointing to a broader sphere of inspiration, including the pictorial arts, music (punk rock!), but also, as in the case of many of his contemporaries in the French cinema (Claire Denis, Benoît Jacquot), literature. It’s certainly striking how many of today’s leading auteurs explicitly connect their art to classic literature. This makes perfect sense, of course, once you realize how difficult it must be for the auteur brandishing the camera stylo to come up with even the most ‘open’ or conceptual screenplay that is not generic, reiterative or a straight adaptation. And it’s striking only because we remember that one of the things the nouvelle vague rebelled against was the domination of middlebrow literary adaptations, to which they opposed an embrace of pulp fiction, which then produced the false perception that they dismissed literary inspiration or adaptation altogether. Both Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer and, especially, Rivette, were inspired by literature and heeded Bresson’s call to establish a truly dialectical relationship between literature and cinema. Both Bazin and Truffaut proposed alternatives to the adaptation practice of the ‘Tradition of Quality’: instead of relying on a ‘process of equivalence’ that finds cinematic counterparts for literary ideas, they proposed to let the original serve as an inspiration for the filmmaker who discovers a temperamental kinship to the novelist.
Once Upon a Time on The Steppe
For Nuri Bilge Ceylan – as Assayas explained to Kristen Stewart – that kinship is to Chekhov. There’s a good chance that what drew the Turkish Antonioni to Bergman – the influence on Winter Sleep most cited by critics (see David Hudson’s roundup for Keyframe) – was Bergman finding in Chekhov the third leg in a triumvirate of modernist theatrical influence with Strindberg and Ibsen: indeed, when in Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Karin and her brother Minus put on an al fresco production in the garden of their summer home of Minus’ allegorical play for their father’s approval, it’s hard not to think of The Seagull. Ceylan has advertised the influence of Chekhov from his first feature film The Town (1997) onwards, so he can hardly be accused of being coy about the provenance of his dramatic ideas. Still, there remains a trace of an anxiety of influence when the most explicitly Chekhovian of all Ceylan’s films, Winter Sleep, does not credit a specific Chekhov work. In her appraisal of the film, Kristin Thompson cites the program notes of the Vancouver film festival that compare the film to the plays of Chekhov. In fact, Winter Sleep is an almost word-for-word adaptation of two Chekhov short stories, “Interesting People” (1886) and “The Wife” (1892). The latter is about a wealthy and educated landowner and his estranged young wife, who hold opposing views on charity and philanthropy: he disdains ill-organized charity, she thinks him a difficult and unpleasant person. His proposing to do the accounting for his wife’s charity leads to a heated conflict. Most of the long dialogue scene between the two main characters of Winter Sleep, the middle-aged former actor and hotelier Aydin and his young wife Nihal, is taken verbatim from Chekhov. The former story is about another educated man who fancies himself a literary man. He writes book reviews and lives with his sister, who does nothing but lie around and starts to get more and more on her brother’s nerves, especially when she starts picking apart his work. The long dialogue scene between Aydin and his sister Neccla is again out of Chekhov, as is her incessant inquiry into the moral possibilities of ‘non-resistance to evil.’
When a work is that close to an original source – basically all Ceylan has done, from a dramaturgical perspective, is combine the two stories and composite Aydin’s character from two similarly drawn Chekhov protagonists – it should be considered an adaptation, but I haven’t read a single assessment in which Winter Sleep is treated as one. Even if we agree that it should be seen as the type of adaptation proposed by Bazin and Truffaut, the question remains of what exactly Ceylan brings to Chekhov or, indeed, to Bergman, Antonioni, Tarkovsky and Kiarostami, the filmmakers that have inspired his visual style (at least two of whom have been inspired by Chekhov). Is it enough to say that he has introduced Chekhov to Antonioni, relocating the Chekhov theme of country people out of place in the city to the industrial center of Turkey, or that he has found the mirror theme of city people displaced in the country perfectly realized in Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, then transposing the approach of the Kiarostami film to another Kurdish region, the Cappadocia region of Central Anatolia? Yes, he’s done that, but he’s also done more.
The answer of what exactly is in Ceylan’s first film set entirely in the Anatolian steppes, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, a prime example of the way contemporary auteur cinema remains in thrall to the possibilities for metaphysical speculation discovered by Antonioni in the Hitchcockian mystery thriller. Anatolia is based in part on faits divers, a true story that happened to one of the writers on the film, Ercan Kesal, but again mostly derives from Chekhov, specifically the story “The Examining Magistrate” (1887). This story about a district doctor and an examining magistrate on their way to an inquest, contains the tale of the young pregnant woman who foretold her own death, which in Ceylan’s film is the device that determines the relationship between the two main characters, the doctor Cemal and the prosecutor Nusret. In both the Chekhov story and Ceylan’s film, the magistrate keeps insisting on the mysterious nature of the young woman’s death, while the doctor insists on a cause-and-effect relationship between her apparent suicide by poison and the husband’s admitted adultery. Mirroring the themes of fatherhood, marital fidelity and (self-)deception enacted by the doctor and the prosecutor, is the lead-up to the murder that inspires the main plot. The victim, Yasar, was murdered during a drunken incident by Kenan, a man with haunted eyes, after a dispute in which the latter had revealed himself as the lover of Yasar’s wife Gülnaz and the father of his son. The film’s final act offers the dénouement of the young pregnant woman story and Kenan being confronted by both Gülnaz, who has come to identify her husband’s body, and her son, who throws a rock at him as part of an angry mob outside the courthouse. It’s unclear whether the motive of the crime in the film was taken from actual fact and Ceylan then turned the fait divers into allegory through inserting the Chekhov story. What is clear, however, is that childhood is an important theme in Anatolia, a theme conveyed through the sound of children’s play in the film’s later scenes and most legible in the final shot in which we see the doctor watching mother and son walking away in the distance as a football is kicked out of a schoolyard, which the son retrieves and kicks back to the children in the yard. This theme is less Chekhovian than Dostoevskyan.
