Archives For Film

images from a work in production

title: I Work for the Devil

In these images I am playing around with different colour tones and editing choices. I am building an aesthetic to carry through the rest of production.

 

 

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Directed by Arthur Angel

Produced by Jim Thompson

Written by Arthur Angel and Jim Thompson

Web: www.boysaviour.com

 

The essay film – something to do with the personal. A view; an experiment; a meditation.

It is not necessarily only reflective or self-conscious in style as Contempt (Godard) might be considered.

The American Heritage dictionary: “A short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal views of the author.”

The essay tracks a persons thoughts as they follow lines of reasoning to undo a mental knot. It is also the medium by which the thinking takes place. It facilitates the reasoning. An alternative to Socratic dialogues for instance.

“Readers must feel included in a true conversation, allowed to follow the rough mental processes of contradiction and digression and yet aware of a formal shapeliness developing underneath.” (Lopate)

The definite qualities of the essay-film as according to Lopate:

1) must have words in the form of dialogue or text (the corollary would be that any visual medium – a political poster or an ad – could be taken as an essay)
2) Must represent a single voice – or take the appearance of a single voice.
3) The text must represent the author’s attempt to work out some reasoned line of discourse on a problem.
4) The text must impart more than information. It must represent a strong personal point of view. There is a difference here between journalistic and essayistic.
5) The overall language of the text needs to be as eloquent and as interesting as possible. Lopate suggests a cultural standard to bare when reasoning in discourse.

” … a Markerian nostalgia for the escaping present, and a melancholy over the inherently receding reality of photographed images.”

This sense of time and awareness of the inadequacy of mechanical reproduction of time allows Marker to project an ‘historical understanding onto otherwise bland or neutral footage.”

In Sunless recollecting and rewriting an inextricably linked.

Sunless suggests some form of prophecy for a new age of communication, technology and globalisation – which to a large extent is true of Marker’s vision – though the personal, essayistic form inspired by such works seems never to have arrived.

A personal vision does not equate to a personal view.

The camera as a device for recording thoughts: it has a tendency to provide its own thoughts. That is, there are always unintended and accidental consequences of the recording and re-ordering of time and space. This is the foundation to the topic of cinema as a machine for thinking as a topic for discussion.

There is a hint in all this toward the matter of the autonomy of cinema and film form.

Wilhelm Worringer posits a spectrum for the impulse behind art – the extremities of which can be defined as an impulse towards empathy at one end and an impulse towards abstraction at the other.

The fundamental notion at the heart of Worringer’s thesis is that beauty derives from our sense of being able to identify with an object; empathy. This has clear relationships with phenomenology and is a starting point for further research. Worringer is looking to understand the reasons behind how and why a human being is driven or drawn towards a work of art. This will inevitably have to include psychology – the level of the individual – and zeitgeist – the level of the broader culture.

Worringer argues that representational art produces satisfaction from our objectified delight in the self, reflecting a confidence in the world as it is as in Renaissance art. By contrast, the urge to abstraction, as exemplified by Egyptian, Byzantine, primitive, or modern expressionist art, articulates a totally different response to the world: it expresses man s insecurity. Thus in historical periods of anxiety and uncertainty, man seeks to abstract objects from their unpredictable state and transform them into absolute, transcendental forms. Abstraction and Empathy also has a sociological dimension, in that the urge to create fixed, abstract, and geometric forms is a response to the modern experience of industrialization and the sense that individual identity is threatened by a hostile mass society.

from

Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style

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September 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

‘Through a photograph you can make people believe anything. It’s not really the camera’s doing, it’s the person behind it. Figuring out ways to tell lies through the camera … it’s more interesting to show perhaps what you might never see.’

Cindy Sherman

‘Glasgow is a magnificent city,’ said Thaw.’ … Think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger, because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books, and films. But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.’

(Gray, 1981; 243)

taken from Alasdair Gray’s novel Lanark

A city’s discourse, as framed by artists, by newspapers, by demography or any other official report determines popular attitudes towards that city and hence shapes subsequent narratives about it. The inhabitants of that place live an imagined life there along side their real life and this imagined life is caught in a feedback loop with the city’s discourse. One could define a genre for the discourse of a place and its influence on the aesthetic of the narratives that flow through it. In the case of my home city Melbourne, it is hard for any one in the film industry to go past the recent mythology attributed to organised crime as seen in films such as Animal Kingdom or TV dramas such as Underbelly. As an artist is it not completely unexciting to conform to a status quo such as the accepted genre of the representation of a city’s spirit? It’s inner life? Not to say there’s anything wrong with previous expressions of this place but more to say that discourse implies an evolving to and fro. It is hard to see where the change in conversation is happening in our arts and in our imaginations. The political dimension stays consistent, the entertainment invokes the same sets of signs and signifiers and the so-called discourse stays as it was perhaps even 20 years ago.

By living imaginatively I mean to say attributing a framework of myth and history, fiction and fact to the very heartbeat of the urban landscape – the eb and flow of the population day to day through the CBD; the police presence found on the city street corners on a Saturday night; the back streets and alley ways so teeming with nightlife.

‘[…] cities (and, indeed, all urban spaces and even ‘natural’ landscapes) are always already social and ideological, immersed in narrative, constantly moving chess pieces in the game of defining and redefining utopias and dystopias.’

