Video



VIDEO IN FILM

Video has become in many ways the "everyday" form of film, the dominant means for the circulation of images in daily life. Film becomes, in contrast, a more specialized practice, a more expensive activity for both producers and viewers, who pay increasingly high ticket prices to see films projected in theaters. Because video has become part of everyday experience, filmmakers frequently include video within their films, sometimes for the aesthetic contrast between the high-definition film image and the low-definition video image. In Wim Wenders's (b. 1945) diary-documentary Lightning Over Water (1980), a film about the director Nicholas Ray (1911–1979) and his death from cancer, another man, Tom Farrell, is also making a documentary about the director, and Wenders includes Farrell's footage as well as Farrell himself with his video camera in his own film, suggesting a kind of rivalry between the videographer and the filmmaker over Ray's legacy. In Der Amerikanische Freund ( The American Friend , 1977), when a character is conned into killing a man on the subway, his nervous escape from the scene is captured on a set of surveillance monitors. For Wenders, video is an important technique for blending documentary and fictional modes.

Other filmmakers use video as a kind of wallpaper environment for their characters. In Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994), a video image can be glimpsed in almost every scene, either on a TV or projected right onto the walls. One of the effects is to suggest that the murderous couple in the film are products of a violent media environment. Fictional video interviews played an important role in Steven Soderbergh's (b. 1963) Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), a film that kick-started the independent film movement in the United States when it won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1989. It also gave video a kinky caché, linking it to the sexual fantasies and power games of the film. In all of these instances, video features as a reflexive device that enables filmmakers to comment on the production of images within their films. The reality effects of their own film images are necessarily put into question, even while they are able to enhance the spectacular appeal by creating images within images.

In the TV series The Sopranos (beginning in 1999), which is shot on film, characters are often watching TV, and those shows constitute intertextual references by which The Sopranos comments on its own dramatic and cultural status as a gangster narrative. In this series video carries with it connotations of the archive, or a cultural image-bank that filmmakers can draw on. In Atom Egoyan's (b. 1960) film Exotica (1994), video functions more as the repressed memory of one of the characters. Footage of the main character's dead daughter and departed wife, which he himself shot on video, is replayed in grainy black and white in fragments that haunt him, and indeed haunt the film itself as a repressed memory.

Found footage practices have a long history in experimental filmmaking, but video has made the tendency much more accessible and prolific. Music videos began to appear on TV in the 1980s, appropriating many techniques, including found footage, from experimental film practices. Music videos were also among the first commercial media to adopt nonnarrative principles of construction, deploying associative montage techniques, special effects, and found imagery. A small genre of "scratch video" emerged in the 1980s as well, when it became possible for amateurs to copy and edit fragments of commercial tape at home. This has evolved into the projection of video collages at dance clubs. These nonlinear and nonnarrative uses of video opened up new roles for visual media in everyday life.



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