Re: [Frameworks] Quo Vadis Celluloid?

From: marilyn brakhage <>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2011 04:58:13 -0700


Surely when people write about people looking "better" on film they
are talking about the quality of the light, are they not? (And this
obviously applies to more than just the look of people.) I am not
able to "prove" this scientifically, but I believe that the quality of
light that we experience in film has certain physiological and
emotional/psychological effects, and that this particular quality of
light cannot be truly reproduced electronically -- though granted,
there are times when it seems to get pretty close. It may be a more
or less subtle difference, then, but it definitely exists. While I
agree with you that video is another medium that has its own
particular qualities and potentials and can be used to great effect,
the simple fact always remains the same to me, that film and video are
not interchangeable, that they are two distinct media. Your original
question to filmmakers as to "What is there about your particular
practice that depends only on celluloid and could not be accomplished
with video?" is reasonable, but seems to me to ask (amongst other
possible questions that others have addressed), "is this particular
quality of light absolutely necessary to your aesthetic or is it
not?" [-- not to mention, "Do you mind if viewers can change the
colors of your work as they watch it?"] Obviously, much can be
accomplished on video just as well as on film. And probably most of
those people whose aesthetic is not dependent on celluloid, as you
put, are already making videos. But even when it comes to mainstream
movies, I am certainly less inclined to go to see them when they are
made digitally. Some may say this is simply a matter of "taste." But
I would argue, and ask, for example, what really is the point of
making a movie like "The Tree of Life" when the quality of light in it
is, yes, so often flat and dead looking.

Marilyn Brakhage

On 22-Aug-11, at 10:53 PM, Fred Camper wrote:

> That people look "better" on film than on video seems more dubious if
> meant as an objective claim rather than a personal taste. (And, I
> might ask, is making people look "better" necessary to good cinema?)
> Of course anyone is free to think that, but what video are you
> comparing to, and how objectively did you judge it? That wine tasting
> experiment I cited was real, I believe, and many other things in
> recent behavioral psychology have shown us how deeply our opinions can
> be skewed by what seem like irrelevant external factors. Is digital
> projection really that flat and awful, or can one learn to appreciate
> it? My guess is that there are no right answers here: some artists who
> now hate it might get used to it and come to love it, and others might
> always hate it. Fine. And this is why the loss of choices that the
> loss of technologies creates is so horrible. But this loss is nothing
> new. In the 1970s there were FIVE Kodak color reversal stocks in
> super-8, and each had a very different feel and very different
> possibilities, and there was an Agfa stock too, and these are mostly
> gone. I had seven different color choices when I started working in
> 16mm in the 1960s, four from Kodak and three from Ansco, and I tried
> them all. I am in no way telling any artist what to do or what
> materials to use, and posts that accuse me of having done so are very
> wrong. It's the realities of the commercial world that are limiting
> choices. I am suggesting that accepting these limits and exploring the
> options you have (which, in the case of video, seem ever expanding,
> even to the point of offering more rather than less control -- artists
> can, for example, limit their work to certain kinds of projection) is
> a more fruitful alternative than trying to shut out the world.
> The question of what is "organic" to any given medium, is not an
> objectively answerable one. Sure, it would seem a bit artificial to
> try to digitally recreate effects first conceived of on film. But
> what's wrong with artificial? Anna mentioned not liking the way people
> look on video. But what the hell is so "organic" about using celluloid
> and its grain to render pictures of people on film? Even more so,
> pictures of paid actors walking around and talking? I know at least
> one abstract filmmaker who declares all such films to be "lies," I
> think because he considers them false to the medium. I don't agree
> with him, but his position seems to me not at all an absurd one, and
> to be as defensible as arguing that showing pictures of people on film
> is "organic" to the medium.

FrameWorks mailing list
Received on Tue Aug 23 2011 - 04:58:19 CDT