In his essay for Project: New CInephilia, Damon Smith wonders if the video essays we’ve seen from film critics like Christian Keathley, Tag Gallagher, and others are a valid mode of critical inquiry, or perhaps even a new art form in the making:
Distinguishing between Standard and Nonstandard Video Criticism, and invoking the writings of Andre Bazin, Alexandre Astruc, Theodor Adorno, and Phillip Lopate on the essay form, Smith argues that the genre as it currently exists is limited, aesthetically and conceptually, and needs re-thinking.
Is it even possible to “write” film criticism through digital video? Is Godard alone in having found a visual means of expression—film—through which to critique cinema?
One of my favorite examples of the form was Exhibits from the C.F.Kane Museum, made by B. Kite. It showed here on Mubi for a too short period of time and is now hosted at the Moving Image Source. You can see it here in two parts.
“Smith argues that the genre as it currently exists is limited, aesthetically and conceptually, and needs re-thinking.”
“Is Godard alone in having found a visual means of expression—film—through which to critique cinema?”
Meet MovieBob He may be the blogosphere’s equivalent to “At the Movies”, but in terms of the overarching question of “does video criticism exist yet?” there it is. I’ve not made a particular point of searching stuff like this out, but I’d go out on a limb and say it’s probably quite prevalent now.
But then again, “the video essays we’ve seen from film critics like Christian Keathley, Tag Gallagher, and others are a valid mode of critical inquiry, or perhaps even a new art form in the making:” This is recognized in the post.
Going back to the first quote.
MovieBob is an unapologetic geek, definitely more prone to quoting Yoda than Bazin. The way he puts his videos together relies on quick videoclips of the movie he’s talking about and still images of the points he’s making—his criticism is still basically about the audio, the visual section is mostly stimulation. Certainly the idea of criticism in this form can be expanded and manipulated to become more academic and aesthetic. Recalling, once again, video essays, but this time as response to certain movies or pieces of work.
Wait a minute… “response”? Isn’t that what YouTube offers? A “responses to this video” section?
In a way this idea isn’t only happening, its becoming encouraged. An underlying phenomenon of the Internet is self-publication as self-expression—the reason why so many critics blogs exist saying basically the same sort of stuff published critics would say in magazines, only without an editor for word count and clarity. This is good for some critics, bad for others, and worse, it’s being matched by trends in print-based criticism. But as this article points out, video is sort of the new big deal of the web—everybody’s making a big deal about it, while others are saying “big deal!” The point is that video criticism should not only be expected, but will probably become inundated and tedious quickly.
So, I would encourage more academically and intellectually minded video criticism. But in terms of a “is this a thing? Should we consider it a thing?” part of the question, it’s already here and rather unremarkable.
While I applaud a good example of the form like the one I linked, I also have to say that I am not at all a fan of the more common versions where the addition of video adds very little. The video roundtables often are a terrible time waster in that one could read a transcript of the talk much quicker and more efficiently and reference or go back to sections of it far more easily than video allows for. The ratio of worthwhile moments to filler is not good, and it often smacks more of self-indulgence, promotion, or an ego-boosting exercise than useful criticism. For the reviewer types it seems to work fine, but for serious criticism it often has some drawbacks. Showing a thing and describing the effect of it without seeing the thing have a different effect on the viewer as well, and I would argue that the latter can often be the more powerful method as it allows the reader time to think about the description and ideas before seeing them and can “enhance” then in some ways when one does look at them. Talking and viewing can create a tension as well as the viewer/listener has to choose which to favor, sort of the talking on a cell phone while driving thing, so these elements need to be well attended to and not simply be an attempt to be with it and through a old school critique over film clips.
Liked this encapsulation of Theodor Adorno:
“the objective wealth of meanings encapsulated in every intellectual phenomenon,” which “demands of the recipient the same spontaneity of subjective fantasy” that went into the creation of the artwork under consideration. In other words, while not equivalent to art, the critical essay has a kind of “aesthetic autonomy,” one that allows for expressive impulses and manifold artistic presentations “devoid of resemblance to the subject matter.”
But thisAnd that is precisely where video criticism, as it currently stands, needs rethinking.
leads to this:…Jean-Luc Godard as the model practitioner of video criticism…
Thanks for posting the B. Kite video link Greg. Very interesting.
@PolarisDiB Certainly the idea of criticism in this form can be expanded and manipulated to become more academic and aesthetic.
One can see where this might be going. The MovieBob’s form the base of the art wave with their unapologetic geekiness more prone to quoting Yoda and those quoting Bazin are the high art practitioners eventually canonized.
