American Cinema & Paths for Energy

Hello everyone. I’m reading a J.-B. Thoret book about American Cinema in the 1970s, where he uses a structure, an “interpretative framework” I will extract here for you. Could be useful elsewhere, right?

A little physics first :

Action needs energy, and obviously there are 3 cases :

  1. Perfect symbiosis : the use of the whole disposable energy allows the action to be fulfilled.
  2. More energy than possible action (or no possible action available), gives explosions or violence, uncontrolled bursts, auto-destruction.
  3. Not enough energy : loss, frustration, unfulfillment.

Then we can watch American movies with this idea in mind…

But there are questions already! Where does this “energy” come from? The history of the USA, with violence (Indian wars, Civil war, Vietnam war) and unlimited spaces to discover in the West – giving the energy a way to be “used”? The Freudian “sexual” primal energy?

Let’s find branches – strategies of expenditure… – in movies :

  • After the frontier, when the “go west” comes to an end (the whole territory is mapped), the energy has to go on moving – the birth of road movies (Easy Rider)- or has to be burned on place – the birth of horror movies.
  • The “splendid wilderness” becomes dangerous and full of rednecks and recluses (Easy Rider, Deliverance, Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
  • Too much energy becomes toxic : violence. The explosion is near (the beginning of Bonnie & Clyde, Carrie, Taxi Driver).

If the energy is spent…

  1. In France, in Pierrot le Fou, a character repeats : “What can I do? I don’t know what to do…”. Tired. Qu’est-ce que j’peux faire, j’sais pas quoi faire ?
  2. In America, she could maybe say : “I don’t know what to do any more“. Exhaustion.

Well, this is very simplistic and chaotic, sorry. Just ideas to be thrown on a table.

What about this energy, again? In single persons or in crowds, society? Groups? What about religion, or terrorism? What happens when movie people become conscious of all this and play with it (Mad Max Fury Road, Kill Bill)?

What is the triad (energy action, too much energy, not enough energy) means in Arts? In painting, poetry, photography? What about love? How to link it to Nietzsche’s Will to Power ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_to_power ) ?

http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2014/20-best-new-hollywood-movies/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hollywood

Thanks for reading!

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“Visconti without neorealism is like Lang without expressionism and Eisenstein without formalism”

Visconti without neorealism is like Lang without expressionism and Eisenstein without formalism”.

Three movie directors, with labels, right?

  1. Neorealism is often sticked to “Italian” : “a film movement characterized by stories set amongst the poor and the working class, filmed on location, frequently using non-professional actors.”
  2. Expressionism? : “a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas.”
  3. Formalism? “if actions and dialogue are important for filmic meaning, the filmic mode (camera angles, editing, cinematography) itself is just as responsible for meaning.”

 

Movies todays have swallowed and more or less digested all of these.

Labels, right? Stickers. They are always interesting. You can pick one and study the sources, the influences, the evolutions (in the director’s career/in history), the exaggerations, the failures too…

A pleasant exercise is to find the other directors one put in the box (who are formalists, after Eisenstein? Hitchcock and De Palma? And today?).

Another one is to find the other words linked to it. Formalism gives : audience manipulation, for example.

You can also determine where is formalism applied. Montage? Filming? Story’s structure?

 

How is this useful? For the pleasure of analysis and sorting? Or to apply it elsewhere? Poetry? Photography?

What about my article’s title? What is Visconti without Neo-Realism? An evolution? A loss? A change?

 

In the end, what about us? What about you? If you create something, what’s the label? Why is it irritating? Or not?

Thanks for reading!

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The Mastroianni/Mitchum State

Robert Mitchum (1917-1997) and Marcello Mastroianni (1924-1996) were two actors. Both are known for their state of mind, which are different and similar at the same time.

They don’t give a tinker’s damn

Where? Well, it spouts from all the texts, books, articles and interviews about them :

  1. The characters they impersonate often seem… floating, or watching, rarely “intense”. See Mitchum in Ryan’s Daughter.
  2. In their relationships with directors. Fellini, for example, adored Mastroianni because he was not the “I have another question” type. He just followed. He did what he was told to do. Like a clay ball.
  3. In their work. They never seemed to work a lot. But they were ready though. Mitchum is known for partying and drinking all night, then appearing on the set in the morning almost… defeated, then giving a splendid acting work in front of the camera.
  4. In their lives.

 

This “I’m not really here” state is hard to name. Aloof sounds a bit snob, right? And indeed I don’t think it’s really a decision.

Here we also touch the Paradox of the Actor : “Do great actors experience the emotions they are displaying?”.

What are the limits of Actor’s Studio‘s methods? Mitchum was much less pulling faces than De Niro in their respective role of the bad guy in the two different versions of Cape Fear (1962 and 1991) – and Mitchum is said to be much more terrifying.

 

Is it a state of floating? Of being a “watcher”? Of being cool? Clever? Indifferent? Polite? A genius? A zen master like “I observe but I don’t judge”?

Is it a wisdom, an elegance of life, a modern, Chekhovian way of knowing that all is NOT that important, and we’ll die pretty soon, and let’s stand up cool, nothing big deal?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Intention of Effect Kills Effect

Chekhov, Fellini and Sisyphus’ lesson : “Slide, mortals, don’t bear down”

Hopper / Antonioni / Chekhov : Effects of Reality

Roland Barthes explained the “Effect of Reality” as a way to establish literary texts as realistic.

He said that some descriptions, in novels, have no other reason than to make us feel it’s a real place.

