Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tudor, Deborah. “The Eye of the Frog: Questions of Space in Films Using Digital Processes.” Cinema Journal 48.1 (Fall): 90–110.

Deborah Tudor's "The Eye of the Frog: Questions of Space in Films Using Digital Processes" asks how the ways in which filmmakers have utilized digital processing in their own films has changed formal elements of film. She uses an array of films that break away from standard continuity editing--Time Code (2000), The Hulk (2003), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)--to show how “Films using digital processes to recapture approaches to cinema from a ‘classic’ era or to produce a look from another medium construct a form of cinematic nostalgia” (91). Her ultimate goal is to propose that films utilizing digital processing in this way (as opposed to films that use digital processing for special effects) should be considered as using an aesthetic system called ‘array aesthetics,’ which “reorganizes time, space, and narrative” (90).

Because this article never defines it, I will mention that continuity editing is the shooting and arrangement of scenes so that films follow a logical and realistic order that is easy for the audience to follow. An example of this is included in this scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds where we see Melanie looking forward, then we see the dock, we see her expression change, then see Mitch on the dock, then the bird, the bird attack, the bird leaving, her touching her head, and the blood. Even though these scenes were not shot in this order and show more than one perspective, they have been composed to make a narrative the audience can put together. For instance, we assume that when we look at the dock, we are seeing it from Melanie’s perspective.

Tudor then shows how these digitally processed films deny continuity editing for other rhetorical (though she never says the word rhetorical) purposes. The most interesting to me is her evaluation of Ang Lee’s The Hulk because it utilizes multiple windows in its shot composition* that resemble the windows used in comic books. The digital effect reminds us of where the Hulk character started and this new process is used to remind the audience of an older, static format. So, the 2003 film uses cutting edge technology to create something that feels like it’s from the 1960s (92). That’s the way the film plays with time. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this technique is that, while The Hulk did not do well, this digital tool is used in several other comic book films, such as Captain America (2011).
The film plays with continuity editing because these split screens make it unclear as to when many shots begin and end. With a number of screens playing all at once, does a shot begin when a new screen presents itself? When a screen shifts off to the side? Tudor mentions that one reason for this change in aesthetic is that we have become used to viewing multiple screens along with additional media thanks to computers. Our brains are programmed to receive multiple kinds of audio-video information at the same time (101-2). Continuity editing is one of many film elements that may not need as much anymore.

Space is the last element of the array aesthetics triangle and The Hulk uses several digital techniques to play with the sense of realistic space in the film. The multiple frames discussed above is one of them. Often, these multiple frames give the viewer several perspectives of the same scene (99). The Hulk also utilizes a cubing effect to shift between scenes that implies non-space on screen (100). This makes it look as though the ‘shots surround some other non-represented space” (100) and challenge traditional understandings of editing.

While Tudor never mentions rhetoric, she is certainly looking at the ways that these digital processes change the rhetorical space of a film. What we come to expect form these non-narrative elements in narrative film is important. Also, this notion of nostalgia, which is closely connected with imagined memory (92) is important to understanding Waltz With Bashir. Waltz With Bashir is animated in a way similar to how graphic novels are. They are pulling their own kind of nostalgia into the film. How that functions might be different from The Hulk, but this analysis of the process will be useful to my analysis.

*The internet has failed me and provided no good video examples of this phenomenon

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