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Sunday, December 05, 2021

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Cinema in Retrospect: Introduction

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.

Film exists in relative stasis — barring reshoots or re-releases, the physical medium remains unaltered from its debut. Given this stasis, this column, “Cinema in Retrospect,” aims to analyze older, lesser-known films in an effort to reconnect with unchanged works in a changing world. 

Like most types of media, movies are a sort of time capsule. Revisiting, recontextualizing and re-evaluating them lend insights into the past and present. The specific content of a work does not change, yet different perspectives can glean significantly different readings. For most films, once the product is released into the consumer market, its authors (i.e., directors, writers, actors, etc.) cannot change the released product. This allows films to provide signifiers with the opportunity to see how much has evolved and how much has stayed the same.

This process of examination, at any point in time, is called media analysis. Within it, there are many different modes of textual -- or, in this case, filmic -- examination. One critic may approach a text through a feminist lens, while another, with the same text, through a Marxist one. The mode used might be predetermined or influenced by the content of a text. 

Although my specific approach will change from text to text, I generally use cinema as a tool for reflection on life, aiming to pull out a couple of larger ideas or throughlines from within a given work. This semester, I will release columns bi-weekly on Tuesdays, focusing on films with themes of “identity.” 

I would like to establish two more things about the column. First, my interpretations or readings of a film aren’t meant to hardline others’ interpretations. I recognize that I have some unorthodox points of view, so I encourage readers to forge their own takeaways. Second, this column is not designed to be a space for the technical assessment of work, such as acting, cinematography, etc. Instead, it is meant to be a platform for the examination of how these technical elements -- good or bad -- create meaning.

While I have written about television, print and music before, I feel I am most qualified to write about cinema. I have the most experience with the medium and its analysis. Ultimately, though, my goal is to introduce new readings, texts or analyses to readers. I hope you can get something out of this, and I will do my best to provide interesting perspectives and subjects.

Contact columnist Henry Skalbeck at hskalbec@richmond.edu

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