Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cinephile Games

David Bordwell has a hilarious article on cinephiles and "the games of one-upmanship" they like to play illustrated through sample conversations between "Jules and Jim". Most of us have been on both sides of the conversations, more so in the online world. Of course it is applicable to other fan subcultures too but may be it is a bit more widespread among cinephiles. And moreover unlike those crazy soccer fans at least it never gets violent among cinephiles.

This is for example what he calls "the depth strategy"

Jules: Great movie!

Jim: You said it. I especially liked the scene when the camera tracks sideways, picking up the back of the guy who’ll turn out to be so important at the end.

Jules: Yeah. . . Actually, I didn’t notice that.

Jim: You didn’t? Gosh, that’s the key to the whole movie. It sets up the last scene beautifully. Of course there’s also that killer opening line.

Jules (who doesn’t even remember the opening scene): Yeah, that was really effective.

Jules lost, and Jim knows it.

4 comments:

puccinio said...

Bordwell really touched upon cinephilia there and the difference between casual movie-watchers and devout believers in the faith. Interesting because Bordwell in his articles and books(save for the book on Ozu) gives the impression of a serious academic whose love for the medium while obvious generally doesn't shine through in his words. Great writer though.

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And moreover unlike those crazy soccer fans at least it never gets violent among cinephiles.
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Well it doesn't devolve into brandishing broken bottles and the like but we cinephiles can become a rough bunch.

I never knew when I became a cinephile. I've loved movies since I was a kid but as I grew older I found that I'd go bored for days and weeks or even months over something than a film would come along and suddenly everything was alright again. Ingmar Bergman said in an interview before he died that for a long time the cinema was a refuge for him and he often felt that while watching a film all his troubles were resolved or dissolved at least. I even get that from watching serious films like Rossellini, Bergman, Dreyer or Bunuel which aren't perse passive entertainment.

To me the main thing about cinema is that it gives you a semblance of travelling through time and space which novels or theatre don't(which is not to say they are superior or whatnot). Like in cinema Post-War Japan of Ozu or Post-War Italy of the NeoRealists of France in the 60's like in the Nouvelle Vague instantly transport you there and you can check out your favourite spots, hang out with some characters and the like.

With Golden Age Hollywood, the cinema generally tends to be idealistic, how people should be(nice, charming, gracious, humorous and polite) as opposed to how they are.

Okay, here's one cinephile conversation...

Jules: If you don't like ''The Girl Can't Help It!'' you don't like cinema.

Jim: I like both. I especially like Tashlin's editing and use of rock music to dialectically conjoin the action with the emotional states of the character.

Jules: Oh...sure.

Jim: Like in the last bit at the dance floor. When that Fats Domino song comes up about Saturday Morning about people's work routine dictated by work and weekday activities and you see the dancers dancing barefeet. It conveys the Dionysian aspect of rock music. Of celebration and criticism. Which works in with the film's attitude to rock music.

Jules: And I also liked the way Tashlin uses Jayne Mansfield's breasts to underscore the culture's obsession with super-endowed women.

Jim:(shakes his head hopelessly) Now you are reading too much into it. Jayne Mansfield's breasts serve one function and one function only...to be stared at with intense concentration.

Alok said...

hehe... when I first saw The Girl Can't Help It, I didn't know it was such a cult film among cinephiles!! I just accidentally walked into the screening.

People I work with and in my immediate circle are all film philistines. My american boss hasn't even heard of The Night of the Hunter for example! Though I must say that I really never let tastes in movies decide who I spend time with or who I make friends with. I don't know how much time I have wasted debating with one of my friends about Forrest Gump, Amelie, Life is Beautiful etc which I find total worthless crap. Though he has now "moved up" a bit to Wong Kar-wai and Kieslowski.

I also love movies for the same reason...I feel "at home." Those old itailan films, or the post-war Japanese films the world they capture feels so familiar even though I have never been there for real. Sometimes I also feel a bit melancholic thinking that I probably can't handle unmediated reality...I run away from things (read: drama) in real life which I then find so compelling and moving in the movies. Growing up hasn't done anything it seems, it probably has become even worse, specially after spending these last three years in a foreign country, mostly alone and at the movies.

I will be moving back to India soon (may be in the next couple of months). I will miss the easy availability of movies though now even in India these DVDs have become much more easily available.

puccinio said...

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hehe... when I first saw The Girl Can't Help It, I didn't know it was such a cult film among cinephiles!! I just accidentally walked into the screening.
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Well it's a perfect litmus test. Few people would think a film about rock music and revolving around Jayne Mansfield and well her...ahem is of serious interest but for cinephiles that film is pure cinema where everything can be put into cinema.

It starts out with a newsreel ''Citizen Kane'' style only the citizen is a gangster who is way too old, the lead actor is plays an alocoholic agent and has a drunk hallucination of his lost girlfriend singing him a song about bitter farewells, you have Jayne Mansfield unaware about why people thinking she's a sexpot when she wants to be domestic. And then there's Little Richard, Abbey Lincoln, Fats Domino. It's an avant-guarde film made with big studio resources. That's why it was a big New Wave favourite and consequently among cinephiles who consider themselves to be avant-guarde(people against easy, academic art and popular junk from both the mainstream and the arthouse).

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Sometimes I also feel a bit melancholic thinking that I probably can't handle unmediated reality...I run away from things (read: drama) in real life which I then find so compelling and moving in the movies.
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Well cinema is a reflection of reality. Me, I wish films teach me to run away from life's problems because though I know I'm going to get shouted at and the like I know I can't crawl out.

I don't think watching movies do that to you. Nowadays of course the problem is that newschannels treat their subject matter as if they were fictional characters. You see advertisements for newsshows and it's like it's a trailer for a thriller, a tragedy and the like. For instance, I used to always feel bad watching stories of poverty on newschannels but then when I saw ''Los Olvidados'' with it's furious compassion I know that feeling bad is next to useless and that's not the way to react to such things.

In any case we all live only once. Watching as many movies as we can is a kind of a privelege. Not a class privelege or anything but it's something that we can do and it's a way to learning about history about seeing history in the making as it were and also give you ideas about humanity, about people, even with rare film-makers morals.

Alok said...

It is not a direct result of it. There are always these two poles or positions one can take - being in the world and acting and the other is to observe and contemplate aesthetically. A truly fulfilling life and a healthy attitude would be to balance the two, which I am sure many cinephiles and those who are interested in arts manage to achieve. There is definitely this strong pull to detach yourself from the world and become a complete observer and thinker, which an artistic interest seems to strengthen, and which I believe ultimately will lead to a shallow life. One needs to also act and be there out in the world and collect "real" experiences.