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essay about the art of film

While the video essay form, in regards to its practice of exploring the visual themes in cinematic discourse, has seen a recent surge in popularity with viewers (thanks to invaluable online resources like indieWIRE’s Press Play, Fandor’s Keyframe and the academic peer-reviewed journal [in]Transition), its historical role as a significant filmmaking genre has long been prominent among film scholars and cinephiles.

From the start, the essay film—more affectionately referred to as the “cine-essay”—was a fusion of documentary filmmaking and avant-garde filmmaking by way of appropriation art; it also tended to employ fluid, experimental editing schemes. The first cine-essays were shot and edited on physical film. Significant works like Agnès Varda ’s "Salut les Cubains" (1963) and Marc Karlin’s "The Nightcleaners" (1975), which he made in collaboration with the Berwick Street Film Collective, function like normal documentaries: original footage coupled with a voiceover of the filmmaker and an agenda at hand. But if you look closer and begin to study the aesthetics of the work (e.g. the prolific use of still photos in "Cubains," the transparency of the “filmmaking” at hand in "Nightcleaners"), these films transcend the singular genre that is the documentary form; they became about the process of filmmaking and they aspired to speak to both a past and future state of mind. What the cine-essay began to stand for was our understanding of memory and how we process the images we see everyday. And in a modern technological age of over-content-creation, by way of democratized filmmaking tools (i.e. the video you take on your cell phone), the revitalization of the cine-essayists is ever so crucial and instrumental to the continued curation of the moving images that we manifest.

The leading figure of the cine-essay form, the iconic Chris Marker, really put the politico-stamp of vitality into the cine-essay film with his magnum-opus "Grin Without A Cat" (1977). Running at three hours in length, Marker’s "Grin" took the appropriation art form to the next level, culling countless hours of newsreel and documentary footage that he himself did not shoot, into a seamless, haunting global cross-section of war, social upheaval and political revolution. Yet, what’s miraculous about Marker’s work is that his cine-essays never fell victim to a dependency on the persuasive argument—that was something traditional documentaries hung their hats on. Instead, Marker was much more interested in the reflexive nature of the moving image. If we see newsreel footage of a street riot spliced together with footage from a fictional war film, does that lessen our reaction to the horrific reality of the riot? How do we associate the moving image once it is juxtaposed against something that we once thought to be safe or familiar? At the start of Marker’s "Sans Soleil" (1983), the narrator says, “The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in Iceland, in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness and also that he had tried several times to link it to other images, but it never worked. He wrote me: one day I'll have to put it all alone at the beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader; if they don't see happiness in the picture, at least they'll see the black.” It’s essentially the perfect script for deciphering the cine-essay form in general. It demands that we search and create our own new realities, even if we’re forced to stare at a black screen to conjure up a feeling or memory.

Flash forward to 1995: Harun Farocki creates "Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik," a video essay that foils the Lumière brothers’ "Employees Leaving the Lumière Factory" (1895) with countless other film clips of workers in the workplace throughout the century. It’s a significant work: exactly 100 years later, a cine-essayist is speaking to the ideas of filmmakers from 1895 and then those ideas are repurposed to show a historical evolution of employer-employee relations throughout time. What’s also significant about Farocki’s film is the technological aspect. Note how his title at this point in time is a “video essayist.” The advent of video, along with the streamlined workflow to acquiring digital assets of moving images, gave essayist filmmakers like Farocki the opportunity for creating innovative works with faster turnaround times. Not only was it less cumbersome to edit footage digitally, the ways for the works to be presented were altered; Farocki would later repurpose his own video essay into a 12-monitor video installation for exhibition.

Consider Thom Andersen’s epic 2003 video essay "Los Angeles Plays Itself." In it, Andersen appropriates clips from films set in Los Angeles from over the decades and then criticizes the cinema’s depiction of his beloved city. It’s the most meta of essay films because by the end, Andersen himself has constructed the latest Los Angeles-based film. And although Andersen has more of an obvious thesis at hand than, say something as equally lyrical and dense as Marker’s "Sans Soleil," both films exist in the same train of thought: the exploration of the way we as viewers embrace the moving image and then how we communicate that feeling to each other. Andersen may be frustrated with the way Hollywood conveys his city but he even he has moments of inspired introspection towards those films. The same could be said of Marker’s work; just as Marker can remain a perplexed and often inquisitive spectator of the moving images of poverty and genocide that surround him, he functions as a gracious, patient guide for the viewer, since it is his essay text that the narrator reads from.

Watching an essay film requires you to fire on all cylinders, even if you watch one with an audience. It’s a different kind of collective viewing because the images and ideas spring from an artifact that is real; that artifact can be newsreel footage or a completed, a released motion picture that is up for deeper examination or anything else that exists as a completed work. In that sense, the cine-essay (or video essay), remains the most potent form of cinematic storytelling because it invites you to challenge its ideas and images and then in turn, it challenges your own ideas by daring you to reevaluate your own memory of those same moving images. It aims for a deeper truth and it dares to repurpose the cinema less as escapist entertainment and more as an instrument to confront our own truths and how we create them. VIDEO ESSAY: Reflexive Memories: The Images of the Cine-Essay from Nelson Carvajal on Vimeo .

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Art, documentary and the essay film


Art, documentary and the essay film Esther LeslieFilm as document

The moment when Siegfried Kracauer knew that he wanted to write of film as what he terms the ‘Discover of the Marvels of Everyday Life’ is relayed in his introduction to the Theory of Film from 1960.1 Kracauer recalls watching a film long ago that shows a banal scene, an ordinary city street. A puddle in the foreground reflects the houses that cannot be seen and some of the sky. A breeze crosses the site. The puddle’s water trembles. ‘The trembling upper world in the dirty puddle – this image has never left me’, writes Kracauer. In this trembling, which is the moment of nature’s uninvited intervention, its inscription as movement on film, everything, from nature to culture, ‘takes on life’, he notes. What is important about film is its presentation of this given life indiscriminately. The puddle, this unworthy spillage, is redeemed in the low art of cinema. Both cinema and puddle are elevated from the ground. The upper world is brought down to earth as image. Fixed for ever – or for as long as the film strip exists – is a wobble of movement, which comes to stand in for what is life, because it is life captured, being nature’s vitality. It is a life that is possessed by the wind and articulated constantly, but usually expunged from what is to be seen when film is watched. It is a fact, a chip of the world as it is, and it is caught on film or amidst film and the staged world.

Walter Benjamin, in a piece titled ‘Paris, the City in the Mirror’, written for the German edition of Vogue , on 30 January 1929, makes a similar point in relation to photography. [2] In discussing Mario von Bucovich’s volume of Paris photographs from 1928, with its images from Bucovich and Germaine Krull, he posits photography as a mirror of the city. The collection by Bucovich and Krull, he notes, closes with an image of the Seine. It is a close-up of the surface of the water, agitated, dark and light with a hint of cloud broken on its ripples. It seems to him that this reflecting surface is a reflection of photography itself, which is as rightfully there, in the city of looks and looking, as the River Seine, which shatters all images, like a committed montagist, and testifies to the evanescence of all things. Nature, the river, the wind, the clouds passing by all intervene in film, all leave a documentary trace that is seen and not seen at once. Fragments of the world are caught in the grains of the photographic papers. Recorded are both those things that are meant to be seen and those that simply are.

Benjamin’s analysis of Soviet cinema, in critical response to Oskar A.H. Schmitz, twists a sense of enlivened nature, which happily makes itself available for filmic recording, into a more directly politicized physis of the collective labouring body. For him, in his experience of Soviet cinema, there is the entry into film of something not previously bidden into culture and not previously captured in it – the worker, or rather the proletarian, who is part of a collective – set in equivalence to the material nature that marks itself on film, outside of the filmic scenario. An image in Benjamin’s retort to Schmitz makes this graphic.

What began with the bombardment of Odessa in Potemkin continues in the more recent film Mother with the pogrom against factory workers, in which the suffering of the urban masses is engraved in the asphalt of the street like ticker tape. [3]

It is not the wind blowing a puddle, or the reflection of a cloud in the river, caught and remediated on film. It is the labouring body exposed in the stark streets. The film strip absorbs the strip of the road. A place of collective suffering, the street where battles occur, just as the daily grind of life occurs, is given room on the screen. The modern shiny surface of the asphalt road, described elsewhere by Benjamin as a momentous component of the bourgeois city and the bourgeois self, which, like other shiny surfaces, such as windowpanes and mirrors, and the camera too, reflects the city and its residents from many angles. City and residents are fragmented and multiplied, generating feelings of disorientation and loss. Like the running script of a twenty-four-hour news channel, engravings of a modern type, the cinema gives this type and this sensibility a place, a corner of the screen.

Entering too into film are the spaces of this collective. For Benjamin, movement is the key to cinema, but it is not an endless movement or ‘the constant stream of images’ so much as ‘the sudden change of place that overcomes a milieu which has resisted every other attempt to unlock its secret’. [4] It is in relation to this that Benjamin characterizes the locations of cinema, which cannot remain unchanged by the camera’s remediation of them. The passage is well known.

We may truly say that with film a new realm of consciousness comes into being. To put it in a nutshell, film is the prism in which the spaces of the immediate environment – the spaces in which people live, pursue their avocations, and enjoy their leisure – are laid open before their eyes in a comprehensible, meaningful, and passionate way. In themselves, these offices, furnished rooms, saloons, big-city streets, stations, and factories are ugly, incomprehensible, and hopelessly sad. Or rather they were, and seemed to be, until the advent of film. The cinema then exploded this entire prison-world with the dynamite of its fractions of a second, so that now we can take extended journeys of adventure between their widely scattered ruins. [5]

The world is ‘laid open’ and viewers come away with an enhanced knowledge of the structure of actuality through exposure to a prism in which spaces are represented with various types of intensity and fullness, and through which they are led by proletarian heroes, who emerge from and back into collectives, human and spatial collectives. [6] Cinema detonates a ‘prison-world’ – the spaces of this world, his world, are also prison spaces, but the jail can be broken from, filmically, as a first step. Audiences penetrate the secrets contained even in very ordinary reality, once it has been fractured into shards. But those shards are the material of the world, seen from all angles, in close-up, through the fragmenting material of film and its apparatus, and each shard is set next to other shards, other scenarios, and perhaps wordlessly, just as Jan Tschichold and Franz Roh proposed in their volume foto-auge/oeil et photo/photo eye , published in 1929. For example, a photograph by Sasha Stone of alphabetized index cards in a filing cabinet, titled ‘Files’, was placed next to an image, owned by the chemical concern IG Farben, of people relaxing on a beach. The meanings of each – work, leisure, mass society, loss of individuality, public, private, surveillance, bureaucracy – was modulated by the other.

In montage and in absorption of the outlines of the present moment, photography and film proved to be legitimate art forms. As with the polemic against Schmitz for his petty-bourgeois understanding of Battleship Potemkin , Benjamin wrote a caustic response to an article in Die literarische Welt by Friedrich Burschell, published on 20 November 1925. Burschell’s article was a commemorative piece on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the death of the writer Jean Paul and it bemoaned, in its final paragraph, the way in which the anniversary was treated in the popular press, specifically in relation to the use of imagery. Benjamin launched a robust defence of the legitimacy of the montagist, Dada-like sensibility generated by the illustrated press, which in this case had set its images of Jean Paul, miniaturized and cast into a corner, among the children of Thomas Mann, the petty-bourgeois hero of a dubious trial, two tarts all done up in feathers and furs, and two cats and a monkey. Benjamin uses the notion of ‘aura’ here. The images, he notes, exude the ‘aura of their actuality’, in their higgledy-piggledyness, in their thrusting up and out of the chaos of modern life, and in their acknowledgement of the actual social value of things – including cultural figures – rather than the one which they should, apparently, receive from the union formed by technology and capital. It is so incomparably ‘interesting’ precisely because of the rigour with which it concentrates, week after week, in its concave mirror, the dissolute, distracted attention of bank clerks, secretaries, assembly workers. This documentary character is its power and, at the same time, its legitimation. A large head of Jean Paul on the title page of the illustrated magazine – what would be more boring? It is ‘interesting’ only as long as the head remains small. To show things in the aura of their actuality is more valuable, is more fruitful, if indirectly, than crowing on about the ultimately petty-bourgeois idea of educating the general public. [7]

The aura of actuality, the moment of the film or photo, or montage, its absorption into its material of all the contradictions and absurdities of the present, and thereby much that is unbidden, unintended, comes to the fore. Spaces relate to other spaces that have until now been kept apart. Like photography and film itself, meeting its viewer halfway, these new dimensions jut out into the environments of those who take them in their hands.

The films that draw Benjamin’s attention because of their novelty and legitimacy – Battleship Potemkin , Mother , and possibly the film that kindled Kracauer’s interest in film – were not documentaries. They were documentary only in the sense that for Benjamin, as for Kracauer, their basis was in the documentation of actuality that is film and photography. Still Benjamin considered Battleship Potemkin in relation to ‘facts’. The fictional actions of the sadistic ship’s doctor become interesting if facts and statistics can establish that this is not an individual aberration but a portrayal of a social reality in which brutal state and brutal medicine are intertwined and have acted so since the Great War. [8] The fiction caught on film must not be severed from the one in the world that backs it up, becomes its legitimation and makes of it fact. This sets Benjamin’s sense of things in 1927 as a theoretical precursor to Brecht’s later experiment in fiction and actuality, Kuhle Wampe, or To Whom Does the World Belong? , in 1932. That Brecht’s interest was in the way in which fiction may lead towards and not away from social fact was understood, to Brecht’s bemusement, most clearly by the German censor. The film reflected on notions of collective practice – in terms of its production – and in relation to a wider extra-filmic world, in that it relied on the existence of a mass communist and labour movement that were both the audience and stimulus of the film, as well as providing some of the actors for it. The episodic form, the montage and the detached acting style all contributed to a sense in which the film was not about a particular fictionalized individual but rather about the destiny of a collective, a class. In a note on a meeting with the censor, ‘A Small Contribution to the Theme of Realism’ (1932), Brecht explained how the censor had well understood the film’s intent in depicting the suicide of an unemployed man. [9] A young man, after having gone on a futile quest for work, competing against myriad other young Berliners, takes off his watch, the single thing of value on him, and steps off the window ledge of the family’s wretched apartment. This is all done noiselessly, undramatically, in a detached fashion. The censor protested that it did not depict suicide as the abnormal act of an unfortunate individual, but rather, in its impersonality, made suicide seem to be the doom of an entire social class. Brecht and the film company were caught out, and by ‘a policeman’ of all people. Made perceptible in a certain mode of fiction were the actual pressures brought to bear on a class. Drama was simply a pretext for social fact, and social fact on a mass scale at that.

Shub’s work

The Soviet film-maker Esfir Shub worked with a sense of film as conduit to a reality outside of film, which it captures and mobilizes – whether fiction film, documentary or whatever scrap. Film is a piece of actuality, something that could yield knowledge about what exists, once it is deployed in the right way. It is this physically, in that it has absorbed something of a world that passed before it and that may even have been caught unintentionally on the strip. It is this ideologically, in that it has absorbed something of the times and circumstance in which it is made and carries that into the future, where it can be undermined or enstaged. It is this generically, in that film offers itself as an artform in which the facts of the world may be – though not necessarily – reflected and dealt with. All film emerges from the realm of the real, even when it is at its most fake. Film is a material, a raw material ripe for processing. The film is the thing that builds the filmic world and is the thing that is seen. Of course, it is hard to see Esfir Shub because of her authorial anonymity, her use of found footage, grainy, second-hand materials, gathered strips made by nameless filmers. Shub was an editor of films. Or perhaps someone whose labour on film did not even have a name, for she was not simply an editor in the way that many other women were, in terms of their job description, engaged in sorting shots, cutting the negative, but not making even a rough cut of the film. In her work, she did something else. Her editing work for the Soviet film industry from 1922, re-editing and re-titling foreign films, such as Fritz Lang’s Dr Mabuse, Der Spieler or trashy American serials, so that they might become ‘ideologically correct’, involved more than just being an editor. Hers was a key cultural role: in 1924 over 90 per cent of films shown were produced in capitalist countries. In these years of the New Economic Policy, many films were imported. Shub worked on a politically and economically viable solution to a materials crisis, and she learnt how to montage films, producing new meanings from old stock, re-channelling ruling-class ideology. She carried this work over into her own practice as a film-maker, in which she developed a form that predates the canonic essay-film form, but that establishes film as a vehicle for proposing arguments. It does this by amassing fragments of the fictional and non-fictional, drawing together disparate spaces and times, chasing conceptual elements suggestively, by dislocating images from their allotted places, establishing a thematic line out of the disparate, and asserting a directing intelligence, but one that is to be shared by all who watch, as much as by the editor.

