David bordwell has been the dominant name in screen studies and film theory for a good many years and his co-authored book ‘Film Art’ as been the seminal text for film scholars and film school students alike.
Yet, whilst articulate and useful, Bordwell’s perspective on screen aesthetics, film form and style is decidedly problematic. Bordwell is entirely, and openly, feature film centric. And for Bordwell this exclusivity for the theatrical-release feature film is not merely a kind of speciality in his thinking and theories but rather has manifested as a rather arrogant and ignorant view that only feature films can offer a canvas for artistic visual style. As such Bordwell is openly dismissive of television or any other form of cinematic medium.
This, it appears, is this issue that has promoted the very interesting video essay below examining visual style in David Simon’s THE WIRE - a show that Bordwell describes as little more than a “sturdy policeman’s-lot procedural” and in specific terms of its visual style “fragmented and uninspiringly shot.”
What a sad, deluded, outdated little man Mr Bordwell has become. And whilst I want to cry BULLSHIT on Mr Bordwell’s assertion its probably best I let the more elloquent Erlend Lavik illustrate…
For further reading on The Wire and visual style, I sometime ago wrote a post entitled the Wire, metaphor and prologue. In this post, which includes videos of each of the season opening prologues, I breakdown David Simon’s use of Metaphor to establish cognitive and conceptual prefaces for the themes the season is posing. Whilst i focus on the metaphor in writing and concept, what cannot be overlooked is the acute visual expression of those metaphors. In frame, in light, in staging… there is nothing dull or uninspiring about The Wire. Its just not austentacious, showy or overdone - like so much contemporary cinema. The Wire is visually deft, sophisticated, sublte and artistically rich.