Friday, December 19, 2008

Girls on Film

We are the ultimate voyeurs when watching films. We are allowed to watch whatever is shown, completely anonymously, and we're safe to enjoy what is revealed.

It is passive, yet some would accuse the gaze of being an aggressive act. The ultimate site of our visual pleasure is glamour, either embodied by stars, Hollywood artifice and spectacle, or extra-textural context. We enjoy and yet have no culpability in watching and dreaming.

Fantasizing and yearning. The people up on screen do not know they are being watched. Those on display are being objectified.

We give ourselves over to the storytellers. Camera placement, and every edit was decided by someone else, and presents us with images, information, and anticipation as the film unspools in a specific manner. We are in thrall, yet powerless.

At least, so the more adventurous and experimental filmmakers would have us be.

If we leave the theatre, or the room, the film continues and we miss something as it continues. It's unaware and uncaring that the observer has left. The film exists on its own, regardless of who regards it. Running in its own endless forward movement. With the rise of video, and the internet, not only can the viewer now pause, or even rewind scenes, they can interact with the story.

The film is now at the mercy of the observer, who can negotiate the experience themselves. Not just decode it. But write it. Branch like a videogame from scene to scene, or change the configuration of the elements. Zoom in or edit. Move heads. This interaction is no longer spectatorship. It is participation.

We don't respond to moving images in the same way when they're in our control. We have the urge to manipulate, and change, just to see what might happen if a color is added, or the music is changed, or sped up. Or a scene from one show is put into or on top of another.

We consume it as we find convenient, rather than as how it was intended. The constantly changed and reconfigured art piece is no longer a film but a performance object. The feedback loop is for our own feedback. Evidence of our presence and actions upon the piece.

Instead of looking anonymously at the figures up on the screen, presented to us - as common cultural currency, presented by personal or industrial configurations that have sociological meaning - we are now looking directly at ourselves.

It puts ego back into the process. And it makes impossible the surrender to the caress of cinema.

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