Video Essay on Swimming Pool (Francois Ozon) - possibly NSFW

Another video for the Focus Features "Rewatch" series. This one took me a while, as I played a bit with the footage (both original as well as from the film) to tie into some of Laura Muley's theories about sexual identification in film. But when this work involves watching Ludivine Sagnier semi- or fully nude for hours, what's there to complain about?

A Revolution on Screen: The Cinema of the People's Republic of China, 1949-1966

"A Revolution on Screen" is a two-part video essay coinciding with the 2009 New York Film Festival Masterworks series "(Re)Inventing China: A New Cinema for a New Society, 1949–1966." This series is the first major U.S. retrospective of the films made during the "Seventeen Years" period between the establishment of the People's Republic of China and the Cultural Revolution. PART ONE: MOVIES FOR THE MASSES (AND A SMUGGLING OF ART)

PART TWO: THE FLOWERING BEFORE THE FALL

Best of the Decade Derby: Lost in Translation video essay with Stephanie Zacharek

Another video essay for the Film in Focus Rewatch series. This one's on Lost in Translation, which many considered the best film of 2003 and one of the best of the decade. I personally wouldn't go quite that far, but I'm glad to have someone like Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com to make the case in this video essay, by honing in on one moment and exploring what makes it, and Sofia Coppola's direction, beautiful and unique among American films.

Read More

Best of the Decade Derby: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind video essay

This has been up at Film in Focus for some time, and I've been meaning to embed ever since - but getting settled into my new digs in Brooklyn has taken up much of my May. But since I just had another "Best of the Decade Derby" liveblogging screening (more on that tomorrow), I figured I'd better get this one up now. Presenting my second video essay for Film in Focus, on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, featuring on-camera commentary by frequent collaborator Matt Zoller Seitz. Watching this film with Matt it became very apparent how simply amazing and rich this film is, from its ingenious construction that demands multiple viewings, to its provocative questions about the emotional vagaries and ethical dilemmas that spring from love gone wrong. This almost certainly has a place in my top 10 of the decade - I only wish I had been able to put more time and preparation into this video so that it might reflect the complexity of its source. But I love this little video ditty anyway for its warmth and goofiness, and for Matt's insight and sincere affection for this film. Enjoy.

In anticipation of The Limits of Control: Video Essay on Jim Jamusch's last film

I haven't yet mentioned here that I've begun producing a series of video essays titled "REWATCH" for Film In Focus.  As Jim Jarmusch's new film The Limits of Control premieres tomorrow, I thought I'd embed the first video essay I produced for REWATCH, on Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, starring Bill Murray, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton.  I enjoyed producing this as it made me think about cinematic depictions of flirtation, something the film does rather strikingly (in fact one could even say that the film itself is one big flirtatious tease on the audience). Commentary by Jessica Winter:

Stay tuned as the second installment of the series, dealing with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (one of my favorite films this decade) drops in the next week or so...

Video Essay for 890 (10). Johnny Got His Gun (1971, Dalton Trumbo) with music by Metallica

View main entry It's a real pleasure to unveil this latest video essay for several reasons. First, because it marks the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series of videos produced in conjunction with the Greencine Daily, highlighting notable DVD releases. This initial video just happens to be on a TSPDT 1000 film that I blogged about towards the beginning of this online project: Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun.  Interestingly, the three video clips I posted to accompany my blog entry have more views than just about anything else I've posted on YouTube. I think it has something to do with a) the film not being available for many years, even though it's based on a book that's still widely taught in schools; b) the film being referenced in Metallica's video for their song "One."  At one point I even put an open call asking if anyone knew of how to get the film released on DVD, since I was receiving dozens of similar inquiries through my YouTube account. At long last, the film is available on Shout Factory DVD.  And I must say, it's a gorgeous transfer, miles better than the out of print VHS I used for my initial viewing. It even includes the Metallica video!

Here's my video essay, which you can also watch on GreenCine Daily and on YouTube. Enjoy!

