PERSONAL: Born in France. Education: Universite de la Sorbonne Noubelle, Doctorat d'Etat, 1987.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—University of Southern California, School of Cinema. E-mail—[email protected] edu.
CAREER: University of Southern California, School of Cinema-Television, currently professor of Critical Studies; has taught at University of Pittsburgh, San Francisco University, and Universite de la Sorbonne Noubelle. Former director, Paris Center for Critical Studies.
MEMBER: Society for Cinema Studies (former president).
The Political Language of Film and the Avant Garde, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, MI), 1985.
In a Lonely Place, BFI Publishing (London, England), 1994.
Pulp Fiction, BFI Publishing (London, England), 2000. Jane Campion, BFI Publishing (London, England), 2001.
Contributor of reviews and essays to periodicals.
SIDELIGHTS: French-born educator and author Dana Polan has written numerous volumes on film theory and criticism, earning him a solid reputation in academic circles. More recently, he has applied his expertise to popular films and their directors.
In Power and Paranoia: History, Narrative, and the American Cinema, 1940-1950, Polan presents a broad analysis of narrative films. For Polan, narrative is the culture's voice. Robert Kolker of Film Quarterly wrote, "Power and Paranoia stands as an important example of post-structuralist cultural criticism. You will not so much learn about the history of the forties...as you will the ways in which a culture works its history out through narratives, how a culture produces itself in all of its contradictions while attempting to map out the contours of its realities."
Another book on cinematic theory is The Political Language of Film and the Avant Garde. Polan has written and collected a series of essays on theorists and filmmakers for this treatise, with a focus on political film and how its meaning is produced. In his review for Theater Journal, reviewer Marc Silberman wrote, "Although the book's research is current only through 1979 . . . and the choice of filmmakers seems idiosyncratic, it raises the right questions in a thought-provoking way." J. R. Green deemed the book "essential for film studies at the upper-division undergraduate level and beyond," in his review for Choice.
In the early 1990s Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed the popular film Pulp Fiction, starring John Travolta. The film defined American cinema in the 1990s for many people. Polan attempts to unlock the style and technique in the movie in his book of the same title. He demonstrates how broad Tarantino's points of reference are, and analyzes the film's considerable narrative accomplishment and complexity. Polan's other film criticism, In a Lonely Place, analyzes that classic film, which starred Humphrey Bogart as the cynical screenwriter who falls for a glamorous woman. Polan reveals the autobiographical undertones of Nicholas Ray, the film's director. He also illustrates that the film—one of the first to mix the genre of drama and comedy—uses the genre blend to portray a compelling love story.
Director Jane Campion surprised movie-goers with her phenomenally successful film The Piano in 1993. Prior to this, she was considered an "artsy" director. With The Piano came a new reputation for Campion, one that spotlighted her ability to combine emotionalism and the representation of feminine fantasy onscreen. Polan wrote the first full-length study of Campion. In this book Polan examines the phenomenon of The Piano and how it developed a surreal and distanced way of looking at everyday issues. Though he spends a great deal of time analyzing this particular movie, he also examines how Campion's post-Piano has work fared, using The Piano as the standard by which all her subsequent films are measured. In his review for Kamera.com, Jason Wood wrote, "The liberally illustrated Jane Campion is thought provoking, well written, studious, and thoroughly illuminating fare ideally suited not only to followers of Campion's work, but those interested in far wider issues of representation, gender, authorship, and the part the works of independent figures can play in forging recognizable national cinematic identities."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
British Journal of Aesthetics, October, 1992, Neil Cox, review of "Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp's Passage from Painting to the Ready-made," pp. 375-377.
Choice, July, 1985, J. R. Green, review of The Political Language of Film and the Avant Garde, p. 1641.
Film Quarterly,sSummer, 1987, Robert P. Kolker, review of Power and Paranoia: History, Narrative, and the American Cinema, 1940-1950, pp. 31-32.
Journal of American History, December, 1987, Gerald Mast, review of Power and Paranoia, 1940-1950, pp. 31-32.
Theatre Journal, 1987, Marc Silberman, review of The Political Language of Film and the Avant Garde, pp. 401-402.
British Film Institute,http://www.bfi.org.uk/ (September 6, 2002), synopses of Polan's BFI books.
Kamera.com,http://www.kamera.co.uk/ (September 6, 2002), Jason Wood, review of Jane Campion.
University of Southern California,http://www.usc.edu/ (September 6, 2002), professional profile of author.