@Axelumog: “But can a painting really hit you emotionally? Now of course paintings can evoke “emotions” out of you, but this is not the same for me as caring about a character in a film.”
This particular painting definitively evokes strong emotions in me and I do care about Ivan, in a certain way, even if he’s a terrible person (oh, what a terrible pun!). I wish I could contribute to the thread more, as I have enjoyed the discussion and would like to watch some of those so-called CCC films, but I haven’t seen any (I think), so… .
“Absolutely, and I found it somewhat ironic that Tolstoy was a point of reference, as Russian novels are somewhat famous for this (I was reminded of Henry James comment in his preface to the The Tragic Muse, in which he called War & Peace a “large loose baggy monster” [or something to that effect], which is somewhat akin to the crit be leveled against CCC here).”
Except Henry James was completely wrong, and were he alive to watch some of these “contemplative” films, he’d groan at a suggestion of likeness between a madly readable Tolstoyan page and comatose cinema. By loose and baggy, he was referring to what he dismissively judged to be a sprawling macrostructure of Tolstoy’s epic, not that Tolstoy’s writing down to the level of his prose technique presents inartistic obstructions. There is as much constant, furious cognitive activity in, say, Moby Dick, as there is wild action in Bad Boys 2.
It’s hard for me to care about “Ivan” here because I don’t know anything about him, who is he is, what he’s like, ect. I can’t get a feel for what it’s like to be him, to know what goes on in his mind.
I can’t spend time with “Ivan” and maybe get a sense of these things just from a painting. I mean, I make a lot of assumptions and “guesses” based on the one image, but….
Well, the painting makes me feel incredibly sorry for Ivan, accidentally killing your own son must be… words don’t come to mind and this reflects the horror so perfectly. I should have mentioned that the painting’s name is Ivan the Terrible And His Son Ivan (by Ilya Repin), that sort of is important information. Sure, my feelings for Ivan come mainly from basic human empathy, but well, I sort of see where you’re coming from, actually.
I can’t spend time with “Ivan” and maybe get a sense of these things just from a painting.
But have you ever tried? You could probably learn a lot about both characters—if you were willing to take the time and effort. Last year I read a book about a painting featuring the Prodigal Son returning to his father. The author basically was so taken by the painting that he got permission to sit alone in front of the painting for long period of time. The book reveals the insights that he gained from the painting, and it’s quite remarkable. My sense is that the details and strong emotional reaction isn’t so uncommon among those who love paintings. I’ve experienced something similar.
“Except Henry James was completely wrong”
So are you. Tervarian, you still haven’t given us anything to suggest you’ve even seen the film. All we’ve established is that Uncle Boonmee isn’t a novel, which is not much of an observation.
So take that Ivan painting, and compare that to say… David Thewlis in Naked. Or Mifune in any Kurosawa film.
Those characters, when I watch them… I know them, as sure as I know and believe my own mother and father, and in such a deeply personal magnitude. So real and so captivating to behold…. I’ve never seen a “painting” reveal a person in this way, so truthfully, so completely.
Maybe I haven’t seen the right paintings, but I think most people would agree that film has quite an advantage over a painting in this department, to put it mildly.
Not sure if this is what Jazz is getting at, but what you’re saying, Axel, seems to indicate a preference for the narrative aspects of cinema rather than the visual aspects. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?
If a person finds a film unengaging (a.k.a. boring, from their subjective perspective) then I think that is a valid criticism of the film for that person. It’s not like someone can magically be engaged by something they don’t find engaging. If a film is boring to you then it’s boring to you, and the most that you can do to “engage” with it is to sit there and force yourself to watch it; and to keep yourself from being bored to death by it, perhaps project some verbose interpretation of whatever is happening on-screen. For example, “Hey, the monolithic rock represents his subconscious longing for his dead mother…etc. etc. The shot at 39:23 foreshadows his imminent downfall…etc.”
Anyway, my point is, it’s perfectly fine to find a film boring, and there’s really no sense in forcing yourself to watch it if you don’t like it. Just because you can force yourself through a film and devise some long-winded, high-minded interpretation of it does not make it a good film. I guarantee you, any good Lit-Crit student can devise a fancy, academic interpretation of any film that can make it seem like it’s high art. That doesn’t mean the film is actually good of course, it just means someone is really good at writing important-sounding academic argument.
