Film Popism

k-punk

Spectres of Mark
WOEBOT said:
but, fraid to report, I just loved star wars, and i'll quite happily celebrate most blockbusters (independence day, that one with bruce willis blowing up the asteroid) above the wretched hand-wringing of art cinema. ok i'll give you herzog. but he was a visionary of visual extremity. all the great russian cinema vertov, eisenstein connects more meaningfully with the total cinema of the blockbuster than it does with the paucity of ambition of art cinema.
I think we're perfectly, isomorphically opposed here, in that I'd go for Girls Aloud and Rachel Stevens while despising Independence Day and (you MUST be joking) Armageddon. (BUT I think there's an argument to say that the 'rockist' values of innovation and novelty are better serviced by Xenomania than anything in rock atm.) (I've not even seen any but the first Star Wars film; I almost literally can't watch them, every time I attempt to do so, they repel my attention. Ditto Harry Potter, which I've never managed to make myself sit through). I'm not sure what you mean by art cinema though.... I mean the phrase 'paucity of ambition' could hardly apply to Tarkovsky... or Marker.... or Pasolini... or Bergman... etc.

Isn't 'ambition' being conflated with 'scale' here... because it seems to me the creative ambitions of blockbusters are very limited.... lots of NOISE and BIG stuff.... but in a setting that is formally conservative and threadbare formulaic....

I think there's a direct connection between pop malaise and cinema malaise (but mainstream cinema is certainly much worse than mainstream pop) - both have lost connection with their outsides. Mainstream cinema at its best stole precisely from art experimentalism (you can see this in everything from the famous take-up of German expressionism in 30s horror and film noir to Scott's appropriation of Ozu and Tarkovsky in Blade Runner) . MTV is an interesting symptom of this disease. Even up to about six or seven years ago, MTV was explicitly arty; now you're lucky if you find music on it, never mind about art.
 

owen

Well-known member
henrymiller said:
the whole cult of unnaturalism bought into (from the futurists, ffs!!!) .
pfft, what of it? gramsci always argued that losing the futurists to fascism was one of the italian CP's great mistakes. futurism obviously has a left strain. on the history of the SU- yes, this is a vast subject and one full of all manner of political murkiness, if one that is somewhat off-topic- feel free to (be the first person to!) comment on this thread http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=2829

in a way, i think the post-punk equivalent in film is the leftwards shift of euro art movies in the late '60s, early '70s--exactly the crisis point in US cinema too.

my thesis: '68 didn't 'happen' in pop until punk/post-punk, but it happened -- was integrally bound upwith -- immediately in (euro) cinema. 1968-9 is an incredible year in film, and godard's break with commercial cinema is only the most visible sign of that. but in pop this is year-zero of rockism (praps) with, eg, pink floyd giving up on singles, and the blues revival really taking off.


all this is OTM
 

owen

Well-known member
henrymiller said:
other than saying 20" rims and big tits are what the good life's about, i don't think mtv is a major factor in the day-to-day continuation of captalism.
seriously?
 

nunc

∞
k-punk said:
appropriation of Ozu and Tarkovsky in Blade Runner.....
could you expand on that?
also the art/mainstream dichotomy didn't really exist in the 20s (nascent surrealism etc excepted)
 

Diggedy Derek

Stray Dog
An incredibly interesting thread, this.

I think in 20s cinema, they were precisely trying to create an art/mainstream distinction. Certainly the lengthy theories of Eisenstein and many other silent cinema theorists were trying to provide a theoretical basis for cinema as art. That's not to say they didn't like Griffith, far from it, but I think they would have viewed the best art cinema as infinitely better than the worst mainstream cinema.

Regarding Eisenstein and Griffith, again he took a lot of inspiration from Griffith of course, but he was trying in the vein of futurist poetry to build up cinema from the theoretical first principals (indeed montage and the cinema of attractions were principals that he even thought extended beyond cinema). The fact that the heart of montage is "comparison" means his films were more about crowds than individuals (compare with Bazin's favorite films). That is, his futurist obsession with the "form" of cinema, with art as mechanical reproduction, inclines him towards a detached, social-analytical perspective rather than something that's more of a human/expressive perspective.
 

henrymiller

Well-known member
also the art/mainstream dichotomy didn't really exist in the 20s (nascent surrealism etc excepted)
it did too! if you read 'close up' or anything in english written in the '20s about german or russian cinema, you will find precisely this dichotomy.
 

