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Showing posts from January, 2007

Exit Poll

This is the last day of this exceptionaly long blogathon. Not quite an entire month, but 3 good weeks. I'm happily surprised by the success of the event and overwhelmed by the enthousiastic response! Thank you very much to all contributors, readers and bloggers who relayed the information with a friendly link . Also special thanks to the Cahiers forum readers who discussed the subject in French over there . I apologize to the contributors I haven't had the time to comment on their post yet, I will soon I promise. I tried to keep up with the flow until it was faster than me. But the Unspoken Cinema blog is still alive here and I hope this fascinating collegial discussion will keep going past the blogathon . I know the topic was a little confusing but it didn't prevent fruitful conversations to happen. The question of an alleged "Contemplative Cinema", which has raised a lot of controversy, hasn't been sorted or completely ruled out yet. Everyone is welcome to r

Tiexi Qu - Chinese Indie Doc (1)

Tiexi Qu is a surprising documentary as it lasts 9 hours and the question of time, the perception of time flowing, in the film and beyond the film, are interesting to examine. West of the Tracks ( Tiexi Qu ) 2003, 9 hours in 3 parts, by Wang Bing Awarded at Yamagata International Documentary Festival, the Festival 3 Continents..... The Tiexi district is a gigantic industrial complex in Shenyang in China's north-east. It was established during the Japanese occupation in the 20s and transformed into a highly populated industrial area. From the Nineties, the Tiexi Qu district which received support from the State before gradually dismantles to become a forgotten zone where the factories are closing down one by one and where the working class area must be demolished, thus, dislodging its inhabitants. This long documentary takes us away to this now decaying area and is divided into three parts entitled “Rust”, “Remnants” and “Rails”. They are independent of each other and were

What is Contemplating Cinema?

What is contemplative cinema? It must be recognized that the question has a two-fold answer. Who contemplates? The film contemplates; the viewer contemplates. They are different contemplations, for the film's contemplation is given to the viewer's experience for the sake of his or her own contemplation while viewing, as well as for his or her reflection upon the film. Contemplative cinema is a mode of thinking, is the thinking of film, in film, filmed, a direct thought of which we are incapable of, for we can only represent in thought. Contemplative cinema is more, and less, than our contemplation. More, because it assembles and produces time and image — and we cannot do that. We cannot create a time within time, for we are already living in time and our mode of being offers no possibility of stepping outside of the time that we are in, and which unfolds through us is it carries us. No, we cannot create time, or times, for we are subject to time. Film, as a subjectivity of ima

Ozu's Any-Space-Whatever, read through Gilles Deleuze

Marina, I was inspired by your post on Ozu, which is spot on, to type up a section from Gilles Deleuze's Cinema 2 book that deals with one of Ozu's particular contemplations, the "any-space-whatever." I think it's clear that Ozu's inventions are used again and again, though perhaps often only as a reference or gesture. Where Ozu's films contemplate space, later films contemplate Ozu? We have to think hard to see the difference, for in film, the distinction between an original image and the appearance of one is illegible in the image itself and is revealed only through the film's particular assemblage. A film might contemplate, or it might contemplate contemplation. Not all examples of contemplative cinema think original thoughts. Some might only reflect on contemplation, recollect periods of contemplation, or consider contemplation (only to abandon it). I think you'll like this: "Although he was subject, from the outset, to the influence of c

Justifying the frame

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Asia's participation during the Second World War is marked by incredible loss, politically, socially and culturally speaking. However, we often fail to understand, as Richard Bach said, that "what the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly." The rapid westernization of the region, which the Great Chinese Wall couldn't counterpoint this time, provoked deep local reactions that are still proving to be fruitful. The West's damnation of dictatorship regimes and society's mistrust towards communism are leading China and its neighbours in an alternative direction of achieving progress and prosperity. And in such a period of crisis, Eastern culture returns to its rich roots to seek self-respect and a base for further development. In her book "South-Eastern Asia. Traditions and Contemporaneity" Hristina Mircheva talks about "the Asian way of thinking" of progress and prosperity: A catalyst of these bold thoughts is the

