Berkeley Film & Media Seminar


Noa Steimatsky – Roland Barthes Looks at the Stars

Fri, Apr 29, 2016, 12:00 am

142 Dwinelle Hall

Co-sponsored by the departments of French and Italian Studies

This talk explores Roland Barthes’s several texts of the early 1950s concerning the face in film and in visual culture, high and low. Most intriguing in this regard is the little known “Visages et figures” — possibly Barthes’s most extensive, and friendliest, discussion of the moving image. Largely neglected in film scholarship, this eclectic essay clearly links Barthes to Bazin’s and Morin’s understanding of the moving image as a “technology of magic” – a mythological system that forges social and psychic forms. Barthes posits the cinema as a privileged arena for a modern anthropology of the human face, also begging us to re-think, in its light, questions of art and commerce in late-modernity. However, Barthes’s continued discomfort with the illusionistic effects of movement, bound up with the expressive pitfalls of the cinematic face, suggest that we might ask, once again: what is an image when it moves?

Noa Steimatsky’s scholarship braids questions of film theory and aesthetics with historical research on postwar cinema. She was the recipient of several honors, among which the Fulbright Award, the Getty Research Grant, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Rome Prize. Steimatsky was faculty member at the Dept. of the History of Art at Yale University, and tenured at the Dept. of Cinema and Media Studies in the University of Chicago. This spring she is visiting faculty at UC Berkeley’s Dept. of Italian Studies. Her first book Italian Locations: Reinhabiting the Past in Postwar Cinema (2008) was published by the University of Minnesota Press. Her groundbreaking research on the displaced persons camp at Cinecittà has been the inspiration for documentary film. Her new book, The Face on Film, will be coming out Fall 2016 by Oxford University Press: it explores ways in which archaic desires and modern anxieties converge in post-classical cinema’s radical encounters with the human visage, particularly through the work of Hitchcock, Antonioni, Warhol, and Bresson.