Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Essence.

What a wonderful question to wrestle with than this, what is the essence of something? I often find myself musing on such a question. For example, what is the essence of a great film? Is the greatness related to merely aesthetics? Or is the power of a film derived from the directorial hand? Or perhaps even an amalgam of all these things that produces cinematographical genius? Or even deeper, can a true definition of cinematographical pure essence even be found? Is it not all wildly subjective as we are told time and again by a sea of modern critics?

I think perhaps the answer can be found somewhere in the middle. In my younger days I was utterly convinced that the true strength and captivating power of a film lies in the passion (Leidenschaft) of the acting. That this is surely the case at least in part is not hard to prove. Let us compare for example a modern masterpiece, Cimino's "The Deer Hunter" with an old masterpiece, Renoir's "The Rules of the Game". If a laymen was to watch Rules of the Game, he would surely mock such an old black and white, utterly predictable plot-line, quickly-forgettable acting as a mediocre film to say the least. To the trained critics eye, Rules is a benchmark film for it's risky content (for that time), the astonishing effortless scenes that are sometimes minutes upon minutes long without a single break, often times spanning different rooms of the building, all acting in coordination - something that is never seen in modern film (which scenes sometimes only last seconds long). Now, if that same laymen was to watch Deer Hunter, he would be utterly moved by the force of the Leidenschaft. DeNiro, Walken, and especially John Savage give performances with such coked out power, that I dear say are rarely matched in the history of cinema. It is manifestly the leidenschaft that is the true driving force behind a film. Examples are numerous, a few will be given. F-Murray Abraham in "Amadeus", Nicholson in "One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest", Keitel and DeNiro in "Mean Streets", Gary Oldmann in just about anything he does, etc, etc.

It is this same principle leidenschaft that is magnified a hundred fold and whose power is completely unravelled in Documentaries. It is the passion of real life that enthralls and quickly mesmerizes me. When the event of 9/11 occurred I will never forget as long as I live, when a newscaster would catch a frantic person on the street walking in a catatonic state, only to explode in a frenzy when he or she would realize they are being interviewed in a desperate attempt to send the message out to their missing loved ones, if by chance they would be watching from some place. Such power sucked the breath out of my lungs, I could not breath and I broke out in tears, gasping and blinded and paralyzed, I watched in horror. In this same vein, J.R Whitney's Documentary "Telling Nicholas" is perhaps the epitome of leidenschaft on film record. Nothing no matter how well scripted, directed or acted can come close to the raw power that is watching a real family emotionally disolving in front of our eyes. It is the first and only "film" that has ever bent my will - and caused me to physically breakdown. I felt guilty afterwards, as if I have peeked through a private door and watched the inner turmoil of a private family and I was not even close to earning this privilage.

Such was my convictions until I saw both Well's Citizen Kane and David Lynch's works. A paradigm shift occurred, for here before me stood such works of arts, such pure masterpieces and the leidenschaft while strong and prominent (especially in Lynch) it is not what captured my loyalty but instead was the pure raw aesthetic beauty of it. Watching Kane, watching Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive, is like staring at the sheer magnitude of a work from Rembrandt. Especially David Lynch. Lynch like Rembrandt is such a master at what he does, he does it for his own pleasure alone. He is leaps and bounds ahead of anyone today and such genius (like Rembrandt) will be only truly recognized after his passing. Lynch like Rembrandt cares not of the so-called critics, his stroke of the brush is astonishing in depth and visual form. Cane displays this also, german expressionism, the form, the shapes, the smoke. Fellini is a watered down version of Lynch. Legend has it that Fellini played music in the background and his actors almost seem to be dancing at times. Well Lynch not only has the music blaring but his actors dancing. Lynch cares not to explain the confusion because to explain it would be to empty its power. Like Rembrandt's "The Conspiration of the Bataves" piece, Lynch is the apex of art for art's sake.

And such is my plight in discerning the secret of film. And it is but only one example of this wonderful question! Perhaps no better statement can be posed as the following to unfold the secret of essence. I was once told that there are two types of artists in the world. If for some unfortunate event the one type was to be stranded on a deserted island for the rest of his life he would not bother painting anymore, why he would ask himself - if no one is going to see them? The other type however would continue to paint and progress in his artform, simply because he loves it so much and does it for his own enjoyment.

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