For the Lincoln Center Satyajit Ray Retrospective: Videos on Days and Nights in the Forest

Since Amanda at the Filmlinc Blog reposted these, I figured I should too. Days and Nights in the Forest screens at Lincoln Center  Sun Apr 26: 4 or Mon Apr 27: 6:30. Part I: Introduction

Part II: Analysis of the famous “Memory Game” scene

Part III: Interview with actor Soumitra Chatterjee, star of DAYS AND NIGHTS IN THE FOREST and the Mastroianni to Ray’s Fellini (they worked on 15 films together)

Essay 5: Three short films to Clint Eastwood

The following is a rough translation of an essay by Michael Baute of the Kunst der Vermittlung project. I used Babelfish and Google Translation to stitch together the most coherent translation I could manage; by no means perfect but hopefully you’ll get the idea:

Three short films to Clint Eastwood

At the end of 2008, upon the American theatrical release of two films of Clint Eastwood (Changeling and Gran Torino), the New York Film Society Of Lincoln Center invited critics in a roundtable discussion about the films. One of the critics involved is Kevin B. Lee, who applied the audio recordings of the discussions later to images of the discussed films and assembled in three parts uploaded onto YouTube (1, 2, 3).

Speaking about current, new films seems effortless, if these new acquisitions are to appreciative a work already existing. It can then be docked on already and thinking and opinion and note. Such docking happens also within the roundtable discussion; especially the third of the three videos which tries to classify the films into the overall aesthetics of their works’ director. With limited proofs from several films of the director a possible ”Eastwood look“, the one constant use of negative space, that is unilluminated parts of the film image, darkness, in which figures act, is distinguished.

Also in the second part of the small Eastwood series, to its Gran Torino, this reference is made on the complete work. It is particularly motivated by the current reception of the film in criticisms and reviews in the word contributions. Unanimously it is described there that Eastwood of his persona in Gran Torino adds a further facet of the aging hero; also comparisons with John Wayne are cited.

What is remarkable in this second part - more still than in the two others - is above all that the film succeeds in integrating the six critic voices and viewpoints in an artifact without being harmonized. Each of the speakers meets Eastwood’s film with a different interest, each individual voice pursues a different perspective. These perspectives are not a concluding evaluation. It is not interest of the video to draw a conclusion over Gran Torino. The video aims rather to seize the comments and their different focuses in the linearity of a film documentary process and to supply them with their own evidence of the excerpts of the film coupled to them.

Essay 4: The Woman in the Window (1944, Fritz Lang) with guest commentary by Girish Shambu

The following is a rough translation of an essay by Michael Baute of the Kunst der Vermittlung project. I used Babelfish and Google Translation to stitch together the most coherent translation I could manage; by no means perfect but hopefully you’ll get the idea:

Michael Baute

Video Essay for 907 (48) »The Woman in the Window« (1944, Fritz Lang) with guest commentary by Girish Shambu

The commentary on this video essay from the ”Shooting down Pictures“ series, written and spoken by Girish Shambu - who among other things operates a widely-read blog - refers repeatedly to Tom Gunnings book” The Films Of Fritz long: Allegories Of Vision and Modernity “and his idea of one destiny machine, which is effected in Lang’s films. This idea of a machine differs by its materialism from the classical concept of ”fate“, to which a protagonist is subjected. The machine is the society: ”For Gunning, Lang's destiny machine is this vast elaborate system, society itself organized as a machine; this giant apparatus reaches into every aspect of human and social life through mechanisms like constant watching and observing and through advancements in science and technology. “Shambu’s comment works to describe in Woman into the Window Lang’s procedure of staging the effects of this machine to describe the film, but also an additional characteristic which is mentioned rather rarely in the opinions on Fritz Lang: humor.

There is a remarkable sequence in the first part of the video essay, which one knows from one’s own practice of looking at films, but is otherwise rarely found in “films about films”. From 3:12 until 3:25 Kevin B. Lee, who produced and cut the video essay, shows the pictures of the film in accelerated speed, as one it in one’s own four walls with boring passages of a film one looks at on DVD. Lee uses this procedure here probably on the one hand, in order to adapt the duration of the pictures of the duration of the commentary, but on the other hand also, in order to insert a small irritation into the expiration of commentary and announce over thereby observations, which Shambu in the second part of the video essay presents.

