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Film Colloquium: Brian Price on Regret and Remake

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

The second instalment of the Film Studies Colloquium Series on Friday, February 17, featured Brian Price, Associate Professor of Visual Studies and Cinema Studies from The University of Toronto.

Brian Price (University of Toronto).

Interested in questions of film and philosophy, Price has often theorised ontological questions surrounding cinema, focusing on metaphysical inquiries around how images constitute who we are and what we think. His work in the past has led to investigations around colour in film, comedy, and the avant-garde, among other projects. In his latest research, Price has turned his gaze onto ontological questions surrounding regret and remakes within cinema and how this can be related to the question of human will and creativity.

Presenting on various iterations of The Postman Rings Twice, Price drew comparison to the original 1934 novel by James M. Cain and its first American film adaptation, directed in 1946 by Tay Garnett and starring Lana TurnerJohn Garfield and Cecil Kellaway. The novel and film differ greatly in tone, ideology, and characterization – particularly when concerning the misogyny aimed at the main female character, Cora, and the characterization of agency and regret within the two main male characters. Price argued that the creative choices in putting the 1946 film together offers a lens in which to view the creativity that can be derived from regret, and as a result, regret’s potentially emancipatory value.

Without regret, Price argued, a remake of a film could be a simple repetition without any variation. As such, as a mode of creativity, regret is importantly related to an ability to see the same thing in more than one way, and thus effectively hope to make change. This model of regret and remake can be understood as it plays out within The Postman Rings Twice in a number of ways. One example is demonstrated through various decisions made by characters within the narrative of the film itself, such as when diner owner Nick is so mistakenly genial that he is unable perceive that his own wife is secretly plotting his murder. This formulation of remake can even be applied to thinking through the nature of editing itself, when a quick cut within the same scene between an on-location shot and then a close-up using rear projection, offers a rift in the duplication to the keen eye and thus offers to remake space within the same story.

Questions arose of how to apply this model of ‘regret and remake’ to a wider context, such as in various contemporary global filmmaking contexts or in remakes that occur across cultures. It shall be fascinating to see whether Price’s upcoming book A Theory of Regret: The Thought of Bureaucracy, which applies these understandings of repetition and regret to broader global geo-political issues, can apply these logics.

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