Biography, vol. 29, no. 1 (2006): Self-Projection and Autobiography in Film

SPECIAL ISSUE: Self-Projection and Autobiography in Film


Linda Haverty Rugg
Biography 29.1 cover imageKeaton’s Leap: Self-Projection and Autobiography in Film, p. v
In exploring what we are talking about when we talk about a film as the self-projection of a filmmaker, this introduction suggests film’s potential for not only recrafting the act of self-representation, but also for examining the nature of selfhood and its construction, as the very impossibility of cinematic autobiography aids in the discovery of a more implicated, complex, and unrepresentable subject.


Nadja Gernalzick
To Act or to Perform: Distinguishing Filmic Autobiography, p. 1
This article traces pivotal developments in the history of first-person filmic narration and subjective camera technique as the principal elements of filmic autobiography. Theoretical approaches to defining filmic autobiography, and critical distinctions between autobiographical fiction film and filmic autobiography are developed with reference to films by Robert Montgomery, Jim McBride, and Jean-Luc Godard.

Guy Barefoot
Autobiography and the Autobiographical in the Bill Douglas Trilogy, p. 14
Through an examination of the production and reception of Bill Douglas’s “autobiographical trilogy,” and a comparison with Douglas’s written description of his childhood, this article explores the problems of discussing film as autobiography, and differences between literary autobiography and autobiographical film, but also how the autobiographical remains central to our understanding of these particular films.

Christine Fanthome
The Influence and Treatment of Autobiography in Confessional Art: Observations on Tracey Emin’s Feature Film Top Spot, p. 30
This article explores the influence and treatment of autobiography in Tracey Emin’s confessional feature film Top Spot. Drawing primarily on observations by Michel Foucault, Susanna Egan, and Anthony Giddens, the essay comments on the inherent appeal of confessional art, and questions why it appears to be especially relevant within today’s society.

Peter Mathews
The Mandatory Proxy, p. 43
This article explores how Jean-Luc Godard’s film Vivre sa Vie (1962) sets about deconstructing—rather than reproducing—the autobiographical act within cinema. Central to Godard’s exercise is the decision to cast Anna Karina, his wife at the time, as the lead actress. Godard repeatedly demonstrates that the cinematic image functions as an opaque screen, a “mandatory proxy,” between actor and viewer that renders a truly authentic autobiography impossible.

Efrén Cuevas
The Immigrant Experience in Jonas Mekas’s Diary Films: A Chronotopic Analysis of Lost, Lost, Lost, p. 54
The article examines Jonas Mekas’s immigrant experience through a close analysis of his diary film Lost, Lost, Lost (1976). After explaining Mekas’s diary film practice, it studies the narrative of his American immigrant experience, helped by the chronotopic approach to literary analysis proposed by Mikhail Bakhtin.

Milan Pribisic
Carousel: Erwin, Elvira, Armin, Fassbinder, and All the Others’ Autobiographies, p. 73
I read Fassbinder’s short story, film script, and the film In a Year of Thirteen Moons itself as a bi-level, intertextual web—an autobiography of Fassbinder’s “failed” homosexuality, and a biography of a generation of Germans growing up in the post-World War 2 West Germany to which Fassbinder belonged.

Michael Tratner
Lovers, Filmmakers, and Nazis: Fritz Lang’s Last Two Movies as Autobiography, p. 86
Fritz Lang’s last two movies are autobiographies of a peculiar kind. He remakes two early films, transforming them into allegorical representations of the intense romantic and political triangle which shaped his early career—the triangle connecting the director Lang, the screenwriter Thea Von Harbou (who was also his wife), and the Nazi Party.

Julie F. Codell
Playing Doctor: François Truffaut’s L’Enfant sauvage and the Auteur/Autobiographer as Impersonator, p. 101
Truffaut, impersonating/performing Dr. Itard, represents multiple layers of autobiographical content through allusions to film history, his life, cultural ideals, colonial upheavals, and critiques of the Enlightenment. Instead of the optimism critics have seen in this film, I suggest that it offers a criticism of colonialism and the Enlightenment through a convoluted autobiographical ity that shifts its central subjectivity from Itard to Victor.

Jason Sperb
Removing the Experience: Simulacrum as an Autobiographical Act in American Splendor, p. 123
This article articulates how American Splendor’s filmmakers deploy post-modernity and the seemingly antithetical logic of the simulacrum as the central means of documenting the real-life experiences of Harvey Pekar. Paradoxically, the film also attempts to reveal how these experiences neces-sarily continue to exist outside the simulacrum, in an affective realm.

Theresa L. Geller
The Personal Cinema of Maya Deren: Meshes of the Afternoon and Its Critical Reception in the History of the Avant-Garde, p. 140
Maya Deren’s role within the history of the avant-garde is irreducibly tied to the reception of her groundbreaking film, Meshes of the Afternoon. In its avant-garde aesthetics, Meshes challenges the psychic structures of gendered subjectivity. By examining how the film’s critique reflected Deren’s position as a woman filmmaker, Meshes emerges as a significant work of feminist cinematic autobiography.

Garrett Stewart
Vitagraphic Time, p. 159
Two screen narratives from 2004 take up autobio/graphic techniques of visual mediation from opposite sides of a division suggested long ago by Gilles Deleuze between “European humanism” and “American science fiction.” Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education, about a Spanish film director confronted with a script that implicates his own erotic past, carries the stylistic possibilities of the Deleuzian “time-image” to new digitally implemented extremes in the mode of elegiac melodrama. By contrast, Omar Naim’s futurist fable The Final Cut, about a digital implant that records one’s entire life and then requires a “cutter” to edit it down for the funeral rites of “rememory,” explores a dystopian reduction of human temporality to mere cybernetic storage. In response to such autobiographical extremes, an approach through “narratography” is able to chart the tracings of memory along the grain of the cinematographic and digitized image—and their ironic amalgams—in both films.

Excerpts from recent reviews of biographies, autobiographies, and other works of interest