Whereas the first generation of film scholars primarily had to rely on personal memories of screenings, subsequent generations could work more closely with films, first on flatbed viewers in film archives and then, after the introduction of consumer-grade video technologies in the early 1980s, on VCRs, Laserdiscs, DVDs, and now Blu-Rays and streaming video. These technologies fostered analysis that was premised on repetitive viewing and the attendant establishment of formal patterning, which we can term close analysis.
The fall Graduate Field Committee colloquium, dubbed “Film Lab,” will take as its object of inquiry the possibilities for doing close analysis of films via the resources of digital scholarship. We will begin by establishing baseline of familiarity with some established benchmarks in the field via models of classical film analysis by Raymond Bellour and David Bordwell. Thereafter, the colloquium will consist of the collaborative production of a digital “scholarly” edition of two films, His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1941), and Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929). We will analyze these films using all the resources at our disposal, including segmentation, thematic analysis, and statistical analysis. We will produce a number of different layers of commentary, ranging from written, voice-over commentary, and data visualization.
Of course, digital media are having a profound impact on the field of film studies, which some argue is destructive and others see as transformational and invigorating, and the practice of close analysis is a particularly interesting place where the impact digital technologies can be considered. So we will include a consideration of the avenues for the discipline opened up by thinking about how film studies can respond to a Morettian “reading at a distance,” i.e., Lev Manovich’s Lev Manovich’s “cultural analytics”