At various points in the history of cinema, movements and groups have emerged that push boundaries and become the shoulders upon which all that follows stand: from Eisenstein’s first experiments with cross-cutting and montage, to German Expressionism, Italian Futurism and then Neo-Realism, French, Czech and Japanese New Wave, Third Cinema (born out of the Grupo Cine Liberación), Dogme 95, all the way down to the Plug-in manifesto (originally by Ana Kronschnabl, an open source document which I have attempted to re-write several times, but in truth doesn’t work for me – yet).
At the dawn of the 20th century, Freud, Jung, Nietzsche and Marx were all writing, proclaiming the death of old Gods (the theological animal itself, the psychologies that drove it and the economic system that allowed it all to thrive). Within 20 years a new movement of women speaking openly (and getting spat on for doing so) changed the very way in which we now approach and use language, understand sexuality, experience the experience of the other: and this in turn has had a massive but little discussed impact on the grammar of film. Anti-colonial writings and civil protest manifestos at abuses of human rights touched nerves long buried under the flesh of supremacy. In the midst of all this thrust and activity, cinema was born and grew up, and a criticism of it developed.
The years 00-08 don’t seem to have thrown up any consistent argument or movement in film (obviously we have two years left to go before the decade gets nailed: and also, I may have missed something). A world has been born filled with information blips, stupid-is-cool culture, a massive increase in invasive surveillance technologies, new propagandas and soundbite reductionism (I am as guilty of this as anyone, with my three line reviews/condemnations of other people’s work). What first drew me to “The Auteurs” was an instinct that it might become something akin to the Cahiers du Cinéma, and throw open the doors to a new thinking about cinema for a modern world.
So, as the first decade of the 21st century draws near to a close, I do not know if it will be possible to look back and name the ideas that defined it. I think this is why I am increasingly obsessed with memory, imagined histories, false identities, entropy, and auteurs who approach that horizon, blur lines between genres. What has been lost? An innocence about film, perhaps. YouTube and its spawn, the accessibility of camera technology (in certain zones of the world at least) and the rapid advancement of computer power has allowed a multitude to make a visual impression. And yet at the same time, amidst all this regurgitation and white noise and xerox machining of dead people’s work, a new level of coherent debate and communication seems strangely absent. It is as if we are living in a perpetual loop, moments after The Tower of Babel collapsed, shot down not by a God, but by a conglomerate of jealous corporations.
In “Notes on the Making of Apocalypse Now”, Eleanor Coppola interviewed Dennis Hopper and he compared film-making then (1978-9) to the early days of cathedral building, when it would take a team of thousands to draft and design and finally lay the stone. He imagined a future where a feature film might be created entirely by one individual, working with nothing more than a portable camera and sound equipment strapped to their back.
With dropping attention spans, short films such as those of Stan Brakhage and Ian Helliwell and Kurt Kren draw my eyes. They seem to have more weight, ironically. And others on the margins: the brainwave/audio work of Alvin Lucier points at a future interaction between the human being and the screen that makes the cinema we know an anachronism. Is it not, to quote Ute Holl (re:Maya Deren), the case that “The task of cinema is not to translate hidden messages of the unconscious into art, but to experiment with the effects contemporary technical devices have on nerves, minds or souls”? Or are we all still floundering in the shadows of the past, playing with three acts and methods and pissy little emotive musics? (-) Is the story of film now not one of storytelling, but of human interaction with the idea of film itself?
At the same time, as established studios fear the shadow of economic failure and become little more than clone laboratories, we see a new cinema from Asia, the Middle East, South America, Africa (in particular Nigeria)- cultures with (re)emerging voices, fresh eyes and other perspectives. In its wake, what becomes of the old world? What lessons do we learn from Hollywood and its children, if any?
(-)I don’t think narrative cinema is dead – it just feels like it’s hit a brick wall.
“Any change in form produces a fear of change, and that has accelerated.” Nicolas Roeg
I suspect that hindsight is everything to any era; I’m still not sure what can be pulled from the ‘90s as definable. I certainly wouldn’t like to think that Dogme is its defining moment. You can talk about the industry changes during the ’90s (the rise of the Independent) but as to the thematic aspect?
As to the ‘00s, it’s too easy to fall back on the idea that any current age has lost that which made previous eras special. What strikes me as interesting is that many of Hollywoods “definites” have become less so; star wattage, for example. It used to be that you could name about 10 stars who could “open” a movie. Now it’s pretty much only Will Smith. And that has leaked into a recognition, on some level, that different approaches are necessary. So now we have a blockbuster season where Robert Downey Jr and Edward Norton are the leads in comic book movies and an environment where foreign filmmakers are desired in order to bring something to the table. Soderbergh possibly led the charge here, managing to combine commercial sensibility with content. And while I wouldn’t argue that what we’re seeing is a return to the ‘70s, where the studios panicked because the old guard knew nothing and had to let the wunderkinds out to play, there’s definitely a sense that they are less sure of themselves and what the future holds than in the past few decades.
And that leads to the recurring debate about the future of cinema; with the 3 month gap between cinema and DVD release, and regular ability to find a movie on the net not long after it has graced the theatres, the pressure is on to make it “special” again. Hence the (not as fast as some want it to be) drive to have digital systems in cinemas and the current trend to the “new” 3D (which currently seems like a joke to me – Beowulf appeared mostly like it was trying to use technology for technology’s sake), but it seems like the studios have to try for something to make cinema-going a tangibly different experience and regarded as an event (and, of course, the ante has been upped by TV, where complex, ongoing narratives are now not unusual). After all, this is a world where people seem willing to watch a movie on an i-pod…
Personally, I think the form is not in such bad shape. Where films like A Scanner Darkly or I Heart Huckabees are getting made, where Christopher Nolan is allowed to bring his ideas to blockbusters.