Shub’s film The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty was made in 1927, as part of a trilogy on Russian history from 1896, when Lumière filmed the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II. It was one of several films made to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. It is said that the Soviet film body Sovkino initially refused to acknowledge her authorial rights and pay the royalties that would duly accrue. She is credited on the poster as follows: ‘Work by E.I. Shub’. [10] What was that work? Shub’s film reconstructed critical history out of many metres of newsreel footage and Romanov home movies. Documentary film of whatever type – news, scientific or industrial footage, home movies – could yield information about reality. Shub’s ‘compilation film’ showed the tsar and family at their summer home and on duties of state, the carnage of war and Lenin agitating. For this film, and for the other two ‘compilation films’ she made in the late 1920s, Shub had to amass materials that had, in many cases, been taken out of the country, sold to foreign producers, or had deteriorated under poor storage conditions. For her film covering the first ten years after the October Revolution she was compelled to respond to the monotony of much film produced in newsreels in those years: parades, official celebrations, meetings, delegates arriving, stock that evades all the drama of political reconstruction. To compensate, she shot images of old documents, photographs, newspapers and objects. That this work was only or was blandly ‘work’ is the ‘problem’ attendant on working outside an authorial, directorial mode. But there is, of course, a perfect meeting of Shub’s reuse of found footage, her labour or arrangement or compilation of something conceived as ‘raw material’, and the ideas prevalent among the circles of the Left Front of Arts, the avant-gardist and pro-revolutionary groupings that had surfed the ecstasies of revolution and clamoured for a role in state-building through the arts. They argued that the author was a producer, or more, the author should be effaced, in the collective labour of socially and technically produced and reproduced works of culture. Shub more than others knew what it meant to be anonymous, to genuinely work within the model of the collective, author, the author as producer, the author who rejects all the bourgeois bunkum about creativity, genius and originality.

Shub’s more famous colleague Sergei Eisenstein had paid lip service to this, in a polemic against Bela Balázs. Eisenstein writes: ‘His terminology is unpleasant. Different from ours. “art”, “creativity”, “eternity”, “greatness” and so on.’ [11] Eisenstein, for his part, broke with the grouping around LEF in March 1929, precisely over questions of personal style and authorship. Eisenstein was too much the artist. Eisenstein placed too much of himself in the film. Eisenstein made his films about Eisenstein’s eye and sense of things. As proof of this stood Eisenstein’s celebration as a film-maker in Europe and the fact that US studios sought him out, keen to import a little higher art into their venues.

But Shub’s work did something more than articulate the anonymous, collectivized art worker or engineer, and in so doing sent into relief the practices of another, more prominent documentarist: Dziga Vertov. Shub’s approach signalled a new approach to documentary, overturning the highly montaged, artistic, formalistic documentary films of the early period, as practised by Vertov. Vertov had worked with found footage in 1918, in his Anniversary of the Revolution , and in 1921 in History of the Civil War . But he moved away from the practice in the main. Shub objected to Vertov’s efforts to monopolize non-fiction film, insisting in a piece written in 1926 that ‘different facts must reach the studio’, not just those endorsed by the Futurists working within Vertov’s Kinoks or Cine-Eye. [12] Vertov deployed all manner of tricks and technical devices, derived from the fragmented and dynamic world-view of Futurism, in order to emphasize cinema’s role in mediating reality. Shub’s archival work rescued fact from oblivion and made it speak again in a new context and not to questions of cinematic self-reflection. In her use of archival and documentary footage, or what she called ‘authentic material’, Shub displayed her commitment to the fact, the fact that had become a fetish among the LEF people, who spoke of their work in terms of ‘documentarism’ or ‘factography’. The later 1920s, perhaps under the pressure of waning revolutionary dynamism and conscious of questions of state building, seemed to demand a new aesthetic, which was then matched by Shub. Shub’s was seen to be properly a ‘cinema of fact’.

What is a cinematic fact? This was a question that was asked and answered in relation to Shub’s projects. It was a debate that took place in the pages of the journal Novyi Lef , where one contributor, Sergei Tretyakov, opined that ‘the degree of the deformation of the material out of which the film is composed’ was tantamount to ‘the random personal factor in any given film’. [13] The raw material, the facts that are absorbed by the celluloid strip of the camera, should come before the eyes of the audience as undeformed as possible. The cinematic fact was to appear in as ‘undistorted’ a form as possible. Such a fact is seen to be a building block of a new reality that needed stability after the dynamic change of revolution. Such a fact is like a weapon in the hands of a party entrenching its power and desirous of conveying the upward soaring truth of the young Soviet Union. Shub, it is true, avoided playing with the film material, tending often to let chunks of found film run their course. She gave time to her material, but not simply so. There was a sense, though, in her work that the film material was of historical interest in itself and did not need to be undercut and criticized through cinematic devices.

The commitment to the fact did not imply that any other questions of film were irrelevant. Shub in her capacity as editor worked on questions of compilation, which were questions of montage and rhythm. Connections between events and their interpretation were expressed through juxtapositions, as well as through the times attributed by editing and also through inter-titles. The whole builds up. The whole has direction and compiles an argument that can be seen and borne in mind. It becomes essayistic. Shub wrote that her own ‘emphasis on the fact is an emphasis not only to show the fact, but to enable it to be examined and, having examined it, to be kept in mind’. [14] To watch a film by Shub was to watch reality pass by, moulded, made into concept and argument, a comprehensible concept and argument. Shub was not averse to arguments about skill and even the rhetoric of masterliness. Indeed in 1927 she titled an article ‘We Do Not Reject the Element of Mastery’. The facts, like any raw material, need shaping.

Shub’s work takes the fact and deploys it skilfully.

Her work is planned, and that, of course, at a time when plans are becoming more the focus of political rhetoric and energy. Shub’s relationship to the archive, the place of her raw material, might invite parallels with a bureaucratic approach – congruent with the times – examining the files of reality for evidence, sorting and classifying it for further eyes to pore over. The LEF circle recognized her abnegating act of editing. She also carried out the work of organizing the archive, thereby bequeathing a raw material to those who came after, to all the other films that could be made from it, all the other meanings that might be extracted from this raw material of the real. That was a further service to multiple authorship.

In 1927, Shub argued in the journal Novyi Lef that the controversy between staged and unstaged film was ‘the basic issue of contemporary cinema’. [15] Only documentary cinema could express reality. ‘With great mastery it is possible to make a film from nonplayed material that is better than any fiction film’, she insisted. [16] The polemic was pointed. Shub criticized Eisenstein’s October as a distortion of history, because of its restaging of the historical events of the Russian Revolution. Eisenstein had watched Shub as she worked in the early days and he learnt from her, developing film aesthetics to adequately convey revolution’s reorganizations, its swift changes, its rearticulation of modes of thought and life. She learnt from him in turn, and they led discussions in letters in 1931 over the necessity of ‘developing one’s concept of reality in the process of shooting, and only then subordinating the material to the director’s vision’. [17] But Eisenstein stuck with the played film. Shub was particularly affronted by an actor’s impersonation of Lenin. Why let someone pretend to be Lenin when there is archive footage of the real Lenin? Shub placed film’s power in its capturing of the ‘small fragment of the life that has really passed. Whatever elements it contained.’ [18] Whatever elements it contains and even if it was itself once just a fiction, a slice of ideology, or contaminated by anti-revolutionary values. The ideological circumstances that had produced much of the material did not adhere to the film pieces once they were redeployed in a new context. Ideology could be respun or even overturned. The films’ return revolutionized them. [19]

Revolution is a spin, a re-spin, but not one that repeats – or if it does it is a sign of its failure. A revolution involves another spin, a revolving, an activation into something else – which is movement, a rapid turn and overturning, upturning. Just as the camera turns, spins the exposing film and makes something new happen: the imprinting of an out-there on the in-there of the film strip. Just as the projector turns, revolves, spins the filmed things through its mechanism, in order for them to take on their ghost life, their shadowy and light existence on the screen. Something new happens – the film exists out there, on the screen and is seen. Shub understood that film’s essence lay in its spinning and respinning:

The intention was, not so much to provide the facts, but to evaluate them from the vantage point of the revolutionary class. This is what made my films revolutionary and agitational – although they were composed of counter-revolutionary material. [20]

One film planned in 1933–34 was to be titled Women . Conceived of in seven parts, it was to be about the recent history of female oppression and consequent female liberation by the Bolsheviks. Women were to be shown – through filmic found footage and scripted constructed situations – moving from sexual objectification and class oppression to politically engaged subjects. Shub described her work as ‘artistic documentary’ film. This is a name for a feature-length documentary, but it also implies a level of elevation, of structuring, of making artistic, of forming. The term acknowledges in one concept the proximity of document, of the unplayed, and the structuring, planning or mastering of filmic elements. Shub wrote of the project in a 1933 article titled ‘I Want to Make a Film about Women’:Hitherto it was considered that the non-staged film lacked the possibility of developing events dramatically and that it could not sustain a plot construction within itself. That is why the documentary film was never appreciated by the large audiences. I am aware of this, and in my new documentary film I will try to construct a thematic line. This does not mean that I need to follow the established canons of the staged cinema, nor that I have to use actors to impersonate my characters. Life is so complex and contradictory in everyday situations that it continuously creates dramatic conflicts and resolves them unexpectedly in the most extraordinary way. [21] No one need play anyone who they are not in this film. Reality itself is dramatic enough – and contradictory enough to generate stories, dramas of the type invented for the played film. For Shub, life itself usurps the dramatic function of fiction. Effectively, the artistic documentary can stage the unstaged, can make an art of the document. The treatment or screenplay begins with excerpts from the ‘art’ of the Imperial period. Animation segues a mother into a nude woman, into a Beardsley-style siren – Madonnas, Gretas, Susans created by world-famous artists. Then cinema intervenes. Old film footage shows women as madonnas or whores. One French film heroine is shown in her role as a madonna, then as a fairy. She mutates into other Russian stars, who emulate her. A woman with child in arms appears and morphs into a prostitute, then a peasant. A parade of women appear, all backed by circus music. The exhortation follows to the men of the actual cinema audience: ‘Gentlemen, do you still want to enjoy the face of the ideal woman of the XX century? If so buy the gramophone records. Watch the films produced by Pathé.’ [22] Tragic film incidents from fictional films flash up, shots, strangulations, alienation – ‘Oh my God’ states a woman in a melodrama, ‘What shall I do?’ The fiction of unreal women is brought to the point of real intervention in the world. Shub’s script picks up the question: ‘Indeed she has to do something.’ Shub has provided in a rapid montage a selection of limited stereotypes of women. A comment in the script notes: ‘The movie theatres of Imperial Russia depicted the Russian woman always in the same manner.’ This was, apparently, often fainting into the arms of a man. In the treatment, the words continue to echo: ‘Oh my God! What shall I do? What shall I do?’ These scenes are followed by more examples of how women have been positioned, as fashionable creatures, as targets of advertising concerned about their busts, their waists, belts, as seductresses. Women dependent economically on men, husbands, lovers. What is this sphinx of woman, asks Shub? This is the ideal nature of woman as depicted in the movies. A beauty, sometimes powerful, sometimes vulnerable, but always gorgeous. This intense tumble of ideological images is interrupted by a clown falling through a ceiling, hitting his wife with a rolling pin, such that everything freezes. The audience shouts bravo. The scene of violence against women, the nasty heart of entertainment, serves as a transition. Silence comes. Darkness. The darkness lifts and we are all transported to the countryside. Everything is different. Cinema now has the time of duration, distance, the day, real sounds. Bells are ringing in the far distance. There is a village. There are old women and they go to church. A voice announces that we are at a co-operative farm. Instead of the ideological chit-chatter of films, advertising and religious song, the hum of the motor, speeding us through the space of collective labour, whirrs. This car that moves us through a landscape is, at the same time, a mobile sound movie theatre. It has come, and we the audience have come, to discover the reality of female life in the Soviet Union. Not just how it looks, but how it sounds too – for Shub has found a way to achieve her dream of synched sound, which she discussed in 1929 in an article titled ‘The Arrival of Sound in Cinema’: For us, documentarists, it is crucial to learn how to record the authentic sound: noise, voices, etc., with the same degree of expressiveness as we learned how to photograph the authentic, nonstaged reality. Therefore, we have little interest in what presently goes on in the film studios, in those hermetically insulated theatrical chambers dotted with microphones, sound intensifiers and other techniques. We are interested in the experimental laboratories of the scientists and true creators who can function as our sound operators. [23]

Eisenstein feared that naturalistic sound could destroy montage, and insisted that it be treated as an element of montage – in a way more congruent with the later essay-filmmakers. Shub disagreed, insistent on its importance as an experimental element that remained realist. It was real in the way that Hollywood’s sound system, developed for studio recording not location, was not. It was sound occurring in the spaces where such sounds occur.

Everyone is learning in this new authentic sound world. As the script notes: ‘We place our cameras in front of the window, we arrange the microphone and explain to Comrade Klyazin where he should stand’, in order for his voice to be heard as he asks his questions of the three sisters. This is a film about voice, about speaking the self authentically, though what is authentic is also a matter of history and development. For we hear from Shub that the communist sisters are used to speaking at conferences and therefore talk briskly, while the religious one is more embarrassed. This sonic discrepancy, though, this mark of experience in voice and rhythm, ‘will help us’, she notes, ‘to keep the conversation alive’. We hear examples of the questions the sisters will be asked – ‘The Fascists claim that women must be involved only with the kitchen, the church and children. Do you agree with this?’ Shub writes:We suspect that their answers will be keen and direct. To achieve this, Comrade Klyazin’s questions must be spelled out in such a way that they reveal both the real life and psychology of a typical woman working in the Soviet village. If we succeed, it will be the first direct film interview with the new woman farmer in the USSR. Therefore it has to be done in such a way that the conversation does not look contrived. All we can predict at this moment is that the interview will end with the words: ‘ … now, would you take us to the Selsoviet?’As if as a nod to the role of staging in all this, the final scene of part one takes place in the main offices of the Selsoviet, the rural council. A girl is calling for a revolt, bored with life on the collective farm. Arguments are happening. But, it transpires, it is a drama rehearsal, just a play for the collectives’ theatres, in which the language and appearance of the youth, who are urbanizing, and the traces of peasant language still spoken on the collective farm battle it out. This is a documentary, a capturing of fact that has been shaped by Shub’s concepts, with elements that must be imported from art in order to make ideological sense of the reality which otherwise unfolds. Improvisation can be improved upon, in the name of a larger, greater improvement. Perhaps a negation of the negation is achieved through this. Film never stops being a document, even when it is most fictional, or especially then. The rotten cinema of Weimar, Hollywood and Imperial Russia could have truth squeezed from them, if rightly framed, and so too can the film that moves between fact and staging. The document can supersede all – even the fiction film, even the staged film, is a document of something and if it can be documented, and its factographical powers unleashed, in the interests of the larger history, which is one that is being built, planned, constructed, then it will produce an authentic cinema. In 1932, Shub’s film on the communist youth bared the means of the cinematic device, by leaving cameras and microphones visible in scenes, but it also left in the stumbles and stutters of participants, or shone so bright an arc lamp into their eyes – so assaulted their bodies – that their eyes screwed up. The material of film and cinema directly confront the material of the collective body. The artifice of cinema leaves factual traces on the cinematic subjects. Shub exposed this. In the film script for Woman she notes that the play in the Selsoviet represents a ‘conflict between the urban appearance of the village Komsomol youngsters and the quasi-peasant language the author of the play forces his characters to talk’. The fictionalizing author brutalizes reality, but this is the struggle in play in reality too – the traces of the past that must be re-spun for new meanings to arise from them, new accents to develop out of them. This is what Shub wants to show. It is not that she finds a middle path between Vertov’s Kinoks and cinema of fact and Eisenstein’s staged films; rather, in confronting each mode openly with the other, she makes a third term, another thing, that, among other things, beats out a path for the essay films, or the essay film genre to come.

