An Introduction to Jean-Luc Godard’s Innovative Filmmaking Through Five Video Essays

Even though Jean-Luc Godard turned 86 this past Saturday, cinema scholar David Bordwell would no doubt still call him “the youngest filmmaker at work today” — as he did just two years ago, in an essay on Godard’s most recent picture Goodbye to Language. Over his more than 65-year-long career, which began in film criticism and arguably never left it, the man who directed the likes of Breathless, Alphaville, and Weekend in his very first decade of filmmaking has kept his work intellectually and aesthetically innovative when most movies seem resigned, and even content, to explore the same trampled patch of cinema’s creative space over and over again.

“Godard has been the liberator of weirdness,” wrote New Yorker film critic and Godard biographer Richard Brody on the occasion of the auteur’s 82nd birthday. “He was always ahead of the game in terms of movie-madness, recognizing that the habit of thinking in terms of images and sounds didn’t detach him from emotional engagement with his subjects but added a new dimension to it.”

He secured creative freedom for himself from the beginning when he “cast amateurs alongside professionals, mixed genres and tones, called attention to the artifices of movies he loved and of genres he rejuvenated, overturned convention with an anarchic fury and an analytical passion.”

Godard, Brody concludes, “hasn’t just rethought movies; he has reconceived the cinema, as a practice and as an experience.” But what does that look like for the audience? These five video essays plunge into Godard’s work, isolating and celebrating elements that have merited our close cinephilic attention. At the top of the post, we have a brief aesthetic overview in the Criterion Collection-sponsored “Godard in Fragments,” wherein video essayist kogonada (creator of pieces previously featured here on Wes Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky, and neorealism) spends six and a half minutes mesmerizingly “highlighting the iconic director’s signature themes and devices,” from cameras and handguns to women’s faces and bottoms to the very concept of death.

But to understand Godard requires first understanding Breathless, his 1960 debut feature and, in the words of the Nerdwriter in his video essay on the film, “an extended investigation of a French filmic identity in the shadow of Hollywood dominance — of, indeed, whether an identity informed by another nation’s culture can exist at all.” Godard and his collaborators made the movie a little more than a decade after the end of World War II, which meant just over a decade after French restrictions on the screening of American films had vanished, plunging Godard’s impressionable generation straight and deep into the sights, sounds, style, and tropes of Hollywood filmmaking.

Breathless, in all its low-budget excitement and illustration of the notion that the severest limitations create the most favorable conditions for art, also functions as a piece of film criticism: it interprets and repurposes all that Godard and his collaborators had learned, consciously as well as unconsciously, from and about American movies, and especially America’s breathless (as it were) genre pictures. “It wants to participate in the Hollywood filmmaking it admires, but it knows that such an identification is impossible, so it deals with this by being self-conscious, by using jump cuts, awkward transitions, by robbing the classic moments of their force or making the hero’s bloody final steps way longer that it could ever possibly be, forcing you outside the film’s text — or back into it again.”

Five years later came Alphaville, another simultaneous tribute to and assault on genre from Godard and company. In it, according to Patricia Pisters’ “Despair Has No Wings: a Tribute to Godard’s Alphaville,” he “plays with film noir elements to tell a science-fiction story that unfolds many other layers,” dropping the extant pulp-fiction detective Lemmy Caution into a new, “strange” context. “Popular audiences were shocked by this worn-out and alienating version of their hero,” turned by Godard into a “cosmonautic secret agent who travels in his Ford Galaxie” into a futuristic, authoritarian Paris of ruling supercomputers, seemingly mechanical citizens, “useless vending machines,” and stark, imposing modern architecture.

But Godard’s use of architecture started before Alphaville and continued after it, argues Richard Martin in the British Film Institute video essay “Jean-Luc Godard as Architect.” He uses the term in a broad sense to mean “someone interested in building, capturing, and arranging, spaces,” an interest manifest in Breathless‘ “almost joyful” Paris of “people running through the Louvre, jukeboxes, cafés, diners, and bars,” Pierrot le Fou and Weekend‘s presentation of “the car crash as a kind of architectural scenario,” and Contempt‘s journey from the grandly “dilapidated lots of the Cinecittà film studios on the outskirts of Rome” to its thirty-minute centerpiece in one of that city’s new modern apartments to Capri’s Casa Malaparte, “one of the most thrilling pieces of architecture not just in Godard’s career, but in the whole history of cinema.”

