Volume 2, Issue 9: Hidden Hitchcock
A videographic epigraph inspired by D.A. Miller's work on The Wrong Man
D.A. Miller’s The Wrong Man — Notes on Hidden Hitchcock
I recently read/re-read D.A. Miller’s Hidden Hitchcock.
Miller’s work makes the case for what he calls “too-close viewing.” Using Strangers on a Train, Rope, and The Wrong Man as case studies, Miller argues that Hitchcock invites, rewards, and at times demands such a viewing practice. It’s a work that anyone with an interested in Hitchcock and/or videographic criticism should read. After all, so much of the work we do is concerned with close viewings of moving images. I’m by no means the first to use Miller’s text to think about videographic criticism, but here are some quotes I noted during my reading:
“Too-close reading no longer aims at offering a ‘reading,’ the interpretation of ‘the work as a whole’ that was close reading’s rationale and telos. Instead, it is drawn to details that, while undeniably intricate, are not noticeably important — little particulars that, though demonstrably meant, never strike us as deeply meaningful.”1
“It is in the too-close proximity to Hitchcock’s secret style, however, that one appreciates its ambition to abolish that safe place, to turn “the touch” from something the film embodies to something the film performs on the bodies watching the film.”2
“This elaboration exemplifies what I call, in contradistinction to Hitchcock’s recognized style, his secret style, a style that, like some faintly transmitted radio signal, can only reach those unhappy few who (by way of talent, pathology, luck, elective affinity) attend to the film too closely.3
And finally, a quote that struck such a chord with me, I had to make a videographic epigraph:
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News & Notes
Please send news and notes for future newsletters to firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline for Volume 2 of Evelyn Kreutzer and Ariel Avissar’s “Once Upon a Screen” is October 1st. Don’t miss a chance to be a part of the sequel to one of 2020’s best video essay projects. Learn more here. (Any questions may be sent to email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Attend a free video essay webinar from Máster Universitario en Cine y Televisión, Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays, and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, on October 1st. The event features a star group of video essayists: Catherine Grant, Jaap Kooijman, Ana Mejón, Liz Greene, and Philip Józef Brubaker. Register here.
Video essayist Jessica McGoff is hosting the event, “Short Circuit: In Conversation with Farah Nabulsi” on October 6. Register here.
Friend of the show Charlie Shackleton’s new film, The Afterlight, exists as a single 35 mm print, “Further eroding every time it screens, the film is a living document of its life in circulation .” The film screens in London on October 15 & 17. More here.
The Essay Library has put out a call for participants in another collaborative project. You may have seen their "Essay Library Anthologies" in the past, where video essayists from across the Internet came together to create sixty-second micro-essays inspired by the themes of beginnings and time. The theme for this third volume is “Death.” The deadline is October 27. Learn more here.
Video essayist and scholar Alan O’Leary will hold an online book launch event and discussion for his work, The Battle of Algiers, on November 5. Register here.
Catherine Grant’s slides from a recent public lecture on the epigraphic video essay are now available on her website. Access here.
I’ve discovered many new films and readings through Tanya Goldman’s open access syllabus for a class on experimental documentary at Sarah Lawrence College. Read here.
A report by Andrew Northrop in MUBI on the Small File Film Festival. Read here.
Kevin B. Lee’s video essay about Hong Sang-soo's The Day He Arrives is now fansubbed into Chinese. Watch here.
An interview with Shane Denson on the Games with Glasses podcast about his book, Discorrelated Images. Listen here.
Follow “A Girl's Eye-view: Girlhood on the Italian Screen since 1950”, a new project by Prof. Danielle Hipkins (University of Exeter) and Prof. Romana Andò (Sapienza Uni di Roma), on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.
Filmmaker-scholar Su Friedrich has shared a complete Premiere Pro Tutorial online at YouTube & Vimeo. EVERYONE is free to USE THIS IN THEIR CLASSROOMS & share widely. Access here. (h/t Catherine Grant)
Art & Trash is a source for video essays on underground, avant-garde, psychotronic and outsider media from Stephen Broomer. Subscribe to the new newsletter here.
Q&A with Cristina Álvarez López & Adrian Martin
A final bit of news for today: the great critics, scholars, teachers, and video essayists Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin have launched an exciting new series over on their Vimeo page, “Multimedia Lectures On Film.”
The first installment of their series is on Nicholas Ray’s 1948 film, They Live By Night. You can rent the episode for $8 dollars on Vimeo, or purchase the lecture for $15. I fully echo the words of Catherine Grant:
Adrian Martin @AdrianMartin25Announcing & launching a big new project from Cristina @laughmotel Álvarez & me. MULTIMEDIA LECTURES ON FILM, to rent or buy via Vimeo On Demand. Literally home made! The first is on Nick Ray's THEY LIVE BY NIGHT. Our trailer is here, pls spread the word! https://t.co/zTko1tlMvi
You can learn more about the series via this post on Cristina’s blog and by watching the trailer below. I also had a few questions for Cristina and Adrian (a former guest of The Video Essay Podcast) about their new series. The interview is below.