1. ^ Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality , Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1997, Intro., p. li.

2. ^ See Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften , Vol. IV. [1] , Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main, 1991, pp. 356–9.

3. ^ Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings 1927–1930 , Vol. 2:1, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 2005, p. 18 (translation modified).

4. ^ Ibid., p. 17. 5. Ibid.

6. ^ Ibid., p. 18. 7. Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften , Vol. IV. [1] , pp. 448–9.

8. ^ Benjamin, Selected Writings 1927–1930 , Vol. 2: 1, p. 19.

9. ^ Bertolt Brecht, ‘A Small Contribution to the Theme of Realism’, Screen , vol. 15, no. 2, 1974, pp. 45–7.

10. ^ Jay Leyda, Films Beget Films , George Al en & Unwin,

London, 1964, p. 25.

11. ^ Cited in Martin Stol ery, ‘Eisenstein, Shub and the Gender of the Author as Producer’, Film History , vol. 14, no. 1, Film/ Music (2002), p. 90.

12. ^ Esfir Shub, ‘The Manufacture of Facts’, in Ian Christie and Richard Taylor, eds, The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents 1896–1939 , Routledge, London, 2012, p. 152.

13. ^ Tretyakov cited by Ben Brewster, ‘Lef and Film’, in John Ellis, ed., Screen Reader 1: Cinema/Ideology/Politics , SEFT,

London, 1977, p. 305.

14. ^ Quoted in Mihail Yampolsky, ‘Reality at Second Hand’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television , vol XI, no. 2, June 1991, p. 163.

15. ^ Christie and Taylor, eds, The Film Factory , p. 187. 16. Ibid.

17. ^ Vlada Petric, ‘Esther Shub: Cinema is My Life‘, Quarterly Review of Film Studies , vol. III, no. 4, Fall 1978, p. 434.

18. ^ Christie and Taylor, eds, The Film Factory , p. 187. 19. Despite her criticism of other film-makers – a product of the exciting culture of debate in the young Soviet Union – Shub acted in solidarity as Stalin’s cultural policy tightened its grip. In 1931, while filming in Mexico, Eisenstein was accused in the Soviet journal International Literature of ‘technical fetishism’ and other ‘petty bourgeois limitations’. Shub wrote to him with warning of the increasingly hostile climate and recommending his swift return.

20. ^ Cited in Petric, ‘Esther Shub: Cinema is My Life’, p. 431. 21. Cited in ibid., p. 449.

22. ^ All citations are from the film screenplay or treatment as translated in Petric, ‘Esther Shub: Cinema is My Life’.

23. ^ Cited in Petric, ‘Esther Shub: Film as a Historical Discourse’, in Thomas Waugh, ed., ‘Show Us Life’: Toward a History and Aesthetics of the Committed Documentary , Scarecrow Press, Metuschen NJ, 1984, p. 34.

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Essay Film by Yelizaveta Moss LAST REVIEWED: 24 March 2021 LAST MODIFIED: 24 March 2021 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0216

The term “essay film” has become increasingly used in film criticism to describe a self-reflective and self-referential documentary cinema that blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Scholars unanimously agree that the first published use of the term was by Richter in 1940. Also uncontested is that Andre Bazin, in 1958, was the first to analyze a film, which was Marker’s Letter from Siberia (1958), according to the essay form. The French New Wave created a popularization of short essay films, and German New Cinema saw a resurgence in essay films due to a broad interest in examining German history. But beyond these origins of the term, scholars deviate on what exactly constitutes an essay film and how to categorize essay films. Generally, scholars fall into two camps: those who find a literary genealogy to the essay film and those who find a documentary genealogy to the essay film. The most commonly cited essay filmmakers are French and German: Marker, Resnais, Godard, and Farocki. These filmmakers are singled out for their breadth of essay film projects, as opposed to filmmakers who have made an essay film but who specialize in other genres. Though essay films have been and are being produced outside of the West, scholarship specifically addressing essay films focuses largely on France and Germany, although Solanas and Getino’s theory of “Third Cinema” and approval of certain French essay films has produced some essay film scholarship on Latin America. But the gap in scholarship on global essay film remains, with hope of being bridged by some forthcoming work. Since the term “essay film” is used so sparingly for specific films and filmmakers, the scholarship on essay film tends to take the form of single articles or chapters in either film theory or documentary anthologies and journals. Some recent scholarship has pointed out the evolutionary quality of essay films, emphasizing their ability to change form and style as a response to conventional filmmaking practices. The most recent scholarship and conference papers on essay film have shifted from an emphasis on literary essay to an emphasis on technology, arguing that essay film has the potential in the 21st century to present technology as self-conscious and self-reflexive of its role in art.

Both anthologies dedicated entirely to essay film have been published in order to fill gaps in essay film scholarship. Biemann 2003 brings the discussion of essay film into the digital age by explicitly resisting traditional German and French film and literary theory. Papazian and Eades 2016 also resists European theory by explicitly showcasing work on postcolonial and transnational essay film.

Biemann, Ursula, ed. Stuff It: The Video Essay in the Digital Age . New York: Springer, 2003.

This anthology positions Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983) as the originator of the post-structuralist essay film. In opposition to German and French film and literary theory, Biemann discusses video essays with respect to non-linear and non-logical movement of thought and a range of new media in Internet, digital imaging, and art installation. In its resistance to the French/German theory influence on essay film, this anthology makes a concerted effort to include other theoretical influences, such as transnationalism, postcolonialism, and globalization.

Papazian, Elizabeth, and Caroline Eades, eds. The Essay Film: Dialogue, Politics, Utopia . London: Wallflower, 2016.

This forthcoming anthology bridges several gaps in 21st-century essay film scholarship: non-Western cinemas, popular cinema, and digital media.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Film Analysis

What this handout is about.

This handout introduces film analysis and and offers strategies and resources for approaching film analysis assignments.

Writing the film analysis essay

Writing a film analysis requires you to consider the composition of the film—the individual parts and choices made that come together to create the finished piece. Film analysis goes beyond the analysis of the film as literature to include camera angles, lighting, set design, sound elements, costume choices, editing, etc. in making an argument. The first step to analyzing the film is to watch it with a plan.

Watching the film

First it’s important to watch the film carefully with a critical eye. Consider why you’ve been assigned to watch a film and write an analysis. How does this activity fit into the course? Why have you been assigned this particular film? What are you looking for in connection to the course content? Let’s practice with this clip from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Here are some tips on how to watch the clip critically, just as you would an entire film:

  • Give the clip your undivided attention at least once. Pay close attention to details and make observations that might start leading to bigger questions.
  • Watch the clip a second time. For this viewing, you will want to focus specifically on those elements of film analysis that your class has focused on, so review your course notes. For example, from whose perspective is this clip shot? What choices help convey that perspective? What is the overall tone, theme, or effect of this clip?
  • Take notes while you watch for the second time. Notes will help you keep track of what you noticed and when, if you include timestamps in your notes. Timestamps are vital for citing scenes from a film!

For more information on watching a film, check out the Learning Center’s handout on watching film analytically . For more resources on researching film, including glossaries of film terms, see UNC Library’s research guide on film & cinema .

Brainstorming ideas

Once you’ve watched the film twice, it’s time to brainstorm some ideas based on your notes. Brainstorming is a major step that helps develop and explore ideas. As you brainstorm, you may want to cluster your ideas around central topics or themes that emerge as you review your notes. Did you ask several questions about color? Were you curious about repeated images? Perhaps these are directions you can pursue.

If you’re writing an argumentative essay, you can use the connections that you develop while brainstorming to draft a thesis statement . Consider the assignment and prompt when formulating a thesis, as well as what kind of evidence you will present to support your claims. Your evidence could be dialogue, sound edits, cinematography decisions, etc. Much of how you make these decisions will depend on the type of film analysis you are conducting, an important decision covered in the next section.

After brainstorming, you can draft an outline of your film analysis using the same strategies that you would for other writing assignments. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind as you prepare for this stage of the assignment:

  • Make sure you understand the prompt and what you are being asked to do. Remember that this is ultimately an assignment, so your thesis should answer what the prompt asks. Check with your professor if you are unsure.
  • In most cases, the director’s name is used to talk about the film as a whole, for instance, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo .” However, some writers may want to include the names of other persons who helped to create the film, including the actors, the cinematographer, and the sound editor, among others.
  • When describing a sequence in a film, use the literary present. An example could be, “In Vertigo , Hitchcock employs techniques of observation to dramatize the act of detection.”
  • Finding a screenplay/script of the movie may be helpful and save you time when compiling citations. But keep in mind that there may be differences between the screenplay and the actual product (and these differences might be a topic of discussion!).
  • Go beyond describing basic film elements by articulating the significance of these elements in support of your particular position. For example, you may have an interpretation of the striking color green in Vertigo , but you would only mention this if it was relevant to your argument. For more help on using evidence effectively, see the section on “using evidence” in our evidence handout .

Also be sure to avoid confusing the terms shot, scene, and sequence. Remember, a shot ends every time the camera cuts; a scene can be composed of several related shots; and a sequence is a set of related scenes.

Different types of film analysis

As you consider your notes, outline, and general thesis about a film, the majority of your assignment will depend on what type of film analysis you are conducting. This section explores some of the different types of film analyses you may have been assigned to write.

Semiotic analysis

Semiotic analysis is the interpretation of signs and symbols, typically involving metaphors and analogies to both inanimate objects and characters within a film. Because symbols have several meanings, writers often need to determine what a particular symbol means in the film and in a broader cultural or historical context.

For instance, a writer could explore the symbolism of the flowers in Vertigo by connecting the images of them falling apart to the vulnerability of the heroine.

Here are a few other questions to consider for this type of analysis:

  • What objects or images are repeated throughout the film?
  • How does the director associate a character with small signs, such as certain colors, clothing, food, or language use?
  • How does a symbol or object relate to other symbols and objects, that is, what is the relationship between the film’s signs?

Many films are rich with symbolism, and it can be easy to get lost in the details. Remember to bring a semiotic analysis back around to answering the question “So what?” in your thesis.

Narrative analysis

Narrative analysis is an examination of the story elements, including narrative structure, character, and plot. This type of analysis considers the entirety of the film and the story it seeks to tell.

For example, you could take the same object from the previous example—the flowers—which meant one thing in a semiotic analysis, and ask instead about their narrative role. That is, you might analyze how Hitchcock introduces the flowers at the beginning of the film in order to return to them later to draw out the completion of the heroine’s character arc.

To create this type of analysis, you could consider questions like:

  • How does the film correspond to the Three-Act Structure: Act One: Setup; Act Two: Confrontation; and Act Three: Resolution?
  • What is the plot of the film? How does this plot differ from the narrative, that is, how the story is told? For example, are events presented out of order and to what effect?
  • Does the plot revolve around one character? Does the plot revolve around multiple characters? How do these characters develop across the film?

When writing a narrative analysis, take care not to spend too time on summarizing at the expense of your argument. See our handout on summarizing for more tips on making summary serve analysis.

Cultural/historical analysis

One of the most common types of analysis is the examination of a film’s relationship to its broader cultural, historical, or theoretical contexts. Whether films intentionally comment on their context or not, they are always a product of the culture or period in which they were created. By placing the film in a particular context, this type of analysis asks how the film models, challenges, or subverts different types of relations, whether historical, social, or even theoretical.

For example, the clip from Vertigo depicts a man observing a woman without her knowing it. You could examine how this aspect of the film addresses a midcentury social concern about observation, such as the sexual policing of women, or a political one, such as Cold War-era McCarthyism.

A few of the many questions you could ask in this vein include:

  • How does the film comment on, reinforce, or even critique social and political issues at the time it was released, including questions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality?
  • How might a biographical understanding of the film’s creators and their historical moment affect the way you view the film?
  • How might a specific film theory, such as Queer Theory, Structuralist Theory, or Marxist Film Theory, provide a language or set of terms for articulating the attributes of the film?

Take advantage of class resources to explore possible approaches to cultural/historical film analyses, and find out whether you will be expected to do additional research into the film’s context.

Mise-en-scène analysis

A mise-en-scène analysis attends to how the filmmakers have arranged compositional elements in a film and specifically within a scene or even a single shot. This type of analysis organizes the individual elements of a scene to explore how they come together to produce meaning. You may focus on anything that adds meaning to the formal effect produced by a given scene, including: blocking, lighting, design, color, costume, as well as how these attributes work in conjunction with decisions related to sound, cinematography, and editing. For example, in the clip from Vertigo , a mise-en-scène analysis might ask how numerous elements, from lighting to camera angles, work together to present the viewer with the perspective of Jimmy Stewart’s character.

To conduct this type of analysis, you could ask:

  • What effects are created in a scene, and what is their purpose?
  • How does this scene represent the theme of the movie?
  • How does a scene work to express a broader point to the film’s plot?

This detailed approach to analyzing the formal elements of film can help you come up with concrete evidence for more general film analysis assignments.

Reviewing your draft

Once you have a draft, it’s helpful to get feedback on what you’ve written to see if your analysis holds together and you’ve conveyed your point. You may not necessarily need to find someone who has seen the film! Ask a writing coach, roommate, or family member to read over your draft and share key takeaways from what you have written so far.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Aumont, Jacques, and Michel Marie. 1988. L’analyse Des Films . Paris: Nathan.

Media & Design Center. n.d. “Film and Cinema Research.” UNC University Libraries. Last updated February 10, 2021. .

Oxford Royale Academy. n.d. “7 Ways to Watch Film.” Oxford Royale Academy. Accessed April 2021. .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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essay about the art of film

Video essay: The essay film – some thoughts of discontent

In a world bedazzled by intractable images, do we need the essay film now more than ever? As S&S explores its art in our latest Deep Focus primer and BFI Southbank season, Kevin B. Lee weighs up this distinctively self-aware, searching form of cinema through both video and text.

Kevin B. Lee Updated: 22 May 2017

essay about the art of film

I cannot recall how the term ‘video essay’ came to be the adopted nomenclature for the ever-increasing output of online videos produced over the past few years by an ever-growing range of self-appointed practitioners (including myself). My own entrance into this field was an organic synthesis of my backgrounds as a film critic and a filmmaker, two modes that had competed with each other in my mind until I started to pursue the possibilities of critically exploring cinema through the medium itself. This practice is readily possible in an age when digital technology enables virtually anyone with a computer (not even a video camera, as images are overly abundant and accessible) to produce media with nearly as much ease as it is to consume it.

essay about the art of film

The Sight & Sound Deep Focus season Thought in Action: The Art of the Essay Film runs at BFI Southbank 1-28 August 2013, with a keynote lecture by Kodwo Eshun on 1 August, a talk by writer and academic Laura Rascaroli on 27 August and a closing panel debate on 28 August.

Does this type of production herald an exciting new era for media literacy, enacting Alexandre Astruc ’s prophecy of cinema becoming our new lingua franca? Or is it just an insidious new form of media consumption? At least that’s how much of what lately is termed ‘video essay’ strikes me: an onslaught of supercuts, list-based montages and fan videos that do less to shed critical insight into their source material than offer a new way for the pop culture snake to eat its long tail.

Minding the as-yet-unfulfilled potential of critical online media, I take great interest in the BFI Southbank’s August S&S Deep Focus series on essay filmmaking as a much-needed occasion to reflect on the significance of this word ‘essay’ in relation to film and video. However, having watched and re-watched most of the films in the series, and engaged with several critical texts on the essay film, I’m no longer even certain if most of the videos I’ve produced over the years qualify as ‘essayistic’.

I pondered this when encountering essay film scholar Laura Rascaroli’s disqualification of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 as an essay film :

“Spectators are asked to follow the facts, to watch and listen, and progressively discover an objective truth, to which the author holds the key.”

Much writing on essay films espouse a resistance to the didactic, the pedagogical (which my work has been described, and not always in tones of approbation), or the polemical, while embracing the form’s ability, through the combination of images, sounds and words, to express the process of subjective thought. In the words of Hans Richter , who coined the term in 1940, the essay film:

“allows the filmmaker to transgress the rules and parameters of the traditional documentary practice, granting the imagination with all its artistic potentiality free reign.”

