Some weeks ago, Adrian Martin and I were in Antwerp, giving some lectures on Nicholas Ray, as part of the Summer Film School. It was there that I came up with an idea for a project we’ve just launched: a series of multimedia lectures on film, available to rent or buy via Vimeo on Demand. The first episode is devoted to Ray’s They Live By Night. You can see the trailer here.
Nicholas Ray has been in our heads a lot, lately. During the Summer School, we didn’t get to lecture on They Live By Night (Nick Pinkerton was in charge of that, and he did an excellent job). However, both Adrian and I like the film a lot, and wanted to put together some of our ideas about it. So, we thought They Live By Night was a perfect choice to kick the project in, since it’s also our little homage to our week in Antwerp and to the people we were with.
What we do in these videos are in-depth analyses of major films in film history (‘major’ meaning, simply, that we love them: bear with us and you might be surprised by some of our future choices, since the only canon we’ll follow is that of our own desire). There are no windy, textbook generalities about genre, auteur or historical context; we go straight to the material details that (in our view) illuminate the films, how they work and how they feel. If you’ve ever heard Adrian lecturing, you’ll know that he enjoys it (but he doesn’t do a lot of teaching anymore because, living in Spain, the chances to teach in English here are small). I, on the other side, cringe at the ‘live’ aspect of anything: while I love preparing my classes, I rarely enjoy giving them; too much escapes my control, I guess. So, this project suits us both in different ways.
Our approach in these videos combines lecture, audio-commentary and audiovisual essay. You could say that it’s a compromise between the three of them, but a happy compromise, since what we do is to merge what we like best of each one in the way that best suits our purposes at each moment.
For us, the multimedia aspect of it is an essential part of the project. It gives us the possibility of developing our ideas about a film, with the film. Our method is to enhance the traditional lecture mode with the tools provided by digital editing. We thereby offer a more engaging and stimulating pedagogical experience. We are, after all, talking about cinema—so it seems only natural to us that you get to watch and feel what our words are all about. A multimedia lecture requires more attention from you, since you must be in a listening-watching attitude, but it also rewards this attention greatly, being more immersive and pregnant.
These lectures are about 50-minutes long, which is quite a lot considering they are much more packed than a traditional lecture: here, there’s no fumbling through the (possibly blank) pages and jumping to a conclusion because of lack of time! (I’m sure you’ve seen that trick performed a few times already). They are structured in sections. In the future, we’d like to work on giving each section a particular tone and shape, a different audiovisual approach. In short, we’d like these lectures to be more and more like films—while still being lectures. But, as they say, God did not create the world in one day—and anyway, God made a mess, so I don’t know why I’m putting Him as example of anything here. In any case, this is our first episode and we are quite proud of it. But this is a work in progress, so we’ll let it flow.
Personally, these lectures are a double challenge for me. Not only do I have to speak in front of a camera in a way that makes some sense (huge!) and in the hope that my Spanish accent is likable, but the whole project is my “creation” (there comes God again!). Normally, my ideas are not of public interest, if I might put it like this. But, for some reason, I thought this project could appeal to the cinephile world out there, to film teachers and students and, more generally, to anybody with an interest in any of the particular films we select.
So, keep checking this Vimeo on Demand page for updates. The work this entails is quite intense, so its regularity will depend on how it is received. And, yes, it’s not for free. But you’ve paid for more questionable things, and so have I. So, why not give us a chance? And, as they say in Leos Carax’s Annette, if you like what you see, tell it to a friend. And, if you don’t have friends, tell it to a stranger!!
© Cristina Álvarez López, September 2021