The child throwing a rock also appears in the opening scene of Winter Sleep. This time the rock is thrown at Aydin; it smashes the front passenger window of his truck as he is driving down from his mountainside hotel to the village. It is thrown by Ilyas, the son of one of Aydin’s poor tenants. What at first seems a brutal prank turns out to have been a statement of moral purpose, as in Anatolia, by a child whose parents are threatened with eviction by an uncaring landlord. The motif of the child throwing a rock because of an injustice done to the parent is straight out of The Brothers Karamazov, in which Alyosha Karamazov observes a group of schoolboys throwing rocks at the sickly boy Ilyusha. When Alyosha tries to intervene, it turns out that Ilyusha's father, Snegiryov, had been assaulted and humiliated by Alyosha’s brother Dmitri. Alyosha learns of the hardships in the Snegiryov household and offers Snegiryov money as an apology for his brother’s behavior. Snegiryov throws the money back at Alyosha out of pride. The same scene occurs in Winter Sleep when Nihal goes to visit Ilyas’s father Ismail and offers him money in compensation for her husband’s judgmental attitude, which Ismail, like Nastassya Filippovna in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, throws in the fire.
So what Ceylan has ‘done’ is not just combine two Chekhov stories that share a theme of intellectual arrogance and lack of communication between the classes, but ad to the Chekhov equation by inserting a fragment of Dostoevsky. I use these mathematical terms deliberately, because, pace Assayas’ protestation that the creation of art is never an entirely rational process, I believe you can perfectly render the qualities of Ceylan’s film in the form of a proposition like the following: Ceylan=Chekhov + Dostoevsky/Antonioni + Bergman + Tarkovsky (an equation in which the parts to the right are variable and relatively interchangeable). Assayas would shudder at such a formula, as do most of my students when I present them with my summary of the Ceylan film. I don’t really see why, other than that the formula conjures up the ghost of semiotics and syntagmatic analysis. All it implies in my view is that Ceylan and Assayas have rendered a certain proposition – their view on the world, say – intelligible through applying devices developed by artists they consider their masters and with whom they sense a strong artistic and moral kinship. The former painter Assayas certainly knows that any art worth its salt, even the most abstract or post-figurative, always implies a conversation with precursor artists, with tradition and convention, a process of schema and revision. The reason we find such proposition so problematic is not just that it is too rational and leaves little or no room for contingency, but that it seems to designate a lack of originality. But that is only if we characterize originality in its modernist sense as necessarily opposed to tradition. Before modernism, originality was a factor of the educated artist’s coming up with interesting variations on the work of a master he had copied while an apprentice. Originality used to be a matter of pushing the conventions instead of breaking them. In this sense, the work of our contemporary art filmmakers appears less a continuation of modernism than a return to more traditional conceptions of art and authorship. Still, we would do well here to remember that famous moment in Godard’s Bande à part when Anna Karina’s language teacher writes the aphorism on the blackboard that ‘CLASSIC=MODERN,’ a fundamental Godardian paradox (explored by Serge Daney) that offers the possibility of doing things ‘differently’ even while continuing as before. As art critics like Rosalind Krauss have noted, now that originality has revealed itself as primarily a discourse of marketability, artists have embraced ‘hybridity’ as a replacement for originality. It is certainly possible to read in Assayas’ and Ceylan’s extra-textually motivated devices an instance of postmodernist pastiche. But the difference with real pastiche and collage art is that the conjoining of influences here is not an occasion for play or a testimony to explicit interconnectivity. The style of these filmmakers remains homogenous instead of willfully eclectic, their belief in high art, the authority of an auteurial point of view and the ontological approach to reality untouched. But now we’re back to the thing with the pin in it, so I’d better stop here.
Tom Paulus teaches film studies in the department of Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Antwerp. He has published on issues of genre and film style in such journals as Film International. His essays on pictorial style in the films of John Ford were published in three edited collections, John Ford in Focus (Stoehr & Connolly eds.) from McFarland, Westerns: Movies from Hollywood and Paperback Westerns (Paul Varner ed.) from Cambridge Scholars Press, and New Perspectives on The Quiet Man from the Liffey Press. His edited collection (with Rob King) Slapstick Symposium: Essays on Silent Comedy was published by Routledge in the American Film Institute Film Readers series.