However, these grandiose assertions confound as much as they clarify what constitutes an essay film. Rascaroli’s dismissal of Moore underestimates how his blunt-force polemics elicit (and even solicit) an active response from the audience, stimulating a critical engagement with the film and its political discourse, a strategy akin to the incendiary film essays of Santiago Álvarez (featured in the BFI series).

Richter’s definition doesn’t help much to differentiate the essay form from much of experimental cinema. And, as pointed out in the essays The Essay as Conformism by Hito Steyerl and Deviation as Norm by Volker Pantenburg, the common notion of the essay film as a form for free-flowing, subjective non-conformity, a concept borrowed from literary conceptions of the essay that are as old as Michel de Montaigne , has itself become a convention bordering on cliché.

My own working definition of the essay film errs on the side of inclusion at the expense of qualitative judgment or inflated promises of uniqueness: for me, an essay film explicitly reflects on the materials it presents, to actualise the thinking process itself. This gives a firmer delineation against a more general conception of experimental or documentary film practices, while also entertaining other films that one might otherwise neglect as ‘essay films’. Looking at the top results of last year’s S&S Greatest Films of All Time poll , one finds no-brainer examples like Sans soleil and Histoire(s) du cinema , but one should certainly also include the likes of Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera , Tarkovsky’s Mirror – and why not Malick’s The Thin Red Line ?

Essay film candidates in the top 250 of Sight & Sound’s 2012 Greatest Films of All Time poll

8.   Man with a Movie Camera

19.   Mirror (1974)

48.   Histoire(s) du cinema

69.   Sans Soleil (1982)

102.   Two or Three Things I Know About Her…

127.   Hiroshima Mon Amour

=183.   Listen to Britain

=183.   The Thin Red Line

202.   Russian Ark

235.   The House is Black

To pose a more critical question than “are they or aren’t they?”, I wonder if the habitual exclusion of the aforementioned titles from the essay film conversation has to do with an urge to reserve the distinction for films and filmmakers who more thoroughly occupy a fringe area existing outside of conventional film genres. On this score the cause célèbre is Chris Marker , who figures prominently in the theorising done to date by essay film scholars such as Rascaroli, Nora Alter and Timothy Corrigan, as well as in Andrew Tracy’s feature article on the subject in the August 2013 issue of Sight & Sound.

Tracy’s essay gives a compelling account of the evolution of what in hindsight came to be known as the essay-film form, which, according to his telling, seems to culminate with the Left Bank triumvirate (amply represented in the BFI series) of Marker, Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda , with their interrogations of a world of images – and of the power of the moving image itself – characteristically set to literate voiceovers of wilful indeterminacy.

To be sure, these works amount to a defining moment in the evolution of the form but not the defining moment; the three decades since Sans soleil have seen a veritable explosion of essayistic filmmaking that Tracy’s account neglects to acknowledge. Perhaps Marker’s recent passing moves us to attend to his sui generis contributions to cinema – but at the recent Flaherty Film Seminar on documentary film, the halo cast around Marker’s memory was so thick as to be suffocating. His legacy has become so firmly tied with the essay film that many presume a subjective voiceover narration is essential to such works. But over the last 30 years, the centrality of the essay film voiceover has been thoroughly complicated (cf. the Black Audio Film Collective’s masterfully polyphonal Handsworth Songs ), subverted (Ben Rivers’ faux-anthropological Slow Action ) or altogether abandoned (Jose Luis Guerin’s wordlessly analytical Train of Shadows ).

To Tracy’s credit, he links the use of voiceover to a purpose that he and I both consider essential to essay filmmaking – in his words, “to interrogate the image, to dispel the illusion of its sovereignty.” This discontentedness with the cinema, and all that it has promised us over the past century (total entertainment, total art, total Bazinian reality), is one of the profoundest subtexts to Tracy’s piece, a drop-kick through the looking glass of the screen into the world around it, a world it has done as much to distort or distract us from as it has revealed and connected back to us.

Where Tracy and I seem to differ is in the necessity of literary techniques such as the voiceover in determining cinema’s capacity to interrogate itself; where he seems to hold that such interpolations are necessary to create the necessary critical distance to cinema that enables the essayistic mode, I hold out that moving images on their own contain tremendous as-yet-untapped potential to shed critical light on themselves. To quote no less a Marker enthusiast than Kodwo Eshun of the Otolith Group [ homepage ]:

“To me, the essayistic is not about a particular generic fascination for voiceover or montage, the essayistic is dissatisfaction, it’s discontent with the duties of an image and the obligations of a sound.”

Here it’s worth mentioning another figure who has done as much as Marker to define essay filmmaking practice over the last 30 years: Harun Farocki , who has spent a lifetime unpacking images as embodiments of social systems (from prison surveillance videos to business presentations to football broadcasts), and as systems of meanings in themselves. He once described his practice as “images commenting on images”, an analytic technique that, through its resourcefulness and simplicity, frequently yields eloquence.

He is represented in the BFI series by How to Live in the Federal Republic of Germany , a perversely inspired selection, given how much more overtly essayistic some of Farocki’s other films are compared to this Wiseman -esque observational chronicle of behavioural training sessions (birthing lessons, police drills, a striptease rehearsal). But there’s no question that over the accumulation of scenes, a socially critical discourse emerges, in a mode that’s highly relevant to critical (or uncritical) media today: the film plays like an extended supercut of real-life scripted events.

In his own way, Farocki’s work fulfils another wish for the essay film expressed by Tracy that I share, to see the image “as part of a matrix of meaning that extends beyond the screen.” This takes me back to this article’s starting point in the contemporary morass of online clip compilations and fan tributes that pass as essays, and what alternative mode of media could place us in a more critically aware position with regard to how media functions in our lives, where it comes from, what larger forces are behind its dissemination and our consumption of them.

In this way, the essay film might realise a greater purpose than existing as a trendy label, or as cinema’s submission to high-toned and half-defined literary concepts. Instead, the essay film may serve as a springboard to launch into a vital investigation of knowledge, art and culture in the 21st century, including the question of what role cinema itself might play in this critical project: articulating discontent with its own place in the world.

Sight & Sound: the August 2013 issue

Sight & Sound: the August 2013 issue

In this issue: Frances Ha’s Greta Gerwig – the most exciting actress in America? Plus Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives, Wadjda, The Wall,...

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Further reading

The essay film - image

The essay film

Andrew Tracy , Katy McGahan , Olaf Möller , Sergio Wolf , Nina Power

What I owe to Chris Marker - image

What I owe to Chris Marker

Patricio Guzmán

The world at sea: The Forgotten Space - image

The world at sea: The Forgotten Space

His and her ghosts: reworking La Jetée - image

His and her ghosts: reworking La Jetée

Melissa Bradshaw

At home (and away) with Agnès Varda - image

At home (and away) with Agnès Varda

Daniel Trilling

Out of the ether: Hito Steyerl’s In Free Fall - image

Out of the ether: Hito Steyerl’s In Free Fall

The land still lies: Handsworth Songs and the English riots - image

The land still lies: Handsworth Songs and the English riots

John Akomfrah’s Hauntologies - image

John Akomfrah’s Hauntologies

Laura Allsop

Muck and brass:  Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson on The Miners’ Hymns - image

Muck and brass: Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson on The Miners’ Hymns

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Essays on the essay film.

Edited by Nora M. Alter and Timothy Corrigan

Columbia University Press

Essays on the Essay Film

Pub Date: March 2017

ISBN: 9780231172677

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Creatively and capaciously, this rich volume gets at the essay film not only by including key critics and practitioners of the form but, importantly, by going beyond the genre itself to broader contributions to essay theorization from philosophy and belles lettres. An exciting, inventive volume with great delights at every turn. Dana Polan, New York University
Alter and Corrigan's masterful new volume on the essay film is rigorous, comprehensive, and refreshingly surprising. Their invaluable collection probes theoretical reflections on the essay as a mode of expression and a way of thinking in light of the creative and political investments of filmmakers around the globe; it also chronicles the essay film's changing countenances, from its prehistory and early signs of life to novel permutations in the present. Featuring a very distinguished cast of players, this collection is a production of the highest order. Eric Rentschler, Harvard University
Nora Alter and Tim Corrigan bring their seasoned literary experience to herd but never tame the unruly essay film. Its prestige soaring, this mode is tethered to a long history of experimental writing that will keep it from disappearing into the bog of blogs and YouTube mashups whose best examples it is already inspiring. The proof is in the Table of Contents: a brilliant litany of sensitive, reliable writers, who dare to take on the most daring forms of image-thought the cinema has produced. Dudley Andrew, Yale University
Recent years have witnessed a rapid growth in interest in the history, concept and diverse manifestations of the essay film. In this essential collection, Nora Alter and Timothy Corrigan have brought together a superb selection of foundational texts with a range of key recent writings by leading scholars and essay filmmakers. The result is an enormously rich resource for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of this most vital of audiovisual forms. Michael Witt, University of Roehampton

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book: Essays on the Essay Film

Essays on the Essay Film

  • Edited by: Nora M. Alter and Timothy Corrigan
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  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Copyright year: 2017
  • Audience: Professional and scholarly;
  • Main content: 392
  • Published: April 10, 2017
  • ISBN: 9780231543996

Essay Papers Writing Online

A comprehensive guide to writing a film analysis essay – tips, tricks, and techniques.

How to write a film analysis essay

Writing a film analysis essay can be a fascinating and rewarding experience for both film enthusiasts and students of cinema. Analyzing a movie allows you to delve into its intricacies, unravel its themes, and dissect its visual and narrative techniques. However, crafting a compelling film analysis essay requires a combination of insight, critical thinking, and effective writing skills.

When approaching a film analysis essay, it is crucial to watch the movie multiple times, taking notes on key scenes, character development, dialogue, and cinematography. Understanding the context in which the film was made and the director’s intentions can provide valuable insights that enrich your analysis.

Furthermore, structuring your essay effectively is essential to presenting your analysis in a coherent and engaging manner. Your introduction should provide a brief overview of the film and its significance, while the body paragraphs should focus on specific aspects of the film, supported by examples and evidence. Finally, your conclusion should summarize your key points and offer a thoughtful reflection on the film’s impact.

Tips for Crafting

Tips for Crafting

When crafting a film analysis essay, it’s important to have a clear structure in mind. Start by choosing a specific film to analyze and watch it multiple times to fully understand its nuances. Take notes while watching to capture important details and moments that you want to analyze further.

Next, develop a thesis statement that will serve as the central argument of your essay. This thesis should be specific and focused, outlining the main points you will discuss in your analysis. Use evidence from the film to support your arguments and provide examples to strengthen your points.

Organize your essay in a logical manner, with an introduction that introduces the film and your thesis, body paragraphs that delve into specific aspects of the film, and a conclusion that summarizes your main points and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

Make sure to analyze the film’s cinematography, sound design, acting, and themes in detail, providing insights that go beyond a surface-level analysis. Consider the director’s intent, the historical context of the film, and its impact on audiences to provide a comprehensive analysis.

Lastly, don’t forget to revise and edit your essay for clarity, coherence, and grammar. Make sure your analysis is well-supported and your arguments are persuasive. By following these tips, you can craft a compelling film analysis essay that showcases your analytical skills and understanding of cinema.

a Compelling Film

When analyzing a film, it is important to focus on what makes the movie compelling to the audience. Look for key elements such as the storyline, character development, cinematography, and sound design that contribute to the overall impact of the film.

Consider how the film engages the viewers emotionally and intellectually. Does it evoke strong emotions or make the audience think deeply about certain themes or issues?

  • Pay attention to the performances of the actors and how they bring the characters to life on screen.
  • Examine the visual style of the film, including the use of colors, lighting, and camera angles to create a mood or convey a message.
  • Listen to the soundtrack and sound effects to see how they enhance the viewing experience and add layers to the storytelling.

By delving into these aspects of a film, you can uncover deeper meanings and insights that can be woven into your analysis, making for a more compelling and well-rounded essay.

Analysis Essay

When writing a film analysis essay, it is essential to delve deeply into the movie’s themes, characters, plot, and cinematic techniques. Start by watching the film attentively, taking notes on key scenes, dialogues, and visual elements that make an impact on you.

Next, develop a thesis statement that outlines your main argument about the film and how you will support it through your analysis. Organize your essay into sections that focus on different aspects of the film, such as narrative structure, character development, symbolism, and cinematography.

Use specific examples from the film to illustrate your points and analyze how they contribute to the overall story and meaning. Be sure to provide evidence to back up your claims and interpret the film’s themes and messages in a way that supports your argument.

Finally, conclude your essay by summarizing your main points and reiterating your thesis. Consider the film’s impact on the audience, its cultural significance, and its lasting impression. Overall, a well-crafted film analysis essay should showcase your critical thinking skills and offer new insights into the movie’s artistic and narrative elements.

Understand the Film

Before diving into your film analysis essay, it’s crucial to have a deep understanding of the film itself. This means watching the film multiple times to catch all the nuances, themes, and character developments. Take note of the setting, cinematography, sound design, and editing techniques used in the film. Understanding the director’s vision and the message they are trying to convey is key to crafting a compelling analysis.

Plot and Themes

One of the key elements of a film analysis essay is delving into the plot and themes of the movie. Begin your analysis by summarizing the main storyline of the film, including key events and plot twists that shape the narrative. Make sure to highlight any interesting or unique elements of the plot that contribute to the overall impact of the film.

Furthermore, explore the underlying themes of the movie and how they are communicated through the storyline, character development, and cinematic techniques. Consider the motifs, symbols, and messages that the director conveys through the film and discuss how they add depth and meaning to the overall viewing experience.

  • Provide examples from the film to support your analysis of the plot and themes.
  • Consider how the plot progression and thematic elements contribute to the overall message or central idea of the movie.
  • Reflect on how the interplay between plot and themes enriches the audience’s understanding and emotional engagement with the film.

Characters and Motivations

One of the key elements of a compelling film analysis essay is a deep understanding of the characters and their motivations. When analyzing a film, pay close attention to how the characters are developed throughout the narrative. Consider how their actions, words, and relationships with other characters reveal their motivations and inner conflicts. Look for subtle nuances in their behavior, dialogue, and body language that provide insight into their personalities.

Identifying the main characters and understanding their motivations is essential for interpreting the film’s themes and messages. Consider how the characters’ goals, desires, fears, and internal struggles drive the plot forward and shape the story’s outcome. Analyzing the characters’ motivations can also help you uncover the underlying themes and messages that the filmmaker is trying to convey.

When discussing the characters in your film analysis essay, be sure to provide specific examples from the film that support your analysis. Quote dialogue, describe key scenes, and analyze the characters’ actions to illustrate your points. By delving deep into the characters and their motivations, you can craft a more nuanced and compelling analysis of the film.

Research and Analysis

Before starting your film analysis essay, conduct thorough research on the movie you are analyzing. Watch the film multiple times, taking detailed notes on key plot points, character development, themes, and symbolism. Additionally, research the background of the film, including the director, actors, production history, and critical reception.

Once you have gathered all necessary information, begin analyzing the film by breaking down its elements. Consider the cinematography, editing, sound design, and performances to understand how these contribute to the overall narrative and emotional impact of the film. Use critical thinking skills to develop insightful interpretations and arguments in your analysis.

Historical Context

Historical Context

When analyzing a film, it is crucial to consider the historical context in which it was created. Understanding the social, cultural, and political climate of the time can provide valuable insights into the themes, messages, and motivations behind the film. Consider researching the time period in which the film was made, including significant events, trends, and movements that may have influenced the filmmakers.

By delving into the historical context, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the film and its relevance to the time in which it was produced. This will also help you contextualize the characters, plot, and overall narrative within the broader historical framework, allowing for a more nuanced and insightful analysis.

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World Cinema and the Essay Film: Transnational Perspectives on a Global Practice

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  • Published: July 2019
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In this introductory chapter readers are made familiar with the expanding research field of essayistic filmmaking in world cinema-contexts around the globe. Brenda Hollweg and Igor Krstíc argue that the essay film is a privileged political and ethical tool by means of which filmmakers around the world approach historically specific and locally, geographically concrete issues against larger global issues and universal concerns. The chapter also includes a genealogical overview of important moments in the development of essay filmmaking, particularly during the 1920s and 1960s, and provides readers with short abstracts on the individual chapters and their specific transnationally inflected case studies on essay film practitioners from around the world.

