In recent years, the video essay has emerged as an exciting new form of film criticism that takes advantage of new media to explore cinema in fresh ways. Few critics have done more to advance the video essay than Chicago-based filmmaker-editor Kevin B. Lee, who started producing video essays to compliment a viewing project several years ago and continues to craft insightful analyses of the moving image using the very same medium. A founding editor of Fandor’s Keyframe blog, Lee’s subjects have ranged from Paul Thomas Anderson to Steven Spielberg, and his essays have taken on a wide range of innovative approaches. Some readers may recall “The Spielberg Face,” an extensive montage of close-ups from Spielberg movies; other topics have included Oscar nominees and the video essay itself.
But now Lee is tackling his biggest and most ambitious target to date: The upcoming “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which Paramount will release worldwide on June 27. As Lee points out in his latest work, while the studio remained secretive about the details of the production, that hasn’t stopped various onlookers from recording tidbits of the shooting process and uploading them to YouTube. Indiewire is pleased to present an exclusive four-minute preview.
For “Transformers: The Premake,” Lee culls from 355 of these videos, captured at “Transformers” shoots in America and China, to level a unique contrast between the global studio filmmaking process and its ramifications for amateur content creators. Over the course Lee’s 24-minute piece, of which you can find the first four minutes below, Lee places the blockbuster in several provocative contexts, including the increasing role of China in defining the film industry and the domineering efforts of Hollywood to control its product, a feat epitomized by the recurring appearance of a self-involved Michael Bay.
Lee plans to publish the video in its entirety tomorrow; in the meantime, check out the initial four minutes below, which capably outline its thematic focus and Lee’s innovative use of overlapping screens — a remarkable approach to convey the utter chaos of the modern media landscape, as well as a mounting battle between man and studio machinery far greater than any CGI spectacle.