Recent Comments

Elif Akcali
To me this audiovisual essay is less about JM herself than the “maternal characters that JM portrays”. Despite the seemingly effortless grouping of the common themes that JM’s characters’ central conflicts are based upon (using images from 17 films!), the video also reveals the range in which these “mothering” characters differ, such as erotic, agressive, and affectionate, which evidently, regardless of the films’ subjects or genres, says something about both JM’s choices of roles as a performer and the industry’s typecasting her. I find the allure to be embedded in “JM as a mother”, and I find this allure lying in its complexity. I especially like the mix of audio and sound over the selection of shots: Bernstein’s music evokes immobile characters deep in thought, and directs the attention to their interiority, while we watch JM move, and explicitly voice that interority, making the video poetic, disturbing and thought provoking, all at once.
Richard Misek
To push the video’s argument one step further, I’ve now turned the video essay into a film. I hope it now not only explicates but also demonstrates what ‘film’ is in the context of digital media.
Corey K Creekmur
I find that this video essay, with the accompanying texts, exemplifies the goals of [in]Transition: the video essay is a suggestive work of criticism itself, and the texts richly expand upon it without displacing it. And the texts begin to build a genuine dialog and debate out of the video essay. All together (and with the helpful bibliography) this is a provocative and eminently useful collection of materials. Thanks to all involved!
Image from KILLER OF SHEEP & RATCATCHER
Sarah O'Brien
My apologies for what feels guiltily like a belated response—it’s been a split second in the print publication continuum that I’ve been inhabiting with the film, and yet an eternity in the Internet time of your response. (Surely this is among the many interesting variances/transitions highlighted by this experiment in the mixed-media afterlives of essays today.) In any case, immense thanks Cristina and Adrian for your video essay; it’s opened up a number of new lines of thought for me. I’m particularly taken with the connections you draw between Killer of Sheep and Ratcatcher, and grateful for the reference to Lesley Stern’s lovely essay on the film. Since the publication of my article, I’ve discovered that I’d also missed excellent work by Lesley Brill and Sharon Holland. These texts will certainly enrich my ongoing thinking about the film. I’m not sure that we ultimately disagree about the film’s relationship to the real. I suppose I want that “seemingly” in my description of the vérité style of the domestic scenes to do a lot of work—perhaps too much. Something that I hope comes through in the article is that my contrastive characterization of these interior scenes and the more mobile scenes in the slaughterhouse (as well as the exterior neighborhood scenes) is motivated by an interest in how Burnett allows the affects and bodies in these spaces to reverberate with/against one another. These reverberations are sometimes forged through editing (e.g. cuts that match the children’s and sheep’s motions), and at other times they emerge as more diffused rhymes. The rhyme between this scene of Stan and his wife’s sad slow dance and the slaughterhouse scene that animates the workers in a dance with the strung-up sheep’s bodies (to the tune of Little Walter’s “Mean Old World”) is one of the most devastating of these resonances for me, and one of many moments that evince the film’s simultaneous orientation in/with/against the real, as you put it. This orientation is part of why I turn to Bazin’s aesthetics, which do more than just valorize the revelation of a “natural unity”; as I write in the article, the film “documents a set of specific socio-historical conditions in which the shared reality of humans and animals (among other ontological categories or fields) is always already chopped up into bits, and the film therefore works not to uncover a natural or objective unity but to remind us that connections persist and even proliferate within this highly fragmented field” (38). In this light, I wonder how much of the tension between our two views of the film arises from your focus on the expressive duration of single scenes and mine on the transitions between them? Killer of Sheep is really exemplary, I think, in the ways it brings together these foundational filmic elements (the shot or scene as a discrete unit, the transformative cut), and perhaps our two takes are more complementary in this sense.
Jennifer Proctor
This is really an excellent piece, both formally and critically. It actually helps me to get past some of the discomfort I’ve felt in referring to my video works as “films” (the film purist/materialist in me cringes a bit at the thought). But the term “film” has certainly evolved from its material origins, as this piece nicely explicates.
Justin Remes
This is a sophisticated and thought-provoking exploration of film’s ontology. The dialogue between Snow and Frampton is especially instructive.
Justin Remes
This is Jennifer Proctor’s delicious metacinematic response to my response to Snow’s response to Magritte’s response to…
Austin Fisher
Thank you Sarah! Yes, some of the shots in that sequence are striking for how they fetishise the weaponry (and this is mirrored in the narratives of Leone’s films, with obsessive attention to detail around guns and their mechanisms). Your broader point about video essays is I think the most valuable thing in this whole process for me. I thought I “knew” that sequence, but I kept spotting little details I’d never noticed before (like the missing bullet on Angel Eyes’s belt).
Sarah Artt
Great post Austin. I love The Good the Bad the Weird and was therefore excited to see if come in for critical attention here. Your essay also made me think about masculinity and transnational genres. The phallic gun belts inthe Leone clips juxtaposed with The Bad (and particularly how he is presented within the film) is really fascinating. I think the video essay format really brings this to the fore with the ability to linger on shots that might have been fleeting or even overshadowed in their original context.
Frame grab from LE SILENCE DE LA MER (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1949)
Pam Cook
Thanks for these wonderful video essays Cristina, and for the rigour and detail of your curator’s note. You raise so many vital points - I’m inspired to respond to a couple of them. First, the need to start with a simple idea in conception and execution: this is something that should encourage those who are thinking about using the audiovisual essay form to grasp the nettle. Second, the acknowledgment that as the project develops, new thoughts and aesthetic strategies evolve, so that the processes of research and construction - techniques, creative choices, psychic investments and so forth - have to be addressed, whether in the video essay or in accompanying text. This self-reflexivity is not always evident in more traditional forms of scholarly research and teaching. Third, the intricate interface between the film object and the new object (the audiovisual essay) that emerges: this suggests that the boundaries of what film studies has for years considered to be ‘the text’ are well and truly breached - for me, this is one of the most exciting aspects of the audiovisual essay. So - as your entry here demonstrates in a particularly compelling way - start with something simple and end up with a rich and complex experience!