Conscious of the underlying significance of this term and its many interpretations within the context of visual culture, particularly as related to film and screen media, Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media set out to provide a forum to explore the myriad of interstices that exist both within the medium of film and between film and other media, firstly in the form of an international conference held at University College Cork in September 2012, and now in a special issue of Alphaville dedicated to the topic.
Lot’s and lots to read.
I was drawn in by the word interstice. A wonderful sounding word which most people couldn’t pronounce let alone define. The editorials starts with:
The interstice: something empty, something minute—a crevice, a chink, a narrow gap—yet, in spite of this definition of something apparently slight and inconsequential, one perhaps may make the claim that the interstice serves as a foundational element of film. The “intervening space”, as the OED defines it, in its celluloid form provided the connection between multiple images, allowing them to run together to form the illusion of movement. While this interstitial black strip that imperceptibly framed the moving image is no longer a constituent part of cinema in its current digital format, interstices continue to proliferate in screen media, perhaps to a greater extent than ever. Indeed, just as cinema originated in the interstices between theatre, painting, literature and photography, this intermediality takes on a redefined role in the digital era, with the lines between cinema, television, art, video and new media becoming increasingly difficult to define.
And so I was off, thinking about black bars between frames of pellicule. Though I knew in my bones, chasing a few rabbits down their holes, this was the entre to a lot more things of interest and use among a whole swathe I probably wouldn’t understand or be bothered with. But how do you know till you read?
And so what exactly are the film things I am bothered with? Think, Think. One, how films are made, particularly cinematography and editing, aesthetics goes without saying (but there, I’ve said it), and the limits of film (and the sort of questions that cropped up when Godard started writing in the Cahiers and then made films himself which, if we use A Bout de Souffle, was often about how film was not up to the job he wanted it to do – and/or was dead and gone in the terms in which he saw it: in two words Eisenstein and montage. Godard a writer trying a new medium and as I see it often being disappointed and expressing this disappointment in his own films. Alright, I admit it, I’ve been trying Histoires yet again). Phew! How hard it is to attend to three things at once and have the added disadvantage of English subtitles. Perhaps better without enough French to read La « partition » des Histoire(s) du cinéma de Jean-Luc Godard by Céline Scemama as a companion-piece to Histoire(s). My ideal: watch it first, then the transcription,then both together. But it becomes a study not an experience, where it has to be watched on DVD to stop it at will.
The start point – stimulated by the Alphaville editorial’s first para – was that black gap between each frame. Faux naively (sometimes the ridiculously obvious can turn up insights) I mused the black dividing lines had to be there because of the way a roll of film running through a camera exposed individual frames. A shutter or shutters opened to expose each frame and it couldn’t do it quick enough to have no gap between frames. Though of course even if that were feasible, with each frame abutting directly to the next, the separation of frames as they are by a gap might well be needed to help create the moving images at a certain speed of projection. Who knows – not many – if the movie would work projected without the few millimeters of black space?
It wasn’t there in order to. It was there because it had to be there, and then they found a way to get over these leetel black bars between frames by projecting the film at a certain speed both to eliminate them from perception, and eventually at 24fps to get a movie that wasn’t jerky as the early silent films were.
Then the assertion that
[..] cinema originated in the interstices between theatre, painting, literature and photography
made me think some more – and this is the first paragraph of the editorial! – what interstices were these exactly? That later.
The fourth wall. We know that cinema was distinctly theatrical in it’s beginnings. But surely, film rather than being in cracks between the traditional arts – once the theatrical style was left behind – was a new art form which superimposed itself on them as a whole, using them; or perhaps that the arts fed directly or indirectly into film, rather than the other way round. Or even that it parasitised on them or was in symbiosis with them. Or both. Or saprophytic. Or even commensal. But it did become the predominant – as in popular and wide-spread – art form the 20 century. Pretty quickly it was the flicks people went to see instead of music hall – certainly not art galleries or museums. Though come to think of it, music and film became close partners in a way that art and theatre did not. Theatre and ballet became favourite subjects of film and have remained so to the present day. Opera became the musical. But film technique has developed on its own.
→ Film Studies at University College Cork
Well, better start reading. Might learn something.
Through a Glass Darkly – On Béla Tarr’s Damnation
Another goodie from the May 2012 issue 76 of Brightlights
Brightlights Film Journal
May 2012, Issue 76
An awful lot of interest in this issue. I’ve chosen these three to highlight:
Percolating Paranoia – Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat
Janus B Wager
“Nun-Lust, Torture-Porn, Church-Desecration and Bad Taste” – Reconnecting with Ken Russell’s The Devils
Anthony Perkins – Forever Psycho
Dan Akira Nishimura
This is spurred by reading Why Finish Books? by Tim parks in New York Review of Books (13 March 2012). It’s one of those you’ll lose the argument but have fun in the trying ones.
