I have a very short attention span. Just ask any of my frustrated friends and family members. When it comes to listening, reading and deciding what I want to be when I grow up, I just can't focus. But I can say this: when it comes to visual stimuli, I can look at the same image for a long time. Whether it's a painting, photograph or shot in a movie, I don't easily grow bored and need something else to occupy my vision. In some ways this can be a bad thing -- I tend to stare at people for too long, making them uncomfortable. But as far as my cinephilia is concerned, I just don't buy the idea that people with short attention spans need a lot of quick cutting in movies to keep them interested. In fact, I have more of a problem paying attention to a movie that has a lot of edits.

This confession is in response to a study reported on by New Scientist(via Variety) about Hollywood (unintentionally) having "hit upon a mathematical way to capitalise on our fickle attention spans." I'm not going to pretend I understand the math or science in this story, which involves a property called the 1/f fluctuation. And I realize it's not merely stating that fast cuts are aligned to modern attention spans. But it did remind me that this is a common defense made about films edited in the "MTV style" more and more to keep modern and young audiences attentive. Hey, maybe I'm an exception to the rule, but I don't think so.
When I think of how my short attention span relates to lengthier shots, I recall the scene from Ameliein which the title character points out a fly in a shot from Jules and Jim. It's stuff like that I enjoy. With cinema occupying such a large space -- on a theatrical screen at least -- I love having the time to look around a bit and see little details or simply take in the beauty of a landscape. I know, this exposes my lack of focus in another regard. And I know, with freeze frame capability on DVD players, people can themselves pause on certain shots anyway -- maybe to discover "easter eggs" in a Pixar film, for instance. But give me a film that really allows me to concentrate on the mise-en-scene for as long as possible over one that doesn't respect the shot any day. Who's with me? And who's going to counter with defense for Eisenstein montage and quick cuts?
categories Cinematical