“Ekphrasis” means “description” in Greek. It is a literary form that uses words to evoke an image for the reader as if it were present; a way of using language to sketch a picture in the mind.
Beyond mere evocation, Ekphrasis plays with meaning. Writers from Keats to Ashbery have practiced it as a form of appreciation that amplifies possible meanings through a sustained reflection that describes, clarifies, complicates, and contextualizes. It is a way of paying attention.
This site is our attempt to practice Ekphrasis on cinematic images. We believe that critical reflection is vital to culture and we are troubled by its general decline as we capitulate to the proliferation of banal images and the narratives that are foisted upon us. Forget mechanical reproduction! Digital technologies of production, reproduction, and circulation have exploded our image world. We are saturated, racking back and forth between images as they slide by. Sustained engagement falters in the face of franchising, rabid fanboyism, and our own desires to project. A German filmmaker once warned that tired, trite images are dangerously inadequate and we agree. Images are important. They represent our dreams and nightmares; truths and fictions; gods and demons; pasts and futures. We are frustrated by our own inability to give long attention. We hope to re-learn it through acts of critical appreciation.
We will publish a new piece every Monday, which will generally focus on less remembered films, as well as controversial films. We will only write about films that have been out for at least one year. There is already so much discussion about current cinema and we think that discussion would benefit from rediscovery and reflection.
Our pieces will range from considerations of entire films to the explication of a single frame. We approach the cinema convinced of its importance as a vital form of expression, but also with a sense of curiosity and play about its vagaries, possibilities, and frustrations. Some of the films we discuss will be ones we admire; others that we detest. The point is to think about the images that surround and influence us.
We will not write review style pieces framed in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, nor will we assign scores or grades. Such writing has its place, but it is usually blunt and boring. We want to write about the cinema beyond good/bad dichotomies and apart from arbitrary grades that obscure more than they reveal.
Some pieces may contain spoilers.