I will make this brief. Once upon a time, contemplative cinema was an innovative method for filmmakers to express the ethereal, the enigmatic, and the hidden beauty of the mundane. Tarkovsky used it to particular effect, creating dreamlike, unforgettable works.
Today, it appears that every other “serious” filmmaker is experimenting with contemplative cinema (“CC”). I must admit that sometimes it can leave an impression on me. Yet can we not deny that it is becoming overdone?
Zhang Ke Jia. Weerasethakul. Tsai Ming Liang. Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Claudia Llosa. Semih Kaplanoğlu. Alexander Sokurov. Claire Denis.
How many of these new CC movies are the products of laziness on the part of the filmmaker? I walk quite a bit in my life, and I find that there are many aspects of our daily life that are marked by overlooked splendor. Does an individual’s ability to capture that splendor make him or her a good or great filmmaker?
How many young filmmakers are there now grabbing a camera to cynically exploit the critics’ affinity for contemplative cinema? It’s much easier than breaking new ground, than engaging the audience in a non-soporific manner.
Perhaps soon enough, we will look back at many of the recent CC movies as the dull refuse that they are.
I believe the time for a cultural revolt against contemplative cinema is overdue. The joke ultimately is on us. Enough is enough.
i think the problem with a lot of modern contemplative cinema is that it often doesn’t give you much to contemplate at all, so it just reeks of utter tedium.
Weerasethakul is an interesting case, out of the younger directors(i.e 40 and under) because at least his films have ideas worth reflecting on. Regardless of what one thinks of films like Syndrome……..or Uncle Boonmee…., they are not lazy, run of the mill C.C films. and they have a cultural specificity to them that is greatly appealing, rather than a stock ‘internationalist’ approach(for lack of a better term).
However, i don’t buy the idea that critics just swallow these films whole whenever they are presented to them. Critical response is generally mixed unless they are exceptional, or at least accessible enough to appeal to their middle brow sensibility(sorry, had to add that!!). They tend to dominate festivals though, i’ll give you that.
So do i agree the film world needs a shake up? Definitely. But CC also has its place.
I find the “contemplative cinema” rubric to be not so useful.
How so, Matt? It seems to me the last decade has brought a large number of films that fit a similar stylistic pattern that has come to be known as contemplative. There are variations as there are in any genre.
In fact, I’d say the genre needs to be normalized because they often receive either uncritical praise or unthinking condemnation based purely on style without regard to differences of content.
It’s not flame bait. It’s “let’s have an interesting discussion or debate” bait. Do you have a problem with the way I express my views? Do you dispute that I believe what I am writing?
“How many of these new CC movies are the products of laziness on the part of the filmmaker?”
Got news for you. Most films that get made are not very good, no matter under what label they are made.
The presentation is what raised my eyebrows, but fine, if you’re sincere then go for it. I think all the directors you mention are excellent.
I think if you look at the films that get lumped together under this label (Ashoka might also have listed Tarr, Bartas, Kore-eda, Bruno Dumont, Pedro Costa, Kore-eda, Alonso, Carlos Reygadas, and any number of others), these films tend to be as _dis_similar as they are similar. It’s fine as a general description of broad trends (sort of like Bordwell’s “intensified continuity”), but not so good for generating meaningful readings of films.
An artist creates in accordance with their compulsion for expression. One accepts it or not: that ‘s up to the film public. It’s the height of arrogance to suggest that current film artists are .somehow degraded by not meeting your standards. IMO.
“Zhang Ke Jia. Weerasethakul. Tsai Ming Liang. Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Claudia Llosa. Semih Kaplanoğlu. Alexander Sokurov. Claire Denis.”
The variety of filmmakers on that list alone proves how horrendously misinformed most people are on this subject.
For example, Kaplanoğlu’s Bal opens with a long take about three minutes in length and in the next minute has over ten shots. Is that contemplative? Or compare the amount of camera movement in Vive L’Amour as compared to The River, or I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone. Or compare Jia’s first three films; his first film was almost all handheld, shorter takes, his next was mainly long static or panning shots, his next film was almost all handheld long takes. Hou Hsiao-hsien? Compare the aesthetic simplicity of The Boys From Fengkuei, with the rigor of A City of Sadness, or (especially) the flattened, telephoto compositions of Flowers of Shanghai. Denis’ latest film almost all handheld, as was 35 Shots of Rhum, as compared to the landscape style photography of Beau Travail. Weerasethakul? He’s easily one of the most stylistically complete filmmakers on earth; he literally does everything from a formal perspective.
You have to be joking, or trolling because that list you came up with could not be any more diverse in essentially all possible categories. And every single one of those filmmakers is the exact opposite of lazy, too.
But I suppose one comes to expect comments like this; generalizing is the devil. Be specific if you want comments taken seriously.