Let’s just say, if a film is going to forgo it’s narrative elements, the aesthetic elements better be really amazing in order to justify what you’re giving up, generally. Take Malick for example, he tends to be less narrative and more visually driven…. But his visuals are just absurdly powerful. Malick also may give up “conventional narrative”, but he does not give up music, fluid editing and camera motions, interesting actors, voice over, ect. ect…. and “incidentally” these are all things that separate a film from a painting, more or less.
Matt said, Not sure if this is what Jazz is getting at, but what you’re saying, Axel, seems to indicate a preference for the narrative aspects of cinema rather than the visual aspects.
That’s the sense I’m getting. (I also think this applies to Tevarian, too.)
Here’s what I’ll say. If you haven’t really tried to sit and actively examine a great painting—for more than a few minutes (and maybe even on more than one occasion)—you probably won’t experience the full aesthetic power of the painting. So if a painting never elicited a strong emotional response from you, but you’ve never given it adequate time and examination, I would suggest the approach—not the medium—is more of the problem. It’s like a person who says they don’t find jazz or classical music very moving or interesting—without really hearing the interaction between the instruments, or following the way the solo developed from beginning to end, etc. The negative reaction isn’t surprising, but the music isn’t the problem (if it’s good).
A lot of great art—whether a novel, poem, piece of music, painting or film—can’t be appreciated or understood immediately and without effort. Some great art are easier to connect with because of the nature of the art work. For example, films or novels with a compelling story or vivid characters will be easier to connect to than films that are more abstract and conceptual and don’t contain a strong story. I would argue the former isn’t superior, just different.
Finally, if you really don’t find paintings all that moving or interesting, then I can see why you don’t like at least some of the CCC films. But I would suggest that the problem isn’t with the films, necessarily, but a matter of personal preference and approach on your part.
Anyway, my point is, it’s perfectly fine to find a film boring,…
I totally agree. But just because an individual finds a film boring, does that mean it’s not a good film? Clearly, the person didn’t enjoy the film, but is that the same thing as saying the film isn’t any good? Personally, I don’t think so. So to be clear, that Axel, Tevarian or any other person finds CCC films boring doesn’t bother me. But I think they’re going beyond saying they personally didn’t like the films—they seem to be saying that the films are not any good—as indicated by remarks like “default style for lazy hacks,” “empty,” etc.
But I mean, you understand the difference between something growing on you over time, and just forcing it right? Given enough time and justification, you could convince yourself anything. You could sit and contemplate and talk yourself into believing that Transformers is a great work of art.
I mean, who would buy that? Clearly a line exists, and there is really something to be said for pieces of art that engage you, that really draw you in… as opposed to requiring you to sit there and convince yourself that “although you didn’t enjoy it per se, it’s still great art”. I mean, you’re only fooling yourself, imho.
I understand where you’re coming from, but wouldn’t agree that sometimes a film needs to be seen more than once to be fully appreciated and for you to have that “ah ha” moment?
But to the others:
I think what Axel is trying to say is that if you experience great art, you shouldn’t have to rationalize that it’s great, but rather you should just feel it on an intuitive/gut level, and I can’t exactly disagree with that. Many times people, including myself, find themselves in a situation where they watch a film once without getting much from it, and out of fear of perhaps being labeled a philistine they simply say perhaps it’s a difficult film and that they’d have to watch it again if they didn’t care for it the first time. There are two issues here. The first is people should be able to feel secure in their opinions any film without fear of accusations of philistinism. Art can be boring and uninteresting. Those are two adjectives that usually describe bad art. The second issue is that sometimes people should be secure enough to tell themselves that perhaps a film was “less accessible” because it wasn’t that good.
If Bergman said Godard and Antonioni bored the shit out of him, not that I agree with his assessment, then we should be able to say Weerasethakul or Hong Sangsoo bores the shit out of us. I’m not necessarily saying that’s my opinion of Hong and Joe, but still…
100% Agree Pisces, and I definitely agree some films are made in such away that they don’t really “turn on” until second or even third viewing. BUT that is different than sitting around rationalizing, like you said.
In response to Axel and Pisces I’d say that Axel chose a poor subject as his counter-example, since no serious person could convince themselves of the greatness of Transformers—after all, there’s no ‘there’ there, and certainly no room for contemplation within the film itself, as you’re being force-fed what to feel and what to think about it at every beat (and what you’re being fed is fast-food at best).
Which brings me to my second point, and one of the main reasons I appreciate ‘slow’ cinema—within the film is the space needed for contemplation, and in that sense you get out of it what you put into it. Now, this doesn’t apply equally in every case, as there are certainly ‘bad art’ examples in ‘slow cinema’ (Silent Light is top of mind), but the dismissivemess of the OP and the aggressive self-assuredness (so far unsupported by actual examples) of Trevarian seem to come from an unwillingness to put into it what may be necessary for a real appreciation of the film.
No one is assuming that every CCC film is high-art, nor that all of them are shit. But let me use one extreme example to illustrate the point. Wang Bing’s Crude Oil begins with a four-hour shot of a man sitting in a room, waiting to go to work. It is something he has to do every day as a part of his job. Boring? Tedious? Of course it is. In fact, I’d call it torturous, but so it must be for that man to have to do that every day, and therefore the slowness of the film becomes for the audience a direct experience of another human’s plight. I find this brilliant, and I find it hard to believe that one could not at least appreciate what Wang is doing enough to give the film credit for being more than ‘lazy’, or ‘just pointing a camera at a wall’.
And to clarify something brought up earlier in the thread, I don’t mind if anyone is bored by a film, but offering “it’s boring” as an analysis is completely useless, since it only says something about the viewer and nothing about the film.
But I mean, you understand the difference between something growing on you over time, and just forcing it right? Given enough time and justification, you could convince yourself anything.
This isn’t about convincing (fooling) yourself about liking something. If you doesn’t think an artwork is any good, you should say so—after you’ve given the artwork a fair shot. Generally speaking, giving a painting a couple of minutes of passive viewing isn’t a fair shot. Similarly, when watching CCC films that feature long static shots, I think one should bring a similar approach.
Clearly a line exists,..
There is a line. Not all arguments for or against a film are valid or equally compelling; and we can make this determination by examining these arguments. But I think we all would agree that a valid argument has to go beyond adjectives like “boring,” “tedious,” etc.
…and there is really something to be said for pieces of art that engage you, that really draw you in…
But what is engaging and what draws people in can vary wildly from person to person. I’m sure you know guys who only find action films engaging, while films that with too much dialogue bore them. We wouldn’t want to use these type of personal preferences as a basis for judging art, right? And what makes a film engaging often depend heavily on these personal preferences and tastes.
Btw, this another reason moving beyond adjectives matter in this discussion. If people trashing CCC films are doing so primarily because they don’t like long static takes, minimal plot, etc., then, for me, that’s not really a compelling argument. It’s similar if our action fan trashed Seven Samurai because it had too much talking and not enough action.
It’s similar if our action fan trashed Seven Samurai because it had too much talking and not enough action.
And by that reverse token, also similar to people in this thread bashing Transformers because it’s all action and not enough contemplation? (Not to say House of Leaves does not have a point… Transformers is obviously an extreme example.)
Sure it’s all subjective, but I mean your love of “taking time to ponder static shots” found in CCC films could easily be written off as just something “hardcore fans of paintings” like to do, and therefore unreasonable, similar to our action fan.
So again we come back to the idea of a spectrum. I agree that action-loving Transformers fan is on one side, but what does the other side look like? Maybe it’s a ccc-loving, Crude Oil fan. (Hard to call a four hour shot “lazy”, but at the same time…. “see what I did there” does not give you legitimacy in my book. Just as I would not call what Michael Bay does “lazy”, I mean I’m sure he works hard or whatever, but that doesn’t get him brownie points.)
It’s like your food analogy. If we say that “fast food” is generally bad, then what is the equal and opposite equivalent? I think it might one of those “super fancy” dishes that looks oh so high class, but really, really small portions, like just a carrot basically, dressed up in such a way to suggest it is god’s gift to gourmet food. Neither this nor fast food are ultimately satisfying.