@ Greg Showing a thing and describing the effect of it without seeing the thing have a different effect on the viewer…
Is this the kind of thing you are referring to:
“devoid of resemblance to the subject matter.”
Hmm, not exactly, although that too is a problem, I’m more talking about the times when a critic will be explaining some connection between an image we are watching and some other part of the film or simply describing the “meaning” of the image as we see it and the effect doesn’t quite work as the words can’t sink in before the image is gone, or the image seems denatured shorn from context which robs it of the feel the critic is averring as being present. A written description can sometimes better build context and create an additional effect by elaboration that seems difficult for many of the video pieces I’ve seen. In part because they often just show whole clips instead of building something from a juxtaposition of segments or because they aren’t accounting for the balance between sound and image the way someone like Godard does, not that I expect them to be Godard, but the attention to detail is essential for the videos to achieve a greater meaning. Basically, if you can write it, write it and don’t worry about having “proof” with a clip playing behind the words, and if you are going to use video make sure there is a more substantial reason to use it than having it exist as a sort of fancy powerpoint presentation.
denatured shorn from context which robs it of the feel
Or meaning, as it might not related to the totality of the film.balance between sound and image the way someone like Godard
Godard is being suggested as the model.
I’ve been waiting to see where Project Cinephilia is going after assailing with FUD auteurism and canons – what to replace those with?
If one is interested in criticism, then the obvious answer is the essay film. I realize it is only being proposed as a genre, but there has to be a box and something in the box, to make talking about the box meaningful. What is being said is aesthetics isn’t meaningful – yet I’m feeling that is what should be in the box.
I’m not sure I follow you on your conclusion there Robert. What do you mean when you say “what is being said is aesthetics isn’t meaningful”? Or where are you drawing that conclusion from?
Wasn’t the essay film deemed an anti-aesthtic form?
That was on another thread – so I’m mixing threads.
I’m thinking of starting a meta-thread to deconstruct the project.
That post might be the OP there.
‘sfunny, I was thinking of the need for such a thing as well, I figured it might be worth waiting until it was over though since the threads are crossing over each other somewhat, but if you want to give a go before that, I’d be supportive.
There’s a reason these are under a new tab and often start with, “In the ongoing roundhouse discussion…” It IS one topic, and the separate threads are points and questions the moderators are throwing at us to get our participation in the debate: What is cinephilia in the information age?
So cross-thread referencing is pretty much gonna happen.
Yes, but the haphazard method in which certain ideas are being brought up and not fully followed through on suggests a need to combine the major themes into a greater whole to see what the overall “message” of the event might be, which is what I believe Robert was intending.
Probably better to wait.
I’ve rarely seen good video essay criticism. Most critics just tend to lather a written text on top of bulky clips of the movies they’re discussing. No sense of timing or rhythm. To be a good video critic one needs to be a good filmmaker. I don’t know that one exists yet. Godard is in a different category.
Bobby, are you familiar with Christian Keathley’s work? He has some vid critic posted on Catherine Grant’s site Audiovisualcy.
there is a whole other universe out there, at university level I guess, that has developed a lexicon for film criticism far, far, beyond anything one might find on this forum. How useful it is is something I might question.
Abstract:This article reads the relation between Claire Denis’s Beau Travail and Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 film Le Petit Soldat as a film-on-film variant of film-on-book adaptation. The model informing this reading is not so much intertextual as pretextual. The principal points of contact between the two films discussed are ‘actor’ (Michel Subor), ‘character’ (Bruno Forestier) and ‘narrator’ (Forestier/Galoup). The use in Beau Travail of Le Petit Soldat is compared with and differentiated from the use of Melville’s ‘Billy Budd, Sailor’. The conclusion arrived at is that the film-on-film relation can be read as a development of the mirror motif borrowed from Godard by Denis, in order to replace abyssal models of intertextual infinity with the finitudes of abyssal reflexivity. This is to offer a model of pretextuality that is not dependent on privileging the pretext: implicit is the suggestion that Beau Travail and Le Petit Soldat may be read as a single, if hybrid, text.
In other words, Beau Travail mirrors Le Petit Soldat (incidentally, I’m pretty sure we discussed this idea somewhere around here).
How about this?
http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?we6bfbpm3bxbivo – the lazy ones won’t click, the very interested ones will. It’s a screen specific version of a condensed commentary from John McTiernan that I have put together. It’s essentially video film criticism.
“so I’m mixing threads.”
Usually a bad idea.