To see a man, who examines an apartment for traces, is to hear Shambu’s comment in the 23 accelerated seconds, which speaks of the nearly fetishistic accuracy of this tracing, whose comedy is compressed by the high-speed running of the images; ”until he finds what he's looking for.“ With the finding, which is to be seen again in original speed, the first part of the video ends.

In the second part, from 3:45 until 5:43, exemplified by the comment Shambu’s thesis prepared to argue that by image acceleration and compression Lang shows a humoristic course, which one would not associate automatically with him in Woman in the Window. “I find this film in its own ironic and grim way to be quite funny.“ Proofs for it are a scene with a boyscout, and “the sly casting of the actress who plays the professor's wife.”

On the whole film Shambu speaks of its ”inevitability“, which he admires, but at the same time also finds it ”A bit comical“. This center section concludes with a quotation of Andrew Sarris, in which Renoir is compared with Lang: ”If Renoir is concerned with the plight of his character, Lang is obsessed with the structure of the trap.“ As this interest in the “case“ in Lang’s film is staged, the third and last part of the video essay, which emphasizes two things, is produced.

Emblematic for Lang’s interest in the structure of the trap and the inevitability of a regulation is first of all a short moment in Woman in the Window, which Lee and Shambu show and commentate.

”The professor walks through two door frames, the bedroom and the bathroom in order to of wash out the scissors. Not only is the frame a sign of confinement, but the camera is already in the bathroom, which is a sign of inevitability. The camera is ready and awaiting the character to make his way through the doors and the bedroom and into the bathroom. The film is full of little bits of business like this. “

Business like this - to the conclusion of the video Lee and Shambu point secondly an assembly of attitudes of the film, in which clocks are to be seen, which are a constantly present memory of the inevitable work of the trap.

Additionally to the briefly described video essay Lee arranges here an extensive collection of screenshots and refers to on-line available texts for each of its screening entries. In the case of Fritz Lang’s The Woman into the Window, which was screened on 16 January 2007 on DVD, looks this entry in such a way.

Essay 3: Who's Laughing Now? Evil Dead II

The following is a rough translation of an essay by Stefan Pethke of the Kunst der Vermittlung project. I used Babelfish and Google Translation to stitch together the most coherent translation I could manage; by no means perfect but hopefully you’ll get the idea:

WHO‘S LAUGHING NOW?

Kevin B. Lees Videoessay # 933 zu Sam Raimis »Evil Dead II«

How beautifully the doors fly open, naturally by a spirit hand, when Lee in the opening sequence of this work paraphrases exactly a passage of Evil Dead II, with which it then really enters into the film: a rapid camera movement from an American single family house to the outside. Here upturned: underlaid with the scary sound of the original track we leave sunny New Yorker streets, in time lapse over stairway, dark passage and several rooms on a television zuzustürzen, in which the referenced scene runs. So it could go ever further.

In the television room a young woman lies on the bed, cheaply on dead made up (Cinephilie meuchelt Libido? …). Two sheets of paper lie beside her. In the YouTube dissolution is not to be deciphered, which could stand on them written.

Road - house - room - televisions - the journey goes into an inside. The rerecording into the discussed film is appropriate for arisen door on one rabiat: instead of the screen from glass wood splinters. We penetrate into the film. Interpretation as violent act.

Only after this prologue Lee in the offscreen seizes the word. Its economical comment concentrates on the relationship between comedy and anxiety in EVIL DEAD II; appropriate pairs of opposites pulls through Lees discourse: funny/scary, more laughter/terror, Texas Chainsaw Massacre/Tex Avery, Daffy Duck/Jack Nicholson (in Shining).

Lee concentrates also on the main figure. He selected excluding cutouts, which show the actor Bruce Campbell alone. Without expressing it explicitly, Lee formulates so also that it goes in the horror category on most different ways around fights into head and soul, around self-arguments, around disturbances of sensitive internal equilibrium up to the uncontrolled intoxication of the irrational one, to the bad trip.

In addition a remarkable characteristic are Lee’s writing modules. In the telegram style it supplies with their assistance detailed information to special effects. Knowing how it’s made can drive the fright out. The favorite child of numerous DVD bonus distances so in addition, rightfully zurechtgestutzt on footnote dimension.

