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November 04, 2009


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Awesome post, Craig, a veritable basketful of links, suggestions, resources, observations. I've read it through twice now, first without your links, just to get the flow of argument, then again with plenty of link-clicking, just so I can follow the lateral connections you're making.

I like your emphasis on the way Bazinian staging in deep focus (with its corollaries: density of visual detail, freedom of perceptual choice, and ambiguity of expression) has a temporal as well as spatial dimension. You point out that deep focus not only is a way of thinking about pictorial space but also is a technique dependent on time, that is, on the (barring video freeze-frame) ceaseless flow of time in a film and how this affects the spectator. So often I've heard the debate between Bazinian depth and Eisensteinian montage explained as a dynamic between "space" and "time" (with Bazin linked to notions of pictorial space, Eisenstein et al. to notions of film as a "language" of statements unfolding in time). But you show here, most usefully, that the full apprehension of Bazinian deep focus also depends on time, that indeed Bazin's prized ambiguity is dependent on the spectator's lack of control over timing, over the speed with which the film/viewing apparatus depicts time.

Your point about the simplicity of Tezuka's early staging (if indeed staging is the right word for comics) is also intriguing. The filmstrip-like sequence from Metropolis, above, is almost schematic in its simplicity, its use of one-point perspective. The later work shows a much greater richness. (I find the gestures toward cinema in early Tezuka so self-conscious as to be almost distracting, in the same way that I'm distracted by the use in comics of fragmented sound bites, sound cuts, soundbridges, etc.)

BTW, I don't buy McCloud's "masking effect" theory, or at least the larger psychological underpinnings of same. I don't think simplicity in drawing results in the sort of absolute psychological identification McCloud claims, or at least I wouldn't put the argument in such stark terms.

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