Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Film is the Map

There is a Tom Waits lyric;
"That's not the road, it is only the map" ("The Part You Throw Away")

This I think, is a fairly applicable statement for all art, and especially true of film.
Film is after all the medium that can most look like the world we see around us (wonderfully it can also be most unlike the world we see around us), and it is not impossible for one to confuse memory of sight, with memory of image.

Film isn't the road; it is not our life, it is not our journey.
But film is the map; it is our lives, it is our journeys.

Film is the map of empathy.
The map we can use to understand and meet the other.
The map we can use to feel not only the hurt of others, but the hurt we cause others.

Film is the map of relationships.
The map we can use to know.
Know, even those closest to us.
Know, through the wisdom and folly of others, who they can & cannot be; who we can & cannot be.

Film is the map of community.
No one person is going to feel or experience everything that is portrayed on film.
Not every story is our story, not every choice one we will have to make.
But a community may.
A community is made up of more feelings, more experiences, more choices.
The story of the cinema, the grand directory of film; provides a language for the whole community -
because there is nothing a person can feel, experience, or choose that is not mapped out on film.
A map which continues to expand and deepen.

Film's not the road, it is only the map... but never underestimate a map.
A map is useful before the road, on the road, and after the road.
A map names.
A map explores.

Regardless of how many roads our feet have trod, it is the map that draws it all together.
Showing one road's relation to another.
Displaying the interwoven and interdependent nature of it all.
A map explores and reports, guides and grows, informs and evolves.

This is why a bad film is so abhorrent;
it misdirects us, it leads us down dead ends, it leads us away from the road, or worse -
it portrays the road for something the road is not.
This is why a good film is holy;
it is revelation -
life & people, stories & choices are mapped & disclosed, told & retold, learnt & embraced.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Edge of Tomorrow - and the restoration of hope

Last week I wrote a post about my frustration with summer blockbusters, essentially I was sick of them. However at the end of that notion I expressed that I was holding out hope; because who knows what was coming around the corner. How apt it was that hope was on the Edge of Tomorrow.

(I'm sorry for that, but the title really is the worst part of the film, and so I had to... that said, the film itself...)

... IT IS FUN!
It moves with a refreshing briskness; at once allowing the movie room to have fun, whilst never condescending to its audience with self-reference.
Which made it fun.

Cruise gives his best performance in years. Unlike so many "action stars" to come after him, he works every second of this movie to convince the audience that everything they see is actually there.
Which made it fun.

It handles its message with deftness, never resorting to monologues faux-philosphising about the nature of this and that.
Which made it fun.

The visual affects were superb and always aimed at adding to the narrative or characters. The editing revels in giving you only what you need whilst continually contributing to the exquisite pace of the movie.
Which made it fun.

See it.
Did I mention it was fun?

I can only hope more blockbusters will follow in its stead, abandoning self-importance, self-seriousness, and self-reference for a dedicated pursuit of fun, for giving one's audience something to grab hold of, for dedication to the narrative. 
Because if the regeneration gimmick of this movie teaches us anything; it's that, like war, war (action) movies are only going to repeat and continue again and again and again and again.
For more words on this film, read Julien Faddoul's great review at The Cinema Touch

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

I'm getting so sick of blockbusters - also review of The Son (2003)

I have a brother with autism. One of the things we love to do together is go to the movies, the movies that attract his attention are generally movies with plenty of explosions and effects, heroes and villains.
I have a friend who is a cinefile. One of the things we love to do together is watch movies, the movies that attract his attention are a little more varied in scope and style.

Last week I watched two movies; one with my brother, one with my friend. Those two movies, for me in this moment, highlighted everything that is wrong and right with the cinema.  

The first film was X-Men Days of blah blah blah, another one of these carbon copy blockbusters which utilise every technique and technology known to man in an attempt to create action, drama, suspense, tension, or at least something resembling cinema... rarely do they succeed in any way at all. And X-Men: Today is Tomorrow's Yesterday - which from my limited knowledge of the comics, should be Do The Right Thing with superpowers - becomes yet another example of all sound and noise signifying nothing. A collection of ideas and images half thought through and vaguely executed. It is in no way the worst of this genre of 'summer blockbuster' but it was a stark reminder of the increasingly undeniable fact: this isn't cinema.

Then I watched The Son (2003, dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne), safe to say the polar opposite of Marvel project 17, a film which abandons so many things that we have been told 'make a movie', a film which presents the bare essentials (and one may argue, not even that). But a film nonetheless, which is infinitely more interesting, suspenseful, dramatic, and cinematic than that other film with all it's millions of dollars and dozens of Oscar nominees. The Son reminds us of why people invented cameras and added sound - they wanted to tell stories. They wanted to tell more stories to more people. They wanted to show us more places. They wanted us to feel more. The Son is exactly this, while its story could be told through other mediums, it's storytelling could not.

People may feel that this argument is antithetical. That surely the movie set simultaneously in an alternate future and past, filled with explosions and people who turn into fire is the story that most suits the cinematic method. But cinema is form of intimacy and subtlety, of glances and expression, of knowing and unknowing, of withholding and releasing, of here and now. This is cinema.     
The Son is cinema.

I will make one small disclaimer, one last ditched statement of hope for the days of future past... a disclaimer is borrowed off another story from the cinema:
"Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere"
And I can only hope so, because these movies, like my brother's appetite for them, have no end in sight.