Still just a still
In this light, Amos Vogel’s 1974 book Film as a Subversive Art is a notable standout (Vogel 2005). It boasts mini-essays on over 600 films, illustrated with some 300 stills. The book discusses films that were for the most part shown at the ‘Cinema 16’ screenings, which Vogel organized between 1947 and 1963. These gatherings provided a platform for avant-garde and experimental film, many of which were shown there for either the first or the only time. The book itself was never meant to be an exhaustive account, as it was intended to function more like an overview to direct audiences to these cinematic rarities. Being aware of the limited possibilities of his time, Vogel was grossly unsatisfied with the relative inefficiency of illustration through frame grabs. He aptly noted that “[a] still is not a film. It lacks the dimensions of time and movement – indispensable components of
When in 1977 David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson were preparing for their first edition of Film Art: an Introduction (published in 1979), they too looked for ways to visually support their
Conversely, even though the advent of DVDs eased the technical means for grabbing stills (by taking screen shots), it also re-
Having regarded the inclusion of stills from both legal as well as technological points of view, it is now time to turn to
In 1973 French film critic and theorist Raymond Bellour published an article where he singled out a particular scene from Howard Hawks’ 1946 The Big Sleep. In the article he embedded twelve key frames – depicting two characters in a car’s interior – corresponding to the twelve shots that make up that scene. The motivation for Bellour’s analysis, and for his approach specifically, was to point out the fact that although Hawks
From that point on in the analysis, Bellour calls for a parallel reading of his text and the stills, preferably while keeping track of the diagram as well. All in all, in his genuine attempt to let the chosen sequence be ‘visible’, that
In 1975 he wrote ‘The Unattainable Text’, what can now be recognized as a pivotal article.
Having regarded the issues that arise when attempting to capture the multimodal instance of film in
The quote indicates that Bellour expected problems with what was then only a theoretical concept (one that closely resembles our current video essaying practice), when he stated that “this sudden quotability which film allows to film (...) obviously has its other side” and questioned whether “oral language [will] ever be able to say what written language says? (...) And if not, at the price of what changes?” (26-27).
If film studies are still
done then, they will undoubtedly be more numerous, more imaginative, more accurate, and above all more enjoyable than the ones we carry out in fear and trembling, threatened continually with dispossessionof the object. And yet, curious as it might seem, the situation of the film analyst, even when he does possess the film, any film, will not change in every particular. ( ibid, our emphasis)
In effect, scholarly analysis through stills remained the common practice for