Or are we all still floundering in the shadows of the past, playing with three acts and methods and pissy little emotive musics? (-) Is the story of film now not one of storytelling, but of human interaction with the idea of film itself?
Hmmm. Human Interaction with the idea of film itself? Care to expand?
Storytelling will always be the principal popular art form; just ask Homer. And it will always have many variables and ways of doing that. I don’t think that there needs to be any conflict between non-narrative and narrative cinema. Nor will there be between art galleries and comic books. And as for the three-act structure, well, we all know it’s there for the breaking. As William Goldman said, no one knows anything. It may make getting a film off the ground difficult if you’re dealing with a creatively sterile studio exec, but what’s new?
What interests me most at this point in the history of cinema is the idea of change, and you make several good points to support the idea that many things are indeed evolving, and fast. What I’m trying to pinpoint (and maybe predict) is where that evolution is most fertile.
I speak, I suppose, from a perspective of making films, and dealing with studio execs and so forth, and my frustrations are palpable. As you say, “…what’s new?”. But resistance is fierce, despite the few beacons of light on the horizon. It’s easier to write the words “creatively sterile studio exec” than to sit across a table from one and smell their breath.
“Human Interaction with the idea of film itself? Care to expand?”
- I had an encounter with Alvin Lucier a few years back, and I became fascinated by his work. He’s a composer: he’s written a lot of different kinds of work, but here I’m referring to the following pieces:
Solar Sounder I (1979) – a sound installation powered and controlled by sunlight.
Clocker (1978) – for performer with galvanic skin response sensor, audio digital delay system, amplified clock and small loudspeakers.
Music for Solo Performer (1965) – for enormously amplified brain waves and percussion.
The last two of these pieces involve direct interaction of the human body with technology to create a sensory experience. The last is astounding, and involves a “performer” with electrodes attached to the temples meditating until their brain reaches a wave state close to Delta, at which point a series of feedback triggers are activated, and we can hear the music of pure thought. To witness this is to question on every level where technology will lead us in the next 20-50 years. Given massive advances in micro-computer sciences (and interactivity is one of the hallmarks of this), it feels as though a new world beckons, one where we can no longer sit back in Lacan’s mirror and experience idealized psychological projections (aka hero identification), but have to involve ourselves directly with a medium in order to create an experience, a feedback loop.
Which brings me to another point: the collective experience of the cinema. As you say, DVD release allows individuals to watch in the comfort of a private space, and even goes so far as to include the tiny world of the I-pod and its kin. What is maybe lost in this is a common audience sharing a film, which was one of its great strengths, and one of the primary reasons film became the huge cultural phenomenon it is (all those people in a darkened room, caught in the momentum of spectacle) – not unlike theater in this respect. The emotive power of a crowd reacting to a screen is different to the home alone viewer. Different, not better.
But it changes things. It changes the way in which we have to create for the medium: spectacle becomes perhaps diminished in importance in a world of personal space. It asks a question of filmmaking, and maybe calls for an approach that is more intimate, with less thrust, drama and grind. I don’t have an absolute answer: but it’s something that I think about a lot.
“After all, this is a world where people seem willing to watch a movie on an i-pod…”
The I-pod itself is interesting: a new medium, no? Creating work for the tiny screen: a separate visual art form needs to be born, where traditional cinematic concerns and approaches do not apply. Close-ups and medium shots dictate. And in this change of visual language, will there not become a need for a different approach to storytelling? The I-pod isn’t going away. In fact, the tiny screen grows minute to minute in popularity.
“…where films like A Scanner Darkly or I Heart Huckabees are getting made”
This I agree with completely, although the Roto-scoping effect is now getting used in adverts here in the US, and, much like the 3D glasses that accompanied the release of “Jaws 4”, becoming gimmicky (sadly): it loses a lot of impact as a result. This is another point about advertising and conglomerate business marketing: in a world where a corporation can buy the rights to almost anything and distill it to nothing in nanoseconds, what becomes of stylistic innovation? We find Picasso’s blue phase paintings decorating a chocolate box, and Stravinsky (or whoever, just name a musician you respect) selling cars. Nothing has any value. Everything is equally for sale.
“Storytelling will always be the principal popular art form; just ask Homer.”
Again, I don’t disagree: but storytelling as a linear form is tired. The world is a wash of media and noise and melting time zones. I don’t feel as if my life is particularly linear. Of course this is again just a personal perspective: I don’t claim to speak for anyone else, but I sense we are living in a decade of suspended ideas, a circularity of meanings. Other people say they concur, and although I can’t be sure, I suspect I am not alone in this. Hence my point about the Tower of Babel.
So, will the form of narrative change to meet this very ancient/new experience of time? because it is just a form, and ironically it was the Greeks and later the Romans who invented/cemented that form. The line as ideology: “story goes from A to B to Z. Such and such happens. Time is a straight line.” Not so: if you look into Aboriginal folktales, or early Celtic stories, or any other culture that existed before Greek culture achieved dominance through war, you find no such sense of the linear: in fact, everything is described and unfolds as either a spiral or a circle.
Time is not a straight line. Time isn’t a line at all. I can write some physics here to back this up, but it feels out of place. Maybe later: I’m happy to argue this point.
