In this sly and thought-provoking volume, J. Hoberman turns an erudite eye to the study of twenty-first-century cinema and finds that, only a dozen years into the new millennium, the world of movies has already experienced a revolutionary transformation.
The advent of new digital technology has displaced the medium of photographic film—and, perhaps, the reality on which it once depended. With locations, sets and cameras now optional, the history of motion pictures has become the history of animation.
This sea change in filmmaking spanned the 2000 American presidential election and the trauma of 9/11, events that reshaped world politics and left an indelible imprint on the emerging aesthetic of the new century’s cinema. A rupture opened up in the evolution of film, presaging, as Susan Sontag forlornly predicted a few years earlier, the death of cinephilia, or at least cinephilia as we know it.
Witty and allusive, in the style of classic film theorist/critics such as André Bazin and Siegfried Kracauer, Film After Film expands on a much-discussed era-defining Artforum article by Hoberman before moving on to a chronicle of the Bush years in cinema (featuring reviews from Hoberman’s final decade at the Village Voice). The book concludes with considerations of the twenty-one central movies of the twenty-first century, which include works by Lars von Trier and Jia Zhangke as well as the hi-tech spectacles WALL-E and Avatar.
"It's not so much that we're taking the issue of verisimilitude or truth to another level, it's that the historical base of motion pictures has shifted. They're closer to animation than documentary, with this change." - J. Hoberman, author of Film After Film: (Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema?)
In the last decade, film's capacity to provide an immersive experience has increased dramatically, from 3-D glasses to progressively uncanny CGI representations of humanoid creatures. While the 3-D box office boom and its subsequent falloff remain the subject of some debate, two of the three highest grossing films of all time were rendered using the relatively new technology. What might this mean, asks J. Hoberman, for the medium or film, and for the increasingly imbricated relationship between art and reality?
A new glowing review of J. Hoberman's recently published Film After Film at the AV Club grades the book an "A," praising Hoberman's analysis of the transformations undergone by cinema barely a decade into the new millennium:
Hoberman is tremendously insightful as he integrates his concerns with cinema’s political, historical, and aesthetic past and his visions of its future. For cinephiles of any stripe, it’s a rare book. He soundly articulates the ideological transformations, digital facelifts, and aesthetic insurrections that have tugged at cinema since the turn of the millennium—ones that have made the medium seem simultaneously stagnant and livelier than ever.
Visit the AV Club to read the review in full.