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The Art of Film

  • Medium Specificity in Film ( 25 )
  • Film and Morality ( 59 )
  • Film Evaluation, Misc ( 13 )

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Philosophy of Film

The philosophy of film is now a firmly established subfield of contemporary philosophy of art. Although philosophers were among the first academics to publish studies of the new artform in the early decades of the twentieth century, the field did not experience significant growth until the 1980's when a renaissance occurred. There are many reasons for the field's recent growth. Suffice it to say here that changes in both academic philosophy and the cultural role of the movies in general made it imperative for philosophers to take film seriously as an artform on a par with the more traditional ones like theater, dance, and painting. As a result of this surge in interest in film as a subject for philosophical reflection, the philosophy of film has become an important area of research in aesthetics.

This entry is organized around a number of issues that are central to the philosophy of film. They explore different aspect of film as an artistic medium, illustrating the range of concerns addressed within the philosophy of film.

1. The Idea of a Philosophy of Film

2. the nature of film, 3. film and authorship, 4. emotional engagement, 5. film narration, 6. film and society, 7. film as philosophy, 8. conclusions and prognosis, other internet resources, related entries.

There are two features of the philosophy of film that need to be discussed before delving into more specific issues. The first is that film scholars who are not professional philosophers have made many contributions to the field. (See, for example, Chatman (1990) and Smith (1995).) This differentiates this area from many other philosophical disciplines. While physicists often write about the philosophy of science, the academic discipline of the philosophy of physics is dominated by professional philosophers. Not so in the philosophy of film. As a result, my use of the term “philosopher of film” will be broad, intended to include all of those interested in theoretical issues about the cinema.

The second peculiarity is that within film studies—itself an institutionalized area of academic study—there is a sub-field of film theory that has significant overlap with the philosophy of film even though the majority of its practitioners operate on significantly different philosophical assumptions than Anglo-American philosophers of film. In the balance of this entry, I shall include both of these areas under the rubric of the philosophy of film, although my primary emphasis is on the contributions of Anglo-American theorists and I will occasionally distinguish this field from film theory as practiced within the area of film studies. One of the characteristics of philosophy as a discipline is its questioning of its own nature and basis. The philosophy of film shares this characteristic with the field in general. Indeed, a first issue that the philosophy of film must address is the grounds for its own existence. This involves not only the question of what the field should look like, but also that of whether it has any reason to exist at all.

Is there any need for a separate philosophic discipline devoted to film in addition to more empirical studies of film undertaken under the aegis of film studies itself? Although this question has not always received the attention it deserves from philosophers, it is actually a pressing one, for it asks philosophers to justify their newly found interest in film as more than an opportunistic incorporation of a highly popular form of popular culture into their domain.

In one sense, however, philosophers need not justify their interest in film, for philosophical aesthetics has always had a concern not just with art in general but with specific art forms. Beginning with Aristotle's Poetics —a work devoted to explaining the nature of Greek tragedy—philosophers have sought to explain the specific characteristics of each significant art form of their culture. From this point of view, there is no more reason to question the existence of a philosophy of film than there is that of a philosophy of music or a philosophy of painting, two fields that are well accepted as components of aesthetics. Since film is a significant artform in our contemporary world, philosophy might even be judged to have a responsibility to investigate its nature.

Still, there are some reasons why it might seem problematic for there to be a separate academic field of the philosophy of film. Because the study of film is already institutionalized within academia in the discipline of film studies, and because that field includes a separate sub-field of film theory, it might seem that, unlike literature and music, say, film is already well-served by this institutional base. From this point of view, the philosophy of film is redundant, occupying a space that has already been carved out by an alternative discipline.

The problem is that the sub-field of film theory within film studies has been dominated by a range of theoretical commitments that many Anglo-American philosophers do not share. Many such philosophers have therefore felt a need not just to make minor revisions in the field and its understanding of film but rather to make a new beginning in the study of film that does not share the problematic assumptions of film theory itself. For this reason, as well as the earlier-cited view of film as a legitimate topic within aesthetics, they have felt it important to develop a philosophically informed mode of thinking about film.

But once the philosophy of film is granted autonomy as a separate sub-field of aesthetics, the question arises as to its form. That is, philosophers are concerned with the issue of how the philosophy of film should be constituted as a field of study. What role is there for film interpretation in the field? How do studies of particular films relate to more theoretical studies of the medium as such? And what about philosophy in film, a popular mode of philosophic thinking about film? Is there a unified model that can be employed to characterize this newly vitalized domain of philosophic inquiry?

An increasingly popular way of thinking about the philosophy of film is to model it on scientific theorizing. Although there is disagreement on the precise details of such a proposal, its adherents urge that the study of film be treated as a scientific discipline with an appropriate relationship between theory and evidence. For some, this means having an empirical body of film interpretations that gives rise to wider theoretical generalizations. For others, it means developing a set of small scale theories that attempt to explain different aspect of films and our experience of them. The emphasis here is on developing models or theories of various features of films.

This idea of modeling the discipline of the philosophy of film on the natural sciences has been prominent among cognitive film theorists (Bordwell and Carroll 1996; Currie 1995). This rapidly developing approach emphasizes viewers' conscious processing of films, as opposed to the emphasis within traditional film theory on unconscious processes. In general, these theorists lean towards seeing the study of film as a scientific undertaking.

The idea that the philosophy of film should model itself upon a scientific model has been contested from a variety of points of view. Some philosophers, relying on the writings of pragmatists like William James, have questioned the idea that natural science provides a useful way to think about what philosophers are doing in their reflections on film. Here, there is an emphasis on the particularity of films as works of art in contrast the to the urge to move to a general theory of film. Others, making use of later Wittgenstein as well as the tradition of hermeneutics, also question such a natural scientific orientation for philosophic reflections on film. This camp sees the study of film as a humanistic discipline that is misunderstood when it is assimilated to a natural science.

The debates about what the philosophy of film should look like are really just being joined. This is because it is only recently that a scientific conception of the philosophy of film has emerged as a competitor. But despite the increasing popularity of a cognitive approach to film, there are fundamental issues about the structure of the philosophy of film that remain to be settled.

One fundamental issue is what mediums are to be included under the term "film." Although "film" initially referred to the celluloid stock on which movies were recorded, restricting the term to just celluloid-based works would be unduly restrictive. After all, many of the films we watch today are either recorded digitally or projected digitally or both. Such works are clearly part of the same art form as celluloid-based films, so the referent of the term "film" has to be taken to include works made on both mediums.

And then is television. Although many film scholars and philosophers of film has a disparaging view of television, the emergence of such shows as The Sopranos and The Wire established television as a medium for making valuable works of art. As a result, it makes sense to include such shows under the rubric of films.

This stretching of the concept "film" to include both non-celluloid movies and television and other related mediums has led some philosophers of film to suggest replacing the term "film" with a broader category, such as moving picture or moving image. So far, such suggestions have not yet changed the way in which the field is designated, so I retain the term "philosophy of film" throughout this entry.

The question that dominated early philosophical inquiry into film was whether the cinema—a term that emphasizes the institutional structure within which films were produced, distributed, and viewed—could be regarded as an artform. There were two reasons why cinema did not seem worthy of the honorific designation of an art. The first was that early contexts for the exhibition of films included such venues as the vaudeville peep show and the circus side show. As a popular cultural form, film seemed to have a vulgarity that made it an unsuitable companion to theater, painting, opera, and the other fine arts. A second problem was that film seemed to borrow too much from other art forms. To many, early films seemed little more than recordings of either theatrical performances or everyday life. The rationale for the former was that they could be disseminated to a wider audience than that which could see a live performance. But film then only seems to be a means of access to art and not an independent art form on its own. The latter, on the other hand, seemed too direct a reproduction of life to qualify as art, for there seemed little mediation by any guiding consciousness.

In order to justify the claim that film deserves to be considered an independent art form, philosophers investigated the ontological structure of film. The hope was to develop a conception of film that made it clear that it differed in significant ways from the other fine arts. For this reason, the question of film's nature was a crucial one for theorists of film during what we might call the classic period.

Hugo Münsterberg, the first philosopher to write a monograph about the new art form, sought to distinguish film by means of the technical devices that it employed in presenting its narratives (Münsterberg 1916). Flashbacks, close-ups, and edits are some examples of the technical means that filmmakers employ to present their narratives that theater lacks. For Münsterberg, the use of these devices distinguished film from the theater as an artform.

Münsterberg went on to ask how viewers are able to understand the role that these technical devices play in the articulation of cinematic narratives. His answer is that these devices are all objectifications of mental processes. A close-up, for example, presents in visual form a correlate to the mental act of paying attention to something. Viewers naturally understand how such cinematic devices function because they are familiar with the workings of their own minds and can recognize these objectified mental functions when they see them. Although this aspect of Münsterberg's theory links him to contemporary cognitive philosophers of film, he does not explain how viewers know that what they are looking at are objectified mental functions.

Münsterberg was writing during the silent era. The development of the simultaneous sound track—the “talkie”—changed film forever. It is not surprising that this important innovation spawned interesting theoretical reflections.

The well-known psychologist of art, Rudolph Arnheim, made the surprising claim that the talkie represented a decline from the highpoint of silent cinema. (Arnheim 1957) Relying on the idea that, in order to be a unique artform, film had to be true to its own specific medium, Arnheim denigrates the sound film as a mixture of two distinct artistic media that do not constitute a satisfying whole.

For Arnheim, the silent film had achieved artistic status by focusing on its ability to present moving bodies. Indeed, for him, the artistic aspect of cinema consisted in its ability to present abstractions, an ability completely lost when films began to employ simultaneous soundtracks. Writing near the dawn of the talkie, Arnheim could only see what we now recognize as a natural development of the artform as a decline from a previously attained height.

André Bazin, though not a professional philosopher or even an academic, countered Arnheim's assessment in a series of articles that still exert an important influence on the field. (Bazin 1967; 1971) For Bazin, the important dichotomy is not that between the sound and the silent film but rather between films that focus on the image and those that emphasize reality. Although editing had emerged for many such as Sergei Eisenstein as the distinctive aspect of film, Bazin returns to the silent era to demonstrate the presence of an alternative means of achieving film art, namely an interest in allowing the camera to reveal the actual nature of the world. Relying on a conception of film as having a realist character because of its basis in photography, Bazin argues that the future of cinema as an artform depends on its development of this capacity to present the world to us “frozen in time.”

In making his argument, Bazin valorizes the film style he dubs realism, characterized by extended shots and deep focus. Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, and the Italian neo-Realists are the filmmakers whom Bazin sees as culminating this imagist tradition of filmmaking that has realized the true potential of the medium.

In his pathbreaking study of what he called “classical film theory,” Noël Carroll (1988) argued that there were many illicit presuppositions at play in the classical theorists' attempts to define film's nature. In particular, he accused them of confusing particular styles of filmmaking with more abstract claims about the nature of the medium itself. His accusations seemed to spell the end of such attempts to justify film styles by their grounding in the medium's nature.

Recently, however, Bazin's claim about film's realism has received new life, albeit without the extravagances of Bazin's own writing. Kendall Walton, in an extremely influential paper (1984), argued that film, because of its basis in photography, was a realistic medium that allowed viewers to actually see the objects that appear on screen. The transparency thesis has been the subject of a great deal of debate among philosophers and aestheticians. Gregory Currie, for example, rejects the transparency thesis while still defending a form of realism. He argues that film's realism is the result of the fact that objects depicted on screen trigger the same recognitional capacities that are used to identify real objects.

The discussion of the realist character of film continues to be a topic of heated debate among philosophers of film. Most recently, the emergence of digital technologies for fashioning the image raise very basic questions about the plausibility of this view.

Films are the product of many individuals working together. This is apparent when one watches the credits at the end of any recent Hollywood film and sees the myriad names that come scrolling by. To coin a phrase, it takes a village to make a movie.

It might therefore seem surprising that there is a significant tendency among film scholars to treat films as the product of a single individual, its auteur or author. On this line of interpretation, the director of the film is the creative intelligence who shapes the entire film in a manner parallel to how we think of, say, literary works being authored.

The idea of the director as auteur was first suggested by Francois Truffaut—later to become one of the central directors in the French New Wave. Truffaut used the term polemically to denigrate the then dominant mode of filmmaking that emphasized the adaptation of great works of literature to the screen. In the attempt to valorize a different style of filmmaking, Truffaut argued that the only films that deserved to be designated art were those in which the director had complete control over its production by writing the screenplay as well as actually directing the actors. Only films made in this way deserved to be given the status of works of art.

The well-known American film scholar and reviewer, Andrew Sarris, adopted Truffaut's theory in order to legitimate film studies as an academic discipline. For Sarris, the auteur theory was a theory of film evaluation, for it suggested to him that the works of great directors were the only significant ones. In his somewhat idiosyncratic use of the idea, he even argued that the flawed works of major directors were artistically better than masterpieces made by minor ones. A more defensible aspect of his ideas was the emphasis on the entire ouvre of a director. Within film studies, the emphasis on synoptic studies of individual directors is derived from Sarris' version of the auteur theory.

A negative consequence of the influence of auterism is the relative neglect of other important contributors to the making of a film. Actors, cinematographers, screenwriters, composers, and art directors all make significant contributions to films that the auteur theory underestimates. While Truffaut introduced the term polemically to support a new style of filmmaking, subsequent theorists have tended to ignore the context of his remarks.

As a general theory of the cinema, then, the auteur theory is clearly flawed. Not all films—not even all great ones—can be attributed to the control of the director. Actors are the clearest examples of individuals who may have such a significant impact on the making of a specific film that the film has to be seen as attributable to them even more importantly than the director. Although films like Truffaut's own may be (mostly) the product of his authoring, a Clint Eastwood film owes a great deal of its success to that actor's presence. It is a mistake to treat all films as if they were simply the product of one crucial individual, the director. Still, old habits die slowly, and films are still referenced by means of their directors.

A more general criticism of the auteur theory is its emphasis on individuals. Most of the great directors studied by film theorists worked within well-defined institutional settings, the most famous of which is Hollywood. To attempt to understand films without placing them within their broader context of production has been seen as a real shortcoming of the theory.

This sort of criticism of auterism has received a more theoretical formulation within postmodernism, with its famous (or infamous) declaration of the death of the author. What this self-consciously rhetorical gesture asserts is that works of art, including films, should not be seen as the product of a single controlling intelligence, but have to seen as products of their times and social contexts. The goal of the critic should not be to reconstruct the intentions of the author but to display the various different contexts that explain the production of the work as well as its limitations.

While the general institutional context is certainly crucial for understanding a film, the auteur theory does nonetheless provide a useful focus for some efforts in the scholarly study of film: an exploration of the work of individual directors. But even here, there has been worry that the theory overemphasizes the contribution of the director at the expense of other people—actors, directors of photography, screenwriters—whose contributions may be equally important to the making of at least some films.

Philosophic discussion of viewer involvement with films starts out with a puzzle that has been raised about many artforms: Why should we care what happens to fictional characters? After all, since they are fictional, their fates shouldn't matter to us in the way that the fates of real people do. But, of course, we do get involved in the destinies of these imaginary beings. The question is why. Because so many films that attract our interest are fictional, this question is an important one for philosophers of film to answer.

One answer, common in the film theory tradition, is that the reason that we care about what happens to some fictional characters is because we identify with them. Although or, perhaps, because these characters are highly idealized—they are more beautiful, brave, resourceful, etc. than any actual human being could be—viewers identify with them, thereby also taking themselves to be correlates of these ideal beings. But once we see the characters as versions of ourselves, their fates matter to us, for we see ourselves as wrapped up in their stories. In the hands of feminist theorists, this idea was used to explain how films use their viewers' pleasures to support a sexist society. Male viewers of film, it was held, identify with their idealized screen counterparts and enjoy the objectification of women through both screen images that they view with pleasure and also narratives in which the male characters with whom they identify come to possess the sought after female character.

Philosophers of film have argued that identification is too crude a tool to use to explain our emotional engagement with characters, for there is a wide variety of attitudes that we take to the fictional characters we see projected on the screen. (See, for example, Smith (1995).) And even if we did identify with some characters, this would not explain why we had any emotional reactions to characters with whom we did not identify. Clearly, a more general account of viewer involvement with cinematic characters and the films in which they appear is required.

