Comedy and Cultural Critique in American Film

By Ryan Bishop | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Conclusion: Between the Machine
and the Event: Film Comedy

And on Fifth Avenue Harpo Marx has just lighted the fuse that projects from
the behinds of a flock of expensive giraffes stuffed with dynamite. They run in all
directions, sowing panic and obliging everyone to seek refuge pell-mell within the
shops. All the fire-alarms of the city have just been turned on, but it is already too
late. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! I salute you, explosive giraffes of New York, and
all you fore-runners of the irrational–Mack Sennett, Harry Langdon, and you too,
unforgettable Buster Keaton, tragic and delirious like my rotten and mystic donkeys,
desert roses of Spain!

Salvador Dalí, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (332)

Where film cameras are involved–with the rider that there is strictly no difference
between film and still cameras in the virtual world–then additional considerations
are taken into account; for example, if a real camera movement is made using a phys-
ical ‘rig’–as in a crane shot, or whatever–there will be an unavoidable degree of
camera shake at the beginning and end of the movement. Software has been written
to simulate that shake, which moreover allows the user to specify which particular
film camera, and which type of rig, is being used. The prevailing standard of realism
in computer modeling is not the world as such; it is rather the world as it appears to
the camera. I believe that this is an ideological artifact of a period of historical transi-
tion, and will pass. In time we will forget how physical cameras showed the world,
and we will adapt our supposedly ‘natural’ vision to the new standards.

Victor Burgin, in conversation with Ryan Bishop and Sean Cubitt

William Joyce and Brian Oldenberg’s short animation film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011), provides a twenty-firstcentury mash-up ethos of aesthetic modes and media while also offering a whimsical, sentimental allegory of reading and a life of the imagination. A commentary on the power of narrative to aid one during the disasters of life, with oblique references to Hurricane Katrina serving as a metonym for our collective confrontation with individual mortality, the film proves useful for us, less with regard to the technics of narrative and more with regard to its profligate and skilled mobilising of an array of representational technologies. The animated short begins with the sound

-161-

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