My point is that as over-done and terrible as I find most action films, I am equally unimpressed with films in the Crude Oil vein. (I have not actually seen Crude Oil, but as I am using Transformers I might as well use an equal and opposite extreme example.)
Now this “loathed”, uneducated blind Transformers fan who’s judgement cannot be trusted by Jazzaloha, I agree with that assessment. But I am equally wary of his counterpart, the equally blind faux-intellectual “look how smart and contemplative I am” film snob.
Axel—which ‘slow’ films do you feel don’t pass muster, and why?
And by that reverse token, also similar to people in this thread bashing Transformers because it’s all action and not enough contemplation?
It would be similar if the person said that Transformers was a bad film because he didn’t like lots of action and preferred more contemplative elements. But I suspect people aren’t saying the film is bad for these reasons.
Sure it’s all subjective,…
Wait, what’s all subjective? Are you referring to what makes a film engaging? If so I agree for the most part. (I think there can be some universal elements that make a film engaging.) But would you agree that judging a film based on how engaging and interesting it is to the viewer can be highly problematic?
But I am equally wary of his counterpart, the equally blind faux-intellectual “look how smart and contemplative I am” film snob.
OK, but are you saying that the people posting in this thread (those supporting some of these films) give you this impression….Wait, that puts you on the spot….Maybe you feel that the arguments in support of these films haven’t been compelling? I think people, including myself, have tried to defend the approach and specific films—and by “defend” I mean providing a case beyond mere adjectives.
I have been reading about mimesis and the development of literature recently, sometimes in contemporary contemplative cinema the ability of a camera to represent reality is taken to absurd levels and it can be difficult to follow the story and you just want to watch a good epic instead, but sometimes it clicks at some point in a polar moment of inertia and as though the world slows down around you. Manipulation of time is inherent to all good cinema.
On Crude Oil:
The extremeness is the point. It’s an installation piece, not a film. It was originally meant to be a seventy-hour (70 hour) work, but Wang got altitude sickness on the shoot. Wang’s producer told him, at fourteen hours, he could conceivably get the film released theatrically (at least on a film circuit level), but Wang refused because the film is not technically meant to be watched in its entirety; one is supposed to watch it for an hour or so, look at the other works in the gallery for a time, come back, wander, come back, etc. for as long as they choose.
The extremeness of length was conceptual. It’s a fourteen film conceived of as an exploration of a single work day. It’s supposed to ‘feel’ as if it were real time; the time before a shift starts, the shift, the break, the second-half of the shift and the period after shift, before bed.
I would point to He Fengming when referencing his use of extreme, static long takes (I couldn’t even point to average length as the cuts become effortless, almost invisible, which is not what happens in Crude Oil). Specifically because it’s essentially the only true narrative film ever made. It’s one person, staring into a camera, telling her life story. It becomes a novel onscreen; the relation of her narrative as a wholly subjective, first person and imaginative creation of her, the author (one either accepts her memory as truth, or as what she would like it to be), even as it stands as a nonfiction discussion of the Cultural Revolution. There is no cutaway imagery, there is no exposition.
This becomes even more interesting as Wang made her story into a fiction short film, Brutality Factory and a fiction feature, The Ditch. Again, these latter two films are non-narrative and purely visual (and shot entirely on handheld).
So, in truth the most extreme this supposed style can get is as a work of literature; an anti-film. Because as soon as the relation of a narrative becomes visual it no longer remains a narrative.
It was gonna be 70 hours but Wang died of old age.
Are we not through yet with the “but there are elitist snobs who only pretend to like it to appear intellectual” arguments? Idiots will be idiots but these particular idiots are not imposing the standard. Not nearly as fuckin’ problematic. I’ve never seen one, and obviously the majority are the ones responsible for Alvin And The Chipmunks. My mother said of the subtitles of some foreign film she rented with her friends: “You really have to look at the screen! All the time!”
I don’t mind CCC when I don’t mind it. I do when I do.
Bad cinema and all the pseudo-intellectualism, I can’t bare it. It reverses into a bay and takes up two spaces. I’m uncomfortable with the term as you. I don’t wave a banner for CCC but I don’t question why is a Ram called a Ram either. It’s seemed natural to the discussion to try to fit what has already into a historical cycle ,a grander picture.