I dispute absolutely that Homer is the last word on anything.
There have already been serious movements against this linear storytelling, and you find them where you might expect to, in novels. James Joyce. Virginia Woolf. William S Burroughs, to name but a few (there are many, many). Where is the ‘Finnegans Wake’ of film? Of course it’s all over art house cinema and surrealism. Recently, mainstream films like “Memento”, “Irreversible”, “21 Grams” and almost anything by Lynch take the idea that a non-linear approach is mass-accessible to a new level, and prove that human consciousness doesn’t necessarily perceive in a straight line/causality and nor will it be a box office suicide. Each of these films demanded a different kind of attention from the audience, and the audience by and large responded with an open mind. “2046” (Wong Kar-wai) plays with a similar idea of time, but in a different way: the idea of narrative as incomplete, and as Efe wrote somewhere on this forum, asks you to finish the film in your own life.
I am not decrying popular entertainment: because that would be elitist and ridiculous, and circumvent many great films that I love and have deeply affected me over the years, from “Star Wars” (actually it was the “Empire Strikes Back” that got me, but that belongs in another thread) on. But I do wonder if George Lucas had had the sensibilites of a Maya Deren or Jaromil Jireš, “Star Wars” might have been a profoundly different kind of film, and just as successful.
I would feel as you do if not for a number of films that reminded me that cinema has only touched the tip of the iceberg-
Werkmeister Harmonies – Bela Tarr, Uzak- by Ceylan and Intruder by Clare Denis…
its not the cinema its people that have changed and with so many films made it is hard not to feel like it hit a wall and be drowned in the mediocrity of the movies…but the possibilities are as unlimited as we are.
I have a few things to add to this that I’m just going to rattle out. They may not be the most informed, maybe a little instinctual, but maybe I can clarify later.
I don’t think changing the timline of a movie’s narrative is going to bring any sort of change. That’s a stylistic thing, not a technical thing. If every author wrote as strangely post modern as Joyce or “The House of Leaves Guy” (I forget his name) or if movies were all jumbled up like Inarritu in his 21 Grams mood or Nolan in his permanent mood, then we’d all be in for the same homogenized doo doo.
Lets get down to brass tacks, fuckin with the timeline isn’t going to do much but make people go, “oh what a neat trick.”
In fact I’d throw narrative or character development or symbolic tricks out of the window. Anything to do with content. The surrealists and music video directors have made it quite clear that all that shit does is make giggle.
I read somewhere up there that the Dogme movement ‘hopefully’ isn’t the movement we are all waiting for. Maybe not, but it definitely was Von Triers’. What the Dogme movement DID do is clarify WHERE we need change in modern mainstream cinema. I’m saying mainstream because I haven’t seen the thousands of fucking movies there are released every year. There could be a mini-movement in an industralized city in eastern africa right now. We don’t know or at least I don’t.
OK. What Von Trier and his Dane Pack cleared up would make Dryer proud: That it’s the artifice of cinema that should be exposed. We’ve lived far too many damn years under this idiotic spell that movies are illusion and that we should be carried away by formulaic stories. Break down sets, break down exposures, break down all the visual eye candy bullshit that directors hide behind.
Like, he’s saying that artists should cut the shit and challenge THEMSELVES. It has to do with content amigos. It has to do with the fact that movements bring nothing NEW to the table, they merely shine a light back on what mattered. That’s not to say we should all make “Weekend” or “3 or 4 things I know about her”. That’s the error right there, why the Dogme movement failed, because assholes just copy the godddam style. Soderbergh for a while did copy more than the Dogme style and did make some heady movies, but they are still bullshit movies. All of them. They’re entertaining and somewhat smart but bullshit. Come on. Traffic? Solaris? He’s got the right intentions in places but he has zero pelotas.
I mean making movies with BALLS. Like Von Trier, like Todd Solondz, like Morris, like Moore, like uh there isn’t many that come to mind. There’s more I’m sure. HARMONY KORINE! Before Mr. Lonely I guess.
Entertaining, innovative directors there are. Sofia Coppola, Jonze, Gondry, etc.
Very few with balls.
Kaufman! He has balls. A little too subtle with his balls. But it works. Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are some of the more ballsy commentaries of filmmaking I’ve seen but he’s too hollywood somehow.
I’ve lost my train of thought, maybe I’ve said balls too many times. I need a cold shower.
Talk to me.
“It’s easier to write the words “creatively sterile studio exec” than to sit across a table from one and smell their breath.”
Quite possibly, but surely you need a certain detachment from that experience to really explore your argument? It’s a bit like the generational, “Kids today are so misbehaved. it was never like that when I was young”. A view that’s been popular since Roman times at least.
“The last two of these pieces involve direct interaction of the human body with technology to create a sensory experience. The last is astounding, and involves a “performer” with electrodes attached to the temples meditating until their brain reaches a wave state close to Delta, at which point a series of feedback triggers are activated, and we can hear the music of pure thought. To witness this is to question on every level where technology will lead us in the next 20-50 years. Given massive advances in micro-computer sciences (and interactivity is one of the hallmarks of this), it feels as though a new world beckons, one where we can no longer sit back in Lacan’s mirror and experience idealized psychological projections (aka hero identification), but have to involve ourselves directly with a medium in order to create an experience, a feedback loop.”
