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« Guest Posting -- Andrew Takeuchi | Main | Ansel Adams at 100 »

February 09, 2003

Guest Posting -- Andrew Takeuchi Redux


A few hours ago I left a comment on your "Guest Posting -- Andrew Takeuchi." Having just gone back and re-read it, my first thought was what a grumpy old fanatic I've become (or, likely, remain.) My second thought was that it might behoove me to explain my embrace of video technology and my ambivalent relationship with the commercial cinema (including the arthouse cinema.)

As I said in my comment:

One of the more surprising disappointments of my adult life [has been] watching the experimental attitude of Sixties film towards film conventions evaporate; it's as though people haven't realized that the words you speak control the thoughts you can have, or at least express.

As a college student and in my early twenties I made a number of fairly elaborate amateur films, and then compounded this folly by going to art school. My more "mature" reflections on film as a medium therefore have been conditioned by my exposure to painting, sculpture, installation art, etc. My overwhelming conclusion is what might be termed the narrowness or rigidity of the movie camera.

Like all forms of photography, a movie camera is a very poor substitute for the eyesight of a mobile observer. Converting real life, or even staged activity, into a film demands you massage the content to fit the limitations of first the camera, second the editing bench, and third the audience's "organizational" expectations. (Think of how difficult it is to photograph architecture or sculpture with any aesthetic impact. Then contrast that with the fact that when you're in the physical presence of architecture or sculpture they affect you even when you're not paying attention to them.)

The very strict editing and selection process involved in filmmaking inevitably affects the subject matter you're treating. Since one set of camera/editing bench/organizational expectations have become hugely dominant (that of D.W. Griffith's narrative entertainment film), movies not surprisingly tend to resemble each other far more than they resemble my experience of reality, or even my thoughts about reality.

While a certain amount of French "New Wave" experimentation always made my teeth grind, it certainly demonstrated the possibility of alternatives to the above expectations. Others can be discerned by anyone with a video camera; I remember taking a video of my 3-year-old daughter riding her tricycle around me in a empty room, her wheels echoing in the enclosed space, and thinking how unusual such a "unified" treatment of time and space was in the commercial cinema (where the goal is to admit only very tiny fragments of reality into the film at a time, lest too much information overwhelm the narrative line.)

From the standpoint of playing with the "rules of the game," the most interesting commercial film I've seen in years was Oliver Stone's "JFK," because it incorporated documentary or TV news techniques into a fiction film--with a notable uptick in the amount of information a film could convey per minute.

I assume, probably mistakenly, that if a non-commercial cinema develops--an amateur's cinema, perhaps--that some of these alternative conventions would be explored. Who knows, perhaps entirely different chunks of reality--or, at least, an entirely different set of thoughts--could slide in (along with, no doubt, mountains of self-absorbed navel gazing). But that's a price I'm willing to pay.

And that's why I'm interested in video technology.



posted by Friedrich at February 9, 2003


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