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June 1995, Week 4


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Mike Frank <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 26 Jun 1995 15:05:26 -0400
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I'm working on an essay exploring possible conceptual and theoretical
justifications for a step many of us are forced to for purely expedient
reasons, namely using the video medium [whether LDs or tapes or TV is really
irrelevant here] for looking at, examing, and teaching movies.
The conventional wisdom, of course, is that such expedience is totally
indefensible, and those who do it are either villains, charlatans, or fools.
CINEMA JOURNAL and the Society for Cinema Studies have--in a document forged
by a group headed by John Belton-- formulated a policy repudiating the use of
video.  And Bruce Kawin (of U.Colorado/Boulder and author of HOW MOVIES
WORK--a smart book)is even more violently opposed.  One understands why.
There is the matter or resolution, the problem of aspect ratio, screen size,
color saturation, etc. etc.  There is even the . . . shall I say "unusual" view
of Vlada Petric (world's leading post-contructivist, frumious disciple of Dziga
Vertov [and Sergei E] and retiring head of the Harvard Film Archive) for whom
the actual flicker created only by the appearance of an instant of black
between every exposure of the frame on the screen is ESSENTIAL to the proper
kinesthetic experience of film, absolutely regardless of the film's content
or structure, and without which one is not experiencing anything remotely
like cinema.
No doubt there is truth in all these positions.  Still it seems to me that
watching a film on video might be liekened to reading a text in
translation--you don't get the original but you get something, and depending
on what you're loking for, what you get might prove reasonably adequate.  The
issue of translation in general, even the question of the possibility of
translation, is enormously complex, and it is my purpose to work through it
and see how it might apply to the film/video debate--so I don't want to
explore it fully just now (though I'd be happy to share some speculations
with anyone who expresses an interest.)
For the moment, though, I'm curious about others' ideas on these issues.
Are there objections other than the ones summarized above?  Do list
subscribers who use video have a rationale for doing so, or do they simpy
find it an unavoidable evil?  Are there some aspects of cinema that come
through on video more completely than others?
ANY thoughts on this vexed question, whether preliminary and inchoate or
fully developed and ramified, will be lovingly appreciated.
Mike Frank
English Dept.
Bentley Col.
Waltham, MA 02154
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