Apr 5, 2015

The Cinema Is Dead, Long Live the Movie

It's funny how, ten years on, Jonathan Rosenbaum's "Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia" can feel paradoxically quite so quaint and so relevant. On the one hand, Rosenbaum's allowance that "cinema" might not necessitate a theatrical setting now seems, with the benefit of hindsight, faintly dithering; on the other hand, his "daring" suggestion that "cinema is that indeterminate space and activity where we find our cinephilia stimulated, gratified, and even expanded" is as solid and all-encompassing a definition for the current, varied state of cinematic experience as any.

Reading Rosenbaum engage with these semantics, it made me think of another word that has a similar sort of awkward timelessness to it: "movie." The word conjures up an outdated vocabulary ("talkie," "motion picture," etc.) but what it really means - moving images - is a suitably broad way to quickly refer to the broad range of film, video, and digital content we are now able to consume. There's a reason the program many of us belong to is called Moving Image Archiving and Preservation. So why don't we call it Movie Archiving and Preservation? Does "movie" have too strong connotations for low art and popular consumption?

Personally I think the word provides a solution for Rosenbaum's question of "what is cinema?" It's movies. Eliminate the questions of "cinema" as art or not ("French" or not), as theatrical experience or not, as agent of Stalinist total culture or not (really, don't get me started on that comparison). Cinema may be an indeterminate space, but movies are the thing I can point to that stimulate, gratify, and even expand my cinephilia.

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