Session 3 Revisiting Things for the Second Time

I have made a pdf of the text and images form last weeks session. Take time to read back through it as the idea of media makers engaged in “Revisiting things for the Second Time” is important for understanding the approach to the experimental in this module.

Session 3 PDF

I refer during the session to a number of examples of work form key filmmakers and other visual artists.

The links to these works are in order below:

Audio by Martha Rossler talking about her Bowery work. She talks interestingly about the forms of Documentary Photography and the inadequate nature of snap shots of people who are portrayed in a way that try’s to extract humanist empathy. Martha Rossler’s work is an attack on Humanist Documentary. It explores that lack of entitlement of the people portrayed by people doing the portraying and looking in a gallery space who are entitled.

Jean Rouch in his work also takes account of the role of the looker and the lookers impact on the looked at. His film collaboration with Edgar Morin and the participants of Chronicle of a Summer was very influential on a range of experimental makers.

Clips from Chronicle of a Summer 1961 Paris.

Filmmakers heavily influenced and who worked and discussed working approaches with Jean Rouch were, amongst many others; Chris Marker, Jean Luc Godard

Clip from Chris Marker’s La Jette and Sunless:

La Jette (Uses mostly still images and montage for narrative)

Sunless:

Jean Luc Godard:

“Dans le Noir du Temps”

Histoire(s) Du Cinema

Advertisements

Task 2 to be uploaded ready to view Jan 23rd

I want you to choose an already made sound cut up of 20 seconds, or a new one that you have made and to add found images to the cut up. The found images need to to work visually together and chosen with affective montage in mind.

Vertov:

Montage means organizing film fragments (shots) into a film-object. It means writing something cinematic with the recorded shots. It does not mean selecting the fragments for “scenes” (the theatrical bias) or for titles (the literary bias).

archive

You can use still or moving image. A resource that can be utilised for this is Archive.org

Within this archive are a large range of resources under a variety of categories. It doesn’t matter which categories you draw from for your piece.

Session 2 January 16th Vanishing Pool

Why do we categorise something as experimental? What formal qualities do such pieces have that make them experimental?

What might be meant by formal qualities?

Lets watch a short experimental piece shot on film by Bill Viola called “Reflecting Pool”.

Lets think about two qualities of this piece:

The use of time.

The use of screen space.

How we’re these used in this short film?

How did this upset the conventions of usual moving image narrative?

Lets think of these disruption of conventions in relation to non visual art forms. What art forms can you bring to mind that do not necessarily involve a narrative form in the strict sense of a story being told?

Session 2 January 16th 9.30am ETG05

Eisenstein On Montage:

Eisenstein’s essay on Montage

In Eisenstein’s essay he describes five methods of montage. These different forms of montage build upon each other. So that the higher forms of montage include the simpler forms, or the lower levels of montage. The lower forms of montage are limited as to the complexity of meaning, however as the montage rises in complexity, so will the meaning that is being communicated. They begin as primal emotions and rise to intellectual levels. [2]

Then he goes on to explain his theory of the different formal types of montage.

Metric Montage:

Described as absolute lengths of the pieces. Tension is obtained by the effect of mechanical acceleration by shortening the pieces while preserving the original proportions of the formula. This technique produces a quantitative effect that can be reduced to a mathematical formula.

Rhythmic Montage:

This technique incorporates not only the metric composition but equally within the content of the frame is also considered. In this description Eisenstein states, “Formal tension by acceleration is obtained by shortening the pieces… but also by violating the plan.” Example: Potemkin The Odessa Steps The rhythmic drum of the soldiers’ feet… violates all metric demands. [1]

Tonal Montage

This montage represents a stage beyond rhythmic montage. He continues, “It is not only movement within the frame, but movement perceived in a wider sense. This montage is based on the emotional sound of the piece.”

In the “fog sequence” during Potemkin, this montage was based exclusively on the emotional sound of the piece. However both tonal and rhythmic dominants are operating.

The chief indicator of assembly of the pieces was according to their basic element, light-vibrations (the varying degrees of haze and luminosity). [1] Moreover this example furnishes a demonstration of consonance in combining movement as change and movement as light-vibration.

(Battleship Potemkin)

Session 2 January 16th 9.30am ETG05

Godard

Today we will be looking at the idea of Montage. We could spend the whole of the module on this topic as it has been thought about so extensively.

For Jean Luc Godard Montage is perhaps the one most important thing that is unique to moving image production.

Ultimately, Godard charts a poetic of the image in which montage is a metaphor for cinema, equated with art (Witt, 2000: 49). What distinguishes cinema from other cultural forms, its essential difference is “reduced” to montage, into bringing ideas and histories into relation and tension (Witt, Ibid.). In the filmmaker’s own words: “there’s the montage, there’s a moment of history, there’s a moment of cinema” (Godard, cited in Witt, 2000: 230, n. 64). Finally, worlds, ideas and realities are combined in Histoire(s); cinema is equated with image, with montage, with metaphor and art (Witt, 2000: 50).

