The Virtual Life of Film
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As almost (or, truly, virtually) every aspect of making and viewing movies is replaced by digital technologies, even the notion of "watching a film" is fast becoming an anachronism. With the likely disappearance of celluloid film stock as a medium, and the emergence of new media competing for an audience, what will happen to cinema--and to cinema studies? In the first of two books exploring this question, D. N. Rodowick considers the fate of film and its role in the aesthetics and culture of moviemaking and viewing in the twenty-first century.
Here Rodowick proposes and examines three different critical responses to the disappearance of film in relation to other time-based media, and to the study of contemporary visual culture. Film, he suggests, occupies a special place in the genealogy of the arts of the virtual: while film disappears, cinema persists--at least in the narrative forms imagined by Hollywood since 1915. Rodowick also observes that most so-called "new media" are fashioned upon a cinematic metaphor. His book helps us see how digital technologies are serving, like television and video before them, to perpetuate the cinematic as the mature audiovisual culture of the twentieth century--and, at the same time, how they are preparing the emergence of a new audiovisual culture whose broad outlines we are only just beginning to distinguish.
distinctive deﬁnition of ﬁlm, video, or digital imaging. The best that can be done is to deﬁne certain practices (the sight gag, suspense editing, the ﬁlm metaphor) in piecemeal fashion or, alternatively, to pose a general category of artistic expression—moving images—in which criteria of medium speciﬁcity are irrelevant. This latter position is instructive for my purpose here. To present a nonessentialist deﬁnition of moving images, Carroll proposes ﬁve necessary though not jointly sufﬁcient
one hand, this conjunction indicates yet another dislocation of “ﬁlm” and the continuity of its ontological expressiveness. (And this is less a disappearance than a displacement into new and surprising contexts.) On the other, computational processes put conceptual pressure on our ordinary senses of the nature and qualities of a medium or media, or indeed, of the “image” itself. The process of transcoding is now advanced enough that any notion of aesthetic speciﬁcity—of image, sound, music, or
“intensiﬁed” continuity, eccentric manipulation of rates of motion, enhancing the graphical values of the image through digital manipulation of color, and so on. Both science ﬁction and the action ﬁlm are special-effects driven, and both are remaking themselves stylistically through the painterly and imaginative powers of digital creation and manipulation. Because there are so many ways of producing or simulating the perceptual effects of “photographic credibility,” the live-action movie—or
The Correspondence between Charles S. Peirce and Victoria Lady Welby (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977). a new landscap e (w ithout image) 116 problems of reference and causation that are not so easy to resolve. Digital photographs certainly function as indexical signs, and in many ways reproduce the cultural functions and assumptions of chemical photography. But do they do so in the same way and with the same powers as “ﬁlm”? If analog media record traces of events and digital
University of South Florida Press, 1989) 11. 18. “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem,” in The Essential Turing: Seminal Writings in Computing, Logic, Philosophy, Artiﬁcial Intelligence, and Artiﬁcial Life plus The Secrets of Enigma, ed. B. Jack Copeland (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) 58–90. 127 simulat ion, or automat ism as algor ithm simulation through calculation. This process enables a new series of powers of synthesis and manipulation