Film as a Subversive Art (1974) by Amos Vogel

A fantastic resource, one I’ll enjoy returning to many times. As is, I’ve learned a lot from the lines of thinking Vogel proposes, and the connections he draws between various cinematic concepts and works, but lack familiarity with a lot of the specifics works themselves…I look forward to a reread where I try and track and watch along with a lot of the films used as examples.

But just on a conceptual level, there’s so much fascinating material here. The watching of film as an inherently subversive activity because it draws conflict between the rational mind recognising the film is artificial, an illusion, and the irrational urge to believe in the artificial reality the film presents? The cinema, the physical space itself, as a womb-like enclosure, dark and loud and all-encompassing, enticing viewers into a sort of shared dream state? Documentary being as fictional as regular fictional films, because it constructs the same sort of unreality through cinematic elements like editing and the mere presentation of film itself? These are all such fascinating ideas that really reframed a lot of how I thought about film.


I hadn’t quite ever paid so much mind to the sheer amount of intoxicating control film has over viewer’s minds…in our own lifes, we constantly adjust our temporalities, but in the cinema, the editor is king, the director is god, everything is preordained and constructed in service to a certain experience, a certain story filmmakers are trying to tell. That sort of voluntarily submission feels all the more magical in an era so dominated by televisions, smartphones, countless ways to experience media at whatever pace and environment a viewer decides. There’s a magic to submitting to a filmmaker and the traditional cinema viewing format.

It’s a reference guide I’m sure to get more out of on further reads, but I’ve really appreciated what I’ve already learned. Four “perversions of objective film age” and a cinematic reverie.

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