Old Joy

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As the blog-a-thon draws to an end, I've read and enjoyed much but contributed little. This isn't a contribution in the form of discussion as much as a review I did of a film on the list, namely Old Joy , which I posted on my Melbourne Film Blog at the start of the month after seeing it at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). Photo: Will Oldham and Daniel London, Old Joy This is a low budget independent film directed and co-written by Kelly Reichardt that recently had four screenings at ACMI . Maybe it’s the seasonal vacuum of quality cinema one expects this time of year, or the film has some reputation preceding it, or the fact that I saw it at its final ACMI screening on Sunday – I was surprised at the huge turnout. ACMI’s smaller cinema 1 was packed to capacity. Old Joy is a quietly accomplished film. Poetic and observational, aspects of it remind me of different films. The observational aspect reminds me of Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers , par

Gilles Deleuze and Contemplative Cinema

"Against those who defined Italian neo-realism by its social content, Bazin put forward the fundamental requirement of formal aesthetic criteria. According to him, it was a matter of a new form of reality, said to be dispersive, elliptical, errant or wavering, working in blocs, with deliberately weak connections and floating events. The real was no longer represented or reproduced but 'aimed at.' Instead of representing an already deciphered real, neo-realism aimed at an always ambiguous, to be deciphered real; this is why the sequence shot tended to replace the montage of representations. Neo-realism therefore invented a new type of image, which Bazin suggested calling 'fact-image.' This thesis of Bazin's was infinitely richer than the one that he was challenging, and showed that neo-realism did not limit itself to the content of its earliest examples. But what these theses had in common was the posing of the problem at the level of reality: neo-realism produc

Roundtable 5 : Bad Contemplative Films

Last week of the blogathon! Last chance to post your contribution if you haven't yet. As the activity slows down anyway, let's take a look at failing contemplation. Films trying hard to be as minimalist as CC but not quite getting there, thus becoming actually boring, without a rewarding enlightment. It's not easy to go for minimalism, so a mimic of the form is not enough to reach the essence of CC. What are the reasons a film would fail to appear contemplative to even the most tolerant cinephiles? Subscribe to the RSS feed for the activity notifications from this roundtable

Tentative genealogy

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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  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 th

The Falling Rain in Bela Tarr and Andrei Tarkovsky

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There are few elements that, used in film, produce both sound and image at the same time. Fire--and in its form as an action event, the explosion-- and water are the two that come to mind. Light and darkness are soundless, and most sonic elements don't have a visual correlate of much use to the film-maker. Rain, raining, running, in rivers and sheets, or in hushed continuity... rain is among the film-maker's most pliant, flexible, and rewarding materials. Not only does rain vary in tone, it falls with lesser or greater urgency. In films it can fall without wetness, as a sheet wrapping the scene in textured translucency, enhancing the image when it registers well, even though it obcures it at the same time. Indeed rain can make a scene more difficult to see, but create interest in the scene in the process. Rain might blow and create motion, running like a mad spirit first to left and then reversing and blowing suddenly to the right, across faces it has caught in its flushing

Purpose and style

In the 1920s, after Germany's downfall in the First World War, a new cinematic style of reflexing reality is formed (before that - in painting, literature, theatre), namely expressionism. It's a natural consequence of a drastically changing socio-historical situation. Deformed scenery, prolonged shadows, dark figures, lurking actors. With its exclusive style expressionist cinema is born out of a necessity and solid purpose - to criticise the political moment and protest against the horror of war and its consequences. It's a predominantly social tendency - emerged from its conscious and developed by the faith in its better future. In the 1940s, after the Axis Powers' downfall in the Second World War, a new cinematic style emerges in response to the events that shaked Italy: war, fascism, the struggle towards a democratic society. Thus neo-realism is born in Italy. Again socially orientated, it supports a political view - that of the anti-fascist opposition, this time

Roundtable 4 : Transcendental Style or CC?

