Being the Boss
The proof of the video essay is in the making. And often, in the playing. Playing around with the footage and the soundtrack you are studying, that is. Using the editing process as a way to glean new meaning from a scene is fundamental to making video essays. Rewind to find new insights, freeze to focus on details.
Being the Boss: Jerry Lewis, Reassembled is the best proof of this one could wish for. In his video essay for MUBI, Alex Clayton studies the antics of Jerry Lewis in one particular scene in The Errand Boy (1961). He makes a close reading of Lewis’ performance in that scene by playfully remixing it. It is a musical process as much as it is a visual or analytical one: Clayton’s version of the scene reminds one of the scratching of turntable DJs. Just like those DJs can use the technique to bring out a particular musical phrasing or to emphasize a rhythm, Clayton cleverly uses it to showcase elements of Lewis’ physical acting.
“I find this hands-on approach helps me to get to know the sequence more intimately, to discover some of the myriad choices taken in its production and qualities that might otherwise escape notice,” Alex Clayton writes in the accompanying text. He gets at the very essence of video essay making here: the choices a good video essay makes are as much grounded in audiovisual production as they are in analytical thinking.