Michael Snow, Wittgenstein, and the Textual Film
This chapter studies textual films—works that forgo conventional cinematic imagery in favor of letters, words, numbers, and other forms of handwritten or typographical text. It focuses on Michael Snow's So Is This (1982), a film consisting entirely of individual words, displayed one at a time, gradually forming a series of statements that are alternately philosophical, inappropriate, and false. By drawing attention to the differences between cinematic reading and more conventional forms of reading, the film foregrounds the unique ability of cinema to structure duration. For example, readers of the script can set their own pace by choosing to skim certain passages, while reading others more carefully and deliberately. In So Is This, however, “The number of frames per word and spaces between was precisely indicated. It's composed.” Because of this careful structuring of cinematic temporality, readers of the script are forced to accept Snow's pacing.
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