This seems to be reaching toward some kind of ecstatic experience. But an advance doesn’t throw out the old. Radio drama or spoken word readings didn’t die when the visual medium came along (and it’s a convincing argument that the book is the ultimate visual medium) and I suspect that for many the point is that you get to be the passive observer, not required to be involved or interact in an experience. The test of any new form is endurance; none of the gimmickry of late ’80s/early ’90s virtual reality futures has taken hold, at least not in the all-encompassing way imagined – what has happened has been very mundane – communication across the net by typing. Or, at “best”, those virtual computer worlds where you can become a character but which is a kind of role play that is really not that “game-changing”.
“Given massive advances in micro-computer sciences (and interactivity is one of the hallmarks of this), it feels as though a new world beckons, one where we can no longer sit back in Lacan’s mirror and experience idealized psychological projections (aka hero identification), but have to involve ourselves directly with a medium in order to create an experience, a feedback loop.”
See, I suspect that while something along these lines may happen, I doubt that it will end up relating to art as such, more likely it will involved narco-ecstatic visceral experiences; either literal or mental hedonism. And what we really seem to be talking about is technology taking the place of hallucinogens or meditative revelation. Which seems a very different ball game to film.
“Again, I don’t disagree: but storytelling as a linear form is tired.”
Nah, not at all. The possibilities of the form are only now moving even more (as you say) from literature to the mainstream of cinema/TV. You only have to look at a show like Lost to see that the “mass audience” is willing to take on board far more narrative and thematic and philosophical complexity than before and those principals of circularity and non-linearity are most effectively communicated in an essentially traditional form, IMO – at least if you want anyone to listen to you.
“I dispute absolutely that Homer is the last word on anything.”
Well, The Illiad did end rather abruptly…
“But I do wonder if George Lucas had had the sensibilites of a Maya Deren or Jaromil Jireš, “Star Wars” might have been a profoundly different kind of film, and just as successful.”
But you might argue his wholesale deployment of Joseph Campbell was a blinding stroke of genius (not that I want to big the man up especially). I tend to find the most inspiring moments in cinema are those that roll out in the traditional structure, because they catch you off-guard. Much as I like Lynch, he doesn’t provide me with mind food any more because he’s running familiar routines. But when Luke faces Vader/himself in TESB, an ostensibly kid’s film, or Apocalypse Now turns into a hypnotic discussion of madness it feeds the imagination for decades to come.
If you want to be cyclical about it, maybe what cinema is doing is reaching that point in the last few years that it was in thate 60s/early 70s, where experimentation is seen as a bonus, but I honestly don’t think we’re breaking new ground in comparison to that period. Maybe against the ’80s.
“Creating work for the tiny screen: a separate visual art form needs to be born, where traditional cinematic concerns and approaches do not apply. Close-ups and medium shots dictate. And in this change of visual language, will there not become a need for a different approach to storytelling? The I-pod isn’t going away. In fact, the tiny screen grows minute to minute in popularity.”
The converse is that the purist can now have exactly the aspect ratio intended on his 50-inch home screen/projector and that kind of cine-literariness is growing. Anyway, Kubrick chose to go with the 1:33:1 ratio because he didn’t want his films chopped for TV, silly bugger. Now it’s gone to the reverse.
“What is maybe lost in this is a common audience sharing a film, which was one of its great strengths, and one of the primary reasons film became the huge cultural phenomenon it is (all those people in a darkened room, caught in the momentum of spectacle) – not unlike theater in this respect. The emotive power of a crowd reacting to a screen is different to the home alone viewer. Different, not better.”
I freely admit to much preferring a near empty cinema experience to a crowded one, simply because it’s so rare to have the audience treat the experience with any reverence. I do’t want hear people talking throughout or eating loudly. When I wasn’t working I used to love going to matinees for that very reason – immersion in the experience.
Anyway – I’m rambling. This topic has perhaps too much breadth to it….
OK this is all excellent. And I don’t disagree with anything.
That said, I don’t wholeheartedly agree with the statement that “changing the timeline of a movie’s narrative is going to bring any sort of change. That’s a stylistic thing, not a technical thing.” It is and it isn’t. It is because we are working within the confines of a convention, a tradition, (you used the word “timeline”, and I already disputed that time is a line) – so any change seems only to work on a stylistic level. But, when you break it down, what I’m talking about is not re-ordering plot trajectories to give them another flavor: I’m saying that IF it were possible to break outside of that, you wouldn’t be telling the same kind of story.
I hear what you’re saying about removing the artifice, and I completely agree: this is territory already mapped (roughly) by Bergman and then by others all the way up to Dogme and beyond.
“There could be a mini-movement in an industralized city in eastern africa right now.”Nigeria. Although it’s in the West.
F__k I’m really tired, too tired to think properly. I started all this because I was bored waiting for my computer to render files, and I hit up the forum in the downtime.
So I semi-regret opening this can of worms. It’s vast, and it isn’t going to get
answered with words: it will get solved the only way it could be solved, in the practice of film itself. But it interests me anyway and I kind of prized the lid on these invertebrate writhing ideas to start a debate. Unfortunately, I’m now beginning to smell my own bullshit, and it’s all getting into the realms of academia (apologies).
“…narco-ecstatic visceral experiences; either literal or mental hedonism. And what we really seem to be talking about is technology taking the place of hallucinogens or meditative revelation. Which seems a very different ball game to film.”
