Friday, November 30, 2007

Wait. What did he say about Dewey?

There are some directors out there whose films are consistently examined and interpreted to within an inch of their celluloid lives. And I bet more than a few of them look at all that's written and say to themselves, "No, I didn't mean all that, but you go ahead and knock yourself out".

I know how they feel:
I found the above clip linked at Roger Ebert's website, and was really fascinated by it. On the one hand, organizing a history of film strictly through numeric reference seems decidedly offbeat, kind of like only collecting books with blue covers, or only buying jazz records that have pictures of birds on the cover. On the other hand, its very ecccentricity gives it at least two advantages: 1) It avoids a more obvious chronological, generic, narrative or thematic organization, taking cinema away from analytical models that rely too much on literary antecdents, or what Steve Johnson calls "the morality play" of much popular culture critique. Instead, the countdown structure allows for a cutting across time, and across a variety of cinemas, only allowing us cinephiliac moments and glimpses, instead of lengthier scenes, which makes for fun juxtapositions; 2) In organizing in this way, the clip becomes a parody of the quantitative, of numeric systems like the Dewey Decimal System, and of any number of ways in which Hollywood uses numbers as a brander of quality (the blurb next to the clip on its original YouTube page suggests we read it as a parody of things like the AFI lists, but we might also see it poking fun at weekly obsessions with the box office, or all those movies which claim a kind of pseduo-scientific degree of knowledge by hammering their audience with statistics. It also seems notable that a lot of the clips center on questions of age or time--self-reflexive markers of history, hipness, and memory). By extension, then, the project asks us to (re) think the pattern of organization more broadly. Where might this kind of analysis-- one closer to Brecht's scrap collector than to more topdown forms of analysis-- take us next?

Please do not take this post as a criticism or rebuke of this guy's thoughts. I'm just still getting a kick out of it after all these many months.

1 comment:

Walhydra said...


Now you know what Joyce was thinking when he said, upon finishing Ulysses, "I've just provided for the next several generations of doctoral candidates.