Sidewalls and YouTube: a street corner called “Attraction”

TitleSidewalls and YouTube: a street corner called “Attraction”
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)do Amaral, C. O.
Affiliation (1st Author)Universidade Federal Fluminense - Niteroi, RJ, Brazil
Section or WGVisual Culture Working Group
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeVIST3a
Slot Code (Keyword)VIST3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
RoomHelix - The Gallery
Session TitleVisual Narrative and Interactivity
Submission ID7134

 This article develops the concept of “attraction” and its narrative strategies, that we can find in films or YouTube videos. We point that “attraction”, as we see in internet and cinema, is responsible for involving the audience in an affective way, totally compatible with classical narrative. Thus, the final sequence of Sidewalls (Argentina, 2011) will be analyzed. “Attraction” as designed by film historian Tom Gunning is a concept used to describe the “First Cinema”, films made until 1908, that he called “cinema of attraction”. With short movies and practically no editing, exhibiting performance itself, this cinema format was popular in the beginning of the twentieth century before the narrative patterns were established. For Gunning, people were absorbed by the “cinema of attraction” technology and novelty. With this in mind, Tereza Rizzo uses the term YouTube Attractions linking YouTube performative videos with “First Cinema”. The author argues that much of the material found either in one or the other isn’t narrative, nevertheless, “confronts viewers with moments of novelty, curiosity, or sensationalism and invites them to stop and stare”. The climax of feature film Sidewalls is present in its final sequence described hereafter: an YouTube musical performance made by characters Martín and Mariana. Until that moment, the story is told by dual focus narratives, which, characters in parallels narrate their lives in separated voice-overs. After a series of mismatches, Martín and Mariana finally meet  face-to-face, in the scene before the climax. Then, in the next scene, they perform for an amateur videocamera a lip sync duet over Marvin Gaye’s version of “Ain’t no mountain high enough”. Through the performance, we can see in a expressive way that, at last, they are happy together. However, a romantic duet to resolute problems and brings the two characters together, is quite similar to what another genre has traditionally made: the musical.  Often, the musical narrative is interrupted by musical performances, acted directly for the camera, what makes this genre a kind of “cinema of attraction” even beyond the First Cinema period (Gunning). During the performance, actors look into the camera, in some type of direct discourse with the audience that creates a sharing space through the looks between public and characters, inscribing spectators within the narrative. Hence, a special pact is made with audience, now, strongly engaged with the story: in addition to the pleasure of a song-and-dance spectacle we can see a turning point of the plot, doubling the emotion of spectator experience. Therefore, the film uses this construction to creates its climax. Besides, In Sidewalls the romantic duet is performed and watched as a YouTube video, like the ones the public is used to, bringing closer, once more, audience and the film.  So, in this feature film, strategies to reinforce the ties between public and characters go beyond the art of storytelling. It passes through the concept of “attraction”, bringing together YouTube and cinema in a street corner where this two medias meet, face each other and cross over changing the audience experience.

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