Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (Matt Wolf, 2019)

As a technology, videotape was both deeply flawed and radical in its impact. Magnetic media, VHS in particular, degrades quickly, and in an especially unattractive way: there is no elegant patina to the image quality of old videotapes: the picture gets fuzzy and melted, like an old cough drop you find at the bottom of your bag. It gets wobbly and jumpy and eventually shreds into static. But the advent of the VCR made it possible for everyone to copy and own moving images far more easily and inexpensively than ever before. Filmmaker Matt Wolf summons affection for this obsolete format—fetishizing the black plastic cassettes and reveling in the ugly-Christmas-sweater look of old video footage—in Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (2019), his portrait of a woman who between 1979 and her death in 2012 obsessively taped TV news twenty-four hours a…

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