He also co-wrote Michelangelo Antonioni's 'The Passenger,' starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider.
Peter Wollen, who wrote and directed the early Tilda Swinton movie Friendship's Death and penned Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, an influential 1969 book about film theory, has died. He was 81.
Wollen died Tuesday in Haslemere, Surrey, after a long struggle with Alzheimer's, his son, Chad Wollen, announced.
Wollen also co-wrote with Mark Peploe the screenplay for Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger 1975, starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider, and collaborated with fellow film theorist Laura Mulvey, his first wife, on several projects, including the documentary Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons 1974 and the features Riddles of the Sphinx 1977 and Crystal Gazing 1982.
As Samuel Wigley wrote for the British Film Institute in October, Signs and Meaning in the Cinema was a "canonical publication in the then-young field of film studies" and "a brilliantly original dissection of the art of film, bringing to bear intellectual ideas from the fields of semiotics and post-structuralism on the work of directors such as Sergei Eisenstein, John Ford and Howard Hawks."
Wollen embarked on Signs and Meaning because he "wanted to establish, first and foremost, that film was an art and therefore it should be studied for its own sake in the same way as the other arts — literature, painting, music, etc.," he said in an interview. "At that time, film was primarily seen in the context of the mass media, which led to a communications or sociological approach, rather than an aesthetic approach."
Friendship's Death 1987, financed by the BFI, starred Swinton as an extraterrestrial robot on a peace mission to Earth in the second film she ever made.
A London native and Oxford graduate, Wollen also worked for Channel 4 in England and curated significant art exhibitions, including one in 1982 that focused on painter Frida Kahlo and photographer Tina Modotti, which he once wrote was "an unintended launch-pad for all things Fridamania."
Wollen also taught at UCLA and wrote essays for Sight and Sound, Seven Days, Bananas, New Left Review, The Nation and The London Review of Books.
His son said he battled Alzheimer's for almost two decades. He also is survived by his second wife, writer Leslie Dick; Mulvey; daughter Audrey Wollen; and granddaughter Zoe.
While major studios have the resources to debut their theatrical releases early on digital and streaming platforms amid the nationwide shutdown of movie theaters due to coronavirus COVID-19 concerns, indie filmmakers are being left without an audience for their small films. Typically, film festivals give these indie films the exposure they need to build up an audience or critical acclaim.
But with film festivals cancelling left and right, indie films are the ones that suffer the most. However, Jay and Mark Duplass, who got their start in the indie filmmaking world, want to use their clout to support those indie filmmakers whose small films are left without a home.
Film festivals are more than a fancy place for high-profile filmmakers to debut their next awards contender. They’re an essential home for many indie films that otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to debut to big crowds. But with those crowds dispersed and shut up in their homes for the time being, indie filmmakers are being left with nowhere to show the small films that they worked on for years. They don’t have the resources to just drop their movies on digital platforms and even if they did, they’re more likely to get overlooked in favor of Bloodshot.
However, the Duplass brothers are attempting to lessen the financial blow that indie filmmakers are feeling by using their clout to elevate those small films. In an interview with IndieWire, Mark Duplass put out the call to indie films for a home, offering the resources of Duplass Productions to boost indie filmmakers’ works.
“[The streamers] are all doing their best overtime watching pretty much every movie that’s being submitted to them from the festivals that didn’t have their premieres. We as Duplass Brothers have also come forward to those people and said, ‘If you find a movie where you feel like ‘This is really great but it’s not there yet,’ bring it to us and we will help partner with you to make that movie what you feel like it needs to be for your service.”
While streaming platforms have been a godsend for many stuck inside, or the many people who can’t afford to go to the movie theater every week, Duplass said that not only independent filmmakers, but independent studios have been struggling to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are so many positives and negatives to where we’re at with the prominence of streamers, what they have done to places like IFC and Magnolia who’ve been around for years and who are an integral part of our ecosystem,” Duplass said. “They were really damaged by some of these acquisition prices at film festivals. We used to … sell our movies to these niche distributors, and we wouldn’t hammer them for too much money because if we did, they wouldn’t be...