Re: the word is out: experimental film is available for use on dvd by educators

From: Jonathan Walley (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Mar 02 2006 - 04:45:56 PST

A little voice in my head is telling me NOT to jump back into the "film
vs. video" discussion, but I wanted to point out a couple things.

David Sterritt is not "another hapless victim of the Cult of the
Digital Future" with a "glazed look" and "robotic enthusiasm." He is a
noted (and I believe deservingly so) film critic and educator who has
demonstrated a long-standing commitment to alternative cinema. I've
read his work and spoken with him on the subject of avant-garde film; I
also heard him deliver an excellent, insightful essay on films by Snow,
Sharits, Warhol, etc., which was incredibly attentive to details of
form and style (and which I happen to know was written based on
viewings of film prints - not video copies). You're welcome, obviously,
to disagree with what he says in his essay, but this extremely negative
characterization of him isn't warranted, given the real work he has
done to educate people about experimental film. A commitment to film
print preservation is one thing, and passion is great, but there's a
tinge of self-righteousness in that email.

There is nothing in the essay that sullies the good name of Canyon
Cinema. Having rented prints from them many times, I can say that I've
never had anything but the best experiences working with their
dedicated staff. And very often the prints are in excellent condition.
But in many cases they are in less-than-excellent condition, for
reasons that - as Sterritt notes - are not the fault of Canyon, but the
nature of film archiving and distribution. Sterritt is reporting on a
condition that, like it or not, is a fact of life that professors,
researchers, programmers, filmmakers, etc. etc. have to face.

I admit to feeling some unease while reading the essay, more because of
its context than its content (or the identity of its author). The
Chronicle reaches a "general" audience (e.g. not just people who are
schooled in and committed to avant-garde cinema), and given the
popularity of "teaching film" within practically every humanities
discipline, I could see an essay like this as giving license to those
who don't know better/don't care to show these DVDs rather than
pursuing good film prints. I think most of the people on this list who
use video copies of films do so with good intentions and in a
thoughtful manner: educating their viewers about differences between
film and video, using video copies as educational supplements,
explaining the issues that attend their decision to show video vs.
film, etc. I'm not confident that this can be said of everyone else,

Jonathan Walley
Cinema Department
Denison University
Granville, Ohio
email suppressed

On Mar 2, 2006, at 12:36 AM, Timoleon Wilkins wrote:

> It struck me that someone (not me) might want to write a
>> letter calling attention to the fact (often discussed on this list)
>> that many of the films represented on the dvds they mention are
>> available for rent as FILMS, etc...
>> The article, "DVD Access to the Avant-Garde" is available online at
>> this address:
>> id=ZmjVrvnDHyw4ypkrJpp84z2zXqWcrfZh
> Yes this is quite an interesting article, written by another hapless
> victim of the Cult of the Digital Future (the glazed look in their
> eyes and robotic enthusiasm is getting tiresome). Yet, even as I do
> see the benefit of DVD releases of rare films, I feel there's more to
> the lack of enthusiasm for actual celluloid than just faded prints or
> scratches (there seems to be a general rejection of BEAUTY throughout
> the culture). And the article DOES make mention of ALL those
> terribly unpleasant film prints, (reminds me of those 40 yr old
> Kodachrome prints of Will Hindle's--they make my STOMACH TURN, how
> bout you?)...all this quite dismissively near the name of Canyon
> Cinema. I (seriously) resent the implication...having worked at
> Canyon as a film inspector and as Board President I can say there is
> no publicly circulating film collection handled more meticulously.
> (Literally, every frame of every film is accounted for after every
> rental.) Too much tragedy and trembling over celluloid is
> life-negating; film exists to be seen, used, and even abused (with
> utmost reverence), damn it anyway.
> Timoleon
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.