I enjoyed my discussion with John Pastuch about films and filmmakers who have developed a new language of filmmaking, and I wanted to continue that discussion here—opening it up to other people. To provide some context, John mildly complained about the lack of new film language in 21st Century films—in a way that makes you feel like you’re not watching a film, as if you’re watching something new, while at the same time being unified and refined (versus something experimental or fragmented; John, if this isn’t accurate please chime in.) I think I know what he means, and I would also love to see films like this. So what 21st Century films would you nominate for John and me?
(John, maybe you could discuss some of the filmmakers and films that you think have come close to providing a new film language.)
This is the best topic I’ve seen on here in quite a while Jazz. Unfortunately at the moment I’m not well prepared to think of any examples and am slightly inclined to agree with John that there has been a disappointing lack of development of the form this century so far.
That said, Tree of Life is interesting to me because it took the Aesthetic that Malick had been working on since the seventies and continued to push it further. Most people who I talk to who despised it criticized it’s form, which I can’t help but take as a good sign. Alain Robbe-Grillet’s own Mubi quote says that a new form will always appear to be a lack of any form at all. I think that’s a sign that Malick is moving in a direction that is at very least extremely foreign to the mainstream.
I’ll come back after I’ve had to time to rack my brain for more apt examples.
That said, Tree of Life is interesting to me because it took the Aesthetic that Malick had been working on since the seventies and continued to push it further.
I totally agree. His development has been really interesting to watch. I’m not sure the last film qualifies as a new film language, though.
I think that’s a sign that Malick is moving in a direction that is at very least extremely foreign to the mainstream.
Well, I think the film—or the ads—mislead viewers, because it did provide a conventional narrative to a degree. It’s the non-narrative elements (cosmic, at that) that threw viewers for a loop. But I think most non-narrative films would cause the same problems for mainstream audiences.
The next possible step I see for Malick is getting a way from narrative even more and maybe dialogue—resulting in fusion of poetic images and sound—something that makes me think of a cinematic opera. I’m not sure if this would constitute a new language, but I sure want to see this.
Btw, some filmmakers seem to be interested in moving away from dialogue and just allowing the images and sound to “speak” for themselves. Tree of Life is an example, but there’s also something like Le Quattro Volte or even the beginning of Pixar’s Wall-E and Up!. I find this development interesting, although I’m not sure it’s a new language.
I look forward to hearing more examples from you.
I sincerely feel Zack Snyder is worth mentioning here. As well as fellow “vulgar auteurs” like Michael Mann and Rob Zombie. They really do have a language and an approach to their work that puts them outside of most American mainstream genre filmmakers.
Are we talking about another kind of narrative?
2046, Inland Empire. Godard’s Éloge de l’amour it’s supposed to be. Also i have to watch more Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
To give you a better idea of what I’m trying to get at, here’s something that John said in the thread, Why Do We Feel We Have to Be Harsh On Most Films? :
_ I feel like a “good movie” isn’t enough anymore. I’m starting to hate that self-aware feeling you get when you watch a film. You know exactly the form it will proceed in, even if it’s good. Even if it’s Apachatpong Weerasethakul or Kelly Reichardt. You hear the soundtrack, you see how contemplative it is, how beautiful the shots are etc._
I feel like nothing is very free or playful anymore. I want to watch a movie that unfolds in a new way, that scrubs away a lot of the grammar of film but at the same time is coherent enough to actually be a vision. Something as good as Cassavetes or Marker.
The last movies I can remember doing this are julien-donkey boy and Ten. I feel like digital films from the early 2000s had so much promise and then all of that disappeared.
So we’re not talking about filmmakers with a personal language or unique voice so much as filmmakers who have created an entirely new language, if that makes sense. (At the same time, feel free to mention filmmakers with a unique voice.)
I mentioned Weerasethakul to John. He’s someone that comes closest to what John is talking about.
doing this are julien-donkey boy …
What about Trash Humpers?
That was certainly a new experience….
Are you kidding around, or are you being serious? (I had no desire to see TH, but if you’re serious, I’m going to consider it.)
Wang Bing, Lav Diaz, Liu Jiayin.
