>why should any complex, multi-levelled filmic text be absolutely >comprehensible in one viewing? If you read and re-read Joyce

One reason is that until recently a viewer might only have one chance to see a film.  Even in the home video age the more blatantly complex films tend to be the ones least likely to be available (setting aside the question of how video changes the experience).  Where are all the Oshima, Rivette, Feuillade, mid-period Godard, Brakhage, etc?  But then we already have hundreds of complex, multi-levelled films available for multiple viewing:  Rio Bravo, The General, Only Angels Have Wings, The Naked Spur, Citizen Kane, Dawn of the Dead, Chinatown, Eyes Wide Shut, Vertigo, you get the idea.  After all in many ways Trollope and Dreiser are as deep as Joyce and Dostoevsky.

> We keep getting told that today's generation of non-readers are >just literate in a new way - they're visually literate.

Yes this is something we hear a lot but how true is it?  High school and college aged people are clearly reading a lot of text:  Web sites, instant messaging, etc.  And the ones I've met even read plenty of physical books (though admittedly a skewed sample since I've known them either through a bookstore or the private college where I work).  "Visually literate" in this case refers to audio-visual and computer media (you won't pick up the tools to interpret most painting iconography from the current media environment let alone visual literacy related to the physical environment).  But there are clear limits to that:  I've heard lots of stories about the difficulties such students have with silent films or others that don't quite fit currently popular modes (slowly paced, some foreign, etc).

Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite