THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS | A PRO PHOTO & VIDEO BLOG

Free Film School on YouTube

Posted in Video by Nathan Lee Bush on July 21, 2011

The Big Lebowski - fodder for an epic analysis?

Always been interested in film school, but don’t have $200k lying around? Well, you’re not alone. Luckily for people like us, movie enthusiasts online are doing high quality film analysis for free. For the last couple years I’ve become enamored with the film deconstructions on the YouTube Channel of Rob Ager. A self-educated social worker from Liverpool, Ager has spent his spare time building a sprawling (if design-challenged) website, Collative Learning devoted to his vast array of interests, chiefly film analysis. Certainly outside the mainstream interpretation of reality, Ager is a free-thinker in every sense of the word. And a prolific one, at that. When not shooting schlocky no-budget horror films, he created his own self-therapy system, in addition to publishing books, articles and videos espousing his idiosyncratic and often paranoid theories on a dizzying array of topics, like refuting global warming and accusing the National Union of Journalists in the UK of ‘anti-white policies.’

But it’s Ager’s singular and sometimes bizarre perspective that makes his insights about the films we thought we knew so enjoyable.

I’ve read many books of film analysis (check out the fantastic, slim BFI paperbacks devoted to individual films) but nothing compares to watching the scene in question during the analysis. Ager’s videos are illustrated almost exclusively from footage of the film in question, and dig deep into the subtle psychological and political themes that pervade it.

Who knew that the college dorm room staple we all know and love, The Big Lebowski, could sustain a relentless four-part, 35-minute dissection, using only the film’s footage (roughly one third of the total film)? Ager’s interpretations of the characters and imagery range from subliminal themes of castration anxiety to refutations of the foundations of capitalist logic.

His in-depth analyses probe canonical works, both low-brow and high, bringing new insight into classics as diverse as Aliens, Taxi Driver, Psycho, Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner, Hellraiser and anything by Stanley Kubrick (2001, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange).

In my freshman year of college, I expressed dismay to my Film History Professor about how to approach an essay on the seminal Terrence Malick film, Badlands. I was struggling to discover the hidden “truth” of the movie. “No, no, no,” he said, “it’s not that André Bazin, Laura Mulvey, or David Bordwell are presenting the ‘right’ interpretation of a film, or even the director’s true vision. They are just presenting a new perspective, a new way of looking at the work. They are no more ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ than the narrative film itself is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.'” In this way, film theory can be as creative an act as the creation of the film itself.

Watching The Big Lebowski with a friend a few years ago, I was blown away by his own interpretation of every scene and the overarching themes, though it was the completely different than any of Ager’s ideas. This is the joy of all great films: they doesn’t come with an owner’s manual. They are subjective documents whose interpretation is as much a window into the mind of the viewer as of the film itself.

Have you come across any great film analysis online, whether in video or blog form? Share some sites you like in the comments!

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Nathan Lee Bush is a fashion and fine art photographer and filmmaker in New York City. His work is on his site and blog.

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  1. […] infringing on photographer’s rights in the UK; he highlights a YouTube channel devoted to in-depth film analysis which will be helpful for filmmakers; and we roundup the week’s photo and video events in New […]


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