Yeah, I hear you also, but that’s not what I meant, really: I’m not thinking that we’ll all be plugged in to the cinema chair much like Huxley’s vision of the feelies in Brave New World (although it may well end up that way, in some kind of virtual porn/visceral/virtual reality/reality television cubicle). I guess I’m just interested in what we CANT predict. The unexpected development. In the same way that no one predicted cinema as an art form/entertainment revolution. There are cameras out there now with 4K capacities (www.red.com). This is a ridiculous amount of power, and there’s absolutely no medium for it yet.
This is what interests me most. When technology advances to meet almost any creative need, which aspects of tradition get freed? And what worlds will come, when 35mm has shuffled off this mortal coil?
PS: yes, Joesph Campbell did a very amazing job from Hero with a Thousand Faces onwards. But: and I mean this with a really big BUT: it’s a very patriarchal take on almost every aspect of mythology, psychology and spirituality. And that’s what I meant about Star Wars: we’re only drawing on half, maybe less than half, of the sum total of human experience in this narrative tradition. Its interesting that Michael mentions Sofia Coppola. He’s actually made me rethink her completely today. Because she doesn’t do anything linear, really. She does something else, and when I think about it, almost all the women who make films that I know do something similar: they make circles and spirals around meaning, and subsequently never kill an idea with the arrow of logic. That’s a huge generalization, obviously. But it’s a starting point for another debate.
The film industry is notoriously macho and sexist. What differences are there between cinema as created and conceived by women as opposed to men? And that rounds me neatly back to the point I made about Greek culture, and its predominance in every narrative artform since Homer.
OK eyeballs melting, must sleep.
Coda: Elric’s point that it’s people who have changed is excellent, actually. It’s certainly true: the question is: how have they changed, what do they expect from film, and why? The history of film is intimately bound up with the history of social change: and the history of social change in the last 100 years has in turn been deeply affected (in many countries anyway) by the work of filmmakers, in all forms and genres. Chickens and eggs.
Sleep runs away from me…damn. Anyway,
““It’s easier to write the words “creatively sterile studio exec” than to sit across a table from one and smell their breath.”
Quite possibly, but surely you need a certain detachment from that experience to really explore your argument? It’s a bit like the generational, “Kids today are so misbehaved. it was never like that when I was young”. A view that’s been popular since Roman times at least."
(we need blockquotes)
yeah, but the breath is really sterile, all mouthwash and no inspiration. It’s hard to be objective when you’re drowning in minty expirated air.
“The Illiad did end rather abruptly…”
(…breathes huge sigh of relief.)
“almost all the women who make films that I know do something similar: they make circles and spirals around meaning, and subsequently never kill an idea with the arrow of logic. That’s a huge generalization, obviously. But it’s a starting point for another debate”
I agree, although look at the mess most of Jane Campion’s more recent work has turned out to be. And the under-employed Kathryn Bigelow is, for my money, the best action director around bar none. What did you think of Marie Antoinette (very interesting, misunderstood, was my take)?
“And that rounds me neatly back to the point I made about Greek culture, and its predominance in every narrative artform since Homer.”
Sure, but it’s difficult to appropriate other cultural forms without appearing cynical or using surface tchnique without any true depth. Undoubtedly a visionary can and will break the modus but if it’s perspective or training of mindset that’s been part of the DNA of our culture for 2000 years it’s a difficult conception of the world to break free from.
“And what worlds will come, when 35mm has shuffled off this mortal coil?”
To Spielberg’s credit, he’s resistant to the demise of celluloid, recognising the intangible alchemy involved.
Kathryn Bigelow! Remember “Blue Steel”?. ‘Point Break’ is a classic action flic. Have you seen “The Weight of Water”? It’s a departure, and its heavier and more complex than anything else she’s created. People complained it was cold, and the plot was boring. But I liked it.
re: Coppola… I am criminally guilty of not giving Marie Antoinette anything other than cursory attention, but I’m going to go back and have a look at it again. I reacted to the audience murmur after the film more than the film itself, which is a terrible thing to do. So… I don’t know. Michael already pointed out that it’s a tone poem, which on reflection is probably very right.
“…a visionary can and will break the modus”
Which is why I asked the question in the first place, right at the top of the page: who’s on that horizon? Where’s the Agnès Varda, the outsider who’ll give birth to an entire generation of cinematic concerns?
“…To Spielberg’s credit, he’s resistant to the demise of celluloid, recognising the intangible alchemy involved"
There is of course a literal alchemy involved in 35mm, and long may it live. But the cameras are heavy, and it does need a lot of money, (x per foot), and crews and lighting specialists and developing costs and so on – and digital doesn’t. The RED camera gives an almost identical depth of field to 35mm, give or take some grain. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what transpires.
Marie Antoinette is a flick that would’ve probably been seen years from now as the movie that captured our generation. Like a Chinatown caliber allegory of our blase youth. At least my generation, I’m twenty-one. And I mentioned Chinatown cuz it used the 30s to get the 70s just like… you get the picture. I think I just needed to clarify that for myself I think.
There’s the potential Marie Antoinette will be a lot more highly regarded once Sofia builds up a bigger list of movies. I think people will also see how great of a time capsule it is. After all just around the bend of the new millenium all kids cared about were Ipods, Playstations, Paris Hilton (hint hint), pretty people and all that nonsense. If that kind of portrait is accidental or not, who cares, I saw it in there and so did a few others. That interpretation will catch on.
What is there is the tone poem. The personal reflection of a girl born into wealth and fame. Sofia was exposed to the nature of filmmaking in its every angle from birth. She would get to hang out at Chanel on summer vacations from High School. She’s probably had presidential candidates and film moguls at her birthday parties. She’s gotten drunk with the princes of the industry. At some point that all probably felt really hollow. Maybe she felt that being born into that life doesn’t really fit with the person she would’ve liked to be. That’s not an alien idea.
She reflects on these themes of entrapment, isolation, boredom, and tragic love in her first to movies. She repeats them again in Marie Antoinette, but with such an insight into what its like. This wasn’t a boring chamber drama with monologues and Other Boylen Girl-esque bitch fights. It was kind of silent and apathetic and bored. Isn’t that what it would really be like? Isn’t Marie just the Paris HIlton of the old days? Wouldn’t it stink to be pushed into the limelight with so many eyes on you?
The opening of the movie has a fantastic circular connection to the ending: She wakes up early in the morning to get dressed by all these people only to end up persecuted for being the decadent princess she was compelled to be.
I have so much to say about this movie, I loved it quite a bit. If female filmmakers circle around their themes over and over and never quite exploit the logic that explains WHY? Then I’m some sort of female filmmaker. Transgendered art. Creepy or sexay?
I find it interesting when we start getting into a debate about “male” v “female filmmakers.” I think a greater point here would be communication itself, the differences in the TENDENCY of male v female filmmakers to communicate in linear v non-linear formats, or to be drawn toward highly scripted v. intuitive filmmaking. If we are talking about non-linear formats and intuitive filmmaking as being only feminine, we are excluding directors such as Lars Von Trier, David Lynch, Nicolas Roeg, Francis Cuppola and Chris Marker, among others.
I watched a film by Chantal Ackerman yesterday, ‘La Captive.’ In the supplement to the DVD there is an interview with the director. The [male] interviewer starts off the interview by trying to pin down absolutely Ackerman’s motivation for this or that, what he terms, ‘theme.’ For example, “Was your inspiration for the male character in the film 19th or 20th century psychologies?” Ackerman explains that she did not think in these terms, that the character was driven in her head by a more universal/human approach to psychology, and that what makes the film relevant to any given century is simply the technology that is visible in the film. The interviewer is apparently unsatisfied with her response because he comes back to it numerous times in the interview, and Ackerman is forced time and again to repeat her same response.
It is this very need for a concrete, pinpoint answer that defines linear communication in my mind. Rather than let the point be open to interpretation, the interviewer feels he needs to understand absolutely whether his definition is correct. This is not necessarily a male v. female trait, rather a closed v. open form of communication. As the interview wears on, it becomes more and more clear that it is in fact the different ways in which the two are communicating that has become the source of the debate, rather than any points being made within.
Ackerman’s film itself, ‘La Captive’, was filmed in an intuitive way. She understood, as she explains in the interview, that much of what she was trying to say with the film would only become clear either in postproduction, with the finished product, or even in the mind of any individual audience member as she/he interpreted its meaning through their own filtering process.
She compares her film to Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’, which served as an inspiration, by explaining that each scene from ‘Vertigo’ and its resultant effect on the audience was carefully planned out by Hitchcock himself, while she herself did not make ‘La Captive’ in this way. Rather she understood what she was trying to say in each scene, but let the effect come through the experience, that is to say, the mood of the actors, the preferred camera shot on any given day, the way she allowed her directing style to be guided by an internal voice that told her clearly what “felt” right for each scene.
I think this is all central to this point of “linear” v. “nonlinear” – the very impulse within us that drives us to create something, whether to prove to ourselves that we can, or whether we are letting something speak “through us”, so to speak.
As for ‘Marie Antoinette,’ I saw it in a theatre in Paris, a matinee, by myself. The audience was all lone women. That I found very interesting. I feel as though perhaps I should watch it again, because it is an interesting point that looking back future generations might describe it as a definition of our generation. I experienced the film as so many sound-bites. Within this, of course, it felt lacking in content. But if this was Sophia Cuppola’s very intention, there is perhaps a stroke of genius there.
Tendency – Can you expand on that a bit?.
Yes. I simply mean that, as you point out above, “female filmmakers” feel less constricted, I think, by the bounds of linear thinking, feel less pressure.
This might simply be because of the lack of tradition, the fact that there is not as strong a formula for female filmmakers to follow because there simply have not been as many as there have male filmmakers.
Bringing up Agnes Varda was a good point, I think, because she was there at the birth of the New Wave, is considered by some to be the “mother” of the New Wave, and her filmmaking style is non-linear (her first film La Pointe Courte was inspired by a Faulkner novel, so again, this debate is not necessarily at all about female v. male). She made ‘La Pointe Courte’ at a time (1954) when linear construction was the filmmaking norm, the Hollywood Studio system was at its height. The fact that she is considered to have so influenced the New Wave can perhaps be interpreted as meaning she opened up the doors for a new kind of filmmaking, one that takes personal preferences of communication into consideration, rather than formula-following. I personally take this in part as evidence of the fact that female filmmakers might feel less constricted by linear construction…
Also, I believe that linear thinking often makes one feel the need to prove points along a linear mode of communication: point, counterpoint, etc, until the argument has been so deconstructed that there’s nothing left to argue. Rather than reading between the lines to understand the content of a film by what is NOT said, linear thinking tends to make one look only at what is on the page and how it can be argued.
I don’t believe that male filmmakers are necessarily more inherently drawn to a linear form of filmmaking than are female filmmakers or the other way around; rather, going back to your original point, this is how filmmaking has largely been defined in the past: beginning, middle, end. Highly scripted, largely plotted out with a formula for how it should be done. Again, the question is not male v female, but how we communicate ideas. There is no right v wrong way of making a film, simply different approaches.