Oh shoot. If Liu Jiayin is as hard to get a hold of those other two, that would suck. What film by Liu would you recommend? (On a sidenote, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to see a Diaz film, even if I got a hold of a copy, as my life doesn’t allow for twelve hours movies, right now.)
There´s probably little “new” filmmaking language in the 21st century in the sense that most striking contemporary styles accrue from barebone models of the previous century, though fairly original filmmakers that come to mind are Lav Diaz (and his fascinating extensions of the canny comtemplative styles which directors like Tarkovsky or Tarr established), Hong Sang-soo (and his experimental, talkative relationship dramas which bring to mind some of the very best French New Wave accomplishments by directors like Rohmer or Eustache), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (whose haunting meditations on history and the beauty of nature share quite a few similarities with both Hou Hsiao-hsien and Terrence Malick), Lech Majewski (whose cinematic tableux seem to be directly influenced by Peter Greenaway) and Mariano Llinás (whose “Extraordinary Stories” may in fact be the single most innovative 21st century work I´ve seen in terms of a “new” language). And what I´ve seen by Wang Bing and Liu Jiayin mentioned by Falderal above certainly also qualifies as groundbreaking.
I though it was fascinating ….but a new language?
Someone mentioned Marker:
1962 La Jetée
1983 Sans Soleil
The thing I’m wondering if we saw the ‘new language’, would we recognize it? understand it?
Will people be speaking Weerasethakul?
One can only hope…
Wang’s Tie Xi Qu is on DVD in Germany…
Lav’s films are available to purchase through the filmmaker himself.
I would recommend Oxhide and Oxhide II for Liu… Seeing as those are the only two features she’s yet made.
Oxhide and Oxhide II by Liu. Truly groundbreaking films. Oxhide was groundbreaking in itself, but Oxhide II is even more so. It’s really kind of amazing.
another fascinating example:
China and The Philippines may be the only two nations consistently forging utterly new directions in cinema right now.
Imburnal – Sherod Anthony Sanchez
Thanks for the recommendations, fellas. (Do the Diaz films come with English subtitles? I’m not crazy about blind-buying his films, though.) Three strong recommendations for Liu, so I’ll try to get a hold of that one. (Please don’t tell me the running time is epic.)
Can you expand on why you think Hong Sang-soo has developed a new language?
I’ll consider TH.
Yeah. This is valid point. I tend to think some people could recognize and understand it, though.
“China and The Philippines may be the only two nations consistently forging utterly new directions in cinema right now.”
Indeed, I also highly recommend checking out Raya Martin´s masterpiece “Now Showing”.
And here´s a teaser for a film that strikes me as another groundbreaking work as well as a perfect reflection on the contemporary media age:
I think the possibilities of the tracking shot can still be explored further, especially now that digital cameras are not limited by the time frames physical film impose.
In terms of narrative, the dramatic arc of the stories can still be more toyed around with, fragmented, bent here and there. As people become more accustomed to read films on their own terms and observe and process clues derived from performances, camera movement, in all, mise en scène (and not just establishing shots, exposition and dialogues), film will be able to grow in new directions… or at least better explore directions already hinted at.
Commercial cinema worries me. I hope the aesthetics of video games, the whole synthetic feel to setting and light, evaporates like a fad.
“Can you expand on Hong Sang-soo has developed a new language?”
As I said, I don´t really believe it be a new language that Hong developed, but rather a highly original way to arrange the relationship-centered material by contantly repeating and alternating situations throughout his body of work and narrowing the scope (the protagonist is generally an artist, in most cases even a filmmaker, and tends to compete with another guy in order to get his love interest) while at the same time broadening it (for instance through narrative juxtaposition). He also employed highly unusual cinematic devices like an ostentatious use of zoom lenses
Yeah, his use of zooms and pans are incredibly innovative. He cuts off characters, re-includes them, and then cuts off others, all in a single take. The feeling that produces is very different than when you just cut to a new shot because you actually see the character being excluded from the scene. But that’s not even the most complex or innovative way in which he uses zooms (which he says he did purely for the reason of saving money).
which he says he did purely for the reason of saving money
Yeah, i guess I’m struggling with what ‘new language’ means…will everyone be speaking cheap in the future?
Wow the going rate for oxhide is pretty steep. Anyone know why it is so high or if it will be falling soon? http://dgeneratefilms.com/catalog/oxhide-niu-pi/
I am down for a blind buy of either Oxhide or Oxhide II. Would love to see either if possible.