Colin McArthur in The Cinematic City

The meaning that a city has, and the imaginative characterisations attributed to it have no fixed or absolute meaning.

I see mobile videography as a way to explore and see the city with fresh eyes – to re-imagine it. This is the goal of my mobile videography sketches and project. The goal of my film practice is also framed in such a light – to redefine and redefine again and again possible utopias and dystopias and not just of the city we find ourselves living in but also of the human mind and soul itself.

“Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is alive.”

Karl Marx

Why the mobile? A different tool for a different vision.

the article opens with Kierkegaard:

I call these sketches Shadowgraphs, partly by the designation to remind you at once that they derive from the darker side of life, partly because like other shadowgraphs they are not directly visible. When I take a shadowgraph in my hand, it makes no impression on me, and gives me no clear conception of it. Only when I hold it up opposite the wall, and now look not directly at it, but at that which appears on the wall, am I able to see it. So also with the picture which does not become perceptible until I see through the external. This external is perhaps quite unobtrusive but not until I look through it, do I discover that inner picture which I desire to show you, an inner picture too delicately drawn to be outwardly visible, woven as it is of the tenderest moods of the soul. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

When we practice the auteur theory – which is to say simply that we summarise and critique an individual film based on its stylistic value as compared to other films of the same auteur – we look for the language of the author – are we really ‘rationalising leaden clinkers into golden nuggets’? My opinion: NO. The language of film is hidden beneath or better yet, encoded in, a films apparent ‘entertainment’ or ‘dramatic’ value. An auteur who is praised must have work worthy of praising – a masterpiece here and there. For William Friedkin we might cite The Exorcist, The French Connection or Kiler Joe. For Michael Mann you cannot go past Heat. Both of these auteur’s have films which were critically rejected during their time at the box office.

Take Miami Vice by Michael Mann for instance. The reaction to this film by and large by the critics was negative. To quote David and Margaret from At The Movies:

The real problem is that this is a nothing plot, we’ve seen it many times before, Mann’s inclusion of a couple of extended sex scenes that are not really so sexy is just a diversion.

Colin Farrell is developing into a deeply uninteresting actor, not that Mann’s screenplay gives any of the actors much opportunity for subtlety or depth.

There’s a lot of jargon. And the end result is that the plot, such as it is, verges on the incomprehensible.

Viewing Miami Vice however in reference to other texts – a more postmodern view – the film can be read as a masterpiece of style. Genre conventions are another viewpoint through which to analyse this film. Though Margaret describes this film as ‘unsexy’ I would have to disagree and assert that this is a romantic film first and foremost in which some action takes place. The final battle that draws us through to the end of the third act is predicated on vengeance for one lover and the rescue of another; duel couplings, just as in the romantic musical genre. Looking at this film through the filter of a Goddard-infused reading one can see the level of pop/fashion/media culture being coded into this film. It is plot-lite precisely to foreground fashion, fast cars, epic Caribbean skyscapes and rock music. The themes are universal: daring, vengeance, love, forbidden love, and eventually existential choices to not live happily ever after on part of Sonny (Colin Farrell).

This does not constitute a ‘see-it-or-you-don’t’ shortcut to scholarship, as Sarris’ critics would determine, but a reasonable A-iconoclastic look at what is described as the language of film; that is film form, convention and style and how these elements might relate to each other and imbue a sense of a human personality talking to us from the screen. We might ask this disembodied, coded voice ‘what do you see in relationships between people?’ or ‘how does one deal with injustice amongst the many?’, or ‘is there a place for honour and trust in contemporary society?’ This is not a shortcut to thinking but a love for film and style as it lights up the screen at 24 frames (I would hope). For structuralism and linguistics and the death of the author – these avenues of scholarship are fine, but taken in isolation can suck the life out of the most exciting form of human expression – that form that comes to us from innovation in technology, from the division of labor and the pursuit of an individual and collective landscape of dreams and desires.

Sarris hits on two interesting, dovetailing points: He says of the French critics that some had succumbed to a European-orientated (rationalist) pragmatism where intention was more nearly equal to talent in critical relevance (sounds familiar – the contemporary Australian film industry). He goes on to summarise that Truffaut had seen the writing on the wall: he and his colleagues had ‘discovered auteurs’ whilst their successors have ‘invented’ them.

This is an interesting lens through which to view the shift from the studio system to the more politically active, independent film making of the post-classical, 1970’s-on period. In the classical era the movies assumed that audiences were autonomous in their own right – that they did not need to be enlightened. Take one of John Ford’s westerns which assumes a level of respect and sentimentality for the formation of civilisation in the wilderness of the American frontier. Or perhaps a Lubitsch comedy in which it was famed that Lubitsch had an unspoken understanding with his audience and innuendo and the unseen canoodling behind closed doors was poetry. The auteur was found in the expression of style within the confines of a rigid, but practical, narrative form. The post-classical era sees auteur’s inventing themselves and what reigns here is not the value of the aesthetic expression as it erupts from a set of conventions and structures but political message and activist agenda – intention more nearly equal to talent. This immediately starts to evolve an ‘in-group’ as with any politically orientated movement – their successors had invented them.

Ultimately Bazin reasons for us with his charisma and gusto:

“How can one review an Anthony Mann western if it were not an expression of the genre’s conventions?”