“…in one of his novels Flaubert describes the room of his main character and mentions a pyramid of boxes and cases standing under a barometer. These kinds of details are called notations by Barthes; he contrasts them with the main outline of the story, which he labels predictive, probably because on this level we can make certain predictions about the development of the story.”

F. R. Ankersmit

 

  1. We find this “tool” in some Antonioni’s movies, L’Avventura or L’Eclisse for example. A scene lasts a little to much. The camera shows something (a gaze, a street) without “real” reason. No other reason than this : suddenly you “feel” as if you touched reality, getting out of the-dream-of-watching-a-movie.
  2. We find this “tool” in Hopper’s paintings. For me, it’s his main talent, asset. We watch : some people are here, just “being” – they wait or think, who knows? These paintings stop you, wondering what these people do, if they’re bored…
  3. We find this “tool” in Chekhov’s short stories. His descriptions are not here just to “paint the scenery”, but (and very shortly/effectively) make us feel something. So much that I remember plenty of places of these books!

Of course, it’s used in many other art pieces and form.

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I think this is linked to our idea of boredom. In Antonioni we often watch someone doing nothing – breathing, watching something, thinking. It breaks the usual “flow of events” we often see in movies. Or we see a conversation leading to nowhere. Blank seconds. We see people dealing with boredom. And maybe we are hurt, of surprised, or… bored a bit. And it’s an effect of reality, right?

Sometimes it’s just “a place shown”, like in Hopper‘s work. The light on a wall suddenly makes you “feel” the place. You can almost hear the little wind, or the street, the sea. It’s as if your brain suddenly touched the reality he wanted you to feel.

 

What will we do with this? Why and how does it work? Why is it… good? What about photography? One purpose of it could be to “make us touch” reality, instead of amazing us? What do you think?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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Hurt & Beguiled (by a masterpiece)

The Godfather movies (Coppola) or 8 1/2 (Fellini), Proust or Faulkner, Brückner’s 9th or Puccini, some Picasso or Manet’s paintings, some photographs, a poem…

There are many things we can feel in front of Art, from grief to enthusiasm, by way of curiosity or puzzlement.

(I had to check dictionaries to find the differences between puzzled, confused, or bewildered – it led me to… “beguiled”, which helps me here…)

A good movie or music makes you happy or entertains you. It triggers emotions. Good!

But some masterpieces hurt you, because they install in you a whole living pack of energies. Ideas, but also a big need to achieve something, to move, to act. You are… beguiled!

Suddenly you stand up and you have to do something. You got an understanding, a rush. You have a urgent need to know more about the author, or the piece of work which just floored you. It hurts!

You want to tell everybody about it, then you’re more hurt, because many people you know wouldn’t understand any of it, probably. Then you dream to lecture them, to explain!

It’s an enrichment, but also a great source of energy, which can supply you ideas and needs of informations or creativity – for months.

It happened to me, with many Chekhov’s texts, David Lean’s movies, Manet’s paintings, Eggleston’s pictures, with Visconti’s The Leopard, with Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander, with Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, etc…

This pattern is one of the sources of this blog.

What do you think? What are yours?

Thanks for reading!

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Movies : an in between modernity mess

There’s a funny dissonance I love to feel in movies : it’s when the modernity of a scenario, of dialogs, of directing is seen into what seems an “old form”.

It’s obvious – and very disturbing – when you watch Seven Samurai (1954) or Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). The sound is old, and it’s black and white vintage, but everything sweats modernity.

It’s as if it was “not OK”, not fitting, and one wonders how the audience could watch that at the time. You feel this with all Welles movies, but also Fellini’s.

But in the beginning of the sixties, you find movies which are between two worlds : Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962), Huston’s Night of the Iguana (1964), Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), but also Lilith (1964) or Breathless (1960), Suddenly Last Summer (1959), The Misfits (1961), L’Eclisse (1962)…

All of them are black and white movies, and you begin to watch them accordingly (“Oh a good vintage classic movie!”). And you are FLOORED by the complexity or modernity of these…

Well, this article is about this “in between” mess. The structure seems to be : “looks like an old form, but modernity explodes into it”.

Where do you find that? In literature? Photography? Poetry?

What if you searched, out of Netflix, “Best films of the Sixties”, and watch them all, just for the pleasure of discovering forms, authors, resonances, happiness? Out of the flow…

Have a nice day!

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Movies, Previews, Surprises

When you’re a movie lover, you know that good movie directors hate the “tests” producers organize with films.

They show the movie privately, in a theater, then the audience has to answer questionnaires.

According to the results, then they cut and alter the movie. That’s horrible, right?

It’s pretty rare that the director has the “Final Cut”…

But this week I’ve been a little surprised by this :

Sydney Pollack, in the bonuses of “The Way We Were”, explains that the movie had a problem after he made a preview. The balance is always hard to find, but here he says that it was a failure. Thus he simply cut a few scenes, like with an axe, and showed it to another room the day after. Big success.

I supposed that if he did this, it’s because he “felt” there was a problem – which came here from the balance between the love story and the political story.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070903/

Then I read, in Walter Murch‘s book “In the blink of an eye” (he’s a great film editor – Apocalypse Now), that he was not against film preveiws. I was VERY surprised, but he explains that one should not ask the audience anything after the preview, but day(s) after, in interviews (IRL or phone).

Here’s my tool :

When you have a bold, decided opinion about something “one SHOULD NOT do, ever”, it can be interesting (or at least a game for the mind) to hear people you respect having another opinion. If you listen, you’ll discover subtleties, knacks, and delicious exceptions. After all, there’s one risk : you could expand your knowledge, or at least add a facet to it…

Hmmm, what’s the next step?

Thanks for reading!

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