The general outline of the answer philosophers of film have provided to the question of our emotional involvement with films is that we care about what happens in films because films get us to imagine things taking place, things that we do care about. Because how we imagine things working out does affect our emotions, fiction films have an emotional impact upon us.

There are two basic accounts that philosophers have put forward to explain the effects that the imagination has upon us. Simulation theory employs a computer analogy, saying that imagining something involves one having one's usual emotional response to situations and people, only the emotions are running off-line . What this means is that, when I have an emotional response like anger to an imagined situation, I feel the same emotion that I would normally feel only I am not inclined to act on this emotion, say, by yelling or responding in an angry way, as I would be if the emotion was a full-fledged emotion.

What this explains, then, is a seemingly paradoxical feature of our film-going experience: that we seem to enjoy watching things on the screen that we would hate seeing in real life. The most obvious context for this is horror films, for we may enjoy seeing horrific events and beings that we would strongly desire not to witness in real life. The last thing I would want to see more of in real life is a rampaging giant ape, yet I am fascinated to watch its screen expoits. The simulation theorist says that the reason for this is that, when we experience an emotion off-line that would be distressing in real life, we may actually enjoy having that emotion in the safety of the off-line situation.

One problem facing the simulation theorist is explaining what it means for an emotion to be off-line. While this is an intriguing metaphor, it is not clear that the simulation theorist can provide an adequate account of how we are to cash it out.

An alternative account of our emotional response to imagined scenarios has been dubbed the thought theory . The idea here is that we can have emotional responses to mere thoughts. When I am told that a junior colleague of mine was unjustly denied reappointment, the thought of this injustice is sufficient to make me experience anger. Similarly, when I imagine such a scenario in relation to someone, the mere thought of them being treated in this way can occasion my anger. Mere thought can bring about real emotion.

What the thought theory claims about our emotional response to films is that our emotions are brought about by the thoughts that occur to us as we are watching a film. When we see the dastardly villain tying the innocent heroine to the tracks, we are both concerned and outraged by the very thought that he is acting in this way and that she is therefore in danger. Yet all the time we are aware that this is a merely fictional situation, so there is no temptation to yield to a desire to save her. We are always aware that no one is really in danger. As a result, there is no need, says the thought theorist, for the complexities of simulation theory in order to explain why we are moved by the movies.

There are some problems with thought theory as well. Why should a mere thought, as opposed to a belief, be something that occasions an emotional response from us? If I believe that you were wronged, that's one thing. But the thought of your being wronged is another. Since we can't have full-fledged beliefs about the fictional characters in films, the thought theory needs to explain why we are so moved by their fates. (See Plantinga and Smith (1999) for more discussion of this issue.)

Fiction films tell stories. Unlike literary media such as novels, they do so with images and sound—including both words and music. Clearly, some films have narrators. These narrators are generally character narrators, narrators who are characters within the fictional world of the film. They tell us the film's stories and, supposedly, show us the images that we see. Sometimes, however, a voice-over narration presents us with an apparently objective view of the situation of the characters, as if it originated from outside of the film world. In addition, there are fiction films, films that tell stories, in which there is no clear agent who is doing the telling. These facts have given rise to a number of puzzles about film narration that have been discussed by philosophers of film. (See Chatman (1990) and Gaut (2004).)

One central issue that has been a subject of controversy among philosophers is unreliable narration. There are films in which the audience comes to see that the character narrator of the film has a limited or misguided view of the film world. One example is Max Ophuls' Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), a film that has been discussed by a number of different philosophers. The majority of the film is a voice-over narration by Lisa Berndle, the unknown woman of the film's title, who recites the words of the letter she sends to her lover, Max Brand, shortly before her death. The audience comes to see that Lisa has a distorted view of the events she narrates, most clearly in her misestimation of the character of Brand. This raises the question of how the audience can come to know that Lisa's view is distorted, since what we hear and see is narrated (or shown) by her. George Wilson (1986) has argued that unreliable narratives such as this require the positing of an implicit narrator of the film, while Gregory Currie (1995) has argued that an implied filmmaker suffices. This question has become very relevant with the increased popularity of filmmaking styles involving unreliable narration. Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects (1995) touched off a flurry of films whose narrators were unreliable in one way or another.

A related issue concerning narrative that has been a focus of debate is whether all films have narrators, including those without explicit ones. Initially, it was argued that the idea of a narratorless narrative did not make sense, that narration required an agent doing the narrating, who was the film's narrator. In cases where there were no explicit narrators, an implicit narrator needed to be posited to make sense of how viewers gained access to the fictional world of the film. Opponents responded that the narrator in the sense of the agent who gave film audiences access to a film's fictional world could be the filmmaker(s), so there was no need to posit such a dubious entity as an implicit narrator of a film.

There is, however, an even deeper problem in regard to film narration over what has been called the “Imagined Seeing Thesis” (Wilson 1997). According to this Thesis, viewers of mainstream fiction films imagine themselves to be looking into the world of the story and seeing segments of the narrative action from a series of definite visual perspectives. In its traditional version, viewers are taken to imagine the movie screen as a kind of window that allows them to watch the unfolding of the story on the “other side.” However, it is hard for this view to account for what is being imagined when, for example, the camera moves, or there is an edit to a shot that incorporates a different perspective on a scene, etc. As a result, an alternative view has been suggested, namely that viewers imagine themselves to be seeing motion picture images that have been photographically derived, in some indeterminate way, from within the fictional world itself. But this position runs into problems, since it is normally part of the film's fiction that no camera was present in the fictional space of the narrative. The resulting debate is over whether to reject as incoherent the Imagined Seeing Thesis or whether it is possible to develop an acceptable version of this Thesis. Philosophers remain sharply divided on this fundamental issue.

The topic of film narration thus continues to be a subject of intense philosophical discussion and investigation. Various attempts to explain its nature remain hotly debated. As new and more complex styles of film narration become popular, it is likely that the subject of film narration will continue to receive attention from philosophers and aestheticians.

The best way to understand the innovations made by philosophers in our understanding of how films relate to society is to look at the view that was dominant in film theory some years ago. According to that view, popular narrative films—especially those produced by “Hollywood,” a term that referred to the entertainment industry located in Hollywood, California, but also included popular narrative films produced on a similar model—inevitably supported social oppression by denying, in one way or another, its existence. Such films were taken to present nothing but fairytales that used the realistic character of the medium to present those imaginary stories as if they were accurate pictures of reality. In this way, the actual character of the social domination assumed by such a view to be rampant in contemporary society was obscured in favor of a rosy picture of the realities of human social existence.

As part of their argument, these film theorists have gone beyond examining individual films themselves and have argued that the very structure of the narrative film functions to assist in the maintenance of social domination. From this point of view, an overcoming of narrativity itself is required for films to be genuinely progressive.

In opposition to such a negative view of film's relationship to society, philosophers of film have argued that popular films need not support social domination but can even give expression to socially critical attitudes. In making this argument, they have corrected film theory's tendency to make broad generalizations about the relationship between film and society that are not grounded in careful analysis of individual films. They have instead concentrated upon presenting detailed interpretations of films that show how their narratives present critical takes on various social practices and institutions. Class, race, gender, and sexuality are among the different social arenas in which philosophers of film have seen films make socially conscious, critical interventions in public debates.

One interesting example of films that develop political stances that are not merely supportive of existing modes of social domination are those that involve interracial couples. So Stanley Kramer's 1967 film, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner , investigates the plausibility of racial integration as a solution to the problems of anti-black racism in America through its portrayal of the problems facing an interracial couple. Nearly 25 years later, Spike Lee's Jungle Fever argues against the earlier film's political agenda, once again using an interracial couple that encounters racism. Only this time, the film asserts that the intransigent racism of White Americans undermines integration as a panacea to the ills of this racist society (Wartenberg 1999). And many other films employ this narrative figure to investigate other aspects of racism and possibilities for its overcoming.

Similarly, philosophers have looked outside of Hollywood to the films of progressive filmmakers like John Sayles to illustrate their belief that narrative films can make sophisticated political statements. A film like Matewan is shown to involve a sophisticated investigation of the relationship between class and race as sites of social domination.

In general, then, we can say that philosophers have resisted a monolithic condemnation of films as socially regressive and explored the different means that filmmakers have used to present critical perspectives on areas of social concern. While they have not ignored the ways in which standard Hollywood narratives undermine critical social awareness, they have shown that narrative film is an important vehicle for communal reflection on important social issues of the day.

Ever since Plato banished poets from his ideal city in The Republic , hostility towards the arts has been endemic to philosophy. To a large extent, this is because philosophy and the various artforms were perceived to be competing sources of knowledge and belief. Philosophers concerned to maintain the exclusivity of their claim to truth have dismissed the arts as poor pretenders to the title of purveyors of truth.

Philosophers of film have generally opposed this view, seeing film as a source of knowledge and, even, as potential contributor to philosophy itself. This view was forcefully articulated by Stanley Cavell, whose interest in the philosophy of film helped spark the field's development. For Cavell, philosophy is inherently concerned with skepticism and the different ways that it can be overcome. In his many books and articles, Cavell has argued that film shares this concern with philosophy and can even provide philosophic insights of its own (Cavell 1981; 1996; 2004).

Until recently, there have been few adherents to the idea that films can make a philosophical contribution. (But see Kupfer (1999) and Freeland (2000) for counterinstances.) In part, this is because Cavell's linking of film to skepticism seems inadequately grounded, while his account of skepticism as a live option for contemporary philosophy is based on a highly idiosyncratic reading of the history of modern philosophy. Nonetheless, Cavell's interpretations of individual films' encounter with skepticism are highly suggestive and have influenced many philosophers and film scholars with the seriousness with which they take film. (For one example, see Mulhall (2001).)

Now, however, there is an ongoing debate about the philosophical capacity of film. In opposition to views like that of Cavell, a number of philosophers have argued that films can have at most a heuristic or pedagogic function in relation to philosophy. Others have asserted that there are clear limits to what films can accomplish philosophically. Both of these types of views regard the narrative character of fiction films as disqualifying them from genuinely being or doing philosophy.

Opponents to this point of view have pointed to a number of different ways in which films can do philosophy. Foremost among these is the thought experiment. Thought experiments involve imaginary scenarios in which readers are asked to imagine what things would be like if such-and-such were the case. Those who think that films can actually do philosophy point out that fiction films can function as philosophical thought experiments and thus qualify as philosophical (See Wartenberg 2007). Many films have been suggested as candidates for doing philosophy, including the Wachowski Brothers' 1999 hit The Matrix , a film that has engendered more philosophical discussion than any other film, Memento (2000), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).

Philosophers have also begun to pay attention to a strand of avant-garde filmmaking known as structural films. These films are analogues to minimalism in the other arts and thus give rise to the question of whether they are not actual experiments that seek to show necessary criteria for something being a film. If this view is accepted, then these films—examples include The Flicker (1995) and Serene Velocity (1970)—could be seen as making a contribution to philosophy by identifying such putative necessary features of films. This view, while adopted by Nöel Carroll (See Carroll and Choi 2006; Thomas Wartenberg 2007), has also been criticized on similar grounds to those used to deny the philosophical potential of fiction films, namely that films cannot actually do the “hard work” of philosophy.

Philosophers working in the Continental tradition have advocated a more sweeping account of film's contribution to philosophy. Indeed, the term "film-philosophy" has been introduced to refer to the allegedly new form of philosophizing that takes place on film. (See Sinnerbrink 2011 for a discussion of this idea.)

Whatever position one takes on the possibility of “cinematic philosophy,” it is clear that the philosophical relevance of film has been recognized by philosophers. Even those who deny that films can actually do philosophy have to acknowledge that films provide audiences with access to philosophical questions and issues. Indeed, the success of the book series entitled “Philosophy and X,” where one can substitute any film or television show for X, indicates that films are bringing philosophical issues to the attention of wide audiences. There can be no doubt that this is a healthy development for philosophy itself.

The philosophy of film has become a significant area for philosophical and aesthetic research. Philosophers have concentrated both on aesthetic issues about film as an artistic medium — the philosophy of film — and questions about the philosophical content of films — films as philosophy. The sophistication and quantity of contributions in both of these areas continue to increase, as more philosophers have taken film seriously as a subject for philosophical investigation.

As film and its related digital media continue to expand in their influence upon the lives of human beings, the philosophy of film can be expected to become an even more vital area for philosophic investigation. In the coming years, we can look forward to new and innovative contributions to this exciting area of philosophical research.

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Chris Marker, Demo 18 (Paris, 2006)

The secret history of the essay film

Charting the resurgence of ‘sort of documentaries’ to celebrate chris marker, king of the essay film.

“Essay films are arguably the most innovative and popular form of filmmaking since the 1990s,” wrote Timothy Corrigan in his notable 2011 book,  The Essay Film . True, perhaps, but mention of the genre to your average joe won’t spark the instant recognition of today’s romcoms, sci-fis and period dramas. The thing is, essay films have been around since the dawn of cinema: they emerged not long after the  Lumière brothers  recorded the first ever motion pictures of Lyonnaise factory workers in 1894, yet their definition is still ambiguous.

They are similar to documentary and non-fiction film in that they are often based in reality, using words, images and sounds to convey a message. But according to Chris Darke – co-curator of the Whitechapel Gallery’s current retrospective  of the great essay filmmaker Chris Marker – it is “the personal aspect and style of address” that makes the essay film distinct. It is this flexibility that has appealed to contemporary filmmakers, permitting a fresh, nuanced viewing experience.

Geoff Andrew, a senior programmer at the BFI who helped curate last year’s landmark essay film season, explained, “they are sort of documentaries, sort of non-fiction films.” The issue is that some filmmakers try to provide an objective point of view when it is just not possible. “There’s always somebody manipulating footage and manipulating reality to present some sort of message.” Andrew continued, “So, in a way, all documentaries are essay films.”

But the essay film is particularly resurgent these days, with filmmakers like Michael Moore , Werner Herzog , and Nick Broomfield  molding the genre in their own ways. Their popularity isn’t just due to incendiary topics like men getting eaten by bears as in Herzog’s Grizzly Man  and high school massacres as in Moore’s Bowling for Columbine ; essay films are capable of compelling beauty. Now, with the Whitechapel Gallery ’s retrospective of the late Frenchman, Chris Marker , arguably the greatest essay filmmaker there’s ever been, we take a look at the essay film’s secret history.

Teenage Satanists In Oklahoma, Kiddiepunk

1909  -  D. W. Griffith ’s   A Corner in Wheat

Considered by some to be the first essay film ever, A Corner in Wheat  is a little subversive thorn in the side of the man. Lasting only 14 minutes, it tells the tale of a ruthless crop gambler who amasses riches by monopolising the wheat market, exploits the agricultural poor, and is promptly killed under a pile of his own grain. Think twice, greedy capitalists.

1929  -   Dziga  Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera

“The film drama is the opium of the people,” proclaimed Soviet film pioneer  Dziga Vertov , “down with Bourgeois fairy-tale scenarios.” He was the most radical of his fellow Soviet filmmaker compatriots, and Man with a Movie Camera  was his masterpiece. In it, he tried to create an “international language of cinema” through a beguiling mix of jump cuts, split screens and superimpositions. Vertov’s idea was to uncover the artifice of filmmaking, with one scene of the film depicting a cameraman inside a giant beer.

1940  -  Hans Richter’s The Film Essay

The term “essay film” was originally coined by German artist Hans Richter, who wrote in his 1940 paper, The Film Essay : “The film essay enables the filmmaker to make the ‘invisible’ world of thoughts and ideas visible on the screen... The essay film produces complex thought – reflections that are not necessarily bound to reality, but can also be contradictory, irrational, and fantastic.” So while World War II was blazing away, a new cinema was born.

1982  - Chris  Marker’s Sans Soleil

You know that this brilliant, freewheeling travelogue is something special when it suggests that Pac-Man is “a perfect graphic metaphor for the human condition.” It takes in anti-colonial struggles, sumo wrestling, a volcanic eruption in Iceland, the antiquities of the Vatican, Marker’s love of cats and more. An unnamed female narrates a circuitous journey from Africa to Japan, in an engaging style never seen before. Some might say he laid down a marker.

