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Cinematic Reveries

Gestures, Stillness, Water


Linda C. Ehrlich

The 29 prose poems in Cinematic Reveries: Gestures, Stillness, Water provide distinctive points of entry into a select group of films through attention to evocative gestures, a sense of stillness, and images of water. These original writings offer film criticism in a new form, with a tone that is at once exploratory, familiar, and elegiac. They explore the precious nature of water; they point to gestures both eloquent and obscure. They offer us moments of arrested motion as well as longer contemplative sequences in films from Asia, Europe, New Zealand, and the U.S. To cite a sentiment expressed by filmmaker Raúl Ruíz in his Poetics of Cinema 2, these are tributes to great films that «recognize [us] like an old relative». The reader is encouraged to explore Cinematic Reveries as a portrait of the cinema which is at times lyrical, sometimes comic, and often tinged with pathos. This celebration of the art film is richly illustrated, with suggestions for further readings and viewings.


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Stillness in Motion


28 Introductory Notes: Stillness in Motion For Ozu, the emotion is concentrated in showing a chair occupied, then showing it vacant. Bordwell.Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema (294) The cinema is an ideal medium for an exploration of movement through space and the passing of time, but less frequently is it considered a means of expressing stillness and silence. The still figure, moments of arrested motion, and longer contemplative sequences draw us in long after the thrill of car chases and special effects have faded away. The phrase “stillness in motion” was used by film historian Walter Kerr to refer to Buster Keaton — “Keaton was not only still when he was doing nothing, he was still in motion” (222). From the early experiments with sequential movement by Eadweard James Muybridge in England, through the brief recordings of dances by pioneers of the cinema like Thomas A. Edison, Georges Méliès, Segundo de Chomón, and Edwin Porter, we find a fascination with motion and persistence of vision, but also with sculptural moments. Those moments are “sculptural” in the sense art historian Philip Rawson describes as “structured shapes of space as well as in space” (5). Writings in this section spiral around Japan and the Mediterranean region, pausing at a sleeping figure, a pose in a courtyard, the uncanny nature of the puppet, a man as an unmoving “mountain” on a bloody battlefield. How directors position objects in a film reveals their approach to stillness. As I contemplate “stillness in...

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