Read an extensive article on the importance of many forms of montage in the work of Godard, Marker and Boltanski.

I want to draw your attention to the specific units/elements of montage as you are going to try and put the idea into practice in your next exercise.

Lets Begin with Kuelshov

Soviet montage is a type of film theory focused on understanding and creating cinema using specific film editing techniques. The theory was conceived in the Soviet Union during the 1920’s and was pioneered by such Soviet directors as Alexander Dovzhenko, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Dziga Vertov, and most famously, Sergei Eisenstein. Though many of these directors disagreed about montage, Eisenstein’s thinking was eventually viewed as “soviet montage.” Eisenstein’s essays on film form and film theory revolutionized the view of film from simple entertainment to intellectual artwork. However, they were a hybrid of the theories collectively established by several Soviet directors.

The Kuleshov Experiment

Lev Kuleshov was an early Soviet director, possibly one of the first film theorists of montage, who worked prior to Eisenstein’s appearance in film. Kuleshov viewed editing as a manipulation of the audience as much as a manipulation of film, and he was intrigued by the way juxtaposition could change how the audience felt about certain actors. He is most famous for the Kuleshov Experiment, in which he intercut a single shot of one actor with various images (a bowl of soup, a girl, a casket, etc.) and played it for his audiences. Though the same shot of him was displayed every time, those who viewed the film praised the actor’s talent, believing he subtly changed his facial expressions in reaction to each image. For Soviet filmmakers of the time, this showed film as fragments that needed to be put together in an order to alter the audience’s mood. The final editing of the film was just as important, if not more so, than what the actual shots were.

Pudovkin

Pudovkin was a student of Kuleshov’s. He went on to famously state, which many directors since have espoused as well, “The foundation of film art is editing.” Pudovkin’s theory of montage focused not only on the juxtaposition of shots through editing, but also the comparison of objects in the mise-en-scene. Pudovkin saw actors more as objects on the screen rather than working actors. He also saw montage as the key to revealing the emotion of a scene, including the actors, by their relationship to other objects in the shot.

A major difference between Eisenstein and Pudovkin’s use of montage was Eisenstein’s insistance on conflict, where not only was there conflict occuring in the narrative, but even the editing would cut together conflicting shots, sometimes disrupting the flow of the story. Pudovkin did not share this view and often would not cut parts of his film to intentionally disrupt the narrative. His view of montage was to create a powerful emotion and he wished to build up that emotion with his narrative and editing.

Vertov

Vertov’s ideas for montage differed from Eisensteins as well. He did not think that montage was specific to editing and believed that every decision made by the director qualified as montage. Vertov focuses less on the emotional aspect that many other Soviets of the time found essential to the theory of montage. Instead, he would create the plot of his films through the editing of shots. A theme was selected (which Vertov regarded as an aspect of montage as well) and from there the composition of shots created the feeling of a story line, left open-ended to the audience (Kuscu).

Man with a Movie Camera:

Vertov’s use of Montage in opposition to Eisenstein.

I am kino-eye, I am a mechanical eye. I, a machine, show you the world as only I can see it. […] My path leads to the creation of a fresh perception of the world. I decipher in a new way a world unknown to you. (Vertov in Michelson, 1984: 17-18)

In formulations of this kind Vertov expresses an expanded concept of montage:

Kino-eye as the possibility of making the invisible visible, the unclear clear, the hidden manifest, the disguised overt, the acted nonacted; making falsehood into truth. (Vertov in Michelson, 1984: 41)

Vertov also offers an alternative view of montage to Eisenstein’s which is no less political, but in significantly different ways:

Montage means organizing film fragments (shots) into a film-object. It means writing something cinematic with the recorded shots. It does not mean selecting the fragments for “scenes” (the theatrical bias) or for titles (the literary bias). Every kino-eye production is subject to montage from the moment the theme is chosen until the film’s release in its completed form. In other words, it is edited during the entire process of film production. (Vertov in Michelson, 1984: xxix-xxx)

Viewing Man with a movie Camera. Some key elements within the film:

Timings:

Titles. an experiment in a new international language (visual)

Opening shots 3.07 Man superimposed on top of Movie Camera

3.10 Shots of mechanics of film theatre

6.20 Montage of woman asleep, cut with stills seemingly watching her.

13.08 Montage eyes, blinds, lens

15.50 Coal Miner , chimnney

21.11 Spatial Montage adding to shots together

22.15 showing process of filming

23.30 from moving image to stills

23.53 showing editing process collection of still images moving through gate

30 15 showing lift from kino eye pov then from subject pov

31.30 quick cutting montage of eye blinking

42.32 split screen

43.06 time and cutting sped up dramatically

47.00 slow motion

56.40 superimposing cameraman in bear glass

1.01.47 onwards multiple screens and then animation

1.02.20 four splits

1.02 45 camera as weapon montage then multiple effects

1.07.30 final fast cut edit ending with kino eye composition