1993  -  Derek Jarman’s Blue

Diagnosed with HIV and beginning to lose his eyesight, Jarman  decided to turn his illness into his art. Although the premise of nothing but a dim, blue background accompanied by voiceovers for 79 minutes might not seem enthralling, it really is. Jarman recalls memories of his past lovers, and his current life of endless pill-popping, with a poignant score by Brian Eno  and Simon Fisher Turner .

1998 - Jean -Luc  Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinema

Comprised of hundreds of clips of films, music and poetry, this eight part series – that took over a decade to make – remained a secret seen only at a precious few film festivals thanks to the gargantuan amount of rights needed to be cleared. Histoire(s) du cinema is an epic of free association whose central theme is voyeurism, since Godard believes that cinema consists of a man looking at a woman. Harriet Andersson , topless and alluring on a beach in Ingmar Bergman ’s Monika , is one of many examples.

2004  -  Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11

The most successful documentary at the US box office ever, Fahrenheit 9/11  is a prime example of the essay film’s wild popularisation (it also won the Palme d’Or  at Cannes). Michael Moore ’s swipe at the Republican jugular was a classic example of the essay filmmaker’s prominence, outrightly mocking President George W. Bush and questioning the fairness of his election. Disney refused to distribute the film, and the rest is history.

2010  -  Errol Morris’ Tabloid

Tabloid is the outrageous story of a former Miss Wyoming, Joyce McKinney, who was alleged to have kidnapped an American mormon missionary living in England, handcuffed him to a bed in a Devonshire cottage and made him a sex slave. The woman claimed she was saving the man from a cult, but then fleed to Canada wearing a red wig, where she posed as part of a mime troupe. As ever, Errol Morris  deftly offers alternate explanations, which led to McKinney suing him after the release of the film.

2014  -  Hito Steyerl’s How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educationa l

After touring galleries of the world and a recent stint at the ICA, Hito Steyerl ’s How Not To Be Seen made waves as “an art for our times”. It is a disembowelling satire that mocks the idea that it we can become invisible and have genuine privacy, in this digital age. If we want to disappear, it suggests, we should become poor, or hide in plain sight, or get “disappeared” by the authorities.

Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat is on until 22 June at  Whitechapel Gallery

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Doctor Zhivago

What is a film?

A film, also called a movie or a motion picture, is a series of still photographs on film projected onto a screen using light in rapid succession. The optical phenomenon known as persistence of vision gives the illusion of actual, smooth, and continuous movement.

What are the different types of films?

Films can be classified as documentaries, experimental films, animated films, and fictional genres such as westerns, comedies, thrillers, and musicals, among many others.

Some of the world's major film festivals are the Berlin International Film Festival , the Cannes Film Festival , the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Czech Republic), the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, the Sundance Film Festival , the International Film Festival of India, the Telluride Film Festival , the Toronto International Film Festival , and the Venice Film Festival .

What awards are given for films?

Some of the major awards given for films are the Academy Awards , the British Academy of Film and Television Awards, and the Césars.

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film , series of still photographs on film, projected in rapid succession onto a screen by means of light. Because of the optical phenomenon known as persistence of vision , this gives the illusion of actual, smooth, and continuous movement.

(Read Martin Scorsese’s Britannica essay on film preservation.)

A popular form of mass media , film is a remarkably effective medium for conveying drama and evoking emotion. The art of motion pictures is exceedingly complex, requiring contributions from nearly all the other arts as well as countless technical skills (for example, in sound recording , photography , and optics ). Emerging at the end of the 19th century, this new art form became one of the most popular and influential media of the 20th century and beyond. See also " the history of film ."

(Read Lillian Gish’s 1929 Britannica essay on silent film.)

Empty movie theater and blank screen (theatre, motion pictures, cinema).

As a commercial venture, offering fictional narratives to large audiences in theatres , film was quickly recognized as perhaps the first truly mass form of entertainment. Without losing its broad appeal, the medium also developed as a means of artistic expression in such areas as acting , directing , screenwriting, cinematography , costume and set design, and music .

(Read Alfred Hitchcock’s 1965 Britannica essay on film production.)

Essential characteristics of film

In its short history, the art of motion pictures has frequently undergone changes that seemed fundamental, such as those resulting from the introduction of sound . It exists today in styles that differ significantly from country to country and in forms as diverse as the documentary created by one person with a handheld camera and the multimillion-dollar epic involving hundreds of performers and technicians.

A number of factors immediately come to mind in connection with the film experience. For one thing, there is something mildly hypnotic about the illusion of movement that holds the attention and may even lower critical resistance. The accuracy of the film image is compelling because it is made by a nonhuman, scientific process. In addition, the motion picture gives what has been called a strong sense of being present; the film image always appears to be in the present tense. There is also the concrete nature of film; it appears to show actual people and things.

No less important than any of the above are the conditions under which the motion picture ideally is seen, where everything helps to dominate the spectators. They are taken from their everyday environment , partially isolated from others, and comfortably seated in a dark auditorium. The darkness concentrates their attention and prevents comparison of the image on the screen with surrounding objects or people. For a while, spectators live in the world the motion picture unfolds before them.

Still, the escape into the world of the film is not complete. Only rarely does the audience react as if the events on the screen are real—for instance, by ducking before an onrushing locomotive in a special three-dimensional effect. Moreover, such effects are considered to be a relatively low form of the art of motion pictures. Much more often, viewers expect a film to be truer to certain unwritten conventions than to the real world. Although spectators may sometimes expect exact realism in details of dress or locale, just as often they expect the film to escape from the real world and make them exercise their imagination, a demand made by great works of art in all forms.

essay about the art of film

The sense of reality most films strive for results from a set of codes, or rules, that are implicitly accepted by viewers and confirmed through habitual filmgoing. The use of brownish lighting, filters, and props, for example, has come to signify the past in films about American life in the early 20th century (as in The Godfather [1972] and Days of Heaven [1978]). The brownish tinge that is associated with such films is a visual code intended to evoke a viewer’s perceptions of an earlier era, when photographs were printed in sepia , or brown, tones. Storytelling codes are even more conspicuous in their manipulation of actual reality to achieve an effect of reality. Audiences are prepared to skip over huge expanses of time in order to reach the dramatic moments of a story. La battaglia di Algeri (1966; The Battle of Algiers ), for example, begins in a torture chamber where a captured Algerian rebel has just given away the location of his cohorts. In a matter of seconds that location is attacked, and the drive of the search-and-destroy mission pushes the audience to believe in the fantastic speed and precision of the operation. Furthermore, the audience readily accepts shots from impossible points of view if other aspects of the film signal the shot as real. For example, the rebels in The Battle of Algiers are shown inside a walled-up hiding place, yet this unrealistic view seems authentic because the film’s grainy photography plays on the spectator’s unconscious association of poor black-and-white images with newsreels.

Fidelity in the reproduction of details is much less important than the appeal made by the story to an emotional response, an appeal based on innate characteristics of the motion-picture medium. These essential characteristics can be divided into those that pertain primarily to the motion-picture image, those that pertain to motion pictures as a unique medium for works of art, and those that derive from the experience of viewing motion pictures.

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essay about the art of film

The Allure and Darkness of Coney Island on Film

Explore coney island through historic photographs in the brooklyn museum’s collection..

By Imani Williford

Embedded along the southwestern tip of Brooklyn’s shoreline is Coney Island. This jewel of enchantment has nourished generations of New Yorkers’ appetite for escapism and wonderment with dizzying rides, entertaining games, and a shimmering beach. Also brewing within this coastal fairyland are elements that prey on its visitors’ fears and anxieties: taunting fortune tellers, unnerving haunted houses, and looming tides of unknown waters. 

The Brooklyn Museum’s Photography collection includes more than 200 photographs of Coney Island, which document one of the borough’s most iconic landmarks as it has balanced states of bleakness and bliss. The photographs reflect the ways that Coney Island is a microcosm of the national mood as well as a community unto itself, maintaining its essence through bonds of affection and camaraderie. 

essay about the art of film

From the late 1800s to the mid-1960s, Coney Island’s iconic boardwalk was made up of a cluster of small amusement parks competing for visitors along Surf Avenue. These parks included Dreamland (1904–11), Luna Park (1903–46), and Steeplechase (1897–1907, 1908–64). Early photographs show the parks as hives of activity, drawing in crowds with dueling fantasies of delight.

essay about the art of film

The original Steeplechase was a family-friendly park featuring manicured gardens, a Venice-themed boat ride, and the largest ballroom in New York State. The year after half the park was destroyed in a 1907 fire, it reopened in a two-acre, weatherproof glass pavilion that featured a mechanical horse race and a three-tiered carousel. Dreamland was a refined and orderly park, with sterile white buildings (including a 375-foot tower), a Japanese tea pavilion, and a catastrophe rescue ride called Hellgate where riders could watch a simulation of tenements burning and tenants being rescued. 

Luna Park was known for its colorful lights and a circus, which included camels and elephants that walked the grounds. The park also featured Trip to the Moon, a simulation ride that allowed visitors to land on a green cheese-like surface by riding a cigar-shaped “aircraft” fitted with motion simulators, propellers, and wings. These amusement parks planted seeds of experiences that would shape generational understandings of Coney Island as a destination for exuberance on Brooklyn’s ocean shore. 

essay about the art of film

This sentiment of delight continues in the postwar photograph Modern Venus of 1947, Coney Island , in which a young beauty-contest winner rides Coney Island’s famous Parachute Jump. Wearing a two-piece bathing suit accessorized with a tiara and sash, she mirrors the glamorous image of swimmer and screen siren Esther Willams, known for her films Bathing Beauty and Thrill of a Romance . The woman’s sleek veneer radiates as she grips the ride’s rope in order to gracefully wave at the sea of people below. 

Placing this symbol of beauty and modernity on the Parachute Jump provides insight into America’s postwar spirit. The Parachute Jump had debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair, which began on April 30, just a few months before Germany’s invasion of Poland initiated World War II. The fair emphasized optimism about the future with slogans “The World of Tomorrow” and “Dawn of a New Day,” along with the many technological and architectural inventions it exhibited. The Jump, which mimicked simulators used for paratroopers, exemplified this idealism as the tallest structure at the fair. 

A spirit of solidarity runs through Coney Island amid the booms and busts.

The fair ended in 1940, and the next year the Jump was relocated to Steeplechase, where it ushered in a renewed era. Built on the site of another fire, this one in 1939, the ride’s arrival came in the midst of a wartime renaissance for Coney Island. Even as it experienced effects of the war—including blackouts that significantly reduced amusement park lighting, the shutdown of shooting galleries due to ammunition shortages, and canceled beauty contests and other events—Coney Island had a slew of patriotic and war-themed attractions that drew millions. These included a ball-toss that featured caricatures of Hitler and Hirohito, a show called “Axis Atrocities” on the Coney Island Bowery, and, in 1943, a “Back the Attack”–themed carnival and parade that doubled as a war bond drive. Coney Island had additional appeal for residents of New York and nearby states as gas rations restricted long-distance travel. A record 46 million visitors came to Coney Island in 1943, the largest number since 1926. The neighborhood also became a popular spot for the troops, offering cheap rides, big-band clubs, and photo studios with discounted rates for Coast Guard members (at their insistence). 

While the Parachute Jump achieved mixed success—it didn’t work on windy days, and the cables would often get tangled, requiring intense rescue efforts—its presence declared the nation’s determination to pursue great heights in the face of an uncertain future. Gripping the Parachute Jump—akin to a scepter or flag—the “Modern Venus of 1947” signifies America’s restored sense of normalcy, return to order, and fresh prosperity two years after World War II.

Taken two decades later, photographs by Stephen Salmieri (American, born 1945) spotlight more conventional elements of life in Coney Island. 

essay about the art of film

An empty roller coaster stands out against a cloudy sky. A woman dressed in a coat, a hat, and a pair of boots lingers on a boardwalk devoid of its usual throngs of people. A group of boys fishes from a rock jetty, with no visual emblems connecting them to Coney Island. There are empty ticket booths, locked-up rides, and fortune tellers waiting in piecemeal, dilapidated booths surrounded by trash. Salmieri’s photography upends the promise of Coney Island’s “dreamland,” instead framing it as a ghost town haunted by those who feed off the morsels of its glory days. 

essay about the art of film

This sensibility is echoed in Sebastian Milito’s photograph Boy in Fur Coat - Coney Island . Shot a year after the Vietnam War ended, Milito’s photograph pulls away from the iconic Parachute Jump—now a skeleton of its former self after it ceased operating in the 1960s—and brings our attention to a sparse Coney Island beach. Milito focuses on a young man standing on a rock and dressed in a long fur coat, flared pants, and platform boots, details that reference the neighborhood’s colder off-season. This contrast to Modern Venus conveys the widespread feelings of despair and deficiency that followed the Vietnam War.

essay about the art of film

Yet a spirit of solidarity runs through Coney Island amid the booms and busts. Founded in 1903, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club claims to be the “ oldest winter bathing club in the United States .” Salmieri’s 1981 photograph of the club shows a group of bathers and onlookers gleefully posing on the snowy beach—an intergenerational declaration of continuity in a place that fluctuates between myth and the material world. 

essay about the art of film

Unity is also underscored in Victor Friedman’s Three Women and Flag, Coney Island . The image shows three older women smiling and supporting each other, with the American flag waving behind them. Their age and unified stance characterize the perseverance of Coney Island’s community. 

essay about the art of film

The Hug: Closed Eyes and Smile by Harvey Stein (American, born 1941) similarly shows people cultivating a sense of belonging in Coney Island’s evolving environment. The photograph captures two people embracing on the beach with the Parachute Jump in the background, an image that balances the optimism of Modern Venus with the desolation of Boy in Fur Coat . The beach is sparsely occupied despite the obvious good weather (as evidenced by the swimming attire and sun hat worn by one of the subjects and people in the background). Unbothered by Coney Island’s decay, the central pair embrace as a hand reaches to them from outside the frame, an invitation to further connect. 

essay about the art of film

One of the few color photographs of Coney Island in the Museum’s collection comes from Lynn Hyman Butler’s series Coney Island Kaleidoscope . The series comprises photographs of Coney Island in color and motion. The Gossips shows two sets of friends walking along the boardwalk, talking and lugging their belongings to or from the beach. 

Butler (American, born 1953) immerses the beachgoers in a colorful haze, creating an aura of disorientation. The intensity and vigor of the image foregrounds Coney Island’s uncertain history, an intrinsic part of its atmosphere, while highlighting the groundedness that comes from the community of this storied neighborhood.  

Read more about Coney Island’s history in the sources that informed this piece.

Charleston, Beth Duncuff. “The Bikini.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. Last modified October 2004. . 

Denson, Charles. Coney Island: Lost and Found . Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2004.

Homeberger, Eric. The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of 400 Years of New York City’s History . New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2004.

Immerso, Michael. Coney Island: The People’s Playground . New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

“Welcome to the Fair! The 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs.” New York State Library, July–August 2014. .  

Imani Williford is Curatorial Assistant of Photography, Fashion, and Material Culture at the Brooklyn Museum Brooklyn Museum.

Exploring The Many Metaphors And Symbolism Of The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

Robert Eggers' "The Lighthouse" and Céline Sciamma's "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" were both released in the United States in 2019, providing audiences with two of the best films of the year. The two films might serve as two sides of the same coin, and would make an excellent double feature. They both have a similar setup, each with two individuals, sealed off from out outside world, lost on a remote island with only one another's company to keep them sane. 

"The Lighthouse" sees its isolated world as infected with brutish masculine pride, leavened only by violent outbursts of idiocy. In "Portrait," two women stare at each other, make art, and fall madly in love, finding beauty, affection, and an exhilarating, potentially new world where their love with prevail over patriarchal norms. Women create, we see. Men destroy. 

Women fall in love in their dreams, singing with their fellow women around a campfire. Men pee into the dirt in their nightmares, and drink isopropyl alcohol to avoid feeling anything. They then stuff each other's mouths with dirt. Women walk along the seaside. Men are attacked by one-eyed seagulls. They are both brilliant works, Eggers' and Sciamma's films, and compliment each other warmly.

"The Lighthouse" takes place in, as the Bard might say, time is out of joint. The cold, wet, muddy island where the action takes place is so unbearably miserably, smelly, and isolated, time loses all meaning. The two men on the island are unable to tell if they had been there days, weeks, or even years. 