Maybe it makes sense that someone who first got behind the camera to make a construction documentary (watch online here) would continue to pursue an interest in the organization of space. But as Godard’s attitudes, ideas, tastes, and even politics have changed, the other qualities of his movies have changed along with them. Having worked in black-and-white, color — its use examined in the supercut “Bleu, Blanc, Rouge” below — and with Goodbye to Language even in 3D, Godard has long shown a willingness to enter new visual territories as well.

Not only will his work past, present, and future continue to give video essays a wealth of material to work with, he himself, according to Richard Brody, made the form possible, having understood since the 1970s that “home video would be the basis for a newly analytical understanding of film history, because it would allow for the easy copying of clips and their manipulation via video editing with such techniques as slow motion, freeze-frame, and superimpositions of other images and text.” Thus “every video essay that turns up online owes him a debt of gratitude,” as do many of the other innovative types of visual media to which Godard has shown the way.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Was There a First Human Language?: Theories from the Enlightenment Through Noam Chomsky

During the 17th and 18th centuries, European Enlightenment philosophers discarded the origin stories in religious texts as wildly implausible or simply allegorical. But they found themselves charged with coming up with their own, naturalistic explanations for the origins of life, law, morality, etc. And most pressingly for their inquiries into psychology and cognition, many of those thinkers sought to explain the origins of language.

The Biblical story of the Tower of Babel had long been widely accepted, either literally or metaphorically, as indicative that all humans once spoke the same language (The so-called “Adamic Language”). Many competing theories came from philosophers like Locke, Rousseau, Condillac, Herder, and the Scottish jurist and philosopher James Burnett, known by his hereditary title, Monboddo.

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Anticipating Darwinian evolution as well as comparative linguistics, Monboddo argued that language arose as a response to a changing environment, and that it came into being, along with human beings, in one place, then diversified as humans spread across the globe and diverged culturally. This was known as the theory of monogenesis, or the “single-origin theory” of language.

As the narrator in the video above, from linguistics YouTube channel NativLang, puts it, even after the story had been naturalized—and the languages of the world mapped into proto-evolutionary family trees—“Babel still held one intriguing idea over us; that original language.” And yet, rather than search for the mystical Adamic Language—the revelation of a divinity—as many alchemists and occultists had done, natural philosophers like Monboddo used emerging comparative linguistics methods to attempt a historical reconstruction of the first human language.

They were less than successful. Giving it up as futile, in 1866, the Society of Linguistics in Paris banned all discussion of the issue. “Enter the late Joseph Greenberg” to begin the search anew, says NativLang. A 20th-century American linguist, Greenberg used mass comparison and typology to compare “superfamilies.” Later linguists took up the challenge, including Merritt Ruhlen, who “compared vocabulary from across the globe and reconstructed 27 proto-words” supposedly belonging to the first human language, called “Proto-World.” Ruhlen‘s theory has since been critically savaged, says NativLang, and “confidently tossed… into the bins of fringe linguistics, pseudoscience… and yet, Babel’s first, and biggest claim lingers.”

The intellectual history in this five-minute video is obviously oversimplified, but it highlights some fascinating features of the current debate. As Avi Lifschitz, historian of Enlightenment theory of language, writes, we tend “to assume that our own cognitive theories are the latest word when compared with those of our predecessors. Yet in some areas, the questions we are now asking are not too different from those posed some two or three centuries ago.” In the case of the origins of language, that is most certainly so. Central to the theories of Locke and others, for example, “the precise role of language in the brain and in human perception” remains “one of the most topical questions in today’s cognitive science.”

Although many scholars have given up attempting to reconstruct the original language, linguists, cognitive scientists, and evolutionary biologists continue to find compelling evidence for the single-origin theory. The NativLang video omits perhaps the most famous modern linguist, Noam Chomsky, who argued that a chance mutation occurred some 100,000 years ago, giving rise to language. Even as languages have diverged into what’s currently estimated at around 6,000 different tongues, Chomsky claimed, they all retain a common structure, a “universal grammar.”

