Archives for the month of: October, 2013

I’m whacking together a poster for the Australian Society for French Studies conference. It’s in Brisbane, which makes for an easy trip. I promised a poster with maps of my usual interests – box office hits and prestige/award winners – that would reveal…something….about French cinema between 1976, the first year of the Césars, and 2013.

Here’s the top 36 French films at the French box office (a list that has to go way way down the all-time top 100, not just because of American and British films, but also because of pre-1976 French films)

France box office 1976-2012 Then there’s the Cesar-winner for best film:

France Cesars 1976-2012A third category is the film the French send to the Oscars as the official French candidate for Best Foreign Language Film:

France Oscars 1976-2012The Oscars people don’t always pick a French film to include in the nominees. Here are the narrative locations of the French entries that weren’t, in the end, one of the final nominees:

France Oscars not nominatedFinally, a more or less continent-level look (excepting Australia-New Zealand and Antarctica, with no French films set there) at all the other narrative locations in French films from all four categories:

France Africa France Asia France N:SAmFor my money the most interesting phenomenon is in the huge empty space across France.

big emptyThe combined population of Bretagne, Pays de la Loire, Centre, Bourgogne, Alsace (that’s where I stuck 8 Femmes, which is “in the country”), Lorraine, Franche-Comté, Poitou-Charentes, and Corse is more than a quarter of France. One-third of the French regions – forty percent of the land – and a quarter of the population doesn’t appear in any film. And the only time Normandy appears in is a WWII movie, not for a contemporary-set film.

In addition, overseas regions don’t appear at all – no French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, or Réunion – nor do any overseas collectives (French Polynesia, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre et Miquelon, Wallis and Fortuna).

To bring Hollywood in as a comparison – large chunks of the US certainly do not appear in films (the Dakotas, Vermont, and Rhode Island are especially rare) but the less-populated areas aren’t as rare as in French movies – thanks mostly to westerns, which include wagon trail films that cross the prairies. Hollywood has a similar empty-blind spot when it comes to Africa and South America.

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On SlideShare there’s a presentation from Melanie Thompson, “Musings of an Online Academic.” One slide in particular horrifies me.

Screen shot 2013-10-13 at 1.56.15 PMSpending ten to twenty hours a week tailoring funding pitches, sending out door prizes, and other crowdsourced funding management related activities sounds not unlike a part-time job that lets you do your job.

That would add up to almost one thousand hours over a year. My teaching contract pays me two hours of prep time as part of my one hour of lecturing time (“1 hour delivery with 2 hours associated work time”). One thousand hours of pay means three hundred and thirty-three contact hours. That time investment is the equivalent to single-handedly delivering 25 semester-long classes, with a little time left over for guest lectures. That’s a lot of teaching prep time pissed away. That’s a lot of research time pissed away.

 

I’m not quite sure that the chapter will turn out as focussed as this description makes it sound – it seems like I’ll need to bring in a host of other NZ horror films to make a strong case – but I proposed this for a book looking for something on cannibalism:

New Zealand Lamb is People: Bad Taste, Black Sheep, and Farming

It seems that everyone knows that there are more sheep in New Zealand than people. The historian James Bellich, in his Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders calls the movement of lamb “the protein bridge” between the South Seas and England. Peter Jackson’s mock-documentary Forgotten Silver (1996) bases much of its humour on the incongruity of a peripheral nation at the centre of cinema history; when it comes to the circulation of meat, his 1987 splatter-horror-comedy Bad Taste is firmly rooted in the truth: New Zealand resides much closer to the centre.

Bad Taste cannibalism 1 Bad Taste cannibalism 2

Bad Taste pits a slapstick defense force against invading aliens, concentrating just as much on what the characters put in themselves as what comes out of them. In the film’s most memorable scene, Frank eats a bowl of alien vomit and finds it quite tasty. Jackson shot the film on weekends, close to home, in places like Porirua, where the first McDonalds in New Zealand opened in 1976. Perhaps the location’s history informed Jackson’s decision to make the vomit-eating alien invaders the vanguard of an intergalactic fast food chain intent on factory-farming Earth. Black Sheep (2006) picks up where Bad Taste leaves off, pairing “danger” and “sheep” with trends in GM farming practices spurred by global (or intergalactic) demand for what New Zealand has to offer.

Black Sheep Horror Sheep 10 Black Sheep Horror Sheep 18

The true figure of horror in New Zealand cinema, it seems, is not a zombie (Dead Alive), a fascist government (Sleeping Dogs) or a gunman (Out of the Blue). It is sheep. New Zealand horror films like Bad Taste and Black Sheep reveal that the danger that the alien invasion of American-style factory farming and fast food chains represents to New Zealand would make New Zealanders cannibals: Unless they fight against factory and GM farming, kiwis will become lambs.

Black Sheep NZ taffic jam