I doubt that Greg would want it, but I would gladly give him my firstborn for his most recent post.
@ Jazz Kurzweil, who believes that we will merge with technology in a way (nano, implants, etc.) that we will cease to be humans as we know it.
That’s probably correct. 100 years is a short time to cease to be human.
One of the funny things he did was omit favorites – first there is that designation and then, what if a favorite belonged with his criteria?
stop the lists…
What’s this about a Western bias?
Asian films are highly appreciated and represented on both Schrader’s and the critic’s cannon. Ozu, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi among others are rightly celebrated. Are we going to pretend that African cinema is on par with European cinema in terms of quality? And what’s more are we going to pretend hierarchies don’t exist in art and life? This is just hipsterism, communism, nihilism at it’s worst.
Also Rules of the Game is one of the most overrated films of all time. It’s not on the same level as Citizen Kane, 2001, Metropolis, Persona etc. He’s just a typical Ozu, Bresson, Godard fanboy. See John Rosenbaum and other pretentious twits.
@ Blue & Greg
Here is Schrader on the future of narrative:Beyond the silver screen
“See John Rosenbaum and other pretentious twits.”
Rosenbaum at least champions true Ruiz films, not Comedies of Innocence…
“Are we going to pretend that African cinema is on par with European cinema in terms of quality?”
Nothing pretentious about it, Le Wazzou Polygame is as sublime as anything Naruse ever made. Wake up.
“And what’s more are we going to pretend hierarchies don’t exist in art and life?”
Hierarchies are created by elitists and cynics. You’re probably one of them.
“Asian films are highly appreciated and represented on both Schrader’s and the critic’s cannon. Ozu, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi among others are rightly celebrated.”
Asian films or Japanese films?
If one is building a canon from today’s aesthetic perspective,
it seems one could work from today’s aesthetic back in time and assemble those films from the past that are similar to today’s aesthetic.
Assemble films that get us to today’s aesthetic.
I think Schrdaer did the former by leaving out historical films.
Doesn’t history add up to to current aesthetic perspective?
“The Film Comment piece would have been better realized by simply trying to discuss criteria and give examples and counter examples to see where that led, but given the way these things work, there had to be assertions of values rather than discussions or weighing of them, and the asserted values Schrader chose suit him fine, but I suggest they aren’t suitable for a canon in themselves as they are too subjective and wielded in too narrow a fashion to be claimed as speaking to a film history canon instead of a personal one.”
Even as is, Schrader’s piece is extraordinarily long for a magazine piece, so while what you’re describing might work in a different format—here, for example—but I don’t think it’s feasible in either magazine or book form. Even in another format, though, you ultimately need an approximation of canon (even if it’s a flawed one, which, let’s face it, they’re all going to be) or you’re never going to make any forward progress, just expand discussion laterally ad infinitum, because there’s never going to be enough South Asian films, or Eastern European films, or South American films, or films by women, or documentary films, or experimental films, or silent films, or comedies, or Iranian films, or queer cinema, or Sub-Saharan African cinema . . .
“We’ve now reached that point in film history where, without a canon, you cannot talk about history.”
Canon is always going to be backward-looking, not forward-looking because you’re talking about value produced through a process of historical narrative, so of course it should be understood as such. Ideally it should be descriptive of a tradition, not prescriptive, and a starting point, not a last word. Obviously there are no objective standards here, so this is another one of those places where we should be trying to shake off the whole subjective/objective metaphysic that has attached itself to pretty much the entirety of so-called “Western” thought. Schrader’s justification for building a list largely based on a pretty conservative reading of film history is, I take it, that it’s a narrative that is coming to an end, and who really knows what Ray Kurzweil’s hypothetical emerging post-humanity will ultimately value (Bloom, not entirely jokingly, refers to the forward-looking portion of his own book as “prophecy”). Here I don’t think he’s thinking entire clearly, but . . .
Robert, I don’t think Schrader actually did work back and try to make a list of films that would get us very near to today’s aesthetic, his canon would help someone become Paul Schrader, which is something very different. Some of his supporting arguments make this clear as he chose to ignore Cassavetes and add Almodovar’s Talk to Her, a comparison he explicitly makes. This is an entirely personal choice, as far as I can see. Leaving off Cassavetes, as just one example, is to ignore a certain branch of film aesthetic for reasons that the film didn’t suit Schrader’s taste. Adding Talk to Her, a film that certainly is viewed as good by many people, even great perhaps, leads me to ask is it representative of anything beyond itself? Is it seen as being a film so aesthetically significant one its own that it deserves special consideration? What would justify that particular choice as choosing it is, an act of both an assertion of a extreme value as it would join a very small representative group and as an exclusionary rule since as Schrader pointed out these lists are also about what doesn’t get added, so how does it inform that side other than as being a favorite of Schrader’s and thus making the list “about” him more than film history in any reasonable context?
Matt, I understand what you’re saying, and can see where my suggestion may have seemed too open or too involved for print, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case, I think Schrader’s method of approach simply wasn’t the right one to take for defining a canon. A canon should, in my mind, have a pedagogical intent to it, and as such one needs to first clearly establish the goal of the endeavor than delineate the methods or criteria used to reach that goal as a sort of sliding set of values which can be put together in a way to justify the inclusion or exclusion of certain films. I don’t mean each film needs to be defended against all comers as much as I do that its representative place needs to be defined and certain ideas or types of films need to be clearly given a value showing the inclusionary principle or exclusionary principle used in making the choice. The argument is about the values used more than the films themselves. This means one has to set aside one’s own taste to some degree in establishing what is trying to be measured and the criteria used to make that measurement, and then once those things have become clear then one can assert a sort of more personal aesthetic preference over the films that represent marker on the yardstick one has defined.
I certainly don’t think that anyone could include all the “good” movies from around the world on a list no matter how you tried to set it up, so simply using a pure aesthetic model lends itself to a personal distortion of historical values necessarily, which is why I think you need to map out the history first and then attach appropriate films to tell the story of that history second. So the discussion should have been focused on Schrader’s historical understanding and the film chosen then would be seen as illustrative of that understanding rather than as ends in themselves. He gives some indication of values when he does things like opt for only one film per director, but still adds both Singin" in the Rain and American in Paris. This suggests that the difference in director is so significant that the other surface similarities between the two films are acceptable even as they exclude so many other possibilities. It tells us that for Schrader, the aesthetic importance of these films is so great that it outweighs adding others from different traditions or styles, but he never makes that point or even seems to recognize the issue is there, and that is a problem.
I don’t have an issue with the west, or the US, France, and maybe Italy and Japan being more heavily represented than other nations, one can make the argument that those nations were indeed more important than any others in defining what cinema is today, but excluding entire traditions that sit outside that zone is either a mistake or would need to be justified. India has an enormous film industry that works in a different tradition than the west, and to exclude any films that represent that tradition is to effectively say that it doesn’t matter, that it isn’t significant even though it also has its own sphere of influence throughout the region. The same could be said for certain African and South American methods of filmmaking. One needn’t make a rule for giving them all the same weight as films from the west, but to ignore them distorts film history in ways that are unacceptable without some pretty serious justification.
It isn’t just national or world film I’m thinking of here, by the way, I would say the same thing for different areas of filmmaking within the west or wherever. One has to give some indication of the broader spectrum of film or give reasons for excluding them that speak to the end goal of the canon. That is where he could have been of use in giving us a provisional canon, but instead he mostly evades those questions based on his own sets of values that cannot be clearly laid out or shared.
This is just hipsterism, communism, nihilism at it’s worst.
lol, please crawl back into your hole, thank you.
" I don’t mean each film needs to be defended against all comers as much as I do that its representative place needs to be defined and certain ideas or types of films need to be clearly given a value showing the inclusionary principle or exclusionary principle used in making the choice."
I agree that this would have been ideal, and I’m assuming from what Schrader’s said about the original conception of the project of the book project that this was what he original intended, but he got derailed to a certain extent by trying to definitively codify the aesthetic practice involved and that led to Kurzweil, which called into question the very utility of the project. In that sense, reconstructing it as the magazine piece we ended up with seems to me more of a salvage job.
I was expecting more from the guy who wrote Taxi Driver and directed Mishima. Maybe he was going for mainstream, but I’m still a little disapointed.
It all makes sense if you read the criteria. Let’s not assume that this list of 60 films represents every movie that he approves of.
“Ozu, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi”
I have the same problem whre I think Japan is all of asia.
He just picked the wrong criteria. Maybe the wrong definitions for his criteria, they’re very generic, I think scientist call that “wrong methodology”
What would be a good methodology for creating a canon? A general canon, that is.
I think the problem lies in that we haven’t defined Film yet. Bazin was doing it but he died and I don’t know if anyone has picked up where he left off.
What is Cinema?. Images? Sound? Junxtaposition? Not to mention the content of the film itself. We assume that we know what film is but we don’t because it is a very strange invention. Light projected on a white wall, something only possible for the last 100 years. Now the “film frame” has been co-opted by the usual suspects, religion, morals, politics and all the syndromes of this century. Now the frame is trying to come off the wall… or are we “going deeper”?
