Renewed interest in video essays, pioneered long ago by Dziga Vertov, Chris Marker, and Jean-Luc Godard, are a harbinger of the way criticism has begun to morph in the digital age. Below are links to some of the more recent practitioners, as well as essays and statements of purpose delineating first principles and how this revivified genre should be differentiated from short documentary. These examples are by no means exhaustive of what the form allows, but point the way ahead.
Obsessing over a seemingly banal moment in Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder, Christian Keathley unearths a revelatory new perspective on the film hiding in its tiniest expressive details.
Kevin B. Lee’s video essay on French filmmaker Claire Denis.
Matt Zoller Seitz and Kevin B. Lee’s four-part series on Oliver Stone’s Nixon and Alexander.
Margaret Donabedian reads from the late author Susan Sontag’s musings on Hans-Jurgen Syberberg’s Hitler: A Film from Germany.
Nicolas Rapold analyzes a persistent figure in the horror-film genre: the demon child.
Chicago Sun-Times blogger Jim Emerson assembles dream imagery from film history to connote the subjective experience of moviegoing.
On the occasion of a major museum retrospective, Steven Boone examines the present-day legacy of Dziga Vertov.
ESSAYS ON VIDEO ESSAYS
Alexandre Astruc’s 1948 essay on cinematic practice points the way ahead to video essays.
“The Essay As Form” [essay]
Theodor Adorno’s magisterial short essay on the form itself, from his Notes to Literature.
Jonathan Rosenbaum examines Chris Marker’s groundbreaking cinematic essay in the context of his life and work.
“The Viewer As Creator” [essay]
Shooting Down Pictures founder Kevin B. Lee writes about the art of creating video essays.
ON FAIR USE
In the wake of the lawsuit against Kevin B. Lee, Matt Zoller Seitz examines fair-use law in relation to the video-essay form.
Lee reflects on the aftermath of the YouTube affair.