GoPros and unintentional beauty

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No one ever consciously thinks of GoPro footage, ‘I will make this beautiful.’ I think the whole understanding around GoPros is that if you point it at nice things (nature/landmarks/out the front of a car), your footage won’t be half bad.

I mourned a little when the new GoPros featured phone connectivity. Part of the joy of the early GoPro experience was not really knowing what you’d got until you were back in front of your computer.

You just sort of arranged the GoPro, or held it, or strapped it to yourself or something, and hoped for the best.

I GoPro’d old school last week. I and my GoPro floated down the Yarra River in order to try and record the sense of being swept along by the tide. The results were mixed. Depths varied from about six inches to eight feet; there were rocks, sand, weeds, scrapes, cuts, and the constant underlying fear of being taken under and devoured by some as-yet-undiscovered Victorian crocodile species.

Mostly it was fun, if slightly stressful; the sense of accomplishment at the end was overwhelming. Only now am I looking over my footage. The set-up stuff I took on the bank is of course nice and composed, and properly exposed. But in the odd frame of the GoPro stuff: that’s where I find real gold. Where else could you see the sky through a thin veneer of water? Specks of dust hover in the frame as they float by the lens. A duck, up close, floats past, more bemused than startled. An unexpectedly violent splash of white water as I lose my footing: the perfectly sunlit day plunged into murky brown depths.

Get your GoPros out. Make some random beauty.

Compass points

I’ve done some nature this week. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

Nature the first was a walk in an inner-city park on Tuesday. Nowhere to be, nothing really in mind to see: just walking, looking, feeling.

Nature the second was some experimental filming done as part of a research day in north-east Melbourne. The hastily-cut-together results of this experimentation are included below. More to follow in the coming weeks. Nice to get something in the can, no matter how out-there.

Spectres of the frame; shifting perceptions

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Film theory is at a crossroads. The more I think about it, it’s more like the crazy Los Angeles freeway over/underpasses.

Is the right way intertextual/intermedial/transmedial/psychological?

Is there a right way at all?

I’ve been running a studio this semester which looks at the role of the frame in the age of digital cinema. It’s based on a conference paper I delivered in New Zealand earlier in the year, and what I’m starting to discover (in the most wonderful organic way, alongside my students) is that I barely scratched the surface of this question.

It’s not just the frame; and never really was. The frame’s intrinsic links to movement mean you have to examine the practice of cinematography as a whole; and you can’t look at cinematography without interrogating the relationship of shot to shot.

The rabbit hole I’m presently falling down is pointing to a psychological theory of cinema more akin to Bakhtin or Lacan than Bazin or Bordwell. Cinema is about perception rather than watching. We don’t just watch a film: we perceive and infer, interpreting according to our own psychological constitution.

In class last week, my students — a mix of first- and second-years — independently started discussing Deleuze’s concept of the ‘out-of-field’ and how it might relate to movement in cinema. Cinema is everything I’ve discussed: the frame, movement, editing, psychology.

Ack. The rabbit hole may not have a bottom.

Yes we POPCAANZ

Lambton Harbour and Oriental Bay as seen from the summit of Mount Victoria (pic by me).

Lambton Harbour and Oriental Bay as seen from the summit of Mount Victoria (pic by me).

I’m sitting in an apartment, outside which the manic Wellington weather swirls and swishes. After a glorious week, with crisp, sunny days (see above), the clouds have rolled in, and it’s bucketing down.

However, today’s disposition is not dampening mine, with the memories of a second, successful POPCAANZ fresh in my mind. My paper on the cinematic frame was received well, with lots of excitement that I’m developing more research and teaching on the same topic. But that was out of the way early on, and I was able to settle in and see a bunch of other, vastly more intelligent people talk about their passions.

There was a Baudrillardian deconstruction of Wes Anderson which was so thorough that by the end he did not exist. Another highlight was a refiguring of the narrative of Toy Story according to an object-oriented ontology, and a materiality of trash. Not to mention a textual analysis of Agony Aunt columns in the New Zealand Women’s Weekly. And then an introduction to the Leathermen culture of rural New Zealand.

And that’s barely scratching the surface (and I only mentioned two papers in a very strong film stream). Food was great, the location (Massey University) very cosy and accommodating, and the company a lively combination of old friends and new contacts.

There was very exciting news, too, that POPCAANZ will now be opening up to our Asian neighbours, and revamping the associated journal accordingly.

Bring on Sydney next year!

Speed and politics

Need for Speed (d. Scott Waugh, 2015).

Need for Speed (d. Scott Waugh, 2015).

Cinema is movement. Movement is change. Change is politics — politics regulates change.

Movement in the frame is thus political.

The addition of speed amplifies the political impetus of cinema. Movement is cinema.

* * *

[It’s okay, I haven’t lost it. These are perfunctory scribblings for upcoming research, that I thought were strangely poetic. Rough thoughts on the disappointingly not-that-disappointing Need for Speed here.]

Re-framing the frame

Blow Up, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966.

Blow Up, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966.

‘Framing is a position of thinking.’

– Daniel Frampton, Filmosophy, p. 125.

As previously alluded to, I’m in the very strange process of having to think through my own comprehension of the cinematic medium. In a way, I’m taking baby steps towards my own theory of film. I’ll be taking these initial explorations to a couple of conferences in New Zealand in a couple of months, and I’m also running a studio around the same topic in the second half of the year.

The basis of this new research is that throughout film history, film theory, the notion of the ‘frame’ is never questioned. So much of this is due to the fact that up until very recently, the frame itself was a tangible thing: there’s little need to theorise or philosophise about something you can cut up and hold in your hand. While my research goes out on multiple tangents, the ones we’ll be looking at in the studio have to do with our framing of the world, and how we can link this notion of framing to our conception of self, and our own thought process. It sounds pretentious, I’m well aware, but I’m hoping that through exploring what a cinematic frame is in 2015, we can move towards a comprehension of digital cinema that is either entirely new or, at best, a – ahem – reframing of older theories of film form and philosophy.

My theory of cinema

Thanks guys. #pilgrimage #lyon #institutlumiere

Institut Lumiere, Lyon, France. Photo by me.

I’m in the midst of writing a paper for inclusion in a semiotics journal that will eventually, I suppose, become my theory of cinema. The thing is, I could probably just cobble something together from Deleuze and wrap it around a conception of mobility and collaborative cultures. The more I think about it, though, the more intrigued I’m getting about just what my conception of cinema is. ‘Cinema’ doesn’t mean the same thing now as it did fifty years ago. Nor twenty, or even ten years ago. It’s coming to mean the original ‘niche’ understanding of the broad swathe of films that aren’t made, necessarily, for commercial gain. In this sense, ‘cinema’ means a body of filmed work that speaks to something larger than the typical art/commerce spectrum. The definition of what that larger something is, thus, becomes the crux of this paper I’m working on. My issue, though, is that I don’t think movies-for-the-masses should necessarily be excluded from the category of ‘cinema’. I guess I’ll have to work in some social angle, and I guess the mobility and consumer-creation stuff is the bridge there. Anyway – expect more disjointed rantings on the subject as I work through this.