Blu-ray review: LA JETEE/SANS SOLEIL

My review of the Criterion Blu-ray edition of La Jetee/Sans Soleil is up at PopMatters. In addition to addressing the films and the disc, I also offer pointers to further reading and criticism on Chris Marker.

A case can be made for going into La Jetée and, especially, Sans Soleil, “cold”; that is with almost no idea of what one is about to watch. Of course, if you have been reading this, that option is foreclosed. In either case, these are films designed to provoke the viewer into thinking about their subjects and themes and to asking questions about what they have watched—What do the images, and their juxtaposition, mean? Who are we listening to when we listen to the narrators?—and here is where many viewers will want to engage in debate and conversation and to seek more explication than a conventional review can provide.

Read the review

New “Worlds in Panels” and other column updates

I have a new comics column up at PopMatters today. I look at the local comics shop and why I think these are vital places:

With more publishers offering same day as print for digital, the availability aspect of the Wednesday-at-a-comics-shop experience can be simulated electronically, certainly with more verisimilitude than with traditional mail order. But what tablets, phones and computers don’t replicate as well is the (palpable) collective and social aspect of the traditional brick-and-mortar visit. I don’t want to overstate the depth of the connections I’ve made with the clerks or other customers at my local store, but I have had a couple of interesting conversations with the owner, alerted others to certain titles, learned about new books myself, and I also like to see what others are buying.

Read the column

This piece continues what has been a recurring theme for me in the new year: digital comics. My January column is focused on reading, while in February I considered sharing.

Documentary finished

For the past four years, almost exactly at this point, my major scholarly project has been a documentary about comics creators in Portland, Oregon. I recently finished work on the film and have begun submitting to festivals and have started to think about other screening opportunities.

One of the questions I have to address with this project, for professional reasons, is peer review and festivals seem to provide the best route to gaining acceptance of the work in a way that is equivalent to review for a journal or book.

What kind of work is this for professional purposes is another question I have to think about, or at least may have to address for purposes of review and application for promotion. Is the film equal to a book or  an article? I am writing  an article from the film, but that will be a digest more than a reproduction. Interestingly, some festivals would have me in the short film category and others in the feature film section (the running time is 57:53).

I’d rather not dwell on these matters, but in my particular professional context, I, like anyone doing non-traditional forms of research and scholarship, eventually have to make the case that what one is doing is what one should, in fact, be doing (quick references for current work on the methodological margins of cultural geography: Geohumanities, ed., Michael Dear et al, Experimental Geography, ed., Nato Thompson, Merle Patchett’s Experimental Geography in Practice, and Bradley Garrett’s Place Hacking). I’ve already had a few interesting discussions regarding Faculty Development funding of the project, although no serious threats of being denied funds. I imagine that these conversations would be tougher at an R1.

I am generally happy with the work, at least in the sense that most of the remaining flaws feel like the product of things I can’t help, such as being a first feature, being solely responsible for all of the major aspects of the production and post-production (with the notable exceptions of sound editing, by my cousin Dave, and music, from my sister’s friend, Adam Selzer, and still photography, by my dad, Pat, and my friend and photographer, Erin Marr), and having a very small budget (I received approximately $4300 in grants for the project and that also constitutes the budget, more or less).

Color correction is probably the most notable aesthetic and formal weakness of the finished film. I made some minor corrections to some shots, but stayed away from major work because I simply do not know enough about what I am doing there yet. There are also some passages that I am unsure about pacing, how long I hold on certain shots, or choices I made in terms of images, but I am also at a point in the project where I need to let go or I will never stop working on it.

Hence, the decision to be “done”, and to release the film into the wild.

You can learn more on IMDB (which still feels weird), or for additional details, visit the Welcome & Introduction on the project blog.