Many claim that the trend we're talking about here is exactly what Paul Schrader theorized in "Transcendental style in film : Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer" (1972). Please discuss how his (34 years old) model may or may not suit the minimalist films made since, how do these masters from one or two generations back compare to the recent generation? Would this theory be the inspiration for the filmmakers of our trend to develop a new form of cinema? Is it a continuation, an extension, an emulation or a leap forward, a rupture? Roundtable topic inspired by Tyler at Criterionforum : Although this strikes me as a similar classification to the transcendental film idea, in this case, the argument is for a proposed model for what would be one of the major movements taking place in world cinema in the last 25-30 years, especially in the last 10 or 15. Subscribe to the RSS feed for the activity notifications from this roundtable

Disclaimer

That CC is a new artistic movement, and not the continuation/revival of an older one, is merely a GAMEPLAY (not a scholar study) to entertain this blogathon, which original goal is to just talk about the contemplative traits in cinema that can make certain people feel "boredom". Thus we just intend to defend challenging films against the accusation of being boring. So this covers a great range of films. That's why the discussions might sound a little confusing. Now if we can make sense of this trend all the better. "Contemplative Cinema" is an improper nickname chosen out of convenience since we don't have an appropriate name yet. We could as well call it "Neo-Minimalism", "Neo-Silent", "Mundane drift", "Unspoken Cinema", "Non-narrativism", "Atmospherical films", "Body Language mise-en-scene", "visual dialog"... what have you. Let's just refer to it as CC, without bothering

(Technical) Minimum Profile

The original purpose of this blogathon was to discuss how filmmakers can make a film without a plot, without dialogue, without action, without editing conventions, without stars... and still produce a moving atmosphere transcending narration and touching the audience intuitively without resort to intellectual verbalisation of facts and psychology. So the point of these films is not to tell us a story, but to paint a "state of mind". This idea came from a few auteurs who seem to follow this path in total contradiction to the narrative cinema tradition, to me they represent the epitome of "contemplation" since only images are left to hold the film together : Bela Tarr, Tsai Ming-liang, Bruno Dumont, Weerasethakul, Sharunas Bartas, Kore-eda, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Sokurov, Lisandro Alonso, Carlos Reygadas, Pedro Costa. So they are the ones I'd like to focus on primarily. There are also individual films by other auteurs that fit this profile perfectly without being a con

Contemplating Babel in many tongues and voices

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Gun barrels and bullets may be a blast to many American film-makers, but "foreign film-makers" find them to be riddled with cliche and only limited opportunities. At least how the story goes, or is often told. But Inarritu's Golden Globe success with Babel tells a different story, in other tongues, putting gun barrels and bullets to service as a means opening up the field rather than setting it off to run its natural course. Guns, of course, are an excellent match for film. They execute story lines and create action at the same time. When fired, a bullet may drop a man whose pursuit has held the audience in strangely -posed pauses, popcorn so ever close to the mouth, but not yet in, because the logic of the Western, like the logic of popcorn, requires that the bad man drop before the rest of us can enjoy our (now doubly pleasurable for having acquired a guilty complicity) popcorn; the popcorn itself a strangely historic nod to the genre, what with tall stalks of corn on

Average Shot Length

ASL (Average Shot Length) indicates the average duration of a shot between cuts in a film (total film run time divided by number of shots). It's a data used to compare films from their editing style : how often do they cut, how long do the shots last. A long ASL means the film uses, on average, longer shots and fewer cuts. Comprehensive example of ASL calculation (at OffScreen) : Bresson's Pickpocket (1959) ASL = 10" "In my book, THE WAY HOLLYWOOD TELLS IT, I try to show that the acceleration of cutting in recent decades can be seen as moving from an ASL range of 8-11 seconds before 1960 and towards a range of 4-6 seconds in recent years." David Bordwell For reference, in an overview of the Cinemetrics general database (all types of films) Yuri Tsivian notes: "the fastest film made between 1902 and 1909 has an ASL of 15.8 seconds while the slowest one made between 2000 and 2006 has an ASL of 10.01 seconds. In other words, the fastest runner in the beginni