The term “essay film” has become increasingly used in film criticism to describe a self-reflective and self-referential documentary cinema that blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Scholars unanimously agree that the first published use of the term was by Richter in 1940. Also uncontested is that Andre Bazin, in 1958, was the first to analyze a film, which was Marker’s Letter from Siberia (1958), according to the essay form. The French New Wave created a popularization of short essay films, and German New Cinema saw a resurgence in essay films due to a broad interest in examining German history. But beyond these origins of the term, scholars deviate on what exactly constitutes an essay film and how to categorize essay films. Generally, scholars fall into two camps: those who find a literary genealogy to the essay film and those who find a documentary genealogy to the essay film. The most commonly cited essay filmmakers are French and German: Marker, Resnais, Godard, and Farocki. These filmmakers are singled out for their breadth of essay film projects, as opposed to filmmakers who have made an essay film but who specialize in other genres. Though essay films have been and are being produced outside of the West, scholarship specifically addressing essay films focuses largely on France and Germany, although Solanas and Getino’s theory of “Third Cinema” and approval of certain French essay films has produced some essay film scholarship on Latin America. But the gap in scholarship on global essay film remains, with hope of being bridged by some forthcoming work. Since the term “essay film” is used so sparingly for specific films and filmmakers, the scholarship on essay film tends to take the form of single articles or chapters in either film theory or documentary anthologies and journals. The most recent scholarship and conference papers on essay film have shifted from an emphasis on literary essay to an emphasis on technology, arguing that essay film has the potential in the 21st century to present technology as self-conscious and self-reflexive of its role in art.
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The Evolution of Film Essay example
1185 Words5 Pages
In the early times of narrative cinema there was litter pressure on the filmmakers for the evolution of film forms before nickelodeons (Salt, 31) as cinema had not become a mass cultural product and film was still just a novelty expected to die out like rock n roll. And so the demand was low and so the supply could remain unoriginal. Mary Jane's Mishap was made in 1903 when ‘multi-scene films were becoming popular’ (Salt, 32). Mary Jane's Mishap is notable for its use of experimental and inventive shot transitions. It used a vertical wipe to instead of ‘separate successive scenes’ (Salt, 32) (as it cuts to a shot width a wider frame of the same locale) but to change the zoom level. This frame is essentially an insert and borderline…show more content…
In big bold letter ‘PARRAFIN’ the flammable oil. Without this shot the viewer would be perplexed as to why she exploded and allows the narrative to flow as it could be water or any other fluid for all they know as cleverly Smith used this mise-en-scene to explain the narrative instead of an intertitle before the explosion which would have removed all suspense, tension and mystery especially after she moved to the cameras to show her gesturing a bright idea. Though this close-up could also be argued by Gunning of being of the cinema of attractions as ‘For a time [in cinema] close-ups were only used as an attraction to see an images but larger than life but ‘inciting visual curiosity’ (Gunning, pg 58) rather being evolutionary towards narrative cinema. The close-ups heighten the ‘only [tool they] they have at their disposal, a language of gestures’ (Burch, 224) musser idea
Mary Jane's Mishap combined the cinema of attraction trick film with the viewers want for narrative. ‘The decline in their [trick films] commercial importance was already evident by 1906’ (Salt, 40) Smith used a jump cut to create the illusion of Mary Jane exploding into smoke by subtracting her and adding smoke in the successive shot. He also uses superimposition to create a ghost liken creature. Like an avatar for its day. This shows narratives cinema still being influenced by the cinema of attractions as to make an entertaining film.