The opening of Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 Persona
is likely familiar to any cinephile reading this: it may excite you, bore you, remind you of taking or teaching an introductory film course. The montage of dissonant images and sounds set up many of the themes to follow — which is to say, mortality, materiality, and Mommy issues abound. Then there is the unnamed boy who reaches out to touch the screen that may be projecting the likeness of his mother; this, like so much of the movie, is a matter of interpretation. What can be said for certain of this single image within an indeterminate sequence is that this child wants to touch something that will soon flicker away. He wants to get closer. (Clearly, this kid has no idea what the next 84 minutes have in store.)
The essays that follow are about interpretation and about that desire to get closer. The writers have only their prose — and, granted, a few screenshots here and there — to get us closer to the medium of film, its history, its form, its politics, and its ontology. Their readings are sly and surprising, astute and ambitious. It has been our honor to support these writers in their efforts, to learn from their fresh perspectives, and to bring their words and ideas to the readers of the Los Angeles Review of Books
— Annie Berke and Anna Shechtman
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