Pure cinema is a concept I’ve been trying to wrap my head around lately. Is it a film that is free from other art forms? (theater, photography etc) Something that could only be expressed cinematically?
Is ‘pure cinema’ something directors should strive for in their films? The apex of film? Any examples come to mind?
Also, on a semi-related note, is there anyone who subscribes to the Bresson’s belief that acting in films is relying on theatricals rather than the cinematic, and thus it becomes nothing more than filmed theater? Personally I think film acting and theater acting are (usually) very different styles of acting and I’ve yet to see any director adopt Bresson’s style of non-acting, although directors were probably more influenced by his style of understated acting then non acting itself.
That’s impossible because cinema relies on aforementioned art forms. Without photography, film wouldn’t exist. Without theater, staging would be a mess. Score, music. Film highly relies on these art forms to make it what it is.
What I think makes film so amazing is the fact that it encompasses all these art forms into one brilliant hybrid masterpiece. Without them, where would we be?
pure cinema isnt something free from other art forms. as mentioned, cinema encompasses all other art forms within it. pure cinema is something that expresses vividly and celebrates the uniqueness of the cinematic medium (movement and editing).
pure cinema is expressing oneself deftly through pure cinematic visual means. yes, this is something directors should strive for. for me, few examples are better than the cinema of hitchcock.
yes, film acting for the most part relies on the tradition of theatricality. but again, if we return to hitchcock, he tried to utilize a cinematic acting, which means a move back to the dynamics of lev kuleshov. which is really the absence of acting, or the subordination of it to the needs of the camera (to tell a cinematic story).
Interesting points, I’m not one to think cinema is diminished because it relies/is influenced by other art forms, but I’ve most definitely heard of pure cinema being a cinema stripped from other art forms. I guess it’s not objective.
Look into this essay about Total Cinema by Andre Bazin. The essay comes from Bazin’s book What is Cinema.
In that same book there is also an essay about Bresson’s methods and beliefs. I think you will find both essays helpful. Good luck.
Sandwiches, have you ever seen a film stripped of all other art forms? Not trying to be a smart-ass, just wondering if you or the people who talk about pure cinema have an example of one I could watch. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe some of Stan Brakhage’s experimental films (where he made scratches on the film emulsion and things like that) might be an example of this pure cinema you’re talking about.
I agree with Wise’s and Glemaud’s points about film being a sum of many other arts and that one of the things that makes a film great is when the sum transcends those parts in a unique and expressive way.
Hmm… I have both of his What Is Cinema books somewhere, haven’t opened them since my days when I was a rather big novice cinephile. I’ll have a loook.
My definition of pure cinema (no music, no words, no acting, just moving images): Unser täglich Brot
Unser täglich Brot is pure cinema. Great example.
Danny Indio, part of my problem with understanding this term is its very hard for me to think of examples. Maybe Mothlight by Brakhage, maybe some of Bresson’s work. I’m thinking of these because they seem to fit the mold of “no theatre, music etc”
It’s a term that I feel is misused and overused far too often so I’m seeking some clarification.
I agree with the first two posts.
Bresson’s style was unique and it would be quite interesting to see someone do something like that today. The expressionless performances of his “models” has an almost anti-cinematic effect, in the sense that it ignores one of the chief attributes of nearly all modern cinema (which is certainly inspired by the theater) but is still emotionally and dramatically effective. It must be because the action we see on the screen we perceive as reality, more so than on the stage, since with the film medium the viewers attention is (or at least can be) nearly completely directed by the filmmaker. So because we subconsciously identify a scene in a Bresson movie as reality, our emotional reaction to the scene compensates for the lack of emotion being projected from the “models” in his films. In fact because of the lack of projection from the “models” this might even allow a greater range of emotional or intellectual response from the viewer. This is the phenomenon of cinema, the first form of virtual reality.
I would be interested to hear other opinions.
Bobby I’m not familiar with Lev Kuleshov could you recommend a film of his?
Kuleshov was a Russian “montage filmmaker” who devised this experiment, showing the importance of editing in films.
Hitchcock is much better at explaining things.
Thanks sandwiches for the link. Now I remember seeing some clips of Kuleshov’s that Hitchcock was referencing.
