My notes on Antony Fiant's essay in Trafic, which first made me believe in CCC. This is a virtual manifesto for Contemporary Contemplative Cinema! I wanted to post it at last year's Blogathon, and I barely make it before this one ends... I wish it was translated in English somewhere and accessible online.
Des Films Gueule de bois (hangover films)
Notes on the mutism in contemporary cinema
(by Antony Fiant, Trafic #50, 2004)
"Not being submitted to the dictatorship of speech, being able to give in to the stream of images and sounds representing heterogeneous worlds, gives faith again in the art of cinema in this context of serious scepticism over its capacity of renewal. (Antony Fiant)"Antony Fiant realized all the recent films he loved had all one thing in common : mutism.
According to him, the domination of speech pushes aback the cinematic form and the use of sound. Definitely against theatre and literature, these filmmakers get in touch with the fundamental cinematic language of the primitive silent films.
Sharunas Bartas and Pedro costa justify the absence of words in their films by their poor skills at scriptwriting the dialogues. The contemplative value of images is opposed to the informative value of speech.
Bartas : "My cinema always functions on the principle of rejection instead of accumulation."
Abdykalkov (on a scene from The Chimp, 2001) : "this scene had to be silent because truth was in mutism. Thanks to this silence, the protagonist soars and become a real man."The 6th generation of Chinese filmmakers refuses visual sophistication and aesthetism, they use non-actors and very simple dialogues, just like Italian neorealism.
Wang Chao (Orphan of Anyang, 2001) : "I wanted a camera that simply records situations in reality. To me, to depict a given space, it's to reveal two types of times: the time we can see in the frame and the time outside of this frame. What I care about is to represent both of these times."The mutism of Tsai Ming-liang's characters is both the independence of the filmmaker and the affirmation of his characters. their silence will always tell more than the musical interludes [which are sometimes criticized as a populist device in The Hole (1998) and The Wayward Cloud (2005)]. What Time is it Over There? (2001) reaffirms with brilliance the pertinence of a cinema of incommunicability.
Placing the spectator inside a time-space block from the very beginning of the opening sequence, Blissfully Yours (2002) gives us a responsibility toward a raw reality, a truth of the world. The spectator must find his own distance, and accept not to find answers to all questions. There is no more crutches to walk us through from A to B. This exceptional opening sequence is like jumping on a moving train and trying to catch up with the missing reel. this film begins right into the mundanity of a slice of life without introduction of the characters, without exposition scene.
Fiant cites Jean-Louis Comolli (Images Documentaires #44, 2002) about Pedro Costa's In Vanda's Room (2000):
Vanda is always filmed in stationary shots, with a distant camera, never too close, that doesn't decompose into obscene details, that doesn't look for "dramatisation", "signification" or "storytelling". There is nothing to say, nothing to tell, nothing to "show".
João Pedro Rodrigues (about his film Fantasma, O - 2000) : "I wanted the film to have a palpable dimension that is found in Silent Cinema. In Griffith's films, or Stroheim's, we smell the earth, we smell the wind. There is a belief in image that is replaced by speed today. But it's the power of the bodies from Silent Cinema that I want to find back, without being able to explain it."
These filmmakers mentionned in the article (Bartas, Abdykalykov, Omirbaev, Jia Zhang-ke, Wang Chao, Tsai Ming-liang, Apichatpong, Denis, Dumont, Iosselani, Costa, Rodrigues, Suleiman, Ceylan and also the newcomers not cited : Reygadas, Sissako) propose a poetic approach of reality, a genuine gaze onto the world.
They represent and transfigure reality through detours and back lanes : contemplation (Bartas, Apichatpong...), fable (Iosselani, Suleiman...), chronicle (Omirbaev, Jia Zhang-ke...) or nostalgia (Abdykalykov...). They all accentuate the sensory rather than the narrative. This cinema expresses a certain art of suggestion through renewed images and sounds, setting us free from the empire of speech.
And this experience can only take place in the movie theatre, not in front of a TV set. Mutism forces us to reconsider the images and pay attention to the sound. It saves cinema from the free-for-all of today's audiovisual media.