You’re probably going to assume that I will now dismiss and ridicule Fords and sing the praises of Ferraris but that’s not the case. Of course a Ferrari will outperform a Ford but it will not outperform it with regard to reliability, cost, ease of driving, parts, repairs, economy or its practicality! This is very much like the cinema, there is room for us all but can you imagine a world where all cars are Fords and no other cars with true spirit or design are ever made again?
That’s exactly where we’re heading in cinema with “art” films. I’m trying to use this term very carefully as “art” films have now become synonymous with boredom, the strange, weird, slow pace and are ridiculed. Very much like art in general where a pile of bricks on the floor or a blank canvas with unknown muck spread on it is pushed by many to be serious art! So in the eyes of the general public, the word “art” has become something to avoid and feel alienated from. This is a terrible shame as art should be enjoyed by many who feel embarrassed to admit that they prefer the statue of David to the bricks on the floor for fear of being ridiculed.
To me, “art” cinema encompasses films that handle awkward subjects on an emotional level, are completely script based and give priority to the performance above all other elements. They are often disturbing due to their subject matter, require a lot of input from the audience to get involved emotionally, don’t have two dimensional characters and don’t always have tidy, happy endings. I can now hear you say, but all films are script based! Well, true but incorrect.
A script usually comes from a well written book, with a story that has a beginning, middle and end, and has interesting characters. Either that or it gets written for cinema specifically by a screenplay writer often based on their own experiences of life, fears and emotions. It has to be true, have no situation that is unbelievable, characters that are complex and behave as people and not some cardboard cut-out superhero that would do things that just couldn’t happen. It has to involve the audience emotionally by putting them through their own true fears and experiences in a realistic framework.
Main-stream films are not written like this; at least not any more anyway! They are usually based on an “idea” for an event, a new development in CGI or 3D animation, a new celebrity artist who happens to be currently “in” or all of the above. They are commercially based and just as in adverts, every scene, action and artist is developed on this basis for maximum impact and returns. Here’s a little scene to illustrate this point;
David: Guys, I’ve just seen this special FX where you can multiply the same artist to millions of copies!
John: Exact copies? …that’d be boring.
David: No, each copy can be made to behave differently! You can do the same with anything.
Sarah: Wow! We can have a town populated with copies, living in copy houses, driving copy cars!
John: And we can have the “copy-exterminator” come to town in an armoured anti particle car!
David: Yeah! Flies in at the speed of light from the future, shattering everything around it and splitting the sky with a shock wave!
Sarah: …which… causes a tsunami now heading for the copy city! And his girlfriend is there! Wow, how amazing would that be! He’ll have to save her! …all 30,000 clones of her!
John: I’ll phone the FX guys to see what else they have we can use!
David: Wow, this is going to be the best film ever!
Sounds familiar? Don’t be surprised if you see this story appear at a cinema in a year or two! Better copyright that one!! There’s a famous saying in Hollywood; “I have an idea for a great film, give me a million and I’ll make it into a concept!”
This is what I call the “it” script which is based on events purely for shock value, along with many other events which are then tied together very loosely by even more events. Characters don’t matter; they can change at any time without warning and do things even superheroes would struggle with. All they have to do is to fit the event. This will not be noticed as there will be explosions on a regular basis, blood spurting, limbs getting cut-off, a bare breast or two where you can actually see a nipple, CGI enhanced six-packs and loud soundtrack. This is always delivered with cuts every few seconds (sometimes flash cuts), intrusive fast moving cameras on all kinds of gizmos and strong, flashing back lights on banks of hundreds, coupled to an ear shattering surround sound system. The idea is to assault the senses of the audiences on all fronts where the film becomes a hypnotic tool which you can no longer take your eyes away from; it simply beats the audience into submission. No involvement or attention is required as there nothing to pay attention to.
The true “art” film on the other hand is a very different animal and the greatest films in cinema history were made that way.
We will have a look at that and point out why the change has happened and if its’ possible to give the art films a platform again…