What the DVD has done for the study of film.

posted September 2, 2011

In their recent book, The DVD and the Study of Film: The Attainable Text (Palgrave Macmillan), Mark Parker, a professor of English at James Madison University, and Deborah Parker, a professor of Italian at the University of Virginia, consider how the study and reception of film has changed with the advent of movies on DVD “contextualized” with “extras” such as commentaries by directors, writers, and actors. The book draws on interviews with DVD producers, directors, and scholars to explore how the format can combine the enthusiasm of a fan, cinematic nostalgia, and scholarly insight. The book includes a chapter on The Criterion Collection as standard-setter and a case study of the films of Atom Egoyan.

The Parkers say: “Much of the research for this book was conducted through interviews with DVD producers. We were very fortunate to have access to a living archive. The moment for such research was propitious; we not only spoke with many of the producers who worked with Criterion in its laserdisc days but also to producers who worked under the more fluid rules of the early days of the DVD.

“Their recollections were important given the uneven nature of the archives. Libraries, quite understandably, have been slow to recognize the value of the early versions of DVDs (and laserdiscs), and, given the unexpected fragility of the DVD, the maintenance of digital collections has proven difficult. Once damaged, the replacement version of a DVD often does not include some of the most interesting supplementary material. Hence some of the best audio commentaries have not been reissued, and access to them is difficult.”

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