“Also, I believe that linear thinking often makes one feel the need to prove points along a linear mode of communication: point, counterpoint, etc, until the argument has been so deconstructed that there’s nothing left to argue. Rather than reading between the lines to understand the content of a film by what is NOT said, linear thinking tends to make one look only at what is on the page and how it can be argued.”
This is the crux of all academia, and the problem with it. In fact, it’s one of the real problems with talking about films at all. It doesn’t end with the conventions of studios and the classical Hollywood model – the same problems exist in the way in which we discuss them afterwards. Arguments tend to end up as nit-picking over details of other people’s theories. Somewhere down the line, the film itself ceases to exist.
“Rather she understood what she was trying to say in each scene, but let the effect come through the experience, that is to say, the mood of the actors, the preferred camera shot on any given day, the way she allowed her directing style to be guided by an internal voice that told her clearly what “felt” right for each scene.”
This is very similar to Roeg’s approach, and also Chris Marker, Charles Burnett and to some extent Kubrick (if the reports of how he worked on The Shining are true). And Marguerite Duras.
So…re: Varda -“…she opened up the doors for a new kind of filmmaking, one that takes personal preferences of communication into consideration, rather than formula-following. I personally take this in part as evidence of the fact that female filmmakers might feel less constricted by linear construction…”
Who else? And how does that relate to films like “Marie Antoinette”? How has it evolved?
I want to see Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi) – I know the graphic novel(s) – and I’m interested in how those two forms relate. But the story (autobiography) as it’s written there seems to follow what you are saying.
I agree with you Jenny, wow, that’s it right on. I was never talking about vs. type stuff I was all about the style of communication. Except you coined the way of saying it, thank you. Yeah, there’s definitely going to be feminine inflections in the way the images are told and the way the story is portrayed if it’s a personal work.
As to how has it evolved? Man, I’m not sure how to answer that, even in relation to Marie… Toby, you mentioned the autobiographical film in contrast to the liner plotted film… hmm. The transition from Virgin Suicides to Marie Antoinette was a personal evolution.
Yes, that’s what it’s all about. I run that through my head a lot before I ever shoot. If that will ever come through in the final product and it’s crazy but it does. It does come through depending on my mood, my choices, and all very subconsciously. I notice that I often dress the set or the characters with articles of my clothing, or with funny furniture I like, or something like that. I do it impulsively but then I notice whoa it’s all me, in every way or form. Hell, that makes me think about the whole, a director is sometimes just drawn to the project.
I’m off topic here. Only because you bastards really make me think. Kudos to all of you mugs. Keep talking!
Off-topic is good. It’s a ranting thing, needs no definite article. What films are you making? What’s your goal?
I’m starting film school this Fall, so I don’t make anything ‘professional’ if that word even applies to cinema at all. The type of films I make are like video poems, which is to say, short montages that say what’s up with my life or my mood— like a diary? I make them every six months or every year. My goal with these videos is to chronicle my life and my thoughts and to keep it going well into old age.
It’s a modern way to keep a diary or a yearbook I think; also a very artistic one.
They’re really fun to do, I’ve learned a bit about production and editing and such but I can’t quite communicate myself with cinema as I can with like a short story or singing a song. Filmmaking is really hard work! Which is awesome! Man, my hat goes off to guys who can work the production stuff, the actors, and at the same time tell a heartful and compelling story.
So yeah, I’m learning by doing right now. They’re pretty little messes but I think I come through every frame somehow and that inspires me to keep going I think. It’s a sign I’m at least doing something right. I’m hoping that once I’m in film school with experienced people it’ll make the technical stuff easier and allow me to worry about the creative angle a bit more.
Once I know I’ve got a handle on things, then I’ll start thinking a bit more about how I can try and change a few things in the medium itself. I’m a patient person. Zen cinema baby.
I’m so anti putting videos on youtube cause of the shit quality, but I’ll live.
“Vincent” is the first short I ever did. I went out, bought 16mm film and went nuts. This is a bit about when I first moved out on my own.
“Yardstick Gentlemen” is a camera test turned music video. It was the first time I’d ever held a Canon XL2, which at the time was awesome.
“Humdrum Adoration” is a short I made in 24 hours for the Insomnia Film Festival. It includes an original score by my friend Roach and narration by myself.
…I’m currently editing my latest. It’s called “HYPNOTCHKA”.
They’re all relatively short (7 min. or less). Enjoy.
It’s odd you should talk about this kind of filmmaking. I did this for a long time, and I still do from time to time, although it’s developed into something else now, more off-center, less central to me. It’s a really good discipline, brings the activity of film up close and personal, so there’s no escaping the truth about yourself. And it can be incredibly powerful. It was something that interested me in the plug-in manifesto (see first post, right at the top), because I was looking for a form that would work specifically with the web. I still play with this off-the-cuff, on-the-fly approach to making films: the art is in discovering what you shot when you thought you were looking at something else. I’ll check your films.
Talking about balls Sophia Coppola has a good pair, maybe helps the fact that his father is his father, but she could be doing “27 dresses” or similar stuff anyway. I think that Marie Antoinette is a failure for many reasons, Sophia goes for it like the big guys: Wong Kar Wai, Wim Wenders, Cassavettes; improvising and finding the movie on the way, but this not always works for example in Lost In Translation it did. I think the best is Marie Antoinette are the second unit scenes that his brother Roman Coppola did, it’s a shame that Roman got sacred by the reaction of the critics with his first feature CQ and stopped making films.
