One of the most interesting strands of moving image criticism today is the the fast-developing form of the short audio-visual essay. Made possible by the availability of films on DVD and as downloads, by desktop editing systems, by “fair use” copyright provisions as long as the result is for criticism and study, and by film scholars increasingly adept at the techniques of those they study, these essays can be rich and resonant. As is today’s example: Visconti: Art and Ambiguity, made by Pasquale Iannone, a specialist in Italian cinema, for the US-based arthouse streaming service Fandor.
Iannone collides images from Luchino Visconti’s Le notti bianchi (White Nights), 1957, starring Marcello Mastoianni and Maria Schell, illustrated above, with dialogue from the same director’s Death in Venice, 1971, with music from Nino Rota’s sumptuous score to the former, and with quotations from Visconti and cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno reproduced as on-screen text. The resulting four-minute assembly is provocative and illuminating (about film and theatre, about production design, and about the essence of cinema) as well as being sensuous and quite simply beautiful.