August 1, 2006

A summertime question for Girish Shambu.

Girish Shambu has to be one of the most fascinating personalities among film bloggers. How he manages to win teaching awards and titles as an Associate Professor of Management at Canisius College and write so eruditely about a wide range of films for publications such as Senses of Cinema and his own elegant blog and keep up with the bustling community there (a hundred comments per entry aren't uncommon) is... well, who knows. My question for Girish: "Got a summer reading recommendation for Daily readers?"

Five great books that are proto-filmblogs (in alphabetical order):

Notes on the Cinematographer Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer: These epigrammatic "working memos" are brief, often no more than a sentence or two, but they are intensely evocative and occasionally elusive. Examples: "Make visible what, without you, might never have been seen," or "Don"t show all sides of things. A margin of indefiniteness."

Jean Cocteau, The Art of Cinema: Like Bresson, Cocteau did not like the word "cinema," which he associated with theatre-derived practices; they both preferred the word "cinematographe." This book contains reflections on the ways in which the art of the "cinematographer" is poetic. Also, tributes to favorite performers like Chaplin and Dietrich.

Jean-Luc Godard, Godard on Godard: Short reviews, essays and lists, very close in format to what we might consider blog posts today. All through, there are strong, jaw-dropping assertions and playful, free-wheeling allusions. One 1958 entry begins thus: "There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray." (Godard had just seen Bitter Victory.)

From the Atelier Tovar Guy Maddin, From the Atelier Tovar: Daily journals, cinephilic film writings, sketches and doodles, family-album photos and that dense quasi-anachronistic purposefully purple prose that is Maddin"s delightful signature.

Jonas Mekas, Movie Journal: A collection of brief pieces written between 1959 and 1971 for a Village Voice column. The tone is conversational, polemical, exhilarated, cranky, passionate. The first entry, "Call For a Derangement of Cinematic Senses," grabs you by the lapels: "Every breaking away from the conventional, dead, official cinema is a healthy sign. We need less perfect and more free films." This book might be the proto-filmblog par excellence.

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Posted by dwhudson at August 1, 2006 2:49 PM


Nice choices, and very helpful. One I own(Mekas), two I've read once and should revisit (Bresson & Maddin) and two I can look forward to acquainting myself with for the first time (Godard & Cocteau).

Posted by: Brian at August 1, 2006 12:12 PM

I love Cocteau.

Posted by: Michael Guillen at August 1, 2006 5:15 PM

I very much like the idea of the "proto-blog," since there clearly is a lineage in terms of a particular condensed, essayistic style with which some writers express themselves. I think it has to do with a sense of rhythm and temporality, a way that any single piece / post hovers there for a while, inevitably reactivated by some related set of ideas that might come days, weeks, months later.

Although it has nothing to do with cinema, I think my favorite book for which I would make a claim of "proto-bloggishness" is Theodor Adorno's "Minima Moralia." The "posts" even have individual titles. There's certainly an article to be written on this, at least, but I've never found the time to hash it out. So maybe somebody else can puzzle it someday.

Posted by: msic at August 1, 2006 6:00 PM

Is anyone there?

Posted by: at August 1, 2006 6:02 PM

Hey thanks, guys.

Michael, I've never read the Adorno; it sounds really interesting.

One thing I like about some proto-blogs is a process-oriented approach in working through ideas gradually, doubling back to old formulations, sometimes contradicting them, and often building upon them. And sometimes there can be a slightly unguarded aspect to the work that can also be interesting.

Posted by: girish at August 1, 2006 7:38 PM

I'm not sure how easily it can be crunched into the not unhelpfully vague parameters of a "proto-blog," but Ingmar Bergman's 1994 "Images" must surely rank among essential texts worth reading by accomplished directors.

Posted by: Rob at August 1, 2006 8:53 PM

Ah, I've never read it.

Posted by: girish at August 1, 2006 9:41 PM

Get your head out of the 20th century, kids:

The Kurtis Blow of proto-blogging: Michel de Montaigne, the master of cut and paste autobiography and rumination.

Posted by: ScurvyDave at August 2, 2006 6:34 AM

Nice call.

Perhaps even Francis Bacon, no?

Posted by: girish at August 2, 2006 6:43 AM

Ah, Girish, this is a gold mine. I've seen the Godard books, but not the others. 'Tis off to the internet I go in search of them.

Posted by: Michael at August 2, 2006 10:34 AM

Michael--Knowing you, you'll eat 'em up like cake...

Posted by: girish at August 2, 2006 2:54 PM