Tentative CC genealogy overview
The list of films on the chronology page is getting very large, assembling more "contemplative" work than I imagined. Yet I don't think these represent the entire artfilm niche. We are still talking about the slower and most minimalistic end of the non-mainstream spectrum.
Now I needed to refine this disparate family in the hope to find sub-groups with more coherent characteristics. I know some people can't stand labels and typologies. But it helped me to put in order the various speculations of our blogathon with clarity, and made me reconsider the auteurs I originaly wanted to associate.
This schematical chart (updated, old one here) maps the territories of "Contemplative Cinema" through its evolutive generations and sorted horizontaly on the dramaturgy axis (from reality to fantasy). I don't know if my repartition is accurate (correction/addition welcome), but at least it materializes the distinction I make between the older generation (Transcendental Style and Modernity) and today's auteurs who shifted away from the tradition of literary narrative structure (dialog, plot arc, demonstration), towards less plot, less words, less fiction.
The horizontal spectrum of dramatic structure (B to F), between documentary (A : zero fiction, the Lumière tradition) and fantasy (G : zero reality, the Méliès tradition), is gradualy modified by the accumulation/deprivation of filmic language elements in vertical columns (see top of the chart) :
- I : Diegetic universe (Real world unless it is Sci-Fi or dreams), which is divided by ...
- II : Versimilitude (attempt of recreating credible situations unless it is stylized for abstraction or caricature purpose), which is divided by ...
- III : Dialogue (Silence, laconical or speechy), which is divided by ...
- IV : Protagonist (real people, or fictitious character), which is divided by ...
- V : Direction (either Life creates the action or the auteur does)
This way we can trace back the filiation of today's "contemplative" auteurs according to the characteristics of their cinematic language.
For instance, the mainstream tradition would be part of the E column, and certain classic genre verge on the F column when dramatization is excessive. So what I'm saying is that the "contemplative" precursors remained true to the classic tradition, in comforming (more or less) with the dramatic structure of a scripted dialogs inherited from literature and theatre.
The innovation developped by the recent generations was to (re)conquer the territories towards less dramatization, less escapism (bigger-than-life), less words, less sophisticated acting, and more non-actors, more silence, more real-life uneventfulness.
This allow me to split the list of today's "contemplative" filmmakers between the true mnimalists (B, C, D) and the dramatic/stylized narrators (E, F, G).
So in my opinion the likes of Wong Kar-wai, Kiarostami, Kaurismaki, Sokurov rely on words and basic dramatic structures to install their narration, while the most contemplative auteurs today depart from the tradition and really explore new territories requiring the invention of a new visual language : the likes of Bela Tarr, Tsai and Costa. Not to mention silent documentaries.
I hope my schemas looks clear and will foster discussions. Any reactions?
[EDIT] updated map (11-26-2007)