The New Wave: Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer, Rivette. Rivette?
My first dabble with Rivette was Jeanne la Pucelle (two disc set, Artificial Eye).
Where before have you seen a whole article dedicated to the idea of finishing a book? This is a kind of verboten in the world of culture. Not exactly a taboo, but admitting to failing with Tolstoy’s War and Peace, or more likely Proust, is so much about exposing one’s failings as a work from the literary canon. Though there are a few brave well-known souls who have admitted to finding a book everyone else says was a master-work everyone has to read as dry and dull as ditch water and that they gave up before page 50. (O.k, I admit to finding quite a few of William Golding hard to get into. Though there will come a time when the wind is up and in the right direction when they will seem like a good read.)
Feeling a little more confident after being urged to consider not finishing books, I’m getting to thinking there could be an equivalent for film. Even not to watch something at all. But hey, we do that for books too. Not read them. Ironically, we might read reams about a film’s qualities or failings or confusions or pointlessnesses, and then decide not to watch it. Or, that in the great scheme of things, and limited time, we have to make decisions about what to watch and what not to. Let’s leave out films we watch by mistake.
I don’t have a great deal of interest in films predominantly about people rehearsing plays. Truffaut’s Le Dernier Metro is an exception. But that wasn’t really all about play rehearsing.
I have this sinking feeling about the just over 12 hours of Rivette’s 01 which is deemed by many his master work.
Seeing the point of using film to portray rehearsals is not quite the same as being prepared to endure the filmic portrayal of them. Particularly perhaps starring Ben Gazzara in a improvisation. Did he do a play one? No idea. Mind you the more I read about 01 the more intriguing it becomes. That’s not to say the full 12 hours is high on my list of priorities.
Rivette: Out 1 (Volume 1) and Rivette: Out 1 (Volume 2) a dialogue (in two parts) by James Crawford and Michael Joshua Rowin, is a very interesting way to convince yourself not to bother with 01. Interesting ideas and clever quotes, my favourite so far is:
All of the Nouvelle Vague directors I hold dear address cinema from its first principles, like students learning the grammar of a foreign language—and then proceed to break, bend, twist, and ignore the ones they find the most limiting. Rivette finds displeasure in the strictures of storytelling soi-disant, and so, furthering his use of the vehicle as metaphor, lets his narrative motor idle, sputter, and eventually stall while he drifts over to the stuff he finds more intriguing. The problem is thus bequeathed to the spectators, who are asked to cast off their ossified conceptions of film’s ontological categories, and let the film resonate and wash about like music.
Writing this and working my way through both essays on 01 at the same time, it’s looking decidedly like the more I read about the film, the more I’m tempted to look at some of it. Strange to think reading about books, films, art, music, means you rarely if ever come to a work with your own eyes first, but after someone much cleverer and more articulate than you has thoroughly dissected it, broken it down, built it up again for you. A reason perhaps why the able few both do the study and then go out and make one of their own, ensuring the authentic first time experience. You thought it up. if you do – novel, play, film – you’re excused being suffused with intertextuality and referentiality and reflexivity. There’s really no escape from them.
All that Heaven allows: what is, or was, cinephilia [part 1]
All that Heaven allows: what is, or was, cinephilia [part 2]
Film comment, Film Society Lincoln Center, 12 February 2012
At time of this post two further parts were promised
Part 1 quotable quote:
Bordwell’s argument is framed as an attempt by an academic to reach out to film critics not simply to heal a rift but to mutually enrich both practices. Yet more interesting, and problematic, he outlines what writing about film can successfully accomplish and what it cannot. He implies that the opposition between academics and critics obscures a more fundamental opposition between two different ideas of what the primary object of writing on cinema should be — its relation to culture and society or to the more localized specifiable effects that films produce. He believes that by ignoring the latter in favor of the former, film criticism and theory have lost sight of their object.
Part 1 mentions Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema
There is a digital cross-through in this version, so I’ve included a couple of other sources: LM 2 and a facsimile of the original article/paper: LM3 (which in a footnote says it’s a reworked version of a paper given in the French Department of University of Winsconsin, Madison, in the Spring of 1973
Baumbach quotes Mulvey:
“It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article.”
which he then goes on to explain, including:
..her statement came from a conviction that theory about cinema mattered not just in relation to gaining specialized knowledge about a particular popular art form, but to how we live and experience the world.
Unit 1: Basic Approaches to Analyzing Film Meaning
Unit 2: Depth, volume and space
Malcolm Armstrong revision notes for his students. Quite handy to run through to be reminded what film is about!