I’ll grant you that you want an interesting debate. But you have to engage the topic in a more involving manner.
First of all, as Matt pointed out, the nomenclature of CCC itself is not very useful. For example, the works of Sokurov, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Claire Denis, and Apichatpong have very little in common. The only commonality—and a largely superficial one at that—is their pacing, which I admit is antithetical to the ADHD-inducing pacing of Hollywood cinema.
But even if you want to group these disparate filmmakers into some chimerical “school” of cinema, you have to do more than just state that they are “dull refuse.” Cite examples, provide analysis, and so on. Then a fruitful debate can ensue.
I was going to warn you Ashoka but I was too late.
I think that the main difference between I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone and those other movies is that the other movies didn’t consist entirely of a guy being cleaned.
@ Marsyas – Well said.
“An artist creates in accordance with their compulsion for expression.”
Well, there are times that “contemplative cinema” works for me and times when it doesn’t. Usually, the times that it does work for me are the times when there is a character (or characters) in the movie that I actually care about and am invested in. I need to find the human characters in the movie compelling. However, if I’m not invested in any of the characters that’s when I find the whole “contemplative cinema” style incredibly boring and, frankly, lazy. I mean, I really couldn’t care less about a movie full of three minutes static shots of things like, I don’t know, a flowing river, or maybe a random person I don’t care about doing the dishes. I just don’t care. I might as well be watching a nature documentary.
That laziness “tag” is what is bothering me. It’s no harder or easier to stage a long take than it is to stage a short one. In fact, as an example from a “non-contepmplative” film, what do you think took more time and work on the part of every single person to stage in Hunger; the 17-minute take between Fassbender and Cunningham discussing the hunger strike, or any of the other scenes made up of multiple takes and short shots?
The reality is, the vast majority of the time, it takes far more skill, drive and work to pull off a long take than it does to set up three cameras and have them shake incessantly until half the audience is seizing, a la Greengrass.
Lazy or Boring are not valid criticisms. In my opinion, the OP is lazy, since you come out abrasively dismissing something without bothering to at least prove you’ve done the proper analysis. It’s not something I’m even remotely interested in engaging with.
Not all long takes are equally difficult or easy to stage. Doing a long take like the one you are talking about in Hunger is a lot more difficult than doing a long take that is more typical of a “contemplative” film, which is basically just putting the camera in front of something incredibly mundane and pushing the record button.
You’re missing the point. There’s a lot going on in the mundane.
I would add Michael Bay to the list. I would rather shoot myself than watch him contemplate another close-up with a short-depth-of-field telephoto lens.
^^^Not always though leaves, and that’s the problem.
Overall i agree with Wu in this thread. It’s one thing to apply a broad application to a mode or style or approach to film, but it’s another thing altogether to imply that there isn’t much difference between the artists themselves as a result of this. It’s just sloppy thinking. Four of my favourite living practioners of this alleged ‘style’—-Angelopoulos, Costa, Tarr and Kiarostami—have very little in common with each other, apart from superficial pacing issues Blue mentioned earlier, a preference for longish takes(by Hollywood standards), and general humanist concerns. So referring to them as ‘contemplative film makers’ is not particularly insightful, as it reveals little about style or content, or the specific way the directors engage and explore their material through the visual medium.
Yes there are plenty of ordinary directors making films in this ‘style’, but there are plenty of amazing ones too, and we only really care about the great ones really. The ones with unique voices. Not everybody can make great art.
Perhaps. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? Regardless, it’s still a lot easier to shoot and stage than a lot of other styles of cinema, and that’s why it could be labeled lazy.
This is a bit off topic, but since a number of you seem to hate the topic, maybe that’s okay. :)
I’m hearing the valid response that films often gathered under the label, contemplative, are a varied lot so should not be lumped together. The same can be said of film noirs or just about any other genre. Are you saying that genres are not a helpful way to categorize film or that its particularly non-applicable in this case?
Regardless, it’s still a lot easier to shoot and stage than a lot of other styles of cinema, and that’s why it could be labeled lazy.
No, shooting in long shot without coverage is harder on the set and in the editing room than is classical decoupage. It takes an extremely talented and committed director to do it successfully.
So is hand-held lazy because it’s “easier” than setting up a tri=pod? See why I don’t buy that?
It all depends on the context. I’m sure Coutard would have been at a complete loss if Godard told him to shoot Breathless on a tripod.
Sure, Jerry. I’m just trying to point out the uselessness of those blanket statements.
The same can be said of film noirs or just about any other genre. Are you saying that genres are not a helpful way to categorize film or that its particularly non-applicable in this case?
Genres categorize representations. This CC label seems to want to categorize average shot length. The former is useful, the latter not so much.