Diggedy Derek

Stray Dog
Regarding film-rockism, would we say part of the idea of rockism is that the artists themselves think what they're doing is unique, and pushing things forward in some unspecified way? This egotistical conceit seems integral to me. And it seems slightly unfair to say that, say, John Ford was a "rockist" director. He was a director of westerns, as he put it, arguably was rather modest about his work.

I guess one could say film noir and westerns form a film-rockist canon, but they were only concieved as such in retrospect, when the french got hold of them post war and had a chance to analyse them all in one big go.
 

owen

Well-known member
a case could be made for the early Cahiers du Cinema and their revaluation of Ford, Nick Ray (and why US Hitchcock is as good as UK Hitchcock/US Lang as good as Weimar Lang) etc as an form of Popism (though clearly without the 'scenius-over-auteurism' element) as it was done partly in the face of a more left-leaning and more ostensibly 'arty' french critical establishment (Godard, Truffaut & co's left turn comes pretty much mid-60s)
 

nunc

∞
henrymiller said:
it did too! if you read 'close up' or anything in english written in the '20s about german or russian cinema, you will find precisely this dichotomy.
in the sense that vertov or dozvhenko were still making films for 'popular' consumption, as were the weimar expressionists, even if they were from an avant garde background. the same could be perhaps be said for sirk in the fifties.
 

henrymiller

Well-known member
in the sense that vertov or dozvhenko were still making films for 'popular' consumption, as were the weimar expressionists, even if they were from an avant garde background. the same could be perhaps be said for sirk in the fifties.
there's nothing remotely avant-garde about sirk -- the whole sirk industry is a big joke being played on us by the '70s.

but any case large numbers of filmmakers in all industries have avant-garde backgrounds (like sirk). the point is that films have, pretty much since the early '20s, been received as 'art' or 'commerce'. vertov and dovzhenko were nominally making films for popular consumption, but were unsuccessful in this -- and the german expressionists weren't wildly popualr either. the kammerspielen were deliberately made for educated audiences.

but you'd have to go further and explain what an 'avant-garde background'. what *is* the avant-garde, after the '20s? it's not really clear. so by definition, latter-dar filmmakers don't have one. qed.
 

owen

Well-known member
well i won't rise to the point on Sirk...

though 'what makes him or anyone else 'avant-garde' is an interesting question....it's often used as a synonym for any slightly unusual effect, eg sirk is generally claimed avantish as much for the fact that his lighting tecnhiques were strikingly anti-naturalistic as much for the alleged social criticism, or indeed the fact that he partipated in the 1919 Bavarian Soviet Republic...

aside- yeah so people didn't generally go see Earth or Man with a Movie Camera- but they were made for a popular audience, so what is interesting is why they failed in this...it can't be just their oddness, as the 'interstellar trotskyism of this-

was massively successful (solution- to use avant garde techniques and be succesful- set it in SPACE)
 

henrymiller

Well-known member
i wonder if there are even figures on things like, how many prints of 'earth' were struck versus other russian productions versus american imports.

because of the cost of filmmaking, only tiny numbers of films were deliberately made for small audiences, i would guess.
 

henrymiller

Well-known member
also the defence of sirk for his 'anti-naturalism' is thru the looking-glass: of course, in the 40s and 50s left-wing critics hated on hollywood precisely for its lack of naturalism. now (or rather in the 70s, which in film
academica have somehow lasted 25 years) for a film to get the nod it *has* to 'lay bare the device' or what have you.
 

nunc

∞
henrymiller said:
there's nothing remotely avant-garde about sirk -- the whole sirk industry is a big joke being played on us by the '70s.

but any case large numbers of filmmakers in all industries have avant-garde backgrounds (like sirk). the point is that films have, pretty much since the early '20s, been received as 'art' or 'commerce'. vertov and dovzhenko were nominally making films for popular consumption, but were unsuccessful in this -- and the german expressionists weren't wildly popualr either. the kammerspielen were deliberately made for educated audiences.

but you'd have to go further and explain what an 'avant-garde background'. what *is* the avant-garde, after the '20s? it's not really clear. so by definition, latter-dar filmmakers don't have one. qed.

vertov could definitely be considered avant garde, if you use that as a catch all for various early-mid 20th century artistic movements, i don't think you could situate sirk and dozvhenko in that way. the 'sirk industry' claim can dismiss the 70s criticism, the fassbinder-brechtian side of things, then there is the often ephemeral formal side of things, in that respect i think he is one of the favoured classical hwood directors within the american avant garde.
 

owen

Well-known member
obviously one of the things enjoyable about say, 'imitation of life' is that it looks pretty and makes you cry. to suggest that this necessarily conflicts with 'laying bare' etc is a caricature of brecht.

and forgive me for never having been a film student, but where is this psuedo-brechtianism an orthodoxy exactly? i'm intrigued.
 
