Book Review: Masha Tupitsyn’s Picture Cycle

Picture Cycle, a recent book by the critic and multimedia artist Masha Tupitsyn, encompasses both sharp analysis and detailed accounts of what Warshow would call her direct experiences of film. Which are conveyed, purposefully, as the direct experiences of a woman.

Book Review: Masha Tupitsyn's Picture Cycle 1

In this respect they offer sometimes startling perspectives. As for example her essay A Sentimental Education, which examines the character/performer/real-life-figure male dynamic in “All the President’s Men” and throws in Nora Ephron’s novelistic and on-screen a clef tales of Carl Bernstein for good measure. Late in the essay Tupitsyn states: “In almost every shot of ‘All the President’s Men,’ Bernstein and Woodward are always Two. In the duo of Redford and Hoffman as mise en scène, the two actors remembered each other’s lines and finished each other’s sentences. All four men—the two onscreen and the two offscreen—exemplify a cultural and emotional inside-ness (trust; Two) that only men have been allowed to have with one another when it comes to the dialogue between public and private. In film, history is made up of men who make history together.” 

These observations might be immediately possibly slightly infuriating to a fan of the movie, who can protest that the picture tries to actually chronicle an Important Historical Event That Actually Happened. And yet, why does that exempt it. I sometimes teach the movie, and it’s great and imminently teachable, but I always think “aiiieee” at Redford/Woodward’s dismissiveness to the female assistant who actually finds the picture of Ken Dahlberg that sets off the call that breaks open Woodward/Bernstein’s story. 

The book alternates—the more accurate term with respect to the direct reading experience would have to be “flows”—between formal critical essays, epigrammatical, notebook-style collections of observations, and personal reminiscences. Even when discussing topics such as relationships dissolving, there’s a through line to art, its production or its consumption. There’s not much in the way of what you’d call “TMI.”

While I’m generally wary of the aforementioned notebook mode, Tupitsyn’s got a beguiling way with it, as seen in this passage from “Time For Nothing:”

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