About Lucas not having Maya Daren sensibilities, well he once had them, check out THX 1138 (1971), that box office failure where he understood that the people wanted pop corn not art.
What has been more interesting in this discussion would be what Toby talks about regarding formats, and here is where internet comes useful. Now for the first time in the history of the world we can reach any point of the planet and share instantly our art, and we can build a market not worried about the popcorn, and being positive we can survive doing what we want if we find a group of interested people, an audience.
aha! exactly: THX 1138! In his notes on the making of that film, he said that he knew it was his one and only chance to make an arthouse science fiction film: apparently the studio didn’t check the dailies, else they’d have pulled the plug as soon as they saw the scenes in the white prison landscape where he tears the hell out of Jimmy Carter speeches.
Yeah…formats, new genres, plug-in manifestos… a new dawn or a cellphone camera dead end?
i don’t know enough about formats and technology to even try and predict the future of filmmaking. i’ve always had this idea of a folk cinema that is deeply tied to the roots of the artist and his community. the city is the tree and the stories it carries are in its leaves, all the artist does is pick up the leaves and be impacted; only to have it impact the artist’s work.
with the net, there can be citywide, statewide, nationwide, worldwide communities that quilt the stories of their homes. the group i’m in, REMAP LA is a UCLA group of amigos that are trying to spearhead something along those lines. we’re trying to give roots to this post-modern beast that is our home.
anything we do now we always could do but it was either to expensive or too time consuming. with digital filmmaking, making movies can become an artistic expression like any other. which is a nice thought. the net will do for film what photography did for painting. web 2.0 is all about intercommunications, right? where it will go from there (have political power like godard says film will never have again or the ability to sway society) i don’t know. we just have to do it i guess.
it certainly will not kill off big cinema. i always get a kick out of people who think that. i mean, julian schnabel still sells million dollar paintings and my little sister paints. she gets brownie points from mom. are you guys ok with that? making movies for brownie points and working your day job?
p.s. apparently wong kar wai and wim wenders can’t ride with the “big guys” either since their last few flicks don’t carry an inch of entertainment or artistic value. and cassavettes, well, he’s dead. so lets see him make something now.
Yeah I was reffering to the golden years of those guys: Paris, Texas; State of Things and Shadows, The killing of a Chinese Bookie. Now it would be Karwai, Dumont, Weerasethakul but you got my point right? I’m talking about improv while filming and finding the film as it goes.
About dramatization through chronological fragmentation that Toby mentioned before, well I would be more into forcing narrative tools. As Tarkovsky said: film being in baby steps, using from novel various elements, the mission is to finish those elements and start with elements from film, what can it do like no other medium. In this sense I’m experimenting with point of view myself, I think there is not much done in this respect. I love Hitchcock’s Psycho for this reason.
Michael what you want to do with the communities sounds awesome, I have always wanted to go to a tribe with small video cameras easy to use and teach the children and let them do their movies to see what comes from this experiment. There is a pair of guys in Mexico City, where I’m from, that did the experiment with homeless kids, the result is a documentary that shows their short movies, with the context and other things that happened along the way. Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids (Zana Briski, 2004) is another excellent example in this respect.
I am a big fan of Born Into Brothels, it’s probably one of the major reasons why I joined REMAP LA. We don’t quite have the funding to teach kids filmmaking (or nearly the experience (in my case)) but we’ve been doing good things with photography.
By the way I like Kar Wai, Wenders, or Cassavettes.
I’m not sure where you got yer sources but all of Sofia’s movies have thought out written screenplays. Marie Antoinette? Hardly any of it was improvized considering they had limited time to use Versailles and the mass amount of extras, that wouldn’t make any sense. I guess they can come up with a new scene to shoot quickly but aside from that what feels improvized (structurally) about her movies?
This is besides the point, people, talk more about folk cinema!
double post oops
“it certainly will not kill off big cinema. i always get a kick out of people who think that. i mean, julian schnabel still sells million dollar paintings and my little sister paints. she gets brownie points from mom. are you guys ok with that? making movies for brownie points and working your day job?
woowoo indeed… questions like these are not armchair luxuries or academic musings but bread and butter, roots of the tree: the search for innovation, the living breathing eating shitting it. All lines of inquiry are valid, and no possibility can be overlooked.
I’ve heard of REMAP and its goal of a cross-fertilized media. I’ve discovered a similar project in Salt Lake since I’ve been here filming: The Temporary Museum of Permanent Change. And there are more springing up all over the USA.
“Folk cinema”: define it more. Have you read “The Cinema of the Low Countries” (Ernest Mathijs, Harry Kumel)?
“What first drew me to “The Auteurs” was an instinct that it might become something akin to the Cahiers du Cinéma, and throw open the doors to a new thinking about cinema for a modern world.”
These words from T’s post and the discussion which ensued are a beacon. I’m not here to condemn top ten lists and what’s-the-worst-movie-you’ve-ever-seen posts. I read somewhere the very valid point made by one TA member during a heated discussion on one such post that out of such conflict sometimes comes very interesting new thinking. Living in London, Paris and Vancouver has also taught me that wherever you are in the world you can put a single pea freshly prized from its pod in the middle of an empty gallery space and you’ll always be able to find people prepared to discuss it as an exhibit.
Something began to give The Auteurs definition here. What happened?
(Feel free to leave an abusive comment or just click on the down thumb and say nothing at all.)