I’m fairly certain I’ve read these Tom Gunning articles before—or at least I’ve read so many articles about the period in cinema’s nascent stages known as the “cinema of attractions,” that they’re all starting to bleed together. For the most part, I found Gunning’s writing pretty dry and the ideas presented in these two articles somewhat familiar. He points out, in both articles, that these earliest of films were not driven by any sort of narrative impulse, and rather placed an emphasis on “shock and awe” rather than any relation of information or formation of story. Perhaps Gunning was the first to put forth these ideas, but they must have been repeated in every piece of criticism ever written on cinema’s first few years of existence.
Still, he proposes a couple ideas which I had not previously considered. Though it seems like a rather semantic point to make, he suggests that “the first spectators’ experience reveals not a childlike belief, but an undisguised awareness of (and delight in) film’s illusionistic qualities,” which fills in point in the development of our cognitive ability to “read” cinema. He also notes (in both articles, I might add) that the position of the audience in early cinema is more exhibitionist, as opposed to the role of an unacknowledged voyeur that the audience would take on as cinema made more of an effort to seem “realistic”.
I found Perkins’ blog post interesting, fun, and much more digestible than Gunning’s writing. Still, though his acknowledgement of the similarity between some early comedic films and early video games is astute, I felt unsure what to take away from his post. Is he saying that video games could benefit from looking back towards the vibrant visual simplicity of their early days? Perhaps the informality of the essay indicates that he simply saw the similarity between these two bodies of work and wanted to point it out, without the pretense of some grand statement behind it.