is a film theorist and writer. He studied English at Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...
. Both political journalist and film theorist, Wollen's Signs and Meaning in the Cinema
(1969), helped to transform the discipline of film studies by incorporating the methodology of structuralism
Structuralism originated in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the subsequent Prague and Moscow schools of linguistics. Just as structural linguistics was facing serious challenges from the likes of Noam Chomsky and thus fading in importance in linguistics, structuralism...
Semiotics, also called semiotic studies or semiology, is the study of signs and sign processes , indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication...
Wollen's first film credit was as co-writer of Michelangelo Antonioni
Michelangelo Antonioni, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian modernist film director, screenwriter, editor and short story writer.- Personal life :...
's The Passenger
The Passenger is a film directed and co-written by Michelangelo Antonioni, released in 1975, in which Jack Nicholson stars as a television reporter in Africa who assumes the identity of a dead stranger. The film competed for the "Palme d'Or" award at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival.-Cast:*Jack...
, Italy, 1975) and he made his debut as a director with Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons
(1974), the first of six films co-written and co-directed with his wife, Laura Mulvey
Laura Mulvey is a British feminist film theorist. She was educated at St Hilda's College, Oxford. She is currently professor of film and media studies at Birkbeck, University of London...
. The low-budget Penthesilea
portrayed women's language and mythology as silenced by patriarchal structures. Acknowledging the influence of Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard is a French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critic. He is often identified with the 1960s French film movement, French Nouvelle Vague, or "New Wave"....
's Le Gai savoir
Joy of Learning is a 1969 film by Jean-Luc Godard, started before the events of May 68 and finished shortly afterwards. Coproduced by the O.R.T.F., the film was upon completion rejected by French national television, then released in the cinema where it was subsequently banned by the French...
(France, 1968), Wollen intended the film to fuse avant-garde and radically political elements. The resultant work is innovative in the context of British cinema history, although its relentlessly didactic approach did not make for mass appeal.
For Riddles of the Sphinx
(1977) Wollen and Mulvey obtained a BFI
The British Film Institute is a charitable organisation established by Royal Charter to:-Cinemas:The BFI runs the BFI Southbank and IMAX theatre, both located on the south bank of the River Thames in London...
Production Board grant, which enabled them to work with greater technical resources, rewriting the Oedipal myth from a female standpoint.
The deliberately ahistorical AMY!
(1980), commemorating Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson CBE, was a pioneering English aviator. Flying solo or with her husband, Jim Mollison, Johnson set numerous long-distance records during the 1930s...
's solo flight from Britain to Australia, synthesises themes previously covered by Wollen and Mulvey. In Crystal Gazing
(1982) formal experimentation is muted and narrative concerns emphasised. Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti
(1982), a short film tied to an international art exhibition curated by Wollen, and The Bad Sister
(1982), a drama based on a novel by Emma Tennant
Emma Christina Tennant FRSL is a British novelist and editor. She is known for a postmodern approach to her fiction, which is often imbued with fantasy or magic. Several of her novels give a feminist or dreamlike twist to classic stories, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr....
, were the final projects on which Wollen and Mulvey collaborated.
Wollen's only solo feature, Friendship's Death
(1987), starring Bill Paterson
Bill Paterson is a Scottish stage, film and television actor.-Early years:Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Paterson spent three years as a quantity surveyor's apprentice, before attending the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama...
and Tilda Swinton
Katherine Mathilda "Tilda" Swinton is a British actress known for both arthouse and mainstream films. She has appeared in a number of films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Burn After Reading, The Beach, We Need to Talk About Kevin and was nominated for a Golden Globe for her...
, is the story of the relationship between a British war correspondent and a female extraterrestrial robot on a peace mission to Earth, who, missing her intended destination of MIT
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...
, inadvertently lands in Amman, Jordan during the events of Black September
September 1970 is known as the Black September in Arab history and sometimes is referred to as the "era of regrettable events." It was a month when Hashemite King Hussein of Jordan moved to quash the militancy of Palestinian organizations and restore his monarchy's rule over the country. The...
Wollen has taught film at a number of universities and is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...
The Sydney University Film Group and WEA Film Study Group
The WEA Sydney Film Society is a non-profit film society based in Sydney, Australia.It is a club of WEA Sydney, which is part of the Workers' Educational Association .-History:...
used Peter Wollen's book "Signs and Meaning in the Cinema" for the basis of a season of film screenings talks and discussions on the ideas in the book in September and October 1969.
- Field, Simon, "Two Weeks on Another Planet", Monthly Film Bulletin 646, 1987, pp. 324–6
- Friedman, Lester D., "Interview with Peter Wollen and Laura Mulvey on Riddles of the Sphinx", Millennium Film Journal 4/5, 1979, pp. 14–32
- Mulvey, Laura and Wollen, Peter, "Written Discussion", After Image, July 1976, pp. 31–9
Also published at pp. 467–488 of book Tom McDonough (2004) (Editor) Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents
. The MIT Press
The MIT Press is a university press affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts .-History:...
(April 1, 2004) 514 pages ISBN 0262633000 ISBN 978-0262633000