FMMC0334 Spring 2021, MW 2:00-3:15pm, Axinn 105

Category: Video Commentaries

Sample Video Commentary: What Is Neo-Realism?

This 2013 video by the acclaimed video essayist kogonada, originally published in Sight & Sound magazine, is deceptively straightforward. On the one hand, it seems like an explanatory video that provides a comparison between two versions of the same film – we could probably read the transcript of the voiceover and understand the essay’s key argument about the differences between Hollywood cinema and neorealism.

But kogonada’s tonal mastery adds additional dimensions to the video that transcend the ideas expressed by the words alone. First off, the use of the split screen allows us to experience the distinctions between the two versions, not just have them described via prose. The video lingers on the extended shots, recreating the effect of duration that kogonada suggests is an essential component of neorealism – just as filmgoers would see Terminal Station‘s takes endure beyond normal expectations, we experience them surpassing the Hollywood norms, feeling the effect of the neorealist aesthetic.

Additionally, kogonada frames the entire piece in a suggestive and poetic tone. Instead of using the academic framework of an argument, thesis statement, or reference to other critics, he posits the entire video as an experiment requiring a time machine. Is this science fiction? His voiceover tone certainly suggests that something is a bit off from conventional academic discourse. This opening frame locates the entire video within the realm of speculative fiction, even though its content is fully rooted in history and critical analysis. Thus when he arrives at his conclusion, drawing the link between neorealism and the essence of cinema, it feels less like a conclusive argument by a persuasive critic, but more of a hypothesis offered by a somewhat mad scientist (or artist). Thus the videographic form embraces a poetic mode that encourages a degree of uncertainty and abstraction, much more than we would expect or allow for in a written essay.

Video Commentaries Instructions

Each week, students should find a video essay published somewhere online and write a commentary on it. Commentaries should be posted before class on Wednesday morning (except for our first week, when it should be posted by Monday morning). The commentary should strive to answer two basic questions: what did I learn from this video about the subject matter? and what did I learn from this video about the videographic form? Commentaries should be at least 250 words, but should be as long as necessary to explore the ideas.

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