The Video Essay Podcast + An Annotated List

The latest episode of “The Video Essay Podcast”, hosted by Will DiGravio, features a great conversation between him and Adrian Martin. Topics discussed include: audiovisual essays, film criticism, multimedia criticism, writing, love, collaboration, creativity, Raymond Bellour, radio, dreams, Jerzy Skolimowski, François Truffaut, artistic gesture, montage, Robert Mitchum, electric condensation, arte povera, Serge Daney, Jean-Pierre Léaud, heterogeneity, voice, John Flaus, performance, teaching, Marco Bellocchio, academia, audiences (yes, in plural!), audio commentaries, our “Only Free Gestures”, Rafael Gilhem’s “Traspasos”, me, and … have I mentioned love?

I, too, was invited to participate in this episode but, as I’ve said many times, I’m not much of a speaker. I don’t know what happens to other people when they speak, but I know what happens (and what does not happen) to me. In this kind of situation in which one has to talk more or less unprepared, I tend to either repeat myself a lot or fall into an opinionated mode (which I dislike because, contrary to popular and even professional opinion, to be opinionated – or even worse: to be strongly opinionated – has nothing to do with criticism). So, while I’d desperately like to say something that is worth being said, I realise I’m often unable to do it; and the alternative – to just shut up – is not possible, either. Sometimes, I get very passionate about some question and feel I’m delivering a great speech, until I listen to what I really said.

Part of what I like about writing is that it’s a highly artificial, constructed, non-spontaneous arrangement that allows me to trace and retrace, to test different configurations, until I find a way. If I’d tried to speak as I write, believe me, you’d want to shoot me. But it turns out that Adrian can really talk. And here you can listen to him speaking not for me (which he could not), but with me (since so much of what he says comes from conversations we’ve had, things we’ve lived, work we’ve done together), and even a little bit about me. Every minute of this conversation is worth it, but if you are one of those busy people with little time, please listen to, at least, my favourite section (34’20 to 41’40): there’s some magical free-associating here that is just so, so beautiful!

If, after listening to this podcast, you are still hungry for more, here’s my contribution. I have compiled this annotated list that includes a short but varied sample of some of the work Adrian and I have made on, with, and around the audiovisual essay:

1. “The One and The Many: Making Sense of Montage in The Audiovisual Essay”. If you read only one text from this list, let it be this one. Here, we discuss what we consider the key practice of audiovisual essays – montage – mixing a more theoretical perspective with the analysis of concrete examples.

2. A short piece by Adrian (“A Voice Too Much”) and a not-so-short piece by me (“Doubles Lives, Second Chances”, discussing one of my earliest audiovisual essays): two “archaeological texts” (as they have been called, so you get the idea of how fast one becomes old these days!).

3. Our two contributions (including a selection of audiovisual essays) for the issue 1.3 of [in]Transition, edited by Catherine Grant. Adrian’s “The Inward/Outward Turn” investigates the subject of obsession (and contains a sublime one-line-quote from Raúl Ruiz). My “From Idea to Concept” deals with the process of building an audiovisual essay, and sketches one of the exercises proposed to our students.

4. “The Audiovisual Essay” (Birkbeck Cinema, London, 2016): audio recording of a conversation about our work moderated by Catherine Grant. “Analyse and Invent: Audiovisual Essays as Creative Film/Media Research” (Monash University, Melbourne, 2016): video of a lecture where I speak very fast and with a heavy accent, while Adrian is cool as always.

5. “Writing in Images and Sounds”: a 2017 text where we survey the audiovisual essay field, identify trends and discuss some pieces. Our response to Jessica McGoff’s “Text vs. Context: Understanding the Video Essay Landscape”.

6. “Missing, Misunderstanding, Noticing” and “Henriette Thrice”: two entries in this blog that discuss things that happen when making audiovisual essays.

7. Many of the texts we’ve written to accompany our audiovisual essays across the years are collected in a chapter of Adrian’s book Mysteries of Cinema (paperback out at the end of this year) under the title “The File We Accompany”. Here’s a personal selection of 5 pieces of ours that combine text and video: “Almost Singing, Almost Dancing” (on Chantal Akerman’s Tomorrow We Move), “Broken Rhythm” (on Nanni Moretti’s The Son’s Room), “Screen and Surface, Soft and Hard” (on the cinema of Leos Carax), “Manoeuvring: A Key to After Hours (on Martin Scorsese’s After Hours), “I Furrow My Own Film Inside Those I Pass Through” (on Isabelle Huppert).

8. Some items that are not available online: the magazine Short Film Studies devoted half of an issue (volume 9, number 2, April 2019) to our audiovisual essay “Haunted Memory: The Cinema of Víctor Erice” (it includes an interview with us, a shot-by-shot breakdown, and six texts by different authors exploring our piece); we contributed a chapter (“Audiovisual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”) to the book For the Love of Cinema: Teaching Our Passion In and Outside the Classroom, edited by Rashna Wadia Richards and David Johnson; and we’ve contributed another chapter (“To Attain the Text. But Which Text?”) to the forthcoming book Beyond the Essay Film, edited by Julia Vassilieva and Deane Williams.

9. Finally, this album from our Vimeo channel hosts, at the moment, 81 of our audiovisual essays.

I have spoken.


© Cristina Álvarez López, October 2019

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