Jim Hoberman on Film After Film

Attended an interesting lecture tonight at the SVA theatre on 23rd Street:

Rounding the Digital Turn: CGI, Cyborg Cinema, and the New Realness

Tuesday, January 22, 2013, 7 pm

Cinema was the universal culture of the 20th century. But that was then, before Jurassic Park and The Matrix, not to mention videogames, digitally projected gallery installations, and YouTube. Is the cinema, as we knew it (or thought we did) over, or has it only suffered a narcissistic wound? Film critic and author J. Hoberman discusses some of the issues raised in his new book Film After Film: Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema?

Hoberman discussed how digital developments took us on a different "turn" from André Bazin's idea of "total cinema" (all-encompassing, real, objective) into what is now predominantly animation, a completely different, highly artificial art form.

Yet he gave many paradoxical examples of how the "real" of film is still represented in these mechanized fantasies:

--In Avalon, animated video games are made more tangible through the use of live actors filmed with grainy, monochrome stock. The final level of game reality, which the plot has been leading up to, gives us ordinary color, stereo sound, un-treated footage of the actors walking around the streets of a contemporary city.

--The only non-CGI element in Wall-E is a clip from a conventional film (Hello Dolly!).

--After three hours of exposed artifice and stagecraft, shot digitally, Dogville climaxes with a credit-sequence montage of documentary, objective (very grim) photographs of America during the 1930s Depression.

During the Q&A afterward I asked him if he had seen the director's roundtable on YouTube where Quentin Tarantino announced the imminent end of his moviemaking because "this digital shit wasn't what I signed on for." (Or words to that effect.) Hoberman hadn't seen the clip but reminded us that this great lover of conventional cinema got his education in a video store watching hundreds of tapes of old movies.