The Virtual Life of Film

The Virtual Life of Film

Language: English

Pages: 216

ISBN: 0674026985

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


As almost (or, truly, virtually) every aspect of making and viewing movies is replaced by digital technologies, even the notion of "watching a film" is fast becoming an anachronism. With the likely disappearance of celluloid film stock as a medium, and the emergence of new media competing for an audience, what will happen to cinema--and to cinema studies? In the first of two books exploring this question, D. N. Rodowick considers the fate of film and its role in the aesthetics and culture of moviemaking and viewing in the twenty-first century.

Here Rodowick proposes and examines three different critical responses to the disappearance of film in relation to other time-based media, and to the study of contemporary visual culture. Film, he suggests, occupies a special place in the genealogy of the arts of the virtual: while film disappears, cinema persists--at least in the narrative forms imagined by Hollywood since 1915. Rodowick also observes that most so-called "new media" are fashioned upon a cinematic metaphor. His book helps us see how digital technologies are serving, like television and video before them, to perpetuate the cinematic as the mature audiovisual culture of the twentieth century--and, at the same time, how they are preparing the emergence of a new audiovisual culture whose broad outlines we are only just beginning to distinguish.

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think like philosophers (an unlikely event in any case) the impertinent scandal of The Death of Cinema will achieve its full force. Moving image “conservation” is impossible, and moving image “restoration” is a contradiction in terms, since time is not re13. The Death of Cinema: History, Cultural Memory and the Digital Dark Age (London: British Film Institute, 2001) 89. 21 back to the future versible. And there is poetic justice in the fact that film, being among the most temporal, and

media, and within electronic media between analogical and digital video, to the extent that Babette Mangolte has wondered, “Why is it so difficult for a digital image to communicate duration?”11 (I will examine this question more deeply later.) The particular quality of automated movement in theatrical film projection also excludes the potential for interactivity, even the limited interactivity of video viewing—an important automatism available to more recent moving-image media. Thus, succession

directors will follow the lead of Robert Rodriguez in signing their work as “digital files.” Indeed, the full consequences of movies becoming “digital files” rather than “films” still needs to be worked out. Furthermore, as I have argued, home theater has already significantly overtaken commercial exhibition in popularity and economic importance. It remains, however, to a new landscap e (w ithout image) 110 understand whether a new aesthetic, and a new ontology, of motion pictures are emerging or

criteria for judging these images have become more spatial and less temporal, and less indexical and more iconic, although this iconism is an output for symbolic notation. For these reasons, we are inclined to judge digital photographs by the criteria of perceptual realism, and as such to have faith that they are spatially similar to events we have witnessed and captured. In so doing, we often fail to recognize that our criteria for appreciating these images have shifted in ways both subtle and

succession or time and simultaneity or space. As I argued in Reading the Figural, this distinction became the basis for defining an aesthetic ontology that anchored individual arts in self-identical mediums and forms. Moreover, implied in Lessing’s distinction is a valuation of the temporal arts for their immateriality and thus their presumed spirituality or closeness to both voice and thought. Among the “new” media, the emergence of cinema, now more than 100 years old, unsettled this

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