In my blog entry on Francesco Casetti's talk yesterday, I made a comment that anticipated parts of John Caldwell's talk today. Here I self-plagiarize:
"Casetti is right to make the connection between the phenomenological experience of watching C.S.I. in one's home with watching a movie in one's home: they're essentially identical experiences. If we can make meaningful distinctions between cinema and television today, they won't be ontological, aesthetic or phenomenological (at least for the most part): they'll be about the different production contexts that these texts are made for and the narrative restrictions or formats that they prescribe. As such, I imagine that film scholars will increasingly be drawn to the sophisticated long-form narratives that have become possible in premium-cable series as of late. And when we do, we're likely to bring (at least some of) our existing methodologies with us."
I think that Caldwell would be on board with my first assertion regarding the lack of meaningful phenomenological difference between the ways in which we watch films and the ways in which we watch TV. As for my second point, what Caldwell argues is effectively the inverse: that instead of bringing our Film Studies methodologies to bear on studies of television (here I was referring to methods of aesthetic analysis, primarily), we should instead adopt the methodologies of television scholars and bring them to bear on film and TV alike.
I'm certainly sympathetic to Caldwell's notion that television is the medium through which films are primarily viewed. A brief anecdote, if I may: I recently received a paper back from Martin Lefebvre, who commented that I may want to incorporate some scene studies into my argument now that [film x] is available on DVD. The idea that we have to wait for DVD before we can do our work, or indeed before the film becomes a work of art proper (or, at least, open to the kind of analysis that befits works of art), is illustrated here. I know that I personally have never written a paper based on the theatrical viewing experience alone.
Whether this impacts the kind of work we do, I don't know. Rodowick posited (following Usai) the theatrical experience as the "ideal image," but it's increasingly unrealistic. And frankly, I don't think it's necessary. Unless we're talking about something specific to the theatrical viewing mode (e.g. 3-D), home video does the trick just fine. As many will be quick to point out, it even has its advantages. Refer to Furstenau and Lefebvre's excellent article "Digital Editing and Montage: The Vanishing Celluloid and Beyond" for a discussion of how DVDs allow us to view the film as if we were its editor. We can freeze-frame, rewind, slow down movement, etc. Just try doing a shot-by-shot in a theatre...
I have more thoughts about Caldwell's presentation today, but they're primarily related to my partner's research (she's a Criminology student taking an actor-network theory to studying the production of crime-related television shows in Toronto) and not my own, so I will not voice them here. I will point the reader towards my colleague Andrew Covert's brief discussion of Caldwell's paper below, with which I actively disagree. To my comments there, I would only add that it is always of interest to explore the paratexts that influence the reception and reading of films, be they marketing materials or otherwise. Does this means that we need to call them art? No, not necessarily. But I've made the case for viral marketing to be considered as such in my comment (or, at the very least, I defended the practice from Andrew's knee-jerk assertion that it cannot be art).