Whatever it might have sounded like, original language would likely have arisen in Sub-Saharan Africa, where modern humans evolved somewhere between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago. In 2011, University of Auckland biologist Quentin Atkinson used linguistic techniques somewhat like Monboddo’s to show that African languages—especially click languages like the South African Xu—have considerably more individual sounds (phonemes) than others. And that languages around the world have fewer and fewer phonemes the further they are from southern Africa.

Most scientists agree with the basic evolutionary history of human origins. But like Ruhlen’s “Proto-World,” Atkinson’s linguistic theory “caused something of a sensation,” writes Science Daily, and has since come in for severe critique. The debate over many of those Enlightenment questions about the origins of language continues. Barring some draconian ban, “the search for the site of origin of language,” and for the language itself and the evolutionary mechanisms that produced it, “remains very much alive.”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Map of Physics: Animation Shows How All the Different Fields in Physics Fit Together

From Newton’s mechanical calculations to Einstein’s general and special relativity to the baffling indeterminacy of quantum mechanics, the discipline of physics has become increasingly arcane and complex, and less and less governed by orderly laws. This presents a problem for the layperson, who struggles to understand how Newtonian physics, with its predictable observations of physical forces, relates to the parallax and paradox of later discoveries. “If you don’t already know physics,” says physicist Dominic Walliman in the video above, it’s difficult sometimes to see how all of these different subjects are related to each other.” So Wallman has provided a helpful visual aid: an animated video map showing the connections between classical physics, quantum physics, and relativity.

Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation and his invention of calculus best represent the first domain. Here we see the inseparable relationship between physics and math, “the bedrock that the world of physics is built from.” When we come to one of Newton’s less well-known pursuits, optics, we see how his interest in light waves anticipated James Clerk Maxwell’s work on electromagnetic fields. After this initial connection, the proliferation of subdisciplines intensifies: fluid mechanics, chaos theory, thermodynamics… the guiding force of them all is the study of energy in various states. The heuristics of classical physics prevailed, and worked perfectly well, until about 1900, when the clockwork universe of Newtonian mechanics exploded with new problems, both at very large and very small levels of description.

It is here that physics branches into relativity and quantum mechanics, which Walliman explains in brief. While we are likely familiar with the very basics of Einstein’s relativity, quantum physics tends to get a little less coverage in the typical course of a general education, due to its complexity, perhaps, as well as the fact that at their edges, quantum explanations fail. While quantum field theory, says Walliman, is “the best description of the universe we have,” once we come to quantum gravitation, we reach “the giant Chasm of Ignorance” that speculative and controversial ideas like string theory and loop quantum gravity attempt to bridge.


At the “Chasm of Ignorance,” our journey through the domains of physics ends, and we end up back in the airy realm where it all began, philosophy. Those of us with a typical general education in the sciences may find that we have a much better understanding of the field’s intellectual geography. As a handy reminder, you might even wish to purchase a poster copy of Wallman’s Map of Physics, which you can see en miniature above. (It’s also available as a digital download here.) Just below, the charming, laid-back physicist takes the stage in a TEDx talk to demonstrate effective science communication, explaining “quantum physics for 7 year olds,” or, as it were, 37, 57, or 77-year olds. To learn more about physics, please do miss these essential resources in our archive: Free Online Physics Courses and Free Physics Textbooks

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Genius of Paul McCartney’s Bass Playing in 7 Isolated Tracks

In many a musical situation, one can communicate an entire playing style in a name. When it comes to the bass—in pop music, at least—one of the foremost of those names is Paul McCartney, whose soulful basslines have given us some of the most memorable melodies in music history.

McCartney started out—in the Quarrymen, then The Beatles—on rhythm guitar and piano, only taking over the bass when Stuart Sutcliffe left the band in 1961. And while it’s true that he’s distinguished himself in album after album over the past few decades on every instrument in the rock and roll arsenal, as a stylist, Sir Paul has always best used the bass to express his instrumental genius.

He became a bassist “somewhat reluctantly,” Joe Bosso of Music Radar notes, but soon “proved to be a natural on the instrument… The very image of McCartney with the violin-shaped Hofner 500/1 bass is one that will forever be burned into the minds of music lovers everywhere.”