Many people think film is just “stories” and try to narrow it down to a narrative. The Seventh Continet is a story but when you watch it you realize it is an experience, not a movie.
I mean, how do you judge that feeling of being totally blown away? How do you make an audience understand that part of that is the power of Film and not the feeling of watching money going down the toilett?
What are the formal elements of Film? (NOT NARRATIVE FILM)
I get what you’re saying.
You can’t make a general canon because the nature of movies aren’t all the same. It’s like saying, “let’s make a canon of the greatest writing.” Ok…so you have novels, poems, history books, magazine articles, etc. You can’t lump all things together, because despite all being written, they are very different in their aims. With that in mind, we could create a canon of greatest novels.
So, you could create a canon that dealt with narrative films. Most of the films that we discuss on mubi do fall under narrative (even The Seventh Continent), so we’re still dealing with a huge amount of films. We’ve at least excluded documentaries, experimental films, and other categories. (This is not to say that these other categories aren’t valid, but that they’ve been excluded based on functionality).
Just for the sake of discussion, then, what criteria would we put fourth if we wanted to make a canon of narrative cinema? Criteria that Schrader hasn’t already mentioned.
Re: the formal elements of a film. I think David Bordwell (among others) has done an adequate job of dealing with this. He does not restrict himself to narrative films, though he does focus on them primarily. His goal is not merely to break a movie into different parts, but to see how those parts work together as a system designed to express certain things and elicit certain emotions. I dunno…seems a little silly to say that we can’t talk about canon because we still aren’t sure what film is? How are we not sure about this? Where is the confusion? Who is confused?
“Bazin was doing it but he died and I don’t know if anyone has picked up where he left off.”
That’s because publishers SUCK and translators ARE BORED!
Lit and Film are very different experiences. I would consider film a relative of sculpture or painting before I would say Lit.
Remember that thing you posted Bazin had said about the camera imitating us?
“but to see how those parts work together as a system designed to express certain things and elicit certain emotions”
Yes, thats wha I have in mind, but would you say that we have defined the formal elements of film the way it has been done with painting for example where now all you have is colored space/canvas?
Perhaps I’m confusing formalism with form. Yet I can’t stop myself from believing that film is just beginning to evolve… I have no idea why.
So you can have individual canons? Isn’t a canon a something that a large number of people agree on?
If I created a canon I would start by not calling it a cano of “narrative” film. Then I would think about what Bergman meant when he said that film was more like music than stories.
I will look into David Bodwell’s work. Thank god I took that philosophy class.
Bordwell is an essential writer on film, very knowledgeable and sound but not as sexy as the ones many critics and academic courses go for.
Schrader doesn’t get past the first base of assumptions of cultural superiority of a small number of advanced “civilised” Western countries ahead of so many others. How to take any further intellectual ideas and methodology without such basics? Canons are exclusive and too often based on received wisdom. Cahiers du Cinéma caused an upheaval without challenging notions of Western superiority, and there are gender issues too, though that’s also partly a reflection of the relatively scarce number of female directors compared with male.
Is anyone willing to put fourth a different criteria for canon? If we are going to accuse Schrader of being small-minded in his criteria, I think we need to hear some alternatives. How does one form canon without exclusion?
How does one form canon without exclusion?
stop the lists….
I would use history to draw a line from the beginning to today’s aesthetic.
‘Today’ would be 1994 – why?
One needs the dust to settle – 17 years is close enough to 20 years for the dust to have settled.
The second reason is the film of that date was the culmination of the historical narrative for film.
We all know which film I am thinking of and why I should not name that film on this thread.
Why is it the culmination of the historical narrative for film? There were other non-sequential/non-oneiric films before it, other referential plays with postmodernism. Though maybe not as intense or delirious. I’m not necessarily arguing with you, but would love to continue the thought regarding the nameless whatsit that people kill for…
““Are we going to pretend that African cinema is on par with European cinema in terms of quality?”
i’ve seen no evidence of this myself yet as a general rule but i’m sure there is something interesting going on there that i probably haven’t seen.
As i’ve said before, you can’t just ignore the canon when so many of the directors in the canon are still influencing film makers today. the only one to ignore it—justifiably—as if someone could prove that the old guards were no longer relevant to the influence and process of making film.
unfortunately nobody is really able to do this as of yet, so the canon stands, regardless of whether it’s fair or not.
Yes, if you like, I’ll pretend that African cinema is on par with European cinema in terms of quality. It isn’t like European cinema in many ways, when looked at in bulk, and it doesn’t yet have the history of European cinema as much of what is being made there has been done in the last few decades, but at the top level there are a number of films from Africa that I would consider to be some of the finest accomplishments in film history, in part due to their difference from first world cinema, and in part simply because they move me more than the vast majority of other films I’ve seen. Beyond that, the question becomes whether, like Schrader appears to have done, one wants to measure film by a standard that, by definition, simply reinforces your worldview because it is yours or if one can go beyond that and see the value of films that pose a different set of values.
