Call for Papers - Videographic Film Studies: Criticism, Analysis and Theory in the Age of Software Culture

As is the case with cinema, the fate of film analysis and criticism is inextricably bound to the new technological developments. Digital culture isn’t just changing the way in which films are produced, distributed and consumed: it is also affecting—as noted, among others, by Laura Mulvey in Death 24x a second (2006) —the current film studies practices, encouraging therefore film scholars and critics to reconsider their approach to film analysis, research and teaching.

The possibility of conducting film analyses rearranging, re-editing images and sound and interpolating them with text and other graphic insertion—thus intervening directly on the film and uncovering its process of construction of meaning—it’s one of the most significant new developments for film studies. The dream of reflecting on moving images using the audiovisual language was born almost with cinema itself: by way of example, one could mention the “critofilm” —a term coined by Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti to indicate its documentaries on art, and then reclaimed by film critics like Adriano Aprà in order to designate documentaries and essay films on cinema—; Godard’s ambitious project of the Histoire(s) du cinéma; experimental found footage films or television programs such as Cinéastes de notre temps. However, between these pioneering experiences and the current digital practices there is a significant shift: the digital tools for downloading, ripping and editing film images are user friendly and attainable by everyone. Acts of appropriation and reuse once performed only by filmmakers, artists and few scholars has nowadays been transformed in a collective gesture of image rewriting, repurposing and sharing that brings together cinephiles, film scholars, film students and fans. Furthermore, these practices are becoming part of the skill set necessary for the new generations’ media literacy.

Even though videographic approaches to film studies and criticism are obviously still closely connected with the traditional, written forms of film criticism, as well as with their contexts of development and diffusion, they mark a significant change from the “literary”, logocentric nature of the interpretative gesture aimed at writing an article, an essay, a book. To use Final Cut and to have in a folder of our desktop all of Hitchcock’s movies does not necessarily imply that one can compose an analysis through sound and images that has the same strength of the essays written by Bellour, Rohmer, Chabrol or Robin Wood. Nonetheless, it is undoubtable that the distance between the image and the text presented in cinema books is overcome by the possibilities currently offered by digital media and software, and the chain of equivalence between «film», «text» and «language» once posited by semiologists does not work anymore. The film as a text nowadays can present itself as a fragment: it is not inviolable, it is not marked by completeness and permanent closure. The film can be constantly re-written, dismantled and reassembled, and its traces are part of an intermedial circuit of repurposing and resignification.

Thanks to the pioneering work of film critics, scholars and bloggers like Kevin B Lee, Matt Zoller Seitz or Catherine Grant, in the last decade the video essay has established itself as a form of film criticism—in websites and magazines such as «Filmscalpel», «De Filmkrant»—; as a scholarly methodology—thanks to journals such as «[in]Transition» and «Necsus»—; as a promotional instrument—for Svod platforms such as MUBI and Fandor and for film distributors like Criterion. But more generally the video essay can be considered an expression of what Thomas Elsaesser calls the cinephilia “of the download, the file swap, the sampling, re-editing and re-mounting of story line, characters, and genre” (Elsaesser 2005:40). The growing scholarly interest in videographic practices has also determined the appearance of the first publications on the subject, which include, among others, The Videographic Essay: Criticism in Sound and Image, a book edited by Christian Keathley and Jason Mittell, and Film Studies in Motion: From Audiovisual Essay to Academic Research Video, by Miklós Kiss and Thomas van den Berg.

The aim of this special issue of «Cinergie» devoted to videographic film studies is not to strictly determine the boundaries of a phenomenon subjected to incessant and rapid transformations. We are interested, instead, in proposals focused on the one hand on theoretical issues (images as a form of thinking, the role of montage, the audiovisual forms of analysis and criticism in the digital ecosystem and so on…); on the other hand, we encourage contributions that adopt videographic criticism as a methodological approach, thus building their argument starting from the images and through the images themselves.

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Analyses of films/Analyses of single sequences
  • Analyses of an author’s style/ of films’ formal strategies/ of visual and thematic motives
  • Stardom and/or actors’ performances
  • Narrative structures of films, TV series, videogames…
  • Sound design / analyses of the relationship between sound and images
  • Film theory through images
  • Analyses of paratexts (trailers, recut trailers and so on).

Given the hybrid nature of video essays—the result of the encounter between praxes with a longstanding tradition (experimental found footage films, documentaries on cinema, essay films) and contemporary practices (remix, mash-ups, viding, fan tributes and parodies) —we are particularly interested in contributions that consider this hybridization.

As for the type of articles, we suggest two possible approaches:

  • Proposals that aim at reflecting on existing case studies (maximum length 6000 words)
  • Audiovisual contributions. In this latter case, following the system adopted by the international journal «[in]Transition», the authors can submit an original video essay (not published in other scholarly journals), with an accompanying text of max 3000 words that expands on the topic of the video and the audiovisual methodology adopted. The maximum duration of the video should not exceed 30’.

Submission Details and Journal Deadlines:

The deadline for submission of proposals is November 15, 2017. Please send abstracts of 400 words and a short biographical note to chiara.grizzaffi@gmail.com and andrea.minuz@uniroma1.it Acceptance will be notified by November 25, 2017.

The deadline for submission of full articles is February 28, 2018.

The special issue will be published in June 2018.

References:

Elsaesser, Thomas, Cinephilia, or The Uses of Disenchantment, in Marijke De Valck, Malte Hagener (eds.), Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2005, 27–44.

Grant, Catherine, Déjà-Viewing? Videographic Experiments in Intertextual Film Studies, «Mediascape», Winter 2013, <http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Winter2013_DejaViewing.html >.

Keathley, Christian, Mittell, Jason (eds.), The Videographic Essay: Criticism in Sound and Image, Caboose, Montreal 2016.

Kiss, Miklós, van den Berg, Thomas Film Studies in Motion: From Audiovisual Essay to Academic Research Video. Scalar, 2016 http://scalar.usc.edu/works/film-studies-in-motion/.

Mulvey, Laura, Death 24x a second. Stillness and the Moving Image., Reaktion, London 2006.