In Evil DEAD II leads the main figure Ash a war of extermination against his own hand. This war is also then not yet past, when Ash separates by means of chainsaw from the hand. It lives its own life even without a host body, but at the moment of amputation may be the triumph of Ash howling not resist: "Who's laughing now?” It pushes several times out. The question is wrongly posed, it should be: Why?  Lee alludes, by reminding us of the abrupt end of his short essay of the uneasiness, which is inherent in our laughter.

Essay 2: The World According to Garp According to Christianne Benedict

The following is a rough translation of an essay by Stefanie Schlüter of the Kunst der Vermittlung project. I used Babelfish and Google Translation to stitch together the most coherent translation I could manage; by no means perfect but hopefully you’ll get the idea:

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP ACCORDING TO CHRISTIANNE BENEDICT

Shooting Down Pictures # 940 (82)

Lingering before THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (GARP, AND HOW HE SAW THE WORLD) (Director: George Roy Hill, USA 1982), I was a teenager late at night in front of the TV; due to the movie, I became a reader of John Irving novels. Christianne Benedict and Kevin B. Lee's video essay makes me equally curious, because I barely have more cinematic memories of THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP did. Memory rather of a symptom as to a picture: At that time I had gotten a notion of the fact that there are other stories to discover than those, which I had so far seen and had read.

A character in the movie is Roberta Muldoon, she is transsexual and is the center of the film about the film by Christianne Benedict. At this figure Benedict goes to the question of the representation of transgender in the cinema, and notes that Roberta is a rare phenomenon: "She is not a victim. She is not a prostitute. She is not a punch line. And she is not a psychopath "- what the stereotypes would be appointed to the cinema for the representation of transgender in store.

Christianne Benedict herself is transsexual, and when speaking about the cinema, which has a very personal, conversation-like tone has, she reaches several times into film history. As casually as a film fan passing examples of a striking lack of positive characters among transsexuals. In four contemporary films, which Christianne Benedicts regards again on the occasion of the video essay, transsexual protagonists are prostitutes: TODO SOBRE MI MADRE (ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER) (Spain / France 1999,Pedro Almodovar), MAUVAIS GENRE (TRANS-FIXED) (France / Belgium 2001, Francois Girod), WILD SIDE (France / Belgium / UK 2004, Sébastien Lifshitz) and 20 CENTIMETERS (France / Spain 2005,Ramón Salazar). On the other hand, along the movie clips from THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP the sympathetic picture of Roberta and show them in different roles - as a partner of Robin Williams, as a mother or an ex-football player.

John Lithgow, who plays the role of Roberta Muldoon according to Benedict as a kind of reparation for his woman murderer role in BLOW OUT (USA 1981, Brian de Palma), is nominated with this role for the Academy Award - and not only as an Actor / Actress in the treatment of a character between the sexes embodies.

According to Anne Benedict of Christ: "That was a very weird year at the Oscars." Anyway, what gender politics.

Essay 1: Notes on Matt Zoller Seitz' ”Wes Anderson: The Substance Of Style"

The following is a rough translation of an essay by Volker Pantenburg of the Kunst der Vermittlung project, on the fifth part of Matt Zoller Seitz' immense series of video essays, ”Wes Anderson: The Substance Of Style." I used Babelfish and Google Translation to stitch together the most coherent translation I could manage; by no means perfect but hopefully you'll get the idea:

You can watch the video being described by visiting the Moving Image Source

THE SUBSTANCE OF STYLE MEETS THE ART OF CAPTION

Note to the 5th part of Matt Zoller Seitz'” Wes Anderson: The Substance Of Style “

Matt Zoller Seitz, former film critic in print media such as the New York Times, moved at the beginning of 2006 to write blogs, especially on the site The House Next Door. Since 2008 he also published under the alias insomniacdad at youtube a partly annotated, partly uncommented montage (Berkeley (esque)), a video which is between film criticism and analysis.

