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the world in your living room

June 25, 2009

[Slate] One reason why we may be entering a renaissance in film viewing is that we no longer have to go to Paris or New York in order to learn anything comprehensive about the history of the medium as an art form. We can, in fact, live almost anywhere, at least if we own a multiregional DVD player—and nowadays one can acquire one of these for less than $50. Of course, those who argue that cinema is dying could also note that most viewers have been happy to stay in their designated regions and narrower range of consumer choices and to remain blissfully unaware of DVD regional codes, much less simple ways of circumventing them.

If we do want to bone up on film history, some of our finest scholars are busy turning out DVD extras, and a few of them are even better at this kind of work than they are in their writing, which offers fewer opportunities of illustrating their points. Compare, for instance, the audiovisual essays of Joan Neuberger and Yuri Tsivian on the Criterion Collection DVD of Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible with these writers’ recent monographs on the same subject. Or compare Tag Gallagher’s analysis of Max Ophüls’ Earrings of Madame de … for the same label with his online article about Ophüls for the Australian Web site Senses of Cinema, which focuses on the same scene from the same film. Yet once we start moving closer to mainstream film culture, the improvement in our understanding becomes a little less evident. (read)

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