It’ taking it too far to call it the reincarnation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern — and many of these films are also Eastern — but you can sense better comparisons to19th century literature and painting.
As for the semantics of whether film does actually manipulate time, does Bill Maher do it? I don’t know but t’s not like when you see the cars falling in slow motion in Inception. The world does not stop, sometimes you just have to run for the exit, read Buchner, listen to things that modulate wildly within ten bars, just running and running at the moment.
“Dunbar was lying motionless on his back… He was working hard at increasing his lifespan. He did it by cultivating boredom.”
-Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Also: “Dunbar liked Clevinger because Clevinger annoyed him and made the time go slow.” And: “Dunbar loved shooting skeet because he hated every minute of it.”
@ JAZZ & House of Leaves
Here is a list of some slow, “CCC”-ish films that I scored a 3/10 or less in my ranking system.
LamericaWhat Time is it There?The Wind Will Carry UsWendy and LucyRussian ArkIl PostinoPickpocketFlight of the Red BalloonAll About Lily Chou-Chou
In my ranking system a 3/10 or less means that I found the film to be actively bad, if you put a gun to my head it would be hard for me to say anything positive about the film, and I generally regret the time spent watching it. Now sometimes a 3/10 can have a couple things about it that weren’t exactly terrible, but enough about it rubbed me the wrong way that I will slap it with the 3 or 2 or 1.
Now for most of these films it has been years since I have seen most of them, so I went on Criticker and pulled some mini-reviews that echo’d my general sentiments. Now I don’t agree with all of these mini-reviews point for point of course, but close enough, and they do capture the essence of how I feel at least.
The Wind Will Carry Us – Doctor7: " I wanted to love this, I really did. However it’s just so slow and repetitive that I couldn’t. I appreciate that this style reflects the main characters’ wait for the old woman to die but by the third time our hero was climbing up the hill yelling “allo?!” into the phone I was just simply tired of the film. Great cinematography and highly intellectual but it simply failed to make me want to watch it."
Wendy and Lucy – Ev@an: “Horrible movie. I’m so sick of the “plotless movies with long periods of silence that result in an abrupt ending because do to the lack of plot, there’s no other way to end it besides having it just… end” type of films. They’re annoying and pointless, but people like them because they’re supposedly fantastic films if you know what you’re talking about / are a film buff. It’s just bs, and liking these pos’s doesn’t make you a film buff, sorry to say. Grade: D Plus"
Russian Ark – Judo Koala: “Technically stunning: asides from the ability to truly film it in one single take, the costume and sound design are wonderful, a film that is as beautiful to watch as it is to listen to. Unfortunately, I found myself becoming quite impatient, at times, due to my lack of historical knowledge of Russia centuries ago. This, ultimately, may be the largest barrier to truly ‘enjoying’ the film: a technical marvel to appreciate, but can become quite dry in its oft-obscure references to a Russian past.”
Il Postino – MadcapLaughs: “One big huge shrug of a movie. It was quite charming and perfectly watchable, however also oversentimental (my ears!…my poor ears!), cloying and desperate to make you all teary eyed, particularly with it’s seemingly out of the blue ending (which even I, who will cry at most sad films, did not mist up over). It had it’s moments but was generally quite a lifeless affair.”
Pickpocket – Moribunny: “Again Bresson makes a film told in the form of a diary. I didn’t like it the first time (Diary of a Country Priest) and I don’t like it here either. Watching Michel steal from people for most of the film is boring, and the scarce plot elements are crude and weak. It doesn’t help that the main actor is horrendous, either (not because of the mandatory underacting, he’s just really bad). Pickpocket is my least favorite Bresson movie.”
Flight of the Red Balloon – Hythlodaeus: “Apparently this film is meant to say nothing, thus explaining the absence of a plot or anything that might conceivably sustain one’s attention for longer than the time required to realize this fact. Saying nothing can work when it provides some other benefit, perhaps amusement, money, or satisfaction. Nevertheless, art that says nothing is now a dull cliche. By demanding attention for hours instead of seconds unlike most art that says nothing, Flight goes beyond dull to entirely irritating.”