Schrader said something like the best Japanese films may be relying on Western conventions, what he should have said was that the best Japanese films as seen by the west may be relying on western conventions. The difference is he seems to have closed himself off to alternatives due to a belief set of about what a good film can be that seems to exist as a predetermined boundary to what is allowed to be good. It reinforces itself by its own definition rather than by broader understanding or experience of the films by those who don’t accept the same limitations as he does. This, again, is fine if one wants to simply make a canon that will guide a person to be like the one making the canon, but that is a barely coherent proposition as it then allows for such a multitude of canons that the word itself loses purpose or meaning. The alternate is to define the rules so that it is clear that what you are attempting to measure is something like the canon of first world films primarily with a classical narrative structure and an emphasis on transcendentalism or some such thing, which wouldn’t be quite the same thing as claiming a canon of film overall as there are those that don’t see that particular pathway as being the most valuable one or even a particularly representative one of film history or “great” movies.
It isn’t just me alone that feels this way about African filmmaking as can be witnessed by the results of the first world cup we had here where Africa managed to do very well, and by reading books by people like Mark Cousins, who treats African and Indian film history, as an equally important branch of film history as a whole. (Cousins would have been a much better choice for a single person canon than Schrader in that regard as he has a much broader view of film, but even so, multiple points of view would serve the enterprise better.)
How then does one make a canon? As I said before, first one has to clearly think about what the canon is attempting to represent, what the end goal of the canon is since a canon is intended to have some sort of pedagogical function. If the goal is like Schrader intimated in his conversation, quoted on a previous page, to present a potential film student with a view of the significant movements and traditions within film history as well as providing some signal examples of the finest that history had to offer then one would need first to make a sort of map of that history and the various branches of it and determine the significance of each branch and what the lasting or longer impact of that branch of filmmaking is and what are the most significant achievements within it. One would then need to map out any films that seem to exist outside of any tradition or are such powerful works that they create, in effect, their own path and have made a significant contribution to art or human culture.
This second aspect is where the criteria would need to be developed and laid out to determine what films are so vital to understanding film history that they must be included, as well as determining which films would best serve a sort of marker or larger representative function, as the films one chooses aren’t simply choices in themselves but should be suggesting something larger about the history. This should mean something more than just celebrating the big name directors, but capturing the most significant genres, acting or production styles, or anything else that had a important artistic impact on film history. I don’t mean one has to add every single film of note, or make a separate entry for each item, but that each film should be chosen for the maximum communicative value it can hold rather than simply being a, well, I like this one slightly more than that one kinda a thing. Each film on the list has to have a purpose there that is essential to the history of film or it shouldn’t be on the list at all. This is why it is a project for multiple voices, one has to get past the this is one of my favorites and to the this is essential to the entirety of the history as viewed by the larger scholarly community, not just a small part of it.
Edit: In doing this, as I also said before, one would almost certainly have more films from the western or first world tradition on the list as that tradition has been the dominant one for much of the history of film. Hollywood for example was able to make films during years where most of the other industries were crippled or shut down during the world wars and brought in many significant artists from around the world to create films so it had an exaggerated impact on the history as a whole, but that doesn’t negate the need for showing the alternatives to that viewpoint, it can be seen as serving as much to show the need for those alternatives as much of film history as been determined by acting against dominance as supporting it.
@ Bobby Why is it the culmination of the historical narrative for film?
Postmodernism would be an obvious place to stop. That doesn’t mean that the narrative can’t start up again, but not much has happened since then.
Robert, that Schrader article you linked to about narrative exhaustion is kinda odd. It isn’t wrong exactly, but it isn’t quite right either. It is coming from such a particular viewpoint that it is hard to even address it effectively. I mean some of what he says is almost certainly true, but some of the implications he chooses to draw from those ideas aren’t quite where I would have gone, but there may be some definitional issues around what he is getting at that are unclear and the ultimate point seems to disappear as the article progresses.
@ Greg …definitional issues around what he is getting at that are unclear and the ultimate point seems to disappear as the article progresses.
Notice bullet point at the bottom:Paul Schrader’s Screenwriting Masterclass is on 3 July at ScreenLit.
Yeah, it still doesn’t really seem entirely thought through or is speaking only to that type of high concept, archetype driven, genre style, action driven narrative and not to narrative in a larger sense as that is hardly in danger of being depleted.