Seitz' most comprehensive occupation with a producer - after a fourt-part series to Oliver Stone (1234) - is the five-part essay WES ANDERSON: THE SUBSTANCE OF STYLE (123,45), which was published in March and April 2009 on the Museum of the Moving image website, also the producer of this and the Stone series. In The Art Of Bill Melendez (2008), an homage to the producer of the Peanuts films, Seitz had already connected Anderson’s film RUSHMORE with its surprising references to Melendez. In the five parts of the Anderson analysis there follows now more systematically the influences of other auteur styles on Anderson. The first four sequences are devoted to individual models (“Part 1 covers Bill Melendez, Orson Welles, and François Truffaut. Part 2 covers Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester, and Mike Nichols. Part 3 covers Hal Ashby. Part 4 covers J.D. Salinger. “)

Part 5 highlights already in the title of the previous parts. "The prologue to The Royal Tenenbaum, annotated," says the 6-minute sequence. Annotation is to be understood literally: Zoller Seitz writes in the images of the opening sequence of the film in exuberant abundance of commentaries, notes and analysis inside Notes, especially in the sober designated cases, this is Anderson's own practice in the caption ( "Caption") to. In addition, as a small picture-in-picture, moving or unmoving, parallel bodies in other film-historical reference films (CITIZEN KANE, about films of Hal Ashby and Bill Melendez). You can use this wealth impossible for a single passage through Zoller Seitz 'film exercise, which alone is already a reference to Wes Anderson playful love of detail and precision verortbaren way as the film emphasizes the concrete camera movement, the Zoller Seitz "emphatic dolly" is called. Zoller Seitz 'annotated version is based - in excess of ironic, but very serious item in their view - at the critical commentary, as they are in the book of classic media spending knows where the "apparatus" to the text length is often far in excess.

The effect of almost baroque richness comes off also by the fact that in all interventions and conveyances of the image two components are not touched: the temporality and the soundtrack of Anderson's film. Seitz adds to the film no Zeilupen, does not stop the picture and does not interfere with the conduct of a perfectionist exposure of infant-family. His annotations, passing in a clerical scurry, are best described with the American adjective "hilarious", informed by the result of a fascinated astonished, again and again the "rewind" button-pressing cinema enthusiasm. Repeat viewing for repeat viewers.

Back from Berlin, with video

I had an excellent time in Berlin. The screening and co-presentation with Sebastien Lutgert at the Kino Arsenal was near full-capacity and much of the audience stayed on afterwards to mingle and talk about cinema in ways I rarely experience even in New York City (will have to take steps to address that).  I was surprised by how well the internet videos held up when projected digitally on the big screen (even the ones that were ripped off the internet). I was also surprised that the Kunst der Vermittlung project team wrote several critical essays analyzing a number of the videos in the program. These essays are all in German, but I'll attempt to produce some coherent translations with the help of tools available online. Here are a couple of videos documenting my presentation, courtesy of Martina Lunzer:

Part One:

0:50 - Introduction and origin of Shooting Down Pictures project 4:20 - Introduction of videos in program

Part Two:

0:00 - "Why aren't there more of these movies on the internet?" 3:30 - Issues with YouTube, copyright and fair use

Unfortunately I didn't have enough free space on the little Flip to film Sebastien Lutgert's presentation, which was in German. The most eye-opening portion of his presentation was his website 0xdb, which, to paraphrase the description on the website, "uses a variety of publicly accessible resources, like search engines and file-sharing networks, to automatically collect information about, and actual images and sounds from, a rapidly growing number of movies. What the 0xdb provides is, essentially, full text search within movies, and instant previews of search results." One really unique feature is that it offers a frame-by-frame visual timeline of each film in its database, resulting in a visual re-representation of the film that resembles abstract art:

Saturday I was back at work on another Shooting entry which should be up later this week. I also assisted Mina Lunzer with her current project, a visual and textual study of Vienna's Prater, made famous in films such as The Third Man and Erich von Stroheim's The Wedding March.  She recently published an article about the Prater in film in the newest issue of Senses of Cinema.

