Re: [Frameworks] Letter to other Filmmaker Artists

From: Anna Biller (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Jul 23 2010 - 11:23:21 PDT

Of course I agree with you, Fred. You are talking about art, of which
choice of medium is only a part. I would never suggest that just
because someone works with film that they are somehow a better artist
and that their art is of better quality than someone who works on video.

One particular quality of celluloid, since you ask, is the softness of
grain, another is contrast, and another is color. When transferring a
film to HD a couple of years ago, the first thing I noticed was that
the whites had gotten all dingy, sort of like white sheets that are
washed with colors, which my mother used to call "tattletale grey."
The blacks also were not true black anymore. Even on my flatbed with
its weak lamp, the contrast and color had been ten times what it was
on the highest end lab monitor. I tried to get them to increase the
contrast digitally, but then the other colors, notably the reds,
started to look too bright and started to have this digital noise
quality. So I pumped up the white and blacks, but they were never as
crisp as in the print. And this made the reds way too bright, although
the overall quality of the color was still oddly muted and dingy. So
after a lot of work in the timing, I got what I felt was a compromised
transfer. By the way, when I had transferred films before to video, I
had transferred them to a high-quality analog video, which didn't have
the same problems. Digital film and sound have a low tolerance for
"hot" values, and begin to distort rather rapidly when things like
pure whites or high-pitched sounds are thrown their way. Digital
machines automatically compress the data to get rid of these hot
values. Later the HD was further compressed into a DVD. On my
television, the reds on the DVD were distorting wildly and the whites
were now too bright, but on my computer the whole thing was dingy and
low-contrast. It's totally different on every machine, every monitor,
but always has distorted color. And the color and contrast changes
alter not only the aesthetics of the film, but the meaning. That
particular film had to be shot on film, by the way, because of its
content. What was lost in the transfer was not only context and color,
but also "charm." But I'm sure that any true artist as you say would
be able to create something interesting in any medium they chose,
"worthy of [their] own visions."

And maybe love object is not so apropos as sexual preference.

On Jul 22, 2010, at 10:51 PM, Fred Camper wrote:

> Anna,
> Of course film is not dead, and of course you don't have to switch to
> video, and of course it's a fine thing to work with something one
> loves.
> I don't think the analogy of film with a person one loves works too
> well. Even if one loves film, there are many different ways of using
> it, depending on one's project(s); it is even less a fixed thing than
> another person is.
> My point, too, is that simply because a filmmaker loves handling film
> doesn't mean the results of that love are worth showing. This is a
> tricky issue, because I'm not saying that you should work to please
> viewers, or to "communicate" (I word I think is wrong for any real
> art), or anything like that. But what I'd like to read more of is what
> the particular aesthetic qualities of projected celluloid are, for
> viewers, that cannot be replicated on video and that someone feels are
> essential to her art. If you love handling film, that may encourage
> you to spend time making films, but it doesn't necessarily imply
> anything about the result. Isn't the point of making a film to project
> it, even if only for an audience of one, even if no one understands it
> yet? Aren't we working toward a projected result?
> The avant-garde film tradition was always, at its best, about
> something very vital and very large: artists struggling to come to
> terms with their particular visions, with the place of humans in the
> world, with the place of nature, with the meaning of it all. Or, to
> quote myself, many of the founders of Aerican avant-garde film made
> films as a way of deciding whether, and on what terms, they could go
> on living. The films of Markopoulos, Anger, Deren, Maclaine,
> Brakhagge, Baillie and Rainer all have that quality for me, lone souls
> struggling to grapple with self and world. These artists sought, if
> not answers, then at least, possible pathways. As a viewer, I still
> prefer films that seem vital, seem like they *had* to have been made.
> Whether or not the artist does or does not love handling film doesn't
> seem to me to be the main issue, if we are working toward results in
> the world, rather than pursuing private hobbies. Steve Polta points
> out that "Dog Star Man" was from a different time, but one doesn't
> have to make heroic narratives to make films that engage the great
> questions, and that offer the potential to liberate ourselves, and our
> viewers.
> While some of its specifics are unique to gnosticism, I have long
> loved the 2,000 year old Valentinian "formula," ""What liberates is
> the knowledge of who we were, what we became; where we were, whereinto
> we have been thrown; whereto we speed, wherefrom we are redeemed; what
> birth is, and what rebirth." The investigation of such questions, even
> with the knowledge that no final answers are possible, should, in my
> view, be the task of the artist -- not simply making things one likes
> to see, though, perhaps, that too.
> Lest I be misunderstood, I am not here speaking negatively of any
> specific filmmaker on this list.
> Having seen the way Brakhage took to, and used, Polaroid's short lived
> instant movie system, I don't think he is someone who would simply
> "adapt," but rather, by "work with it," I would guess that he meant
> something like, "See whether I can find things to do with this new
> medium that are worthy of my own visions, and of the standards of
> aesthetic beauty and meaning I have set for myself."
> Fred Camper
> Chicago
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