“will everyone be speaking cheap in the future?”
The point I was trying to make is he took a budget limitation and turned it into an integral aspect of his cinema. Normally in a scene like the one I outlined he would either have to cut, and cost himself money, or continue the shot in one take.
The former keeps the same context as zooming, but it has an obviously different and more sudden feel to it. The latter alters the context completely, but saves money.
Hong found a more relaxed, but still formally complex way to express a similar idea. And his films have followed suit aesthetically with that filmic philosophy hence.
“Anyone know why it is so high or if it will be falling soon?”
It’s an institutional copy made mainly for Libraries and Colleges. It won’t go down, but you can rent Oxhide II on amazon for $5.
I guess it’s pretty ironic that films made so cheap are so expensive to see…
@Falderal and Apu
I’ll try to pay attention to the use of zooms when I watch another film by Hong. Thanks for the feedback.
Regarding “new language” here’s what John said: I feel like nothing is very free or playful anymore. I want to watch a movie that unfolds in a new way, that scrubs away a lot of the grammar of film but at the same time is coherent enough to actually be a vision. Something as good as Cassavetes or Marker.
The last movies I can remember doing this are julien-donkey boy and Ten
I think he’s also talking about an unpredictability and surprise, not in terms of content (plot twists), but the filmmaking. The use of sound, editing, composition and the way filmmakers combine these elements have a pattern that makes filmmaking predictable (in a broad way). I think John is looking for someone to use these elements—indivdually and collectively—in an entirely new way; hence, a new film language.
I recommend Aleksei German as having a unique filmmaking language.
One can take any number of stories, moments, feelings and ideas, and there will always be an infinite many ways to creatively express them… but whether or not the expression is any good will be another matter.
I think that aesthetic style is key to an artistic language because whether an artwork is traditional, avant-garde, Eastern or Western in style and period (or anywhere else in between) there will still be a difference between a well-made artwork and a poorly-made artwork i.e. any single style is just one of many historical styles which perhaps “cloak” a more fundamental aesthetic appeal in human nature and how we symbolise patterns of reality, which is why, for example, we can appreciate the artistic brilliance of Bach, Penderecki and The Beatles despite their wildly differing musical styles and languages.
Also, I think that puzzles and interactivity may have the potential to expand the cinematic medium into a new and different art-form, but not like a video game.
Creating a new language is overrated. Esperanto isn’t interesting in and of itself, it’s what you say with I that matters. Bullshit is bullshit in any language. I tend to blame th auteurists for this obsession with th new. Rob Nilsson’s Signal 7 very much feels like a Cassavetes film but more importantly it feels like a film that is attuned to a human impulse in a way that Cassavetes was. Or take Buscemi’s Trees Lounge, no ground broken but anyone I thinks it’s a lesser statement than Alex Proyas foolish films because Proyas has an original vision needs to think again.
Depends on how you define “filmmaking language” . . . and “new.”
Gotz Speilmann – Revanche
Luca Guadagnino – I Am Love
Abbas Kiarostami – Certified Copy
Claire Denis – White Material
Andrea Arnold – Fish Tank
I don’t know. I could be very wrong as I haven’t seen as many films as others on here. So, if you got me, then, call me out, please. So that I may learn of who these directors originated from. From what I’ve seen so far, these film makers and films have caught my attention, because for me, they are taking me in a new direction.
Film language is part of “the message”. It better be. I wouldn’t want film to become monotonous and overly didactic in its goals. Language can make what is being said much more forceful one way or the other. There is always a manipulation of reality (perspective) in film. Might as well do it in a way that is artistically (emotionally, thematically, spatially) coherent. Tarkovsky, my man Herzog, Kiarostami, Cassavetes, Hitchcock, Akerman, etc. all have a particular language with which they convey their propositions.
When Herzog shoots the Urubamba river to the music of Popol Vuh in Aguirre, he’s not just providing scenic beauty. That is film language.
I think tracking shots are a great tool, both aesthetically and dramatically, precisely because they present reality unbroken, and have the potential to convey unbroken, interweaving meanings or relationships or whatever. This works as well in intimate dramas as in action films or horror pieces, etc.