The hollow-bodied Hofner’s resonant, woody sound is as recognizable as its look. But in recordings, McCartney also played a Rickenbacker and Fender Jazz bass. (Speculation about which bass he used on which song spans many years, and can get pretty contentious.) Even so, his tone is ever distinctive. Take Abbey Road’s sinister, seductive “Come Together,” a song with one of the most recognizable basslines in history. At the top of the post, you can hear the solo track.

On its own, it carries all the energy of the song, as does the isolated bass track from “Dear Prudence,” just above. McCartney begins with one resolutely plucked note that rings out for several bars, then launches into the song’s familiar walkdown. In his baseline, we can hear both the song’s trance-like melodies and harmonies, the bouncy rise and fall of its playful appeal. Here, the rhythmic texture of McCartney’s playing modulates from a plucky thump to a muted click.

“Speaking of mobile basslines,” writes Zach Blumenfeld at Consequence of Sound, “McCartney’s contributions to ‘Something’ are the most underrated aspect of the song. The bass “sets up a counter-melody” to the vocals and strings, “more like a lower vocal harmony than a bass. It’s also one of McCartney’s busiest bass lines, showcasing his dexterity on the instrument.”

Many of McCartney’s basslines work this way, creating counter-melodies and acting like another voice in the song. But while he can be a busy player, he just as often opts for simplicity and generally avoids what he calls “fiddly bits” in a recent video lesson. But his restraint is all the more striking when he does rock out, as above in “Hey Bulldog,” a song that poses a challenge to seasoned bass players. Even such a monster player as Geddy Lee credits McCartney as a seminal influence for his inventiveness and melodies. (As Susanna Hoffs says, “melodies just tumble out of him.”)

McCartney’s bass playing reached its apogee in the band’s best-known final albums, in songs like “Come Together” and “I Want You,” above, where the bass growls, moans, and throbs. But even in earlier hits like “Paperback Writer,” below, McCartney’s playing showcased explosive riffs, confident attack, and pregnant pauses and subtleties.

McCartney’s legendary melodicism on the bass, and his signature exploration of its upper ranges, is perhaps nowhere more evident than on “Rain,” the B-side to “Paperback Writer” and, in general a highly underrated Beatles tune. While we don’t have the solo bass track from that recording, we do have the pleasure of seeing musician Wes Mitchell demonstrate the bassline in the video below, playing along to a bootleg version of the track without bass or lead vocal overdubs.

Mitchell nails McCartney’s tone and style. See him do so again here with the Abbey Road medley “Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” a veritable buffet of McCartney styles, techniques, and moods.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Tim Robbins’ Improv Classes Transform Prisoners’ Lives & Lower Recidivism Rates

If a 20-something, Yale-educated New Yorker reporter feels nervous stepping in to her first ever improv class, imagine the stakes for your average inmate, whose survival depends on a successfully monolithic projection of toughness and control.

Control is actually something the Actors’ Gang Prison Project seeks to cultivate in its incarcerated participants. The Actors’ Gang’s Artistic Director, Tim Robbins, who founded the radically experimental ensemble fresh out of college, notes a well-documented connection between an inability to control one’s emotions and criminal activity.

Unchecked rage may have put these players behind bars, but exploring a wide variety of emotions behind the safety of the Actors’ Gang’s mask-like white pancake make-up has proven liberating.

The dull prison routine leaves prisoners favorably inclined toward any diverting activity, particularly those that allow for creative expression. Shakespeare has made an impact on this population. Why not commedia dell’arte-influenced improv?

It’s a truly therapeutic fit, as Actors Gang ensemble member Sabra Williams, the founder of the Prison Project, explains in her TED Talk, below.

Participants are subjected and held to the rigorous physicality and emotional honesty at the core of this group’s aesthetic. Personal connection to the visitors is limited to whatever may transpire in-the-moment, but within the prison population, relationships blossom. Both guards and prisoners speak of newfound empathy.

The emotional insights arising from these spontaneous explorations teach participants how to diffuse aggressive situations, present a more positive face to the world, and interact generously with others. In between classes, participants write in journals, with a goal of sharing aloud.

