26 March 2012

Chaos Cinema, Revisited

In the chaos of the internet, I missed Matthias Stork's response to critics of his video essay on Chaos Cinema, posted at Press Play back in December as "Chaos Cinema, Part III" (with the other two helpfully embedded on the same page). I watched it today after reading Steven Shaviro's text from a talk, "Post-Continuity".

I was interested in Stork's response, because I had had a fairly strong initial reaction to his essays, and I've continued to think about it all, especially after using Gamer in a class last term. My own viewing of such movies has been deeply influenced more by Shaviro's approach than others, but I also like to show students the first two "Chaos Cinema" essays as well as Jim Emerson's video essay on a scene from The Dark Knight.

Watching the third "Chaos Cinema" essay, I discovered that Stork responded specifically to one of my criticisms. It's a very fair and, I think, accurate response to a point I raised about the video game aesthetic — he elaborated on that in a comment at the post, and I responded there that on reflection I basically agreed with him. The convergence of video game and action movie aesthetics is a topic that deserves study, but I don't have the background in gaming to do so, and my interests in the scholarship on action movies is primarily focused on the '80s and early '90s.

My differences with Stork's approach remain pretty much what they were in my original post — I'm averse to seeing techniques in absolute or moral terms — but he has done excellent, thoughtful work on showing how cinema, particularly action cinema, is changing. I fully agree with what he says at the end of Part III: "In his essay 'Chaos Cinema and the Rise of the Avid', Ambrose Heron blames non-linear editing systems for the emergence of chaos techniques. This is how we should discuss chaos cinema, as an aesthetic and industrial phenomenon."