On Sunday I mixed work and play, starting off with recording a commentary track with local critics and programmers Michael Baute (of Kunst der Vermittlung) and Ekkehard Knörer of Cargo Magazine for a planned video essay on Helmut Kautner's Under the Bridges.  Then we had a sunny outdoor lunch in the hip Kreuzberg neighborhood with two other members of the Kunst der Vermittlung team, Volker Pantenburg and Stefanie Schlüter.  There was a good deal of discussion about the New Berlin School film movement that has made an impact on German cinema over the past decade, including films by Christoph Hochhausler, whom I also had the pleasure of meeting in Berlin. I for one would love to see a New Berlin School film series programmed by one of the theaters in New York. Finally Michael accompanied me on part two of "Helmut Kautner Day" with a boatside tour under the bridges of the Spree River, from Alexanderplatz to the Tiergarten. Hopefully the video footage I shot is good enough to make its way to the video essay on Kautner's film.

Also a shout-out to David Hudson, who was at the screening and did his part to promote it at The IFC Daily; and Dirk Schaefer, a long-time sound designer on experimental films by Matthias Müller and Peter Tscherkassky.

So, back to New York and the old routine - but with high spirits and much encouragement received from colleagues in Berlin, I'm going to think of some ways to boost the commingling of the cinephile community here, especially as the long fun days of summer are approaching.

Shooting Down Pictures is Berlin-bound

Friday April 17 is a special day for Shooting Down Pictures. The Kino Arsenal in Berlin will be presenting several of my videos as part of a monthly program: "The Art of Mediation: Films About Films." The series, which began in October and concludes in July, includes films and appearances by the likes of Harun Farocki, Alain Bergala, Alexander Horwath, Tag Gallagher and Jean Douchet, among others. The theme of the April 17 program is Films about Films and the Internet. Author, artist and media activist Sebastian Luetgert of Pirate Cinema will discuss the issue of free artistic expression on the internet, and they'll be showing several of my video essays. I'm excited and a bit intimidated to meet Sebastian Luetgert: he's a remarkable and provocative theorist who is as likely to critique the notions of freedom in the internet age as he will argue passionately for them. Read a sample essay of his here. Also in addition to my videos, Matt Zoller Seitz's wonderful video essay on The Art of Bill Melendez will screen. "The Art of Mediation: Films About Films," or known in German as "Kunst der Vermittlung: Aus den Archiven Filmvermittlung Films," is an ambitious project to catalog all existing films about other films, on all formats: DVD extras, films, video essays, etc. Organized by Stefan Pethke, Michael Baute, Volker Pantenburg, Stefanie Schlüter and Erik Stein, the project has already catalogued an impressive number of films about films, including just about every video essay that I've produced to date.

I would love for everyone out there to be on hand in Berlin for this big evening for Shooting Down Pictures. The funny thing is, in a way you can be, at least for the screening part of the presentation, since all of the films screening are already accessible on YouTube. You can find the links below in the program description if you'd like to watch them. I'll send a report upon my return - wish me luck!

Films About Films and the Internet

New forms of distribution of the internet and the digital technologies have made all means for the production of movie-commenting movies easily accessible for today’s web-prosumer. Vast numbers of feature-films and other cinematographic productions exist as digital footage, recording- and editing devices in various complexity are availabe for everyone.

When it comes to working with this treasure, the pertinent questions are analogous or even identical to those that authors of movie-commenting movies are confronted with: Which elements of an existing movie can I work with? What can be used, what am I allowed to use? What is a citation, what is a copy, what is a transmission? What is —in the broadest sense—legally or even morally interesting or possible, what is aesthetically interesting or possible in the working-with or the deictical gestures (the showing)? And who should watch all this? To be more specific: What is the difference between digital footage found on the net and the tangible footage collected in movie archives or found in the dustbin of history? What is algorithmic and what is intellectual indexicalization?

We have been looking for various forms and formats of movie-commenting artefacts in the internet. Starting from these we are going to discuss the questions mentioned above with Sebastian Lütgert (pirate cinema). The film selection focuses on works created within the frame of American Weblogs – particularly "Shooting Down Pictures", the project of our special guest, the filmmaker and critic Kevin B. Lee. Examples include video essays on current and classical films by Nicole Brenez, Kristin Thompson, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Matt Zoller Seitz, and others.

