Elizabeth A. Papazian and Caroline Eades have also compiled several surprising, challenging and thoroughly captivating articles that exemplify the many forms that the essay film can take. The Essay Film: Dialogue, Politics, Utopia includes articles by several prominent scholars that explore the essay film’s place throughout history as well as within various cultural settings. Like Alter and Corrigan, they also present a convincing argument that the essay film is distinct from both documentary, avant-garde and narrative filmmaking, since it is “characterized by a loose, fragmentary, playful, even ironic approach […] and raises new questions about the construction of the subject, the relationship of the subject to the world and the aesthetic possibilities of cinema.” (Papazian/Eades, p. 1) Papazian and Eades explore how essayistic tendencies can manifest in narrative, documentary, avant-garde, and even video art through careful analyses of specific films and videos. The book opens with Timothy Corrigan’s “Essayism and Contemporary Film Narrative” which explores how the essayistic can inhabit narrative film, specifically through Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and Lech Majewski’s The Mill and the Cross, both released in 2011. Corrigan observes that The Tree of Life “continually seems to resist its own narrative logic” (p. 18) by presenting a highly fragmented and non-linear plot. Instead of placing it into the hybrid realm of experimental-narrative, however, Corrigan argues that:
Tree of Life (Malick, 2011)
Through rhythmic montage editing and questioning of the structure and the power of the image itself, F for Fake eulogizes the image as a consistently fallible, or deconstructible form, and in true Wellesian style, given it is the form that its director made his career,cannot help but find humour within.
6. Le Fond de l’air est rouge/A Grin Without a Cat (1977) dir. Chris Marker
In the conjunctions between Farrokhzad’s poetic narration and diegetic sound, including tanbur-playing, an intense assonance arises. Its beat is provided by uniquely lyrical associative editing that would influence Abbas Kiarostami, who quotes Farrokhzad’s poem ‘The Wind Will Carry Us’ in his eponymous film. Repeated shots of familiar bodily movement, made musical, move the film insistently into the viewer’s body: it is infectious. Posing a question of aesthetics, The House Is Black uses the contagious gaze of cinema to dissolve the screen between Us and Them.
Orson Welles, 1973
The term “essay film” has become increasingly used in film criticism to describe a self-reflective and self-referential documentary cinema that blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Scholars unanimously agree that the first published use of the term was by Richter in 1940. Also uncontested is that Andre Bazin, in 1958, was the first to analyze a film, which was Marker’s Letter from Siberia (1958), according to the essay form. The French New Wave created a popularization of short essay films, and German New Cinema saw a resurgence in essay films due to a broad interest in examining German history. But beyond these origins of the term, scholars deviate on what exactly constitutes an essay film and how to categorize essay films. Generally, scholars fall into two camps: those who find a literary genealogy to the essay film and those who find a documentary genealogy to the essay film. The most commonly cited essay filmmakers are French and German: Marker, Resnais, Godard, and Farocki. These filmmakers are singled out for their breadth of essay film projects, as opposed to filmmakers who have made an essay film but who specialize in other genres. Though essay films have been and are being produced outside of the West, scholarship specifically addressing essay films focuses largely on France and Germany, although Solanas and Getino’s theory of “Third Cinema” and approval of certain French essay films has produced some essay film scholarship on Latin America. But the gap in scholarship on global essay film remains, with hope of being bridged by some forthcoming work. Since the term “essay film” is used so sparingly for specific films and filmmakers, the scholarship on essay film tends to take the form of single articles or chapters in either film theory or documentary anthologies and journals. The most recent scholarship and conference papers on essay film have shifted from an emphasis on literary essay to an emphasis on technology, arguing that essay film has the potential in the 21st century to present technology as self-conscious and self-reflexive of its role in art.
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Therefore, after watching the movie, think if the actors are realistic and if they portray the role of their character effectively? More importantly, consider how their acting corresponds to the main idea of the film and your thesis statement.
The last thing your introduction should include is your thesis statement and basically, explain what will be your focus.