WHICH MOVIE IS NOW ON THE SCREEN?

Silent Paper Movie II (Geronimo Elortegui, 2011)

Classical Hollywood gets the silent paper treatment.  I have watched this short film half a dozen times now and still have no idea who speaks when, to whom, etc.  Silent Paper plays with the problems that language and translation pose to the image, particularly in the silent era.

ROOSEVELT IN AFRICA

Taxidermist at Work on the Roosevelt Safari Specimens (1911, Smithsonian Institute Archives)

Posting has been slow and infrequent these last couple of weeks, mostly because I am lucky to be on research leave this semester and I have been trying to focus my writing energies elsewhere.  At the moment, I am in the middle of revising a chapter that examines the intersection between ethnographic writing and cinema.  It begins with the following excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt:

I almost always had some volume with me, either in my saddle pocket or in the cartridge-bag which one of my gun bearers carried to hold odds and ends. Often, my reading would be done while resting under a tree at noon, perhaps beside the carcass of a beast I killed, or else waiting for camp to be pitched; and in either case it might be impossible to get water for washings. In consequence the books were stained with blood, sweat, gun oil, dust, and ashes; ordinary bindings either vanished or became loathsome, whereas pigskin merely grew to look as a well-used saddle looks.”

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CONTEMPORARY SILENT CINEMAS

Sent from someone’s iPhone (30 May 2011)

A couple of days ago, my colleague Paul Flaig brought a fascinating trend to my attention.  In the wake of Hugo and The Artist, a wave of new media applications have emerged that transform (ho-hum) full color and sound video into hi-def mimics of the silent era.   See here, here, and here.  The “Silent Film Director” app reached a startling 300,000 uploads in April of this year.  As Paul pointed out, the reviews and comments on these applications are perhaps strangest of all (esp. for those who have spent years trying to get students excited about silent cinema).  Just one example here.  “The effects are really cool.  You have black and white…”

THE ORPHAN AVANT GARDE

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been looking more carefully at the expansive field of  recycled cinemas.  I am particularly interested in the the places where found and orphan films intersect with the contemporary avant garde, producing works that are torn between past and present tenses, between concepts and material.  At the recommendation of a colleague, I have been making my way through the work of Peter Tscherkassky, an Austrian filmmaker whose work combines cinematic scraps with dense layers of sound:

Dream Work (2001)

Tscherkassky’s work also includes several returns to early cinema.  His most recent film, Coming Attractions (2010) explores Tom Gunning’s canonical concept across eleven distinct visual “chapters”.  I am still trying to get my hands on it for a screening.  In the meantime, bits of Tscherkassky’s other works can be found online.  Mubi hosts a small, but very good collection (and charges a small fee per film).

TEACHING AND TECHNOLOGY

A good Chronicle article from UCLA philosophy professor Pamela Hieronymi on the difference between technology and teaching as a “tsunami” of online education heads our way.  Key point(s):

As we think about the future of education, we need to sharpen our understanding of what education is and what educators do. Education is often compared to two other industries upended by the Internet: journalism and publishing. This is a serious error.

Education is not the transmission of information or ideas. Education is the training needed to make use of information and ideas. As information breaks loose from bookstores and libraries and floods onto computers and mobile devices, that training becomes more important, not less.

[…]

But the core task of training minds is labor-intensive; it requires the time and effort of smart, highly trained individuals. We will not make it significantly less time-consuming without sacrificing quality. And so, I am afraid, we will not make that core task significantly less expensive without cheapening it.