Published December 12, 2019 by Tom Porter

Loving the Film if Not the Director

Professor of English and Cinema Studies Aviva Briefel was “completely blown away” when, as a student, she first saw the classic 1968 horror film Rosemary’s Baby, starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes.

aviva briefel
Aviva Briefel

While it didn’t have a lot of “jump scares,” she said, the movie had a very intricate plot and a familiar (to her) New York City setting. It’s a film that has stuck with Briefel and haunted her through the years, she said. “Since then I’ve been thinking about it a lot, both in my teaching on the horror film—specifically on gender in the horror film—and in my own scholarship. It’s a film that’s just been coming back again and again.” 

Briefel was a special guest on the latest edition of the podcast Cinema60, copresented by Bart D’Alauro ’95, a member of the Bowdoin library staff. A self-confessed movie buff, D’Alauro is best known to many in the Bowdoin community as the erstwhile proprietor of Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion in downtown Brunswick.

Talking to D’Alauro and film critic cohost Jenna Ipcar, Briefel said that over the years she has had to learn to separate the film from its “problematic” director Roman Polanksi, who, for more than forty years, has been wanted in the US for sexual abuse of a minor. “I really try to keep in mind that the director is just one aspect of the whole cinematic process.”

The Cinema60 podcast airs about every three weeks and looks at movies from the 1960s

Rosemary’s Baby is psychological horror with elements of the supernatural. The plot concerns a pregnant woman who suspects that a satanic cult has its eyes on her unborn child. One of the film’s primary themes is feminism, said Briefel, who teaches a course called The Horror Film in Context (ENGL 2426/ CINE 2426/GSWS 2426.) “I cannot think of many other films, especially from the late 1960s, that dwell on the experience of women in society… that are as resonant as this one,” she observed. 

Published roughly every three weeks, Cinema 60 is a podcast focusing on the movies of the 1960s. It was launched by D’Alauro and Ipcar at the beginning of 2019. The final podcast of the year, due out later this month, will look at Brazil’s Cinema Novo movement, said D’Alauro.