Monday, August 20, 2012

September meeting: Barbara Klinger (CMCL professor) on 3D movies

One of the most critically debated aspects of contemporary 3D cinema is its use of negative parallax or the illusion of depth that extends from the screen into the audience’s space. Critics often equate negative parallax with low-budget 1950’s 3D films, such as Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), wherein the amphibious claw of the title monster as it reaches for the spectator seems to exploit 3D technology for cheap thrills and quick profits for the film industry. In discussions today about how 3D should be used, critics wish for a more mature and artistic 3D cinema; this cinema would mine the depth behind the screen or, in technical terms, devote itself to positive parallax. While it makes no sense to deny 3D cinema one of its major means of expression, I want to investigate the issue of negative parallax further to reset the terms by which it is typically appraised. I will argue that negative parallax’s dismissal as gimmickry has obscured the vital functions it serves for film analysis, media industries, and audiences. As much as more traditional iconography, the objects that are flung into the theater’s space help to identify the film’s world and its genre. At the same time, ‘frontal’ materials create mechanisms by which transmedia relationships between films and their sources, their merchandising, and their corporate sponsors are forged. In other words, negative parallax serves storytelling as well as economic functions that shed light on the multiple intertextual roles played by a key aspect of the 3D style and experience.

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