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Trickery and Illusion: The Magic of Cinema
Sarah Wood
Trickery and Illusion: The Magic of Cinema

Effect is not only to do with construction however. Effect is the emotional impression a piece of art can leave on an audience. Most narrative films will work in familiar territory, provoking excitement and simple dichotomies like happiness and sadness, fear and safety. It would be easy to assume that effect is the result of narrative content but artists like Gordon are often keen to show the way effect has really been created through the sophisticated layering of the elements of film.

Take, for instance, Cordelia Swann’s 2001 video The Olympus Ball. Here Swann exploits the idea of a looped film to great effect. By means of her re-editing of a famous scene from Jezebel where Bette Davis dances with Henry Fonda, the looped repetition of the piece points up the way we experience conventional visual narrative. In the re-edited dance we are offered a version which can be at once romantic and frightening, trapping and dreamlike, the loop suggestive of the inescapablity of the original scene, adding to the film’s original intended tension. The original effect of the film is deconstructed simply through Swann’s illumination of the patterning of the original conceit and the trickery of the mechanics of film are revealed. What stands in its place in The Olympus Ball is a re-edit of mystery, suggestive again of the dreamlike quality of the image, a reminder of the imaginative impetus by the film’s creation.

Still from The Olympus Ball by Cordelia Swann, 2001
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