Gang signs, mimed weapons, and bodily contact are out of bounds. Wild invention often carries the day.

Participants have zero recidivism, and a waiting list in the hundreds attests to the program’s popularity.

You can learn more about the Actors’ Gang ten-year-old Prison Project here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Why Making Accurate World Maps Is Mathematically Impossible

Jorge Luis Borges once wrote of an empire wherein “the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province.” Still unsatisfied, “the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.” But posterity, when they lost their ancestors’ obsession for cartography, judged “that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters.” With that enormous map, in all its singular accuracy, cast out, smaller, imperfect ones presumably won the day again.

With that well-known story “On Exactitude in Science,” Borges illustrated the idea that all maps are wrong by imagining the preposterousness of a truly correct one. The Vox video “Why All World Maps Are Wrong” covers some of the same territory, as it were, first illustrating that idea by slitting open an inflatable globe and trying, futilely, to get the resulting plastic mess to lie flat.

“That right there is the eternal dilemma of mapmakers,” says the host in voiceover as the struggle continues onscreen. “The surface of a sphere cannot be represented as a plane without some form of distortion.” As a result, all of humanity’s paper maps of the world–which in the task of turning the surface of a sphere into a flat plane need to use a technique called “projection”–distort geographical reality by definition.

The Mercator projection has, since its invention by sixteenth-century Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, produced the most widely-seen world maps. (If you grew up in America, you almost certainly spent a lot of time staring at Mercator maps in the classroom.) But we hardly live under the limitations of his day, nor those of the 1940s when Borges imagined his land-sized map. In our 21st century, the satellite-based Global Positioning System has “wiped out the need for paper maps as a means of navigating both the sea and the sky,” but even so, “most web mapping tools, like Google Maps, use the Mercator” due to its “ability to preserve shape and angles,” which “makes close-up views of cities more accurate.”

On the scale of a City, in more Borgesian words — and probably on the scale of a Province and even the Empire — Mercator projection still works just fine. “But the fact remains that there’s no right projection. Cartographers and mathematicians have created a huge library of available projections, each with a new perspective on the planet, and each useful for a different task.” You can compare and contrast a few of them for yourself here, or take a closer look of some of the Mercator projection’s size distortions (making Greenland, for example, look as big as the whole of Africa) here. These challenges and others have kept the Disciplines of Geography, unlike in Borges’ world, busy even today.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

What’s the Fastest Way to Alphabetize Your Bookshelf?

We’ve told you about the great Japanese word “tsundoku,” which describes the act of buying books and letting them pile up unread. It’s an affliction–or state of affairs–I’m sure many of you are personally familiar with.

Now let’s say you move that huge pile of unread books to a new home. And you’re wondering what’s the quickest way to get them in alphabetical order. Above, a handy lifehack to save you time.

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Creative Commons image of Austrian National Library by Matl

At any given moment many of us can recommend a list of books to read. Books that have imprinted on us, named emotions we didn’t know we had, carved trails through our brains. Books that stand as a testament to a life lived as a reader. We may construct lists to pass on to a curious niece, nephew, son, daughter, student, or apprentice. “Life is perplexing,” we might say, “complex, wondrous, curious, painful, open to unimaginable possibilities. Read these, then go out and find the books that inspire, soothe, guide, challenge, and enlighten you.”

Of course, as you know from reading this site, we frequently bring you many such lists, from famous writers, artists, musicians, scientists, and other titans of their respective fields who have inspired millions of young students and apprentices. Today, we have compiled a master list of recommended reading lists, from writers like Jorge Luis Borges, musician-poets like Patti Smith, scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, futurists like Stewart Brand, and many, many more.

In fact, we have two lists from Borges, both predictably lengthy and eccentric. The first contains 33 books that could start a fictional Library of Babel, among which we find Jack London and Herman Melville alongside occult English writer Arthur Machen and Qing Dynasty Chinese writer Pu Songling. Borges’ second list spans 74 titles, and was intended, before his death, to expand to 100. Patti Smith also recommends Melville in her list, as well as Mikhail Bulgakov, Louisa May Alcott, and her hero, Arthur Rimbaud. Tyson’s list is short, only 8 titles, and he suggests these books not only for the avid reader but—in answer to a Redditor’s question—for “every single intelligent person on the planet.”

