“It’s between frames where cinema speaks.” -Peter Kubelka, 1967

“Artistic observation” [says Paul Valery], “can attain an almost mystical depth. The objects on which it falls lose their names. Light and shade form very particular systems, present very individual questions which depend upon no knowledge and are derived from no practice, but get their existence and value from a certain accord of the soul, the eye, and the hand of someone who was born to perceive them and evoke them in his own inner self.” - Walter Benjamin, The Storyteller

Engels on Crowds (in Benjamin)

“Only when one has tramped the pavements of the main streets for a few days does one notice that these Londoners have had to sacrifice what is best in human nature in order to create all the wonders of civilization with which their city teems, that a hundred creative faculties that lay dormant in them remained inactive and were suppressed……

Baudrillard on Myth and History in Cinema

In a violent and contemporary period of history (let’s say between the two world wars and the cold war), it is myth that invades cinema as imaginary content. It is the golden age of despotic and legendary resurrections. Myth, chased from the real by the violence of history, finds refuge in cinema. Today, it is history itself that invades the…

Ribbon of Light

James Baldwin, on the movie theater experience vs. the stage experience: The distance between oneself – the audience – and a screen performer is absolute: a paradoxical absolute, masquerading as intimacy. No one, for example, will ever really know whether Katharine Hepburn or Bette Davis or Humphrey Bogart or Spencer Tracy or Clark Gable – or John Wayne – can,…

James Baldwin

On Story vs Plot: “A story is impelled by the necessity to reveal: the aim of the story is revelation, which means that a story can have nothing – at least not deliberately – to hide. This also means that a story resolves nothing. The resolution of a story must occur in us, with what we make of the questions…

On Boundaries

No living organism can survive without boundaries. Fundamental definitions of life, at the microscopic level, always involve a cell wall – a clearly delineated, visible, tangible boundary separating what’s inside the cell from what’s outside. A clear, observable definition of cell death is the moment at which this wall dissolves and what’s outside rushes in, what’s inside disperses out. On…

The Archetype of the Martyr

The Martyr is a particularly potent archetypal figure in western culture, going back at least as far as Jesus, but probably much further. The Martyr is a specific type of Hero – who has “given all” for the “greater good.” On one hand, with real-life examples, I suppose it gives a certain solace to the families and loved ones of…

Seven Stories

I recently attended the wedding of an old friend of my wife. It was a well-put-together event, a fairly standard example of the genre, and though I don’t know the people getting married terribly well, I felt an upwelling of emotion at a few important points in the ceremony. A wedding is a narrative genre: it has a beginning, a…

Peak Indie

I’ve been trying to watch the new season of Project Greenlight on HBO, and really struggling with it. Something fundamental seems to have changed in the 10 years since the last season, and even moreso since the beginning of the series in 2001. Back then there seemed to be something earnest and heartfelt about the show, as it attempted to…

The Dark Side of Heroics

Every time there’s a school shooting in the news (seems like every six weeks or so?), I find myself speculating that this person, almost always a young white male, probably believed as deeply and sincerely in his own righteousness as any of us, as dictated by the pretty-much mandatory western heroic worldview. If life is a competition, and you are…