Today, it becomes a week since The Dissolve dissolved. Sorry for the bad pun. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading old articles, focussing especially on the comments section which has at times been as enlightening as the posts and sometimes more. The Dissolve had this rare following of true geeks of cinema who wouldn’t miss a step discussing color, sound, framing, shot selection or anything about cinema under the sky and beyond and whose comments would make a lesser person like myself feel like I was being educated on the finer nuances of the medium I’ve come to love. The fact that the editorial team managed it in less than a 2 year period is extraordinary and in all honesty, I haven’t come across another website so enriching and complete for discussions about film-making.
I don’t write as regularly as I probably should but when I’ve tried to find a job writing for a webiste or print publication, the money offered meant it was going to be a side job. So, when Keith Phipps mentions in his moving farewell note “Sadly, because of the various challenges inherent in launching a freestanding website in a crowded publishing environment, financial and otherwise, today is the last day we will be doing that.” I understand their position and I am inclined to feel at a loss for having taken their great work for granted.
There’s hasn’t gone a week since I first came across them that I haven’t devoured their posts. I still remember reading Mike D’Angelo’s post about Wong Kar-Wai’s masterpiece Chungking Express in their “Movie of The Week” Feature and being stunned by the kind of discussion that ensued in the comments section. Here was a post that discussed the poetry of Wai’s movie by focussing on 22 seconds of film and the comments teach you about step printing, “6 for 6” and actually doing it in film school. I am a huge Wong Kar-Wai fan and I’d always wondered how he’d managed to shoot some scenes. To have them answered, without having explicitly raised the question had me wishing I’d been reading the posts even before October 2013 and since then I’ve been a regular at the site, a silent observer of minds far more advanced with the process. To actually understand the process of film-making from a maker’s perspective, The Dissolve was head and above shoulders above any other website with its publication, barring the few where cinematographers exclusively speak about the work they are doing.
Their “Essential” section has been a gold mine to find classics, cult movies and important work I hadn’t been exposed to. They hardly ever pushed movies which were widely known. If they did, then they’d write about them in a gushing voice like there was no end to the genius of the maker. It was always about the craft, the movie and its position in film history. It was big time film criticism, rarely seen in the mainstream now where think pieces are lists of movie scenes in the form of describing the action with no talk about the technique.
Where most websites break down scenes and films by discussing them from a skewed moral compass or by trying to make two ends of the script meet and hence prove some half baked theory, The Dissolve worked on the cultural impact of the film, the influences, the craft that has gone into making the film. It was addictive reading, learning and like Keith Phipps mentions in his note, it is discussion that matters. I’ve read articles elsewhere where writers have spun yarns looking at a director’s work with myopic eyes, breaking down scenes for emotional value and to come to The Dissolve and read Tasha Robinson write about Aliens, Scott Tobias write about how some movies demand repeat viewings or Andreas Stoehr write about the future of transgender actors after Tangerine is like travelling to a place of blissful solitude after a back-breaking week to calm and clear muddling questions.
This last week, I’ve spent time reading some of my favourite posts and the absence of new posts is numbing. It’s great that we won’t lose this treasure house of articles, features and essentials. They’ll remain and I won’t be surprised if 20 years from now when discussing about my youth and my love for films, I’d mention The Dissolve and smile like a child. The end of publication is a lamentable loss for the cinephile community across the world but when it did exist, it was an unparalleled publication – neatly designed, extremely informative filled with writers and commentators who were passionate about film and the discussing about film.