I think Frans Zwartjes’ Living would classify as “Pure Cinema” in your eyes, Sandwiches.
i think the term “pure cinema” just came about because some people can’t articulate their thoughts.
“i can’t describe it… it was just ‘pure cinema’” [sound of Barnard girl acting mildly impressed]
Actually, RUS, that’s not wholly true. Pure cinema is normally defined as Dr. Hfuhruhurr Ph.D., ASD, BSA, USA, ESQ. Jr. defined it, “…no music, no words, no acting, just moving images…”
It does have a real definition.
Well if that’s the definition I can’t really think of many films fitting it. 95% of cinema must be tainted and unpure.
Basically, but there are films that fit the description, and many of them are extremely interesting.
just because there is an idea of pure cinema doesnt mean that there is an impure cinema by default. “pure cinema” is more a descriptive quality to be praised where it exists. i dont use it as a tool to bash other filmmakers that dont qualify.
that hitchcock clip is great. the expression on his face in the first film sample is priceless! what a ham.
kuleshov was also a professor who taught his “kuleshov effect” to a generation of soviet filmmakers (among whom eisenstein was one). he’s actually made a surprising number of films, none of which i’ve seen. but hes mostly remembered as one of cinemas earliest theorists, rather than as a practitioner.
I don’t see those films that would be “impure” as bad. Just not necessarily as defining as those in the realm of “pure cinema.” A great film is great whether it’s influenced by literature, theatre, dance etc… or if it’s “pure” and only a film of moving images (like Unser täglich Brot, or Wavelength, or whatever).
It’s all just semantics anyway.
I’ve never thought of there being a ‘pure’ cinema, ‘cause all films are art. Some are good, bad, horrible, or masterpieces; but personally it’s all cinema to me.
It is definitely all just semantics.
I was thinking of Wavelength as well.
Rich Uncle Skelton wrote, "i think the term “pure cinema” just came about because some people can’t articulate their thoughts.
“i can’t describe it… it was just ‘pure cinema’” [sound of Barnard girl acting mildly impressed]"
I think the poster Rich Uncle Skelton just comes around because some people can’t articulate their thoughts in a positive way.
“i can’t say anything positive… i just have to ’negate and denigrate everything” [sound of a douchebag taking this as hip nihilism]"
The question of what is pure cinema is a very good one and I have enjoyed reading this thread.
It can be helpful to discuss film in academic terms as it can aid our understanding of the various aspects and elements of the medium. It can also be limiting, as it has the potential to restrain our perspective on new ideas or techniques, or just get us bogged down in semantic debate.
““i can’t say anything positive… i just have to ’negate and denigrate everything” [sound of a douchebag taking this as hip nihilism]”"
not quite. I say that because a term like “pure cinema” is really indefinable, so what’s the point of using it? and “i know it when i see it” doesn’t suffice (it doesn’t suffice for pornography and it doesn’t suffice for cinema proper)
Bertolucci seems to enjoy saying “pure cinema” when he’s incapable of expressing himself.
“I remember you said that the other day. I didn’t know what the hell it meant then, either.” —Manhattan
I would desperately like to find a copy of Kuleshov’s The Great Consoler. I’m not sure if the film represents his effect at all or pure cinema but I have read that it is his finest work.
Our dear Uncle here is right. All cinema is equally pure and all cinema is equally impure. The term “pure cinema” is a waste of four letters; just write “cinema” and it means the same thing.
So the OP writes a question trying to better understand a film theory and it becomes another excuse to get defensive about seeming elitism. It’s a question about a theory, not necessarily a judgement.
“Pure Cinema is the film theory that a movie maker can create a more emotionally intense experience using autonomous film techniques, as opposed to using stories, characters, or actors.” – Wiki
I’m not for the liberation of words. I don’t feel that every person is free to choose what each word means “to them”. But “pure cinema”? “Pure cinema” means absolutely nothing. Everyone defines it differently, and argues for what they believe is “pure cinema”. It’s really just a way of bringing importance to their particular personal cinema ticks. “I like dialogue. That must be pure!” Don’t even worry about it. For God’s sake, don’t waste time wrapping your head around it. Might as well just say “best cinema”.
Technically, cinema in its purest form is just blank film, amirite?