Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Accidental Cinematographer

Yeah, yeah, another post on the Kho videos. In my defense however, this will not be about their content. The videos' creation and dissemination are so blindingly immoral that it's understandable that no one has focused on its form, but dammit, I couldn't help thinking that some of the stuff actually actually looks good (!) visually and cinematically. Perhaps I should explain that I've always been a fan of low-res media. I like the low-rent neighborhoods of anti-HD: Super-8, Betamax and VHS and the more recent format of 3GP phone video. I'm not exactly sure why. Brian Eno once wrote that once a recording medium is supplanted by another medium, the flaws of the old medium become prized as aesthetic phenomena. Some of it probably has to do with things that we can't see, but which we associate with what we CAN see (eg a certain type of graininess, color, etc), just as we associate ideas of speed and efficiency with, say, chrome. Super8 is associated with rock, Derek Jarman, Jonas Mekas, the 60's, all sorts of romantic rebel imagery. Still, I am entranced by the completely unverifiable idea that we might be perceive the paucity of detail as a kind of minimalism executed on the level of the pixel. We might perceive low resolution as doing something in the photographic realm that Japanese sumi-e does in the realm of painting: as performing a kind of figurative distillation. Nowadays we also have video compression for that extra patina of image degradation, which, serendipitously, also does wonders for modesty. Maybe compression artifacts can't hide Kho's dick, but they do a great job of smearing the details of female genitalia. The girls could be wearing bodysuits for all the detail visible in the videos.

I like what the locked camera captures, particularly the way the subjects' heads fall out of frame as they hold a position, removing explicit detail while still giving the sense that the act is proceeding apace; and like how the absolute absence of music and muffled voices give only fragments of information that we are forced to cobble together. The fragmentary nature of the available information gives the effect of having a substream of jump-cuts in the frame. (Hm! Intra frame information montage? Gotta explore this idea more somewhere else.) I'm not kidding, the shots could be inserted into something French. Dammit, Kho may have just popularized a new way to shoot and frame sex scenes.

Of course, it would have to be justified why the lens gets suddenly wrapped in the digital equivalent of gauze when a couple gets frisky. On the other hand, we've gotten inured to the use of handheld cameras for practically any subject. It might be that we'll learn to see this kind of distressed compressed-for-the-web video imagery as appropriate to the subject matter. I'm thinking of the brief period of time when the Paris Hilton video caused us to perceive a green-tinted closeup shot with a wide-angle lens as a "sex shot." That association evaporated rather quickly, but I suspect that Kho's approach might actually become useful as vocabulary.

1 comment:

Masi said...

this is enlightening