All About Lily Chou-Chou – QVT: “It’s a masterclass in color technique that owes nothing to the French. It’s also a masterclass in how to bore the fuck out of me. Even though mad bitches got raped and shit, it was still filled with plot holes and the best thing about the movie was the grass. That’s completely lame. Grass should not be top 5, unless this is Au Hazard Balthazar because it’s okay for donkeys to think about grass a lot. Maybe black beauty too. Horses eat grass.”
Now again, I don’t 100 percent agree with most of these “mini-reviews” as far as actual specific critique’s, but my bottom line would look very similar.
Like many have commented on in this thread, it’s very hard to even identify, much less articulate accurately what makes some “CCC” films swim, and others sink. For me it often comes down to things as vague and general as: “Did I care about the characters? Did I feel as though the filmmaker was being honest, or was he being contemplative for contemplative’s sake?” It’s hard to answer these, the lines are very blurry, very subjective, and difficult to express.
Of note are the sentiments that you keep hearing in these reviews and in this thread over and over:
Lifelessness, the films just didn’t engage, didn’t make me care, “boring”, says “nothing” for the sake of saying “nothing”, comparisons to paintings… ect.
Now I am not claiming to be perfect or have all the answers, but clearly I am not alone is expressing concern that some of these “quiet masterpieces” are not as legitimate as much of the critical and “intellectual” populace would have one believe.
Speaking of paintings, I wonder if these type of films exist for similar reasons. I think a lot paintings and things of that nature exist because people like to hear themselves talk. They like to feel smart. They like to stand up in front of all their friends at a party and say, “Well, this piece of art clearly depicts 18th century such and such….” Maybe CCC films are like this, they are designed to be “talked about” by people who like the sound of their own voice, and like to show off their massive “intellect” to anyone who will listen.
NOW maybe that’s not entirely fair, and I am clearly one to talk as I post a gigantic comment on a film forum and all, but hey you know what I’m getting at right (cough) yeah….
It is my opinion though that great films are meant to be enjoyed, and talked about / pondered on long after. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is a film that has some slow-ish pacing, but never fails to engage, and it attacks all of your senses with visual and audio gloriousness, and even has compelling characters to feel invested in, all the while leaving you with something great that you could contemplate and talk about for a long time after the credits roll.
In closing, I am not saying that “CCC” attracts any more or less “hacks” than any other genre, despite the title of this thread. On the contrary, I think that just like every other “genre”, CCC is very difficult to do well, and it is attempted by many, partly due to the fact that it is so budget friendly…. BUT, only few artist working in it are actually worthwhile, which I think is true for any genre.
The only real key difference is the slippery slope calling the shots between good and bad CCC, so most critics and “intellectuals” just heap on the praises, rather than risk embarrassing themselves.
Let me just point out that being tedious is not necessarily the same thing as being challenging/inaccessible.
“Like many have commented on in this thread, it’s very hard to even identify, much less articulate accurately what makes some ‘CCC’ films swim, and others sink.”
The guidelines for these films success is the guideline for all films success; seeing as how it’s not an actual genre, movement, filmic ideology (I’d be surprised if the seven filmmakers of those seven films had all even met each other). How is the form used to extrapolate emotion and commentary?
That’s a definitive question, not blurry at all.
And that question has been the disconnect on this thread. Those that are wanting definitive criticisms are looking for a manner in which the form fails the films. Those that are proffering criticisms are mostly stating that the films fail the form.
By the way, if that “Hythlodaeus” user has only seen Hou from the 2000s then his take on him is suspect, to say the least.
Ah, this really botherz me. Do you think all the articles and books written about these films are just nothing? They tell you what’s in the film. You make it sound as if all they say is “It’s sooper-dooper” and don’t explain what you might have missed. The ‘unengaging’ tag is fine for your immediate reaction but it says nothing about content.
Pickpocket is an incredibly fast 1 hour and 15 minute film. It’s never in one place. You don’t have to like it but I can’t see how you can call any Bresson film contemplative (not like what we’re talking about anyway) especially Pickpocket.
I saw Goodbye South, Goodbye, I didn’t understand but I liked the feeling. Then I read this. Could I counter all that with “It’s slow”? The instinctive first impression is not good enough. The intellect must come after. The opposite happened with Red Desert. It wasn’t illuminated for me. Close-Up is slow as heck but incredibly rich.