August 14, 2011

From The Believer, a great article by C.S. Leigh on the way cinema is evolving.  With the decline of movie theatre attendance, and a move towards digital viewing on ever more portable devices, the time when a viewer was trapped in a nearly one-on-one dialogue with a film is fading away.  We can now pause, rewind, skip ahead, and sometimes altogether ignore a movie.  We can perform other tasks, like texting or surfing the internet while “watching” a movie – moving our attention back and forth from the screen.  The power of a film/filmmaker to hold our attention, and thusly, to physically activate our viewing experience is drained from this contemporary form of viewership.  We no longer have to sit through the full 484 minutes of Andy Warhol’s “Empire” (that anyone would ever want to is beside the point) or even Michael Snow’s less lengthy, 45 minute “Wavelength”, we can simply throw it on in the background or catch the highlights on YouTube.

Below are some highlights from the article, but you should definitely read it in full, which you can do by clicking on this link:

Be sure to read to the end of the article, where Leigh lays out a hilarious example of when cell phones meet black & white films from the 60’s in an Atom Egoyan short.

“You could also have a very different relationship with a film depending on where and with whom you watched it. An audience at a university cinema in L.A. had a solemn, nearly funereal reaction to Pasolini’s Salò, based on Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom (they seemed uncertain whether they had just witnessed a film or a crime); later, I watched the same film at the Accattone in Paris with an audience that couldn’t stop laughing.

As cinema becomes more portable, more easily created, and less difficult to acquire, it also runs the risk of forfeiting one of its greatest attributes—its physicality. Its necessary exertions.”

– C.S. Leigh (from his article “Contemplating the New Physicality of Cinema” in The Believer, March/April 2009)