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Watch: Breaking Down the Essay Film

With the Chris Marker series underway at BAM this week, it seems like a topical time to share this 2013 rumination on the essay film from Kevin B. Lee. Lee purports that the essay diverges from the rest of cinema in how it “[explores] its subject and at the same time [explores] how it sees its subject.” Words, images and sound interact and inform one another, producing a commentary that is often relegated to the external, or the conscience of the viewer. In his visual discussion of the three pillars of an essay film, Lee draws on Marker’s own Sans Soleil, Godard and Gorin’s Letter to Jane (which spends 52 minutes deconstructing a single photograph), Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays ItselfVigo’s À propos de Nice and several others.

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