By Chuck Stephens. Please turn out the lights.
Noticias y recursos de cine experimental
The projector is turned on. It reads, so to speak, from a score that is both the notation and the substance of the piece. It can and does repeat the performance, endlessly, with utter exactitude. A red film would subtract green and blue from the white light of our rectangle. The red filter is withdrawn. Then the art of making films consists in devising things to put into our projector.
Such films offer certain economic advantages to the filmmaker. But we have decided that we want to see less than this. Very well.
A hand blocks all light from the screen. The hand is withdrawn. The pipe cleaner is withdrawn.
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Already we have devised four things to put into our projector. We have made four films. Furthermore, that vacancy is doing something: it seems to be moving. We are told that the explanation is simple: all explanations are. Sight itself is learned.
A newborn baby not only sees poorly—it sees upside down. Certainly a film must be about whatever appears most often in it. Suppose Lana Turner is not always on the screen. Then the scratch is more often visible than Miss Turner, and the film is about the scratch. Now suppose that we project all films. What are they about, in their great numbers? At one time and another, we shall have seen, as we think, very many things. But only one thing has always been in the projector. That is what we have seen. Then that is what all films are about. If we find that hard to accept, we should recall what we once believed about mathematics.
We believed it was about the apples or peaches owned by George and Harry. But having accepted that much, we find it easier to understand what a filmmaker does. He makes films. He makes the ribbon by joining large and small bits of film together.
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Where is the romance of moviemaking? The exotic locations? The stars? The pioneer brain surgeon Harvey Cushing asked his apprentices: Why had they taken up medicine? To help the sick. But if films are made of footage, we must use the camera.
What about the romance of the camera? We wonder whether this interferes with his search for self-expression. If we dared ask, he would probably reply that self-expression interests him very little. He is more interested in reconstructing the fundamental conditions and limits of his art.
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There is still time for us to watch our rectangle awhile. We can invent ways of our own to change it. But this is where we came in. Please turn on the lights. Paris: Gallimard. Lisbon: Agostinho da Silva. New York: Oxford University Press. Structural Film.
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