VidCritz: How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

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by Matt Singer
January 16, 2013 11:44 AM
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VidCritz is Criticwire's home for interesting video essays and criticism. Because, really, who wants to read? 

The first required text in my grad school film studies program was David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson's "Film Art: An Introduction." It's an outstanding foundational book; I resold many of my college and grad school textbooks, but my copy of "Bordwell and Thompson" still sits in my office, weathered, dog-eared, and highlighted. I've never met Bordwell or Thompson or taken one of their classes but I've learned plenty from them anyway (maybe because over the years I've also read Bordwell & Thompson's "Film History: An Introduction" as well as Bordwell's "On the History of Film Style").

And now I've also enjoyed one of Bordwell's film lectures, which he has kindly made available on his website, Observations on Film Art. Bordwell used to present "How Motion Pictures Became the Movies" when he was invited to speak at universities; now, he says, he's retired it and put it online for anyone to enjoy or teach in their own film class. What follows is not a video of him speaking at a school; it's a video of his original PowerPoint slides with a voiceover recorded specifically for the occasion. It runs about 70 minutes.

In the accompanying blog post, Bordwell says the lecture is "designed for general audiences" but includes "comments for specialists too." Having watched it, I'd agree that it should be clear to just about anyone with an interest in movies -- you don't need to have gone to film school to follow the lessons. This is film school, really, except you're not going into debt to enjoy it.

Here's David Bordwell's "How Motion Pictures Became the Movies 1908-1920: Thirteen Years That Changed World Cinema." And 70 minutes well-spent.

Read more of "What Next? A Video Lecture, I Suppose. Well, Actually, Yeah..."

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