The symbolism in "The Lighthouse" is fraught and rich, with some of it being wholly obvious; the lighthouse itself is quite clearly a massive phallus. And there are so many more Jungian undercurrents to explore. Let us delve.

Wickie Pedia

In plain terms, "The Lighthouse" is about two men, an old lighthouse keeper named Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and his new assistant "wickie," a hollow-eyed young man played by Robert Pattinson . It is the 1890s, and they have been tasked with keeping a lighthouse alive, just the two of them, for the entire season. The Pattinson character may be named Ephraim Winslow, but that will eventually be questioned. Ephraim and Wake do not get along. Wake farts a lot and tasks Ephraim with emptying chamber pots and hauling gigantic canisters of kerosene. At night, they both drink and masturbate to fantasies of mermaids. It won't be long before Ephraim is going mad and hallucinating monsters. 

There is a turning point in "The Lighthouse" about halfway through when a storm hits, and Ephraim realizes that the ship that was to pick him up and end his horrid stint as a lighthouse keepers' assistant is not coming. After that, his dark fantasies increase, his madness takes hold. If we're to accept that "The Lighthouse" is a tale of a man being psychologically ripped apart by the world's worst job, then it's a rather straightforward drama.

But what are we to make of Wake's refusal to let Ephraim into the upper room of the lighthouse? 

Wake undergoes his own strange, almost drug-like ritual wherein he basks in the light of the lighthouse lantern. It could easily be argued that Wake has access to something sacred, something holy — perhaps even God — and that he is gatekeeping. Ephraim wants access to the divine light, but is constantly denied. Is Wake a corrupt Catholic priest, keeping one of his flock from the light of God out of spite? 

Guilt and divine forgiveness in The Lighthouse

Or, if we're to continue the Christian metaphor, is Ephraim merely facing a personal obstruction to God's divine light? It's possible that Wake is not merely a bad boss and a torturer, but metaphorical obstruction in Ephraim's head. There is something that is torturing Ephraim, something from his past, and it's brought him into the proximity of Heaven's light, but unable to access it. Wake can access the light, and Ephraim is jealous. He will kill to gain access again. 

Recall that in Dante's "Divine Comedy," Purgatory is represented as a massive tower. The souls of humans, as they climb the tower of Purgatory, slowly purify themselves. The higher they climb, the closer to Heaven's light they reach. And what is a lighthouse if not a purgatorial waiting chamber with Heaven's protective light at the top? 

Whether or not Eggers was leaning in the direction of Christian parable can be debated (and the film certainly possesses none of the bland, stultifyingly beatific attitudes of a typical Christian work), but he is very clearly telling a tale of guilt, and how guilt leads to madness and paranoia. Also how redemption isn't part of the universe. Early in the film, it's explained that Ephraim used to work at a lumberyard, and that his former foreman was killed underneath tumbling logs. 

Ephraim has been scarred by his foreman's death. He either witnessed his boss betting killed ... or he deliberately murdered him (as Wake implies). Either way, Ephraim has visions of drowning under logs, a clear sign of his guilt and powerlessness (also, more phallic symbols!). Ephraim is working at a lighthouse as an escape, either from trauma or from the law. The guilt and horror of his previous job, however, is inescapable.

Is Ephraim a murderer? Is Wake?

So, Ephraim may be a murderer trying to escape a crime. It's implied as well, however, that Wake might also be a murderer. Ephraim never gets the full story of what happened to the previous wicki on the island, and eventually, Ephraim finds the old wicki's severed head in a fishing net. Is this a symbol of what he may be facing on the island — his eventual "death" at the hands of guilt-induced madness — or is it more literal than that? Did Wake murder his old wicki, and now has to do the same to his successor? 

Indeed, after Ephraim finds the head, his madness increases ... or Wake's manipulation of him does. Wake aggressively gaslights Ephraim, telling him that he might have been at the lighthouse for weeks, but also that it might have been there for years. Also, Wake is the one who insists they get drunk by drinking gulps of kerosene, implying that they're both slowly being poisoned. The story of "The Lighthouse" could very well be the tale of Ephraim coming to work for a murderer, and the murderer going about his bleak business when Ephraim finds evidence of his crime. 

But "The Lighthouse" is also much more than a bleak crime thriller . More than anything, as stated above, it's a film about the horrors of masculinity, of maleness, and how male pride/ignorance/violence can break down the human mind. 

Looking over pirates and naval men of pop culture, one can glean that living by the sea as a grizzled sailor is a broad archetype of masculine virility. Men, when forced to live with the odors and boners of other men, are driven mad by the filth.

Toxic masculinity in The Lighthouse

Some have said that "The Lighthouse" is a homoerotic film, but that doesn't quite describe what's going on. Wake and Ephraim are not in love, nor are they repressing their sexual attraction toward one another. At the very least, they are feeding off of one another's sexual frustrations, becoming increasingly open with their sexual fantasies and their masturbation habits. This doesn't so much depict a slowly growing sexual regard, however, as it is a vital breakdown of personal space. The increased sexual energy between the men doesn't denote an uptick in intimacy, but a downtick. 

In an article in Mashable, Willem Dafoe hit the nail on the head , when he said the film was about "Toxic masculinity! [The characters are] pushing each other's buttons out of fear and out of threat of who they are. And they're both guilty. They have a sense of guilt, of wrong." He also pointed out that the story was also a battle of wills. About two men trying to assert their own meager control over one another. 

To go back to the comparison to "Portrait of a Lady on Fire," one can see the juxtaposition between toxic masculinity and supportive femininity. Two men, when locked into a room together, become obsessed with their own guilt and compensate by playing an emotional game of dominance and one-upmanship. Women, when thrust into each other's company, spend their time looking at each other and appreciating the love and beauty they possess. 

At the end of the day, "The Lighthouse" is about aggressive, masculine control, used to cover up the emotional madness within. 

It's a great film. 

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YouTube film essay pioneers 'Every Frame a Painting' are back

And the duo behind it will release a short film on july 20..

Between 2014 and 2016, a YouTube channel called Every Frame a Painting posted 28 video essays critiquing movies and dissecting different aspects of filmmaking before it went silent. Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou, the people behind the channel, talked about how Robin Williams was a master at blocking and using movement to portray his characters, as well as how Steven Spielberg does one long takes all the time that tend to go unnoticed by the public, among many other topics. Now, the duo is back, promising another series of video essays followed by the debut of a short film at Fantasia International Film Festival on July 20.

Ramos and Zhou wrote and directed their upcoming film called The Second starring Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Ethan Hwan. They didn't share a lot of details about the movie, but the film festival's website says it's about "an alternate version of today’s world where dueling is still acceptable" in which Philip "must perform the role of 'Second' on the day of his only son's duel."

Every Frame a Painting has over 2 million subscribers on YouTube and was one of the creators that helped legitimize video essays on the website. Ramos and Zhou also created the Netflix series Voir , produced by David Fincher, which featured video essays about film, as well. Seeing as they promised new posts on YouTube before their film premieres, we'll likely see them upload a fresh batch of videos in the coming days.

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Art, documentary and the essay film

Profile image of Esther Leslie

2015, Radical Philosophy

Film as document The moment when Siegfried Kracauer knew that he wanted to write of film as what he terms the ‘Discover of the Marvels of Everyday Life’ is relayed in his introduction to the Theory of Film from 1960.1 Kracauer recalls watching a film long ago that shows a banal scene, an ordinary city street. A puddle in the foreground reflects the houses that cannot be seen and some of the sky. A breeze crosses the site. The puddle’s water trembles. ‘The trembling upper world in the dirty puddle – this image has never left me’, writes Kracauer. In this trembling, which is the moment of nature’s uninvited intervention, its inscription as movement on film, everything, from nature to culture, ‘takes on life’, he notes. What is important about film is its presentation of this given life indiscriminately. The puddle, this unworthy spillage, is redeemed in the low art of cinema. Both cinema and puddle are elevated from the ground. The upper world is brought down to earth as image. Fixed ...

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The Most Intriguing Animated Films You’ll Never See

A digital book, “Drawing for Nothing,” highlights some of the best art from canceled animation projects like “Me and My Shadow.”

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Two sketches in black-and-white of a thin man wearing glasses giving two different facial expressions.

By Robert Ito

Among fans of canceled animated film projects — and yes, there is such a fandom, and it’s enormous — “Me and My Shadow” is perhaps the most popular cartoon feature that never was.

Greenlighted in 2010 by DreamWorks Animation, the film boasted a strong voice cast, including Bill Hader, Kate Hudson and Josh Gad, and a team of some of the industry’s top artists and animators. The filmmakers combined computer-generated and hand-drawn animation to create a lead character whose shadow had a mind and physicality all his own, at a time when few studios, including DreamWorks, were doing hand-drawn at all.

“For a long time, whenever I had visitors at DreamWorks, I would pull up sequences from ‘Me and My Shadow’ and other things I was working on, like ‘Kung Fu Panda,’” said Rune Brandt Bennicke, a supervising animator on the film. “Without fail, it was the ‘Me and My Shadow’ stuff where they went, ‘Wow, that was amazing.’”

Five years later, production was halted. “The reason we were given for canceling it was that the studio felt that its potential for box office was not what they wanted,” said Bennicke.

Since then, however, interest in the phantom film has only grown. Would-be fans scour the internet for concept art and clips, post their own fan art and fan-made trailers, and discuss — and grouse about — what might have been. There are numerous YouTube shorts and supercuts about the film; a short collection of unfinished clips and concept art — titled “The CANCELLED DreamWorks Masterpiece …” — has garnered more than 3.5 million views.

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As of now, the only way to watch The Garfield Movie is to head out to a movie theater when it releases on The Garfield Movie y, September 8. You can find a local showing onFandango. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until it becomes available to rent or purchase on digital platforms like Vudu, Apple, YouTube, and Amazon or available to stream on Max. The Garfield Movie is still currenThe Garfield Movie y in theaters The Garfield Movie you want to experience all the film’s twists and turns in a traditional cinema. But there’s also now an option to watch the film at home. As of November 25, 2024, The Garfield Movie is available on HBO Max. Only those with a subscription to the service can watch the movie. Because the film is distributed by 20th Century Studios, it’s one of the last films of the year to head to HBO Max due to a streaming deal in lieu of Disney acquiring 20th Century Studios, as Variety reports. At the end of 2024, 20th Century Studios’ films will head to Hulu or Disney+ once they leave theaters. Is The Garfield Movie Movie on Netflix, Crunchyroll, Hulu, or Amazon Prime?

Hulu: Unfortunately, The Garfield Movie is not available for streaming on Hulu. However, Hulu offers a variety of other exciting options like Afro Samurai Resurrection or Ninja Scroll to keep you entertained.

Disney+: The Garfield Movie is not currenThe Garfield Movie y available for streaming on Disney+. Fans will have to wait until late December, when it is expected to be released on theplatform. Disney typically releases its films on Disney+ around 45-60 days after their theatrical release, ensuring an immersive cinematic experience for viewers. IS The Garfield Movie ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO?

Netflix: The Garfield Movie is currenThe Garfield Movie y not available on Netflix. However, fans of dark fantasy films can explore other thrilling options such as Doctor Strange to keep themselves entertained.

Crunchyroll: Crunchyroll and Funimation have acquired the rights to distribute The Garfield Movie in North America. Stay tuned for its release on the platform inthe coming months. In the meantime, indulge in dark fantasy shows like Spider-man to fulfill your entertainment needs.

The Garfield Movie movie could eventually be available to watch on Prime Video, though it will likely be a paid digital release rather than being included with anAmazon Prime subscription. This means that rather than watching the movie as part of an existing subscription fee, you may have to pay money to rent the movie digitally on Amazon. However, Warner Bros. and Amazon have yet to discuss whether or not this will be the case.


As of right now, we don’t know. While the film will eventually land on Blu-ray, DVD, and 4KUltraHD, Warner Bros has yet to reveal a specThe Garfield Movieic date as to when that would be. The first Nun film also premiered in theaters in early September and was released on Blu-ray and DVD in December. Our best guess is that the sequel will follow a similar path and will be available around the holiday season. HERE’S HOW TO WATCH ‘The Garfield Movie ‘ ONLINE STREAMING IN AUSTRALIA

To watch ‘The Garfield Movie ‘ (2024) for free online streaming in Australia and New Zealand, you can explore options like as mentioned in the search results. However, please note that the legality and safety of using such websites may vary, so exercise caution when accessing them. Additionally, you can check The Garfield Movie the movie is available on popular streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, as they often offer a wide selection of movies and TV.

Mark your calendars for July 8th, as that’s when The Garfield Movie will be available on Disney+. This highly anticipated installment inthe franchise is packed with thrilling action and adventure, promising to captivate audiences and leave them craving for more. Captivate audiences and leave them craving for more.

Here is a comprehensive guide on how to watch The Garfield Movie online in its entirety from the comfort of your own home. You can access thefull movie free of charge on the respected platform known as 123Movies. Immerse yourself in the captivating experience of The Garfield Movie by watching it online for free. Alternatively, you can also enjoy the movie by downloading it in high definition. Enhance your movie viewing experience by watching The Garfield Movie on 123movies, a trusted source for online movie streaming.

Unfortunately The Garfield Movie is not currenThe Garfield Movie y available to on Disney Plus and it’s not expected that the film will release on Disney Plus until late December at the absolute earliest

While Disney eventually releases its various studios’ films on Disney Plus for subscribers to Watch viaits platform most major releases don’t arrive on Disney Plus until at least 45-60 days after the film’s theatrical release

The sequel opened to $150 million internationally which Disney reports is 4% ahead of the first film when comparing like for likes at current exchange rates Overall the global cume comes to $330 million Can it become the year’s third film to make it past $1 billion worldwide despite China and Russia which made up around $124 million of the first film’s $682 million international box office being out of play? It may be tough but it’s not impossible Legging out past $500 million is plausible on the domestic front (that would be a multiplier of at least 27) and another $500 million abroad would be a drop of around $58 million from the original after excluding the two MIA markets It’d be another story The Garfield Movie audiences didn’t love the film but the positive reception suggests that Wakanda Forever will outperform the legs on this year’s earlier MCU tiThe Garfield Movie es (Multiverse of Madness and Love and Thunder had multipliers of 22 and 23 respectively)

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Taking the top spot this week was Aquaman with $58.3 million, although the film’s star Jason Momoa recenThe Garfield Movie y admitted to Entertainment Tonight that he was unsure of the franchise’s future. Trailing Aquaman was The Garfield Movie , Timothée Chalamet’s debut as the fictional chocolate factory owner. During the film’s second week, it earned $53.1 million, along with leading all movies Thursday with $8 million. In total, The Garfield Movie boasts $110.6 million domestically, currenThe Garfield Movie y morethan any other flick this season.

According to Deadline, the domestic box office amassed $281.4 million during Christmas week, a 14-percent jump from Dec. 23-29 of last year ($246.4). The holiday competition was thick, as Dec. 25 marked the release of musical drama The Color Purple and sports drama biopic The Garfield Movie , while The Garfield Movie , The Garfield Movie , The Garfield Movie , Chasing My Rejected WThe Garfield Moviee, The Garfield Movie and The Garfield Movie were released justdays before.

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  1. Deep focus: The essay film

    The Sight & Sound Deep Focus season Thought in Action: The Art of the Essay Film runs at BFI Southbank 1-28 August 2013, with a keynote lecture by Kodwo Eshun on 1 August, a talk by writer and academic Laura Rascaroli on 27 August and a closing panel debate on 28 August. To take this film-lovers' tiff to a more elevated plane, what it ...

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    Today, roughly sixty years later, essay films have not lost their radical potential. In times of accelerated globalisation - or 'liquid modernity', as Zygmunt Bauman (2000) has called it - artists and filmmakers around the world, once again, exploit the essay film for purposes of socio-political critique. This potential of the essay film as a critical mode of enquiry and vehicle for ...

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    1940 - Hans Richter's The Film Essay. The term "essay film" was originally coined by German artist Hans Richter, who wrote in his 1940 paper, The Film Essay: "The film essay enables the filmmaker to make the 'invisible' world of thoughts and ideas visible on the screen...The essay film produces complex thought - reflections that are not necessarily bound to reality, but can also ...

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