Introducing the Summer 2010 issue of Cineaste, the editors consider "the impact of the digital era on film culture" and argue that "what's important is not necessarily to privilege one mode of movie-watching over another. Rather, the point is to maintain a sensitivity to how a particular film is affected by the circumstances in which it's viewed — something that's increasingly important as individual films come to be available from a dizzying variety of sources."
If they're going to make only one piece from the critical symposium available online, the editors have made a fine choice: "For far too long," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum, "an absolutist either/or mentality has been ruling the debate about changes in global film culture brought about by DVDs (and much the same mentality has needlessly assumed that we have to 'choose' between reading about film on paper or on the Internet). Presumably, one is forced to either go along with the doubts and demurrals of some of my favorite programmers and archivists, such as the Austrian Film Museum's Alexander Horwath and the [TIFF Cinematheque's] James Quandt, who stand up for original formats, or to embrace the more optimistic projections of bloggers such as myself and Girish Shambu, who tend to emphasize how many films can be seen nowadays on DVD over the diminished properties and quality of image and sound found in nontheatrical venues." Further in: "I would argue, in fact, that what qualifies as 'optimal' viewing can vary enormously from film to film and from one set of conditions to another. Although obviously all of us should see Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible in new 35mm prints, I'm not at all certain that all of us should forego the rich edifications of Yuri Tsivian and Joan Neuberger's audiovisual essays about the film on Criterion's DVD in exchange for that privilege. So we need to step away from absolutist positions about the future and make use of the best possible choices available to us in the present."
Michael Sicinski's review of Kino International's collections Avant-Garde 2: Experimental Cinema 1928-1954 and Avant-Garde 3: Experimental Cinema 1922-1954 is, in a sense, an elaboration, a reminder that digitalization is not a simple either/or proposition: "[E]ven more than with other types of cinema, the release of avant-garde film on DVD represents more than a set of technical or commercial challenges. It has become an ethical issue, one in which all of us who care deeply about this work are embroiled to some extent.... Each move toward the greater accessibility of avant-garde cinema through digital means, and home video in particular, comes with a set of costs and benefits, and our thoughts about any given release (though each will always have to stand and fall on its own merits) will of necessity become, to some extent, micro-terms within a bevy of crucial and legitimate macro-arguments." As for the case at hand: "Usually, the films Kino is making available have been out of circulation for years, and so there is a much more limited sense that the DVDs are in direct competition with the films’ celluloid incarnations."
Also in this new issue: Paul McGuirk talks with Neil Jordan about Ondine, which happens to be opening on Friday. Livia Bloom reports on the Orphans Film Symposium 2010, Richard Porton on Rotterdam and Adam Nayman reviews three collections about film festivals. Derek Gladwin reviews one other collection, Ireland in Focus: Film Photography, and Popular Culture, and there are four film reviews online: Robert Sklar on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Bill Krohn on Green Zone, Richard Porton on Sweetgrass and Christopher Long on Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.
Image: From Jean Isidore Isou's Traité de bave et d'éternité (Venom and Eternity), 1951.
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