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henrymiller

Well-known member
i haven't been a film student either, but you'll find the pernicious influence of brecht all over '70s 'screen' (of which 'sirk on sirk' editor jon halliday was an editor -- with laura mulvey he helped 'make' sirk in the UK) and thus in most film studs text books. it was articulated with the lacan-althusser line, and equated with contemporary soviet avant-gardism. i can't think of a more pervasive orthodoxy in academic film studies.

what's perhaps strange about the sirk-love is that it's generally held that socially critical films were impossible in the '50s, and that sirk thus used some kind of 'coding' to get round this. there's some truth in this, but a) i don't know what radical message he has to impart, b) were people at the time able to see it (if not, the coding didn't work), and c) there *were* socially critical (within obvious limits) pictures made in the '50s, by (critically reviled) directors like kramer and lumet!
 

owen

Well-known member
it seems odd to square brecht and this amorphous 'lacan-althusser', but yr clearly more up on this than me so i'll concede that 'un. nonetheless i still think there are huge differences being obscured here. obviously sirk didn't make 'social critique' on the level of, say, 'the defiant ones', and i don't necessarily think there is an element of 'critique' being claimed for sirk, in eg fassbinder's writings on him- what the latter seems to like, amongst other things, is his fatalism, a singularly un-Brechtian impulse. for instance Sirk on Brecht's version of Antigone (in Sirk on Sirk, obv)

‘I think Brecht’s transformation (of Antigone) is very revealing, because it shows up the failure of Marxism to understand religion, among other things- and, perhaps, the irrational…in Brecht’s version, Antigone is victorious. But the lesson is exactly the opposite of what Brecht thought. The Gods are victorious.’
 

Diggedy Derek

Stray Dog
Often, social critiques in film can be suggested through a strange sort of negative process- because Sirk shows domestic life as so comfortable, and Hitchcock shows men to be immeasurably more powerful than women, they inadvertently suggest an opposite point of view. The oppressed/repressed becomes a theme in itself. It's in this way that Hitchcock can almost be discussed as a feminist.

I think the way this "coding" can happen is part of how wonderful film is. Often we really don't know what a director thought, but a film can communicate on many subtle levels. This is why, I think, rockism in many ways is difficult to describe in film- for rockism in film we need something which is auteuristic but which has no meaning outside this auteurism. Ie, the director is the God, on a pedestol. And in general film is too rich for that. Sight and Sound for instance is pretty nuanced in appreciating the way filmic meaning comes as much from the audience and the actor as the director. In fact, wouldn't real rockism in film be self-congratulatory and auteuristic in the way, say, the Sundance film festival is? the real rockism is American independent film? Which is actually a rather small subsection of film.

More generally, I'm suprised to see people (eg Woebot) on such a downer about art-film generally. Sure there's a lot of dross, but this was always the case, and there's so much fine film making out there that it seems churlish to complain. Asian film, Canadian film, South and Central American film are all really, really strong at the moment, and there's surely as many good films coming out now as ever before?!?!
 

henrymiller

Well-known member
Often, social critiques in film can be suggested through a strange sort of negative process- because Sirk shows domestic life as so comfortable, and Hitchcock shows men to be immeasurably more powerful than women, they inadvertently suggest an opposite point of view. The oppressed/repressed becomes a theme in itself. It's in this way that Hitchcock can almost be discussed as a feminist.
isn't this a bit of a 'get out of jail free card'.

"because Pudovkin shows life under Stalin as so comfortable, and Riefenstahl shows Germans to be immeasurably more powerful than Jews, they inadvertently suggest an opposite point of view."

O RLY?
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Scorsese and Coppola have both been critical of the Marvel stuff recently.
“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese told Empire. “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
“It’s not cinema, it’s something else,” regarding the MCU movies. “We shouldn’t be invaded by it. We need cinemas to step up and show films that are narrative films.”
“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration…I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” the 80-year-old filmmaker said, according to Yahoo! News. “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”
Ethan Hawke said something similar a while back too.
“Now we have the problem that they tell us ‘Logan’ is a great movie,” Hawke said. “Well, it’s a great superhero movie. It still involves people in tights with metal coming out of their hands. It’s not Bresson. It’s not Bergman. But they talk about it like it is. I went to see ‘Logan’ ‘cause everyone was like, ‘This is a great movie’ and I was like, ‘Really? No, this is a fine superhero movie.’ There’s a difference, but big business doesn’t think there’s a difference. Big business wants you to think that this is a great film because they wanna make money off of it.”
 
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