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Cinema Melting Pot

March 16th, 2010 by btrachtenberg100

Cinema has developed its own discourse, allowing native audiences to process cues unconsciously and follow a story. A visual language, film’s dialect differs depending on the country. Grammatical rules set up by the Hollywood system have given western movies a distinct stylistic flavor. The tone of which as Robert Stam suggests carries nationalistic tendencies reflecting imperialism and racism as the typical Hollywood film features the “civilized” man versus the “native” beast. I feel that the early pre-WWII films of America reflect a perfect world and distrust for the savage. (After all look how African Americans were treated in films like Birth of a Nation) The beauty of the cinema is that it does not exist solely in the realm of the exploitative filmmaker. Film has grown to serve many functions, escapism being one of them. The ability to compare one countries film with another allows us to get a sense of their perceptions and values. European cinema (the 2nd cinema) sought to defy these set conventions of the Hollywood system, and in doing so has been regarded as avant garde. Films by Godard and De Sica are regarded as being an aesthetic that challenges the viewer, imposing him/her the task of active critical thought. As we make our way down to the Third cinema, the artist moves further away from the commercialized stereotype. This includes cinema that is created in response to suffering. As Julio Garcia Espinosa states, “truth is purged by suffering”. While he believes in an impartial cinema where everyone is permitted to create their own artistic expression, I feel this is not possible. While people may suffer, not everyone can express their torment in the spiritual aspect of society. If films like Battle of Algiers represent the view of one man on behalf of a nation of oppressed people, what would the masses hear if everyone made a film depicting their version of suffering? Not everyone can pick up a camera and make a cogent piece of art. Granted, today with technology as accessible as it is, we can access thousands of videos, all consisting of expressions of the individual, all falling under the definition of imperfect cinema. The question is does anyone really care? Part of the satisfaction that comes from artistic expression is the acknowledgment of that struggle, and connecting with people who understand. The only reason third world cinema is of any importance is because it has gained an international audience to respond to it. In today’s world, acknowledging it in terms of primitive nostalgia is simply ignorance. Film is a controversial medium and to use it as a weapon against the oppressor for the sake of waking up the majority (cinema novo) is third cinema in its purest form, and therefore the most noble.
The medium has evolved to the point where every nation integrates pieces of other nations’ cinemas. Making others aware of these conventions makes us more able to interpret international cinema in their proper context.

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The Auteur and the Film

March 8th, 2010 by btrachtenberg100

While the nature of the relation between shots reflects the objective understanding that evolved from juxtaposing pictographs. It’s a step forward in a sort of picto-linguistics that facilitates a narrative through a rubric of standards. The theory of the auteur reflects the humanity that the individual brings to the screen. Similar to this shared standard for understanding films that we’ve become accustomed to viewing, the films of a director should be understood in the larger context of the rest of his body of work.
There are many theories regarding the nature of the auteur. Peter Wollen breaks the auteur into one of two categories. There’s the one who stresses style and mise en scene, whose works add depth to the directors existing repertoire because themes are developed from film to film. Then there are those who are metteur en scene; products of adaptation whose works are self contained but shows stylistic consistencies throughout their career. This further fragments the initial division between realist and formalist narrowing the definition of what it means to be a true artist in the celluloid medium.
Andrew Sarris sees the director reflected in three independent continuums; technique, personality, and the interior meaning. (Respectfully synonymous with technician, stylist, and auteur) The technician path most closely resembles Wollen’s metteur en scene. It would seem that Wollen views directors in fixed categories. Whereas Andrew Sarris’ definition is more flexible in this respect that he recognizes that directors vary on more of a continuum within three fixed catagories resulting in more themes and variation. I propose that the actual definition stems from a conflict between the three categories of Sarris, each representing the unconscious desires and conscious intentions of the director resulting in an emerging visual storytelling style that represents the individuality is diffused throughout the directors’ work. This is the auteur.
William Wyler says that if you put fifty directors up to the task of filming the same scene with the same crew, and cast you would have fifty different versions of the same thing. While this is true in the immediate distinction, an auteur is ultimately the way they chronicle themes over time. Jean Renoir describes it best when he says that a director spends his life making one film and his life’s meaning can be derived and understood from the thread throughout his work.
The idea of the auteur can be a dangerous one as well for it creates expectations in the mind of the viewer. One who goes into the film of a director he likes, he is biased towards that film. He may attribute his lack of understanding, not as a weakness in the art, but rather as something he doesn’t understand yet. As Andre Bazin encourages, there should be an objective measure for which a film is compared, then an opinion can be formed. I feel this detracts from art, by standardizing the method of viewing. While it’s true that a name on a film creates expectations, a good film is a good film regardless. This personalization of film art reflects society at a certain time and a person’s genius on a single film may be circumstantial. Nor is a good director’s work always on par. a single work can exist independently. After all, a director may make only one or two films. The auteur arises from personal view that spans across their films over the years and therefore is a separate phenomenon altogether. The individual films must be understood separately, as by themselves and as part of the director’s cannon.

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