Laurier’s Film Studies program hosted a major SSHRC-funded conference, Classical Hollywood Studies in the 21st Century, on May 10-13, 2018. Over the course of three days described by some delegates as “summer camp for film academics,” forty leading international scholars convened to exchange cutting-edge ideas about the seminal body of films that were produced by Hollywood’s major studios from the 1920s through the 1960s. These films, known collectively as the classical Hollywood cinema and admired for their stable yet flexible conventions of storytelling and style, have been a central preoccupation of Film Studies ever since the discipline’s emergence in the 1960s. More recently, though, they’ve been evaluated through the fresher lenses, including women’s film history and intermediality studies, among other approaches, and bolstered by new resources such as the Media History Digital Library. A key purpose of the conference was to consider how these new approaches and resources might shape the study of classical cinema in the decades ahead.
Take a moment to check out this splendid conference report, posted as a blog entry by the conference’s keynote speaker, Dr. David Bordwell, Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies, Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bordwell ranks as a preeminent scholar of film studies and one of the most influential writers on classical Hollywood cinema, having co-authored, with Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson, the canonical text in the field, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. His keynote talk expanded on material from his most recent book, Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling (aptly described as “magisterial” by Geoffrey O’Brien in the New York Times Review of Books) and revealed his reconsideration of the premises of the canonical co-authored text decades after its publication.
In addition to paper presentations, the conference included a tour of the Film Reference Library at the Toronto International Film Festival Bell Lightbox, a welcome reception at the Princess Café, screenings of the films Letter to Three Wives and Carmen Jones, and an alumni reception at the Apollo Cinema that featured the exceptional catering of The Crazy Canuck.
The conference was organized by Dr. Philippa Gates and Dr. Katherine Spring along with international collaborators Dr. Helen Hanson (University of Exeter) and Dr. Stefan Brandt (University of Graz). Sponsors included the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Apollo Cinema, Princess Cinemas, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and the following offices at Laurier: Laurier Alumni, Department of Communication Studies, Department of English and Film Studies, Faculty of Arts, Office of the President and Vice-Chancellor, Office of the Provost and Vice-President: Academic, and Office of Research Services.
Special thanks are owed to five undergraduate students of Film Studies: Paul Tortolo (Conference Secretary), Shaina Weatherhead (videographer), Chance Le Jeune (volunteer), Sam Lawson (volunteer), and Michael Oliveri (volunteer).
By the end of the conference, the most frequent question asked by delegates was, “When can we do this again?” – surely a sign of a smashing success.
By: Katherine Spring