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The gap between artfilm and audience - Chris Kelvin


"Even such individualistic and distanced filmmakers as Bresson and Kubrick still operated under cultural boundaries and structures of thought and suspected to have a people somewhere capable of receiving their message. I find it harder and harder now for this to happen. One notices that art has becoming increasingly specific and fragmented in its subject matter and intended audience, and that the films which do hit it big in America, regardless of their artistic qualities, are becoming more and more vague in content, character and story". Matthew Dickinson


I believe film can do more then just tell a good story in a 3 or 4 act structure and have some characters who embody a theme.
Since the beginning of the moving picture people always wanted to tell stories? And today some 100 years further in time they are still doing the same thing. Film and what it can do hasn’t been fully explored yet.

Kubrick was a very smart man because he knew if he wanted to reach a big audience he had to work under these genreconventions were people are familiar with. But what he did was pushing the genre to new bonderies. I fact he used the genre as a vehicle to communicate what he had to say. People need these conventions, these expectations.

What the problem is today is that people are conditioned by these laws and if they see an artfilm they don’t