And Stewart Brand? Well, his list of 76 books is one of many such lists (including another one from Brian Eno) for his Long Now Foundation’s “Manual for Civilization,” a library meant to inspire and inform the few intelligent people left on Earth in the event of catastrophic collapse.

Find the complete list of lists above. 28 in total. In some cases, the titles in each post link to online text or audio books freely available online. And, separately, you should not miss our list of 74 essential books recommended by “a group of international women writers, artists and curators.”  Please let us know in the comments if there are any especially good lists not mentioned here–ones you think our readers would do well to consult.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Man Ray Designs a Supremely Elegant, Geometric Chess Set in 1920 (and It’s Now Re-Issued for the Rest of Us)

Yesterday, Colin Marshall featured Man Ray’s “Surrealist Chessboard” from 1934, which paid homage to the leaders of the Surrealist movement. Though artistically significant, the chessboard had some practical limitations. Made up of only 20 squares (as compared to the traditional 64), the “Surrealist Chessboard” wouldn’t let you play an actual game of chess.

For that, we need to turn to Man Ray’s chess set fashioned in 1924. Made of abstract geometric forms, this set (on display above, jump to the 3:30 mark to really see it) featured some unconventional chess pieces: the king is a pyramid; the queen, a cone; the castle, a cube; the bishop, a bottle; the knight, the head scroll of a violin; and the pawn, an elegant sphere.

We said you could actually play chess on this board. And indeed you can. In 2012, the Man Ray Trust authorized a new edition of this set, making it available to chess enthusiasts looking for a handsome set. Crafted in Germany, it’s made of solid beech wood.

This chessboard you can obtain.

As for the other modern chessboard Man Ray designed in 1945, it may be out of your league. David Bowie owned one of the few existing copies of that 1945 board, and, earlier this month, it sold for $1.3 million at a Sotheby’s auction in London.

For more information on Man Ray’s chessboards, read this short article from Chess Collectors International (see page 18). Or see The Imagery of Chess Revisited, which covers Man Ray’s boards and beyond.

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Blade Runner Gets Re-Created, Shot for Shot, Using Only Microsoft Paint


Blade Runner came out in June 1982. Microsoft’s Paint came out in November 1985. Little could the designers of that rebranded version of ZSoft’s PC Paintbrush packaged in with Windows 1.0 know that the paths of their humble graphics application and that elaborate sci-fi cinematic vision would cross just over 30 years later. Surely nobody involved in either project could have imagined the form the intersection would take: MSP Blade Runner, a fan’s shot-by-shot Tumblr “remake” (and gentle parody) of the film using only Microsoft Paint, starting with the Ladd Company tree logo.


Why make such a thing? “I like the idea of having a blog but basically feel as if I have very little to say about things, at least things that are original or interesting,” creator David MacGowan told Motherboard’s Rachel Pick. “I gravitated to Tumblr with some idea of just posting pictures, but still felt I needed to be posting something I’d actually made myself… [Y]ears ago I used to draw really crappy basic MS Paint pics for a favourite pop group’s fan site, and they always seemed to raise a smile. The idea of doing something else with MS Paint, a kind of celebration of my not being deterred by lack of artistic talent, never really went away.”


The mixture of technological and aesthetic sensibilities inherent in using a severely outdated but ever-present digital tool to re-create the enduringly compelling analog visuals of a movie from that same era goes well with the original Blade Runner‘s project of updating the conventions of film noir to depict a then-newly imagined future. Even more fittingly, a work like MSP Blade Runner could only make sense in the 2010s, the very decade the movie tried to envision. Will it go all the way to the shot of Deckard and Rachel’s final exit into the elevator? “I don’t really think about giving up,” McGowan told Pick. “The idea of actually completing something I start out to do (for once in my life) is very appealing.” Spoken like a 21st-century man indeed.


You can find every frame painted so far, and every new one to come, here.

Related Content:

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The Art of Making Blade Runner: See the Original Sketchbook, Storyboards, On-Set Polaroids & More

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.