Essays on the Essay Film

Edited by Nora M. Alter and Timothy Corrigan

Columbia University Press

Essays on the Essay Film

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Pub Date: March 2017

ISBN: 9780231172677

392 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $35.00£27.95

Pub Date: March 2017

ISBN: 9780231172660

392 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $105.00£87.95

Pub Date: March 2017

ISBN: 9780231543996

392 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£27.95

Essays on the Essay Film

Edited by Nora M. Alter and Timothy Corrigan

Columbia University Press

The essay—with its emphasis on the provisional and explorative rather than on definitive statements—has evolved from its literary beginnings and is now found in all mediums, including film. Today, the essay film is, arguably, one of the most widely acclaimed and critically discussed forms of filmmaking around the world, with practitioners such as Chris Marker, Hito Steyerl, Errol Morris, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Rithy Panh. Characteristics of the essay film include the blending of fact and fiction, the mixing of art- and documentary-film styles, the foregrounding of subjective points of view, a concentration on public life, a tension between acoustic and visual discourses, and a dialogic encounter with audiences.

This anthology of fundamental statements on the essay film offers a range of crucial historical and philosophical perspectives. It provides early critical articulations of the essay film as it evolved through the 1950s and 1960s, key contemporary scholarly essays, and a selection of writings by essay filmmakers. It features texts on the foundations of the essay film by writers such as Hans Richter and André Bazin; contemporary positions by, among others, Phillip Lopate and Michael Renov; and original essays by filmmakers themselves, including Laura Mulvey and Isaac Julien.
Creatively and capaciously, this rich volume gets at the essay film not only by including key critics and practitioners of the form but, importantly, by going beyond the genre itself to broader contributions to essay theorization from philosophy and belles lettres. An exciting, inventive volume with great delights at every turn. Dana Polan, New York University
Alter and Corrigan's masterful new volume on the essay film is rigorous, comprehensive, and refreshingly surprising. Their invaluable collection probes theoretical reflections on the essay as a mode of expression and a way of thinking in light of the creative and political investments of filmmakers around the globe; it also chronicles the essay film's changing countenances, from its prehistory and early signs of life to novel permutations in the present. Featuring a very distinguished cast of players, this collection is a production of the highest order. Eric Rentschler, Harvard University
Nora Alter and Tim Corrigan bring their seasoned literary experience to herd but never tame the unruly essay film. Its prestige soaring, this mode is tethered to a long history of experimental writing that will keep it from disappearing into the bog of blogs and YouTube mashups whose best examples it is already inspiring. The proof is in the Table of Contents: a brilliant litany of sensitive, reliable writers, who dare to take on the most daring forms of image-thought the cinema has produced. Dudley Andrew, Yale University
Recent years have witnessed a rapid growth in interest in the history, concept and diverse manifestations of the essay film. In this essential collection, Nora Alter and Timothy Corrigan have brought together a superb selection of foundational texts with a range of key recent writings by leading scholars and essay filmmakers. The result is an enormously rich resource for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of this most vital of audiovisual forms. Michael Witt, University of Roehampton
Introduction, by Nora M. Alter and Timothy Corrigan
Part I. Foundations
1. "On the Nature and Form of the Essay," by Georg Lukács
2. The Man Without Qualities, by Robert Musil
3. "On the Essay and Its Prose," by Max Bense
4. "The Essay as Form," by Theodor W. Adorno
5. "Preface to The Collected Essays of Aldous Huxley," by Aldous Huxley
Part II. The Essay Film Through History
6. "The Film Essay: A New Type of Documentary Film," by Hans Richter
7. "The Future of Cinema," by Alexandre Astruc
8. "Bazin on Marker," by André Bazin
Part III. Contemporary Positions
9. "In Search of the Centaur: The Essay-Film," by Phillip Lopate
10. "The Political Im/Perceptible in the Essay Film: Farocki's Images of the World and the Inscription of War," by Nora M. Alter
11. "Essay Questions," by Paul Arthur
12. "The Electronic Essay," by Michael Renov
13. "The Essay Film: Problems, Definitions, Textual Commitments," by Laura Rascaroli
14. "Of the History of the Essay Film: Vertov, to Varda," by Timothy Corrigan
15. "The Cinema and the Essay as a Way of Thinking," by Raymond Bellour
16. "The Essay Film: From Film Festival Favorite to Flexible Commodity Form?," by Thomas Elsaesser
Part IV. Filmmakers on the Essayistic
17. "Performing Borders: Transnational Video," by Ursula Biemann
18. "Proposal for a Tussle," by Jean-Pierre Gorin
19. "The Essay as Conformism? Some Notes on Global Image Economies," by Hito Steyerl
20. "On Writing the Film Essay," by Lynne Sachs
21. "Tramp Steamer," by Ross McElwee
22. "The ABCs of the Film Essay," by Harun Farocki and Christa Blümlinger
23. "Riddles as Essay Film," by Laura Mulvey
24. "Certain Obliquenesses," by Renée Green
25. "Essay Documentary: The disembodied narrator and an unclaimed image that floats through space and time," by Rea Tajiri
26. "From Ten Thousand Waves to Lina Bo Bardi, via Kapital," by Isaac Julien
Bibliography
Contributors
Permissions
Index

About the Author

Nora M. Alter is professor of film and media studies in the School of Theater, Film and Media Arts at Temple University. She is author of Vietnam Protest Theatre: The Television War on Stage (1996), Projecting History: German Nonfiction Cinema, 1967–2000 (2002), and Chris Marker (2006), and co-editor (with Lutz Koepnick) of Sound Matters: Essays on the Acoustics of Modern German Culture (2004).

Timothy Corrigan is professor of cinema studies, English, and history of art in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include A Cinema Without Walls: Movies and Culture After Vietnam (1991), New German Film: The Displaced Image (1994), The Essay Film: From Montaigne, After Marker (2011), and (with Patricia White) The Film Experience: An Introduction (2004).