Diskussion mit Sebastian Lütgert, Special Guest: Kevin B. Lee

Filme:

  • Matt Zoller-Seitz: A Little Love: The Art of Bill Melendez (USA 2008, 9 min 31 sec)
  • Video Essay for 955 (97) Hitler: A Film from Germany featuring commentary by Susan Sontag

    Visit the original entry for the film It's been 30 years since Susan Sontag published her essay that instantly became the definitive analysis of one of her all-time favorite films. I've taken choice excerpts from her essay, as found in A Susan Sontag Reader (published by Farrar/Strauss/Giroux) to produce the following video.

    Thanks to Margaret Donabedian for giving voice to Sontag's words, and Cindi Rowell for her invaluable assistance in editing the video.

    Video Essays for La roue (1922, Abel Gance) and Variety (1925, E.A. Dupont) featuring commentary by Kristin Thompson

    For the first video essays I've published since the YouTube fiasco, I am honored to have Kristin Thompson as guest commentator. Not only is she the author of The Frodo Franchise and co-author with David Bordwell of those ubiquitous textbooks Film Art: An Introduction and Film History: An Introduction, she is also author of the first report on the fair use of film frames, sponsored by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Read her invaluable article on the use of film frames in scholarship. These videos are published in conjunction with Kristin's illustrated entry on La roue, which can be found on her and David's blog.

    SCHOLARS AND STUDENTS: If referencing these videos for scholarship, please cite as "Kristin Thompson and Kevin B. Lee. Shooting Down Pictures video essay on Abel Gance's La roue / E.A. Dupont's Variety." and attach either the url for this page or the YouTube links.

    La roue (view original entry and webliography)

    Variety (view original entry and webliography)

    Video Essays as a teaching tool: a testimonial

    In arguing for the right to produce critical video essays as those featured on this site, I don't think it takes much to see their potential as educational resources. But one doesn't fully appreciate this point until one starts to learn how they are being used as educational tools. Based on a couple of comments to some of the video essays on YouTube, I've learned that there are students who refer to these videos for their papers or class work. I only hope that they are properly citing the source; lest there be any confusion on the matter, copying soundbites from a video to one's own scholarship without citing the source amounts to plagiarism just as much as if one were cribbing from a written text.

    But just recently I have learned of an instance where a teacher actually used one of my video essays in a classroom, and the way they did so is quite illuminating. I received this message from Misa Oyama, a former lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley (Go Bears!):

    I just taught a senior seminar called "Modern Horror" (19 students) for UC Berkeley's English Department, and we spent one week on "Zodiac." I asked a student to hook her laptop to the classroom projector (Berkeley classrooms have wireless access), so that we could watch your YouTube video essay on "The Vanishing"/"Zodiac". It was probably the most effective illustration of film criticism the students saw all semester, because students could see the shots and scenes simultaneously with your commentary, rather than just reading descriptions of the scenes like they do with conventional film criticism. I used your essay in conjunction with Manohla Dargis's review of Zodiac, to show how different viewers could do close readings of scenes from the same film to support their own interpretations. What I think students really liked about your video essay was its accessibility; it's a rich, complex reading of Fincher's work but presented in a personal, sometimes informal (the line "fuck-it-all" for Fight Club got a big laugh) way. After reading lots of academic film essays, the students seemed to find this refreshing. One of my students said it inspired her to want to make her own short video essays about her own reactions to films. I think it also made some students want to see "The Vanishing," because they asked me about it afterwards (and I made sure to tell them to see the original, not the remake).

    Before showing the video in class, I put the YouTube link in my bSpace website for this class, so that students could comment on it. However, not all the students have high-speeed internet access at home, so I got the feeling that most students were seeing it for the first time in the classroom.

    It's weird that Big Corporate Media would have a problem with your work, because you're obviously not trying to pass these films off as your own, and you're encouraging people to look deeper at films they might not know about. I'm not sure if it was because of your video, but one student got so obsessed with the Zodiac story that she bought the Zodiac DVD.

    I hope you continue making these kinds of films, because there is definitely an audience for them.

    It's exciting to think that the use of this video essay in class was a valuable supplement (not a replacement) to more traditional forms of classroom "texts," and furthermore, that it may inspire students to try out this form of scholarship on their own. I'm still fairly surprised that this form still isn't as prevalent as it could be.

    Here's the video essay on The Vanishing and Zodiac: