From an international perspective, Chinese filmmakers look forward to in-depth exchanges with their counterparts in the international film academia to further promote the development of academic studies on Chinese film. From November 25th to 29th, academician of American Academy of Arts and Sciences and distinguished professor of the University of Chicago, Dr.Tom Gunning was invited to the Beijing Film Academy to present his thoughts on the academic study of film for cultural exchanges. This event was co-sponsored by the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Future Visual Entertainment, Graduate School and BFA Library.
This event attracted a variety of scholars from Beijing Film Academy, Peking University, Beijing Normal University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing Forestry University, Jilin University, Tsinghua University, Shanghai University, Tianjin Normal University, The University of Hong Kong, Xiamen University, Southwest University , Renmin University of China, Communication University of China, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Central Academy of Drama, University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Chinese Film Archive, Chinese National Academy of Arts, Contemporary Cinema, Film Art, World Cinema, Journal of Beijing Film Academy, August First Film Studio, and other research units in China.
These lectures were chaired by Prof. Wang Haizhou, Dean of Graduate School, Chief Researcher of Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Future Visual Entertainment, and Director of BFA Library. On November 25, on behalf of the organizer, Prof. Wang Haizhou welcomed Prof. Tom Gunning to the BFA for academic lectures and introduced his academic achievements to the teachers and students present. Prof. Wang Haizhou mentioned that the China Golden Rooster&Hundred Flowers Film Festival held in Xiamen this year has fully demonstrated the achievements of BFA in film creation, however, discipline construction and theoretical research are also areas in urgent need of strengthening and upgrading. These lectures by Prof. Gunning can not only promote the development of academic research of BFA, but also set up a good learning platform for domestic film scholars to promote Chinese film studies to go higher and further.
On November 25th, Prof. Tom Gunning delivered a lecture entitled “Cinema of Attraction”. The lecture mainly combed the historical origins, concepts and developments of “Cinema of Attraction”, systematically expounded the production and expression of attraction of cinema in the first ten years, and the relationship between cinema of attraction and narrative cinema. Prof. Tom Gunning launched a systematic media archeology of the prehistoric evolving state of the films from the original painting art to the mechanically reproduced photographic art, and to the recording of moving images with a large number of photos and video materials, reconstructing the intertextual context of “Cinema of Attraction”, this concept was used by Prof. Gunning to summarize the aesthetic style of films in this special period, it also refers to a certain angle and method of audience acceptance in film studies, and expands a new approach to the study of film history.
On November 26th, Prof. Tom Gunning delivered an academic lecture entitled “Classical Film Theory”. This lecture mainly focuses on the theories of the four theorists in the period of classic film theory: Hugo Munsterberg, Sergei M. Eisenstein, Jean Epstein, and André Bazin, elaborating and combing two core questions about the classical film theory of “what is film” and “whether film is art”. Prof. Gunning believes classic film theory attempts to define film, the emerging medium or art form to reveal the nature and possibility of film. As Gunning said at the end, even if the classic film theory developed into Bazin's times, “what is film” still remains an unanswerable question. Borrowing Bazin's point of view that “film has not been invented yet”, Gunning emphasized that the film had been constantly re-invented in terms of technology, aesthetics, and ideology.
The lecture scheduled for the 28th has been canceled due to Prof. Tom Gunning's health. On November 29th, Prof. Gunning continued to give lectures in spite of his illness. Prof. Gunning integrated the two themes of “Genre Film Theory” and “Film and Narrative Theory” into this lecture. In the first part, Prof. Gunning focused on music films, analyzing the connection between attraction and narrative in the film, and how the film diverts the audience's attention from the story to audio-visual perception by the rhythm. The second part revolved around the narrative theory, it involved the story structure and ways of telling, the latter if which reflected the unique characteristics of film as a medium. Taking Alfred Hitchcock's work as an example, Prof. Gunning discussed the construction mechanism of suspense, and analyzed the viewpoints, spatial settings, close-ups and other methods in specific clips to show how attraction was perfectly integrated with the story under the director's design.
After the lecture, Prof. Wang Haizhou extended thankness and appreciation to Tom Gunning on behalf of the organizer, and presented a souvenir to the professor for his warm departure from BFA. Prof. Wang Haizhou believed that the series of lectures by Prof. Tom Gunning had brought a wonderful academic feast to the teachers and students, and they can also feel his love for the podium. The exchanges, dialogues and interactions with Prof. Gunning can deepen the understanding of the theoretical studies of film science, which is of great significance to further promote the academic construction of our university. In addition, Prof. Wang Haizhou also expressed his gratitude to the relevant functional departments and volunteers of the Academy for their hard work.
This series of lectures covered four major sections: “Cinema of Attraction”, “Classical Film Theory”, “Genre Film Theory” and “Film and Narrative Theory”, systematically presenting the academic thoughts of the world's top scholar Prof. Tom Gunning. Looking back on the four courses, we saw the cutting-edge research of international film theories and heard Prof. Gunning's in-depth interpretation of related issues. The excellent content and interactive course not only attracted the active participation of young scholars from all over the country, but also won the high recognition of experts and scholars, and won the warm welcome of teachers and students. The launch of the “Film Studies Masterclass” has created a high-speed channel for international cultural exchanges and lecture-feedback teaching in our Academy, and truly reflected our schooling thought of “building a world-class film school with Chinese characteristics”.