The Altering Eye
Robert Philip Kolker
Preface to the Online Edition
The Altering Eye was published by Oxford University Press in 1983. The book spoke to a vital, worldwide movement in film, a movement full of energy and experimentation. Politically and formally adventurous, it claimed the world for cinema. The movement is over, but the films and their influence remain. The print run of The Altering Eye is over, but because there is now another movement full of energy and experimentation in the digital, online community, it will have a second run in electronic form.
The electronic edition maintains the original text with very, very few alterations. What is new, in addition to easy access, is a rich and changing panoply of visual elements: still and moving images that prove how appropriate the Web is for the serious work of film criticism. The electronic Altering Eye will now continue to be a fully present visual work in progress.
A Slideshare presentation. 33 slides with graphics. Good for revision. At the bottom a transcription of the text. Other film related interesting slideshows at the side.
How to Read a Film : The World of Movies, Media and Multimedia
- Language, History, Theory
A Scribd e-version of this book. Searchable with Scribd or browser.
Film study: an analytical bibliography
By Frank Manchel
Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1990
The four volumes of Film Study include a fresh approach to each of the basic categories in the original edition. Volume one examines the film as film; volume two focuses on the thematic approach to film; volume three draws on the history of film; and volume four contains extensive appendices listing film distributors, sources, and historical information as well as an index of authors, titles, and film personalities.
Has a short section on page 112 on decoupage and mis-en-scene. 15 lines on mis-en-scene and then
This forms part of Chapter 1. You’ll find yourself scrolling back and forward from this section finding other interesting things. This quote in the section on The Narrative Film starting on page 107
Note 5 in André Bazin Revisited: André Bazin: Part 1, Film Style Theory in its Historical Context
Donato Totaro, 2003
There are two terms used by Bazin which either take on a different meaning in their English translation or don’t have an equivalent. Montage in English terminology implies a rigorous and expressive editing style. Most editing sequences juxtapose shots of varying space, time, and content combining to create an over- all idea, meaning, or tone. Editing implies the formal construction of the film from one shot to the next and is not necessarily expressive. Bazin uses the terms interchangeably. The second term, decoupage, has no English equivalent. The French definition is “to cut,” but applied to film the word is better described as construction. Noel Burch, in Theory of Film Practice, defines the three terms for which decoupage is interchangeably used for as: 1) The final form of a script replete with the required technical information. 2) The practical breakdown of the film’s construction into separate shots/sequences prior to filming & 3) The underlying structure of the finished film, which has probably deviated from the original “decoupage.”
Jim Emerson, Jim Emerson’s Scanners :: blog, 14 November 2011
We’re all film-makers now – and the Smith review must recognise that
–Studying film is still often seen as lightweight. But in 2011 it’s arguably as important as literature and science
Don Boyd, Guardian, 25 September 2011
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has initiated a fresh review of film policy under the chairmanship of Chris Smith. The words “film” and “policy” have rarely been comfortable cultural bedfellows in Britain. Ever since the Cinematograph Films Act of 1927, successive governments have attempted to make laws that help the “film industry” thrive with a variety of measures, which have included establishing trade quotas to restrict US control of the entire production, distribution and exhibition process (a problem that has never been solved). Rarely have these policies considered the wider implications of what film represents. If this timely review is to be worth its salt it must recommend a radical and daring approach for government and the British Film Institute, which has inherited the recently disbanded UK Film Council’s mantle.
But beyond all this, the BFI, Smith and the government have one vital responsibility. As well as continuing to encourage university-level film education, they must fund a comprehensive system to empower schools to teach film to children.
How will cinema remember the riots?
Daniel Barrow, New Statesman, 9 August 2011
How to Read a Film
By James Monaco (First published 1977)
Chapter 1. Film as Art
Chapter 2. Technology: Imagine and Sound
Chapter 3. The Language of Films: Signs and Syntax
Chapter 4. The Shape of Film History
Chapter 5. Film Theory: Form and Function
Chapter 6. Media: In the Middle of Things
Chapter 7. Multimedia: The Digital Revolution
Godard, Schiffman, Truffaut on set of Farenheit 451 . She is credited as assistant to the director.
Obits: Guardian and Independent
Les Archives de script de Suzanne Schiffman : Godard au travail dans Pierrot le Fou
By Núria Aidelman
Facsimiles of typed and handwritten scripts and notes.
The French new wave: an artistic school By Michel Marie, Richard John Neupert [GoogleBook]
Seven Inspiring TED Talks About Filmmaking
A mixture of documentary and feature film-maker, some really famous, some not quite so.
Mostly here because I haven’t watched them all. Hypothesis: the film maker might not be so good at explaining verbally as showing filmically. Let’s see. In the few I’ve watched where the film extracts used as illustrations demonstrate better than the words in the talk introducing and and explaining, even if they are interesting and important. Film-makers are not all good public speakers. It’s rather ironic that unwittingly the film-maker selling film in words often demonstrates the time talking film might have been better spent making another film.