Watch and Listen: Indefinite Visions

As Richard Misek explains in his introduction, the new “special issue of [in]Transition forms part of a collaborative project inspired by” the collection Indefinite Visions: Cinema and the Attractions of Uncertainty, edited by Martine Beugnet, Allan Cameron, and Arild Fetveit. “It explores the possibility that an important function of moving images is not to show but to obscure, and that—like the photographer in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up—the closer and deeper we look at an image, the less clear it becomes.” The book includes essays by Tom Gunning, Erika Balsom, Sean Cubitt, and Steven Shaviro, among many others. And the image on the cover (see above) is taken from Stan Brakhage’s 1955 film The Wonder Ring.

As always, each of the audiovisual essays in this issue of [in]Transition is introduced by its creator and accompanied by a review. Drew Morton, for example, “was particularly taken with Charlie Lyne’s Frames and Containers [9’01”], mainly because I had not been exposed to Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘The Dynamic Square.’”

Catherine Grant on Emmanuelle André and David Verdeure’s Ray/Godard (6’09”): “Given the range of experimentation in the contemporary video essay form with multiple screen and superimposition, which has already been influenced, inter alia, by Jean-Luc Godard’s experiments in his audiovisual cinema histories, [Nicholas Ray’s] We Can’t Go Home Again now also looks to be one of the most significant precursor texts in our field for contemporary digital scholarly works that base themselves on the expressive possibilities of what Lev Manovich calls ‘spatial montage’ in his work on interactive cinema and emergent cultural interfaces for the 21st century.”

Chiara Grizzaffi: “The Black Screen [12’11”], by Richard Misek, could be considered one of the most convincing examples of a video essay that combines critical reflection with an original and poetic approach, and obtains this result also thorough a compelling use of voice over narration. Misek builds on the quintessential essay film, Sans Soleil, and offers in turn an essaystic reflection on blackness in which a fictitious editor replies to the also fictional narrator of Marker’s film with a meditation on ‘the multifarious and ambiguous nature of the black screen.’”

Patricia Pisters’s The Blackout Period (4’34”) is a “nostalgic, personal recollection” in response to the Remain and Leave campaigns leading up to Brexit.

Drew Morton notes that Kevin B. Lee and Kriss Ravetto’s Martyrs for the Mass (7’26”) is “one of the first (perhaps the first) work of videographic criticism about one of [Bill] Viola’s video installations.”

Chiara Grizzaffi finds that Tracy Cox-Stanton’s Flicker and Shutter (3’39”) “is particularly insightful in its ability to make visible, even ‘tangible’ the vulnerability of cinema as a trait that is not exclusively connected with analogue films: the existence of digital formats is endangered by an even more rapid obsolescence, and the intangible ubiquity of digital films makes them even more susceptible to alterations, interferences and violations of their integrity—like the ones performed, after all, through the re-editing and remix of existing footage for videographic criticism purposes.”

Catherine Grant on WTF IS THAT? The Pre- and Post-Cinematic Tendencies of Paranormal Activity (10’13”): “In their rigorously assembled and encyclopaedic response to Steven Shaviro’s article on the Paranormal Activity film series, [Allison de Fren and Brian Cantrell] successfully and very engagingly argue that these films use pre-cinematic, superficially obscurantist techniques as well as the post-cinematic ones flagged up by Shaviro.”

Richard Misek: “Inspired by Martine Beugnet’s monograph L’Attrait du flou (Liège: Yellow Now, 2017), In Praise of Blur [4’54”] provides a respite from the visual precision of the high definition image. By treating blur as a potential, it counters the teleological discourse that typically accompanies each new capture format—from HD, through 4K, and beyond.”

“Among the most unusual contributions to this issue is Emerald Transmutations [18’59”], a multi-contributor collaboration organized by Patricia Pisters,” writes Christian Keathley. “This videographic experiment is of particular interest for the way that it explicitly draws on the radical collaborative practices of the historical avant-garde.”

More Viewing

Luís Azevedo’s Letter from Marker (7’34”) at the Notebook is comprised of passages written by Chris Marker. “I made his words mine by taking advantage of the beautiful voice of Marta Pereira to bring them to life. In that way, I replaced his images with mine, his memories with mine, and used his immemory as the springboard for my own pilgrimage in time regained.”

The New Yorker’s Richard Brody introduces this week’s video: “The greatest American political filmmaker, John Ford, relentlessly dramatized, in his Westerns, the mental and historical distortions arising from the country’s violent origins—including its legacy of racism, which he confronted throughout his career, nowhere more radically than in Sergeant Rutledge.” (3’50”).

“These aren't frivolous times,” Sarah Polley tells The Filmmakers. “If you have political things to say or to make, this isn't the time to hold back. It's not the time to be polite. It's not the time to make the thing that's best for your career.” (21’09”).

Mike Everleth’s posted and has notes on Andy Warhol (1965) by Marie Menken (17’24”).


On the new Talkhouse Podcast, Terence Nance (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty) talks with Steve Ellison a.k.a. Flying Lotus about his debut feature film Kuso (37’48”).

The latest episodes in the Jean and Jane series on Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This podcast find Jane Fonda dealing with Barbarella (1968) and her husband and director, Roger Vadim (56’06”): “While Vadim was building her up as an international sex kitten, Jane was gradually becoming more socially conscious. For all of his experience with women, Roger Vadim didn’t know what to do with a woke wife.” And in Episode 6 (65’38”), both Fonda and Jean Seberg lend their support to the Black Panthers.

Film Comment editor Nicolas Rapold talks with directors Josh and Benny Safdie, lead actor Robert Pattinson, and co-writer Ronald Bronstein about Good Time (46’44”). And FC digital producer Violet Lucca interviews Yvonne Rainer (32’19”).

Episode 27 of Supporting Characters features host Bill Ackerman’s conversation with Tim Lucas about the magazine he and his wife Donna edited for nearly three decades, Video Watchdog, and his book, Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, as well as the late George A. Romero and much, much, much more (227’24”).

Jonathan Clements, author of Anime: A History, guest co-hosts El Goro and Chris Cummins, and Mike White are in the Projection Booth discussing Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira (1988) (165’09”).

The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Close-Up presents Dustin Guy Defa discussing Person to Person (23’42”).

On Episode 32 of The Poster Boys, designers Brandon Schaefer and Sam Smith look back on poster designs for the Planet of the Apes franchises (99’34”).

Illusion Travels by Streetcar #143: Commentary Track: Days of Wine and Roses (Blake Edwards; 1963) (124’48”).

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