Finishes: Arts and Texts in Cinema and Media

full name / name of organization: 
Cinema Studies Group, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Date: March 29th and March 30th, 2012
Location: The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Ave., New York, NY

Does a story ever truly finish, or does it carry on when translated into another medium? When a work of art is reinscribed into a cinematic or televisual text, does it in some ways get a new lease on life? For instance, does David Cronenberg's M. Butterfly (1993), based on the play by David Henry Hwang which itself uses Puccini's Madama Butterfly as a source, rely on audiences to know and recognize its previous source texts to make a larger point? Is this a case of artistic vampirism or taking advantage of the originary text to gain traction and promotion?

Do some stories conclude in the textual arena until cinema or television decides on a re-encounter with them, therefore rendering the same stories, once again, unfinished? What about when borrowing happens across genres, such as when James M. Cain's noir thriller was remade by the Neorealist Luchino Visconti? How does the change in context change the contours of the story? In what ways do such moves from literature to film influence our understanding of both texts?

When can we call a film "finished"? Is it once the script is written, when production is wrapped up, in post-production, or once it has been rated and is ready to be screened? Does the Director's Cut finish the job left undone by the Theatrical Cut, such as in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, which exists in upto seven versions?

Do actors and actresses finish once they are done with individual movies? What happens when a newer actor "acts like Bogey" or "does a Liz" in their own work? In what ways do actors and directors mould their own, or others', past history to help their own work? Do the aura of certain gestures or modes, behaviors, live on beyond the individual?

The Center Cinema Studies Group of The Graduate Center, CUNY invites interdisciplinary paper and panel proposals for our biennial graduate conference on topics dealing with these and other ideas about finishing and finishes.

Please send 300-word abstracts of 15-20 minute papers on any topics related to these or other ideas about finishes and finishing to Annie Dell'Aria and Ria Banerjee at by 12/15/2011. Accepted papers will be notified by early-January. Keynote speaker TBA.

Possible questions include, but are not limited to, the following:
● How and why is a pre-existing work of art reinterpreted by another, newer one that refers to it?
● How does inserting a picture or musical work nuance or change our understanding of the filmic work as a whole?
● In terms of film history, in what ways do directors handle the shift from text to cinema?
● In what ways do directors remain true to the original intention of the artwork they use in their own work, and how do they twist and change these meanings?
● In the switch from text or artwork to cinema, does the texture of the work change?
● Can using certain pre-existing works of art within one's own text allow the filmmaker greater freedom from censorship?
● In what ways does a director rely on extra-diegetic associations around himself or his key actors, to give his work a different finish from what it might otherwise have, such as when Lars von Trier makes another movie with a Hollywood "big name" like Kirsten Dunst after his highly-publicized previous attempt at the same in Dogville?