First, a basic question: what was the impetus for the two of you to start this new endeavor? As you say, it really is the perfect mix of all the different types of work you do. What can you do here that you’re unable to do elsewhere?
There are forms that exist – such as the traditional live lecture, or the DVD audio commentary – that don’t seem to change much, or evolve. These forms can often be quite clunky – we’ve all seen lectures (in halls or over Zoom) in which the speaker wastes precious minutes clicking buttons in vain, trying to get the technical components to work. Or – beyond the speaker’s control – there are lighting problems in the room, or difficulty with getting a good, mixed balance between live and pre-recorded sound sources. What we are trying to do in our multimedia lectures is to combine different approaches in a way that is more streamlined, and completely under our control. As far as we can see, such multimedia lectures hardly exist – and we have often wished to be able to view them. It’s not a ‘straight’ lecture – or a YouTube rant – because it takes full advantage of the ability to audiovisually manipulate clips, break off into montage segments, and so on. Our presentation itself is conceived cinematically.
I have never seen They Live by Night (I know, I’m sorry!) I believe they will be screening the film at Film Forum in NYC soon and I look forward to watching the lecture after I catch that screening. But is that necessary? Does someone need to have seen the film you’re lecturing on before watching the lecture?
We do recommend having seen the film – or be in the process of seeing it over and over! – before experiencing our lecture. That’s different to our audiovisual essays, where we don’t necessarily require that – you might be enticed to see a film for the first time after watching one of our audiovisual essays. Some of those audiovisual essays will give you little or no plot information! With the multimedia lectures, however, we do, whenever we feel it necessary, go into story details – and, in this first one for instance, we have a long section on the ending. We don’t give spoiler alerts in the lecture, so now you know it! By the same token, we’d say that it doesn’t matter if you’ve only seen the film a long time ago – we refer to so much in the film that your spectator memory will undoubtedly be stirred and refreshed.
How are these public lectures designed differently than if they were given in a classroom or at a conference? Or are they not different? Did you alter your usual work and methods for Vimeo?
The multimedia lectures are less linear than what we present ‘live’, because we are building them on the basis of ‘blocks’ of material, each one quite condensed, action-packed, and self-contained. For example, in the first one, we have six different sections, and some of these – such as the parts on sound design, or on the film’s ending – would be very difficult to deliver live, because the interaction between what we speak and what we show is so intertwined and split-second in nature. Also, like in our audiovisual essays but in a different way, we are using a principle of montage: each section or block is like a glimpse, an entry-point into the film; we open up this angle, explore it, and then move on to the next. We are not pretending to be exhaustive or complete; it is a series of vivid fragments, arranged in a particular sequence. We are not trying to wrap a film up in a neat, demonstrated theory. And we also deliberately dispense with a very familiar kind of pedagogy: background on the director, definitions of film genre, sketch of the historical context, that kind of thing. Our way is to plunge straight in, with a detail or a question.
Cristina’s blog post mentioned that this first lecture is only the beginning. Can you give us a sense of what’s to come and where and how you hope to expand the project?
We have many ideas about future episodes, but we are keeping that to ourselves for now! We want to claim the freedom to follow our desires and grab whatever film appeals to us, as it arises in our minds. Our wish would be to do roughly one a month, making them available through Vimeo on Demand, and eventually building up certain ‘packages’ or series around particular themes or ideas. However, the future of the project really depends on whether people put their money down to view them! We’d like to make clear that there are two options: rental gives you an opportunity to watch the lecture within a 48-hour streaming period; and buying gives you unlimited access across time (but no download – we are trying to protect our work to this extent).
In a way, you could say that this is a series for cinephiles – and we mean that in a very expansive way, for anybody who is interested in exploring films in a close, detailed, material way, whether they are just starting out in their love and appreciation of cinema, or well into it in their lives. It would be great if anyone who sees and likes the first one could recommend it to their friends and colleagues (in schools and universities, for instance) – we are at the very beginning of building an audience for this form.
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Preview to Episode 28. Broey Deschanel
The next episode of The Video Essay Podcast will feature an interview with Maia, a video essayist who works on Youtube under the name Broey Deschanel. We will discuss the following two videos on the podcast. I’m hoping to release the episode on September 30th and I would encourage listerners to try and watch them both before listening!
D.A. Miller, Hidden Hitchcock (London: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 50