Month: October 2017 (Page 3 of 3)

‘Inglourious Basterds – The Elements of Suspense’ Video Commentary


This video essay by Michael Tucker is part of a substantial series of YouTube-published pieces called “Lessons from the Screenplay” which, predictably, focuses on the way a story is crafted and dialogue is presented, rather than the cinematography, editing, or mise-en-scene within a given piece. This installment focuses on one of the greatest scenes in all of 21st century cinema—the opening fifteen minutes of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, wherein SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) confronts Perrier La Padite (Denis Menochet), a French dairy farmer who is hiding Jews from occupying Nazi forces. Tucker examines this scene from a strictly textual point of view—rather than look at how the sequence is shot and edited in such a way that it lingers on Menochet’s sweaty, petrified face and Waltz’s calm, almost friendly one, for example, he focuses on how the screenplay proceeds and how it builds on fundamental elements of tension and suspense. Tension and suspense, he explains, occur when instability and uncertainty—and very high stakes—are introduced into a previously stable situation. He examines how the La Padite family’s life is subtly shown to be stable and peaceful, and contrasts that with Col. Landa’s threatening, faux-polite intimidation tactics. He also explains the difference between tension—a diffuse sensation of stress—and suspense, which presents to the audience a number of troubling possibilities which induce anxiety.


This video essay might stick a bit to the “basic” side in its analysis, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s clearly aimed at a beginner audience, one not as well-versed in the particular building blocks of a screenplay as film students might be. I think that’s actually a strength of this piece—it has a good sense of what audience it’s looking for, and tailors its level of sophistication specifically to that perspective. It’s very ambitious, or totally impossible, for a video essay to comprehensively cover every detail in a scene at every level of sophistication. It’s far better to tailor your video’s approach, and crucially, to have a certain sort of viewer in mind. This degree of focus is also seen in Tucker’s exclusion of any analysis of details not relevant to the Basterds screenplay. Rather than overwhelm and confuse the viewer by noting every subtle cinematic tactic used to ramp up the anxiety in this scene, he limits his voiceover analysis to elements from the screenplay, but still shows various other elements—like the stressfully building musical score—at times that make the viewer aware of how they contribute to the scene. Combined with a high level of polish in the production of the video, all these choices create a slick and confident video essay, even without a film-scholar level of sophistication.

Commentary on “Emoticons” by Patricia Pisters

This week I chose to look for video-essays that were outside of the range that I have the habit of watching on my personal time. I searched for it in an academic video-essay journal. I picked something at random and I was quite surprised by what I ended up seeing. This work is described in the review as a “video-based neuroimage of the author’s brain”. Although editing can, in general, be considered digital collaging, this particular video felt very much like that from the eclectic nature of the different elements that composed it.

Without wanting to spend too much of my word allocation in a synopsis, I have to say that this is the most personal video-essay that I have made a commentary on so far. The author uses footage of herself throughout the essay in a way that differs from, say, what Kevin B. Lee would have done. Kevin uses himself as a prop, as a way to make a point about a specific text or videographic material. But Patricia uses herself because this whole essay is about her brain and the way that cinema interacts with her psyche. It feels very weird to have an academic videographic essay about someone and not a text, especially since the movies that she borrowed scenes from don’t quite engage with each other in the way that other essays aim at (like, Honolulu mon Amour, for example). Their common thread is the way they connect to her reality and her emotions.

This is an incredibly personal piece of work and incredibly vulnerable also and I commend the fact that she brought herself into her academic pursuit to prove her very point: ”that after the movement-image and the time-image, we have entered the phase of the neuro-image that has a particular connection to digital screen culture”, that is, that we live in a state of co-evolution with the images we consume and see. First of all, I have realized recently that using personal material in video-essays would be really challenging for me. There is something about storytelling, poetry-reading and film-making that makes it such that the people associated to that, the best ones at least, are generally highly regarded for their ability to produce that kind of material and as a novice there is a lot of pressure to not sound like a pale imitation or to convey pretension about my ideas. Because this video-essay was so personal it is making me get personal in my response to it but I want to say that I find it interesting th there is space for this kind of work in academia.

Time Travel Analysis: An Exploration of Its Consequences in Movies

As mentioned in class, certain times one might want to use voice-over to communicate ideas that might not get across by implying them through the visuals. In Time Travel Analysis: An Exploration of Its Consequences in Movies, user Dubious Consumption uses voice-over to explain to the viewers the consequences of time travel. He offers a variety of examples to present his argument. He uses this argumentative method by showing the flaws of the first few examples and why they do not offer a great explanation to the film’s own logical system; however, he presents the film Primer as an example that works well. The way that the user emphasizes these examples’ positive and negative characteristics further underscores the voiceover.

Moreover, he begins the video by showing a scene from Primer. Here, the scene lacks a voiceover. Following this scene, he presents three different examples of time travel. In one shot, he places each three films side by side, Terminator, Back To The Future Part II, and the Time Bandits. By using this time of editing, the user wants to create a visual juxtaposition while asking using voiceover to guide the viewer. Here in this voiceover, he emphasizes each film’s confusing time travel system or lack thereof. By the time he finishes analyzing each system in these films, it becomes apparent that he uses visuals that may not show what he says in his voiceover. Here, a problem occurs. In paying too much attention to his own voiceover, the user has forgone the visual landscape. He then creates a chaotic juxtaposition of shots that say less about time travel and more about its own spontaneity.

Furthermore, although a confusing start to the video in terms of its visuals, the video picks up some sort of structure once the user talks about Looper. In this time travel film, a group of men order assassins to go back in the past to murder specific people; however, once they accomplish their jobs, they must also kill their older version. In these following scenes, the video portrays the voiceovers well. Each idea mentioned by the voiceover matches a scene. This structure helps the viewer understand not only the premise of the film but also the film’s system of time travel. In another following scene, the voice-over talks about Looper’s  lack of time travel system. He does show a quote from the director who explains his motivation not to include an explanation of this system. Here, the user makes another mistake. Instead of showing the direct quotes, he could have explained them. This would have saved him the text-heavy quote.

Continuing, the user creates a shift in the following shots. After explaining the errors of Looper, he goes on to state his personal opinion about the film and the director. Although not prohibited, this type of shift in tone detracts from the film’s explanatory style. This was the only part of the video where he gives his opinion suggesting that Looper exemplified a mix of marks and errors in its time travel system. Once again, he changes films and goes on to talk about Primer. By now, after referencing the film one too many times, it would seem that this videographic criticism would have been centered around this film.

The user emphasizes voice-over to guide the viewer in what he considers a jarring film. Even though the elements of videographic editing and style work here, it further emphasizes the video’s chaotic structure. Perhaps, the biggest drawback from showcasing too many examples take time away from focusing on one strong example. Just as the viewer wants the video to go more in depth, a new example emerges. Understandably, this video essay focuses on the myriad types of films in this genre to further focus on one with a logical system. Here, the film’s lack of structure undermines its own attempt at comparison.

Moreover, it would have been interesting to see if the video could have shown all of the underwhelming films with a lack of time travel system in the beginning of the video. From here, the video could have further emphasized the qualities that these films do not explain. Then, the video could have talked about Primer as its main example. In this structure, the video would have managed to get its point across. Instead, the viewer has a difficult time following the video and its abundant examples.

In viewing this video, the use of voice-over further suggests the implications of overusing it: one may deter from having a fluid structure. In overusing the voice-over, one may end up straying away from the argument, the same way the Dubious Consumption does when talking about his own opinion and going off on a tangent about the directors of the film. Such explanations do more harm to the quality of the video than to give any sort of direction. Perhaps, finding a balance between visuals and voice-over will help this video’s structure. Maybe, adding a poetic element to the video would have underscored the implications of time travel. The video hints at such ideas but never explores them further.

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