by Girish Shambu — Canisius College
June 20, 2014 – 08:26
"Intersection" (Catherine Grant, Chiara Grizzaffi, Denise Liege - 2014)
Is there a connection to be made between cinephilia and eating? Let me offer one point of contact. Nutritionists often make the distinction between quick-release sugars and slow-release sugars. When we eat candy or white bread, our bodies absorb the sugar in these foods rapidly; our blood sugar levels spike and then crash; before long, we feel hungry again. When we eat an apple, the sugar is absorbed in a slow and measured way; we are sated for longer; what’s more, our bodies get the nutritional benefits of fruit.
It is commonly held that one criterion of value for a film is how it rewards and repays repeat viewings. As much as cinephilia embraces films whose interest lies primarily in their exciting, stimulating, immediately apprehensible surfaces—a “quick-release” cinema—there is nevertheless a tendency for the cinephile to confer a special value upon films that are dense, layered, or difficult. These “slow-release” films take time—and re-viewing—both to apprehend with fullness their material complexity and also to make sense of this complexity.
The video “Intersection” by Catherine Grant, Chiara Grizzaffi and Denise Liege is an emblematic “slow-release” cinephilic object. The design of this object is ingenious: it is not intended as a pure, stand-alone audiovisual work. Instead, the video is envisioned as the central element in a cluster of artifacts that also includes writings by various critics and scholars on Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000), the film which is the subject of the video.
It is an axiom that cinephilia involves more than just watching large numbers of films—it also involves thinking, talking, reading and writing about them. The video “Intersection” enacts this definition of cinephilia by suggesting both a context and a procedure for its viewing. In a post at Film Studies for Free, Grant paints a general contextual background by providing links to numerous writings that will help viewers acquire a gradually deepening appreciation of the video over time. But, in a separate post at Filmanalytical, she goes further: by identifying and excerpting from three essays that variously develop notions of “intersections” as activated by Wong’s film. She appends the following instruction: “Watch the video, then read the below, intersecting quotations from written texts about Wong's film. Then repeat.”
“Intersection” features nine moving images from the film that unfold simultaneously. I first saw the video at the SCMS conference in Seattle in the spring. Without reading the associated posts—and thus without the experience of its “para-textual” supports—the video struck me as inviting and intriguing—but also dense and opaque. But each time I have returned to it since—having dug gradually deeper into the writings Grant links to in her accompanying posts—the network of “intersections” between and within the nine image tracks has grown fuller, more detailed, more evocative, without ever feeling “settled” or “solved."
I’d like to conclude with a question about your personal experience. I am wondering: are there examples of video essays that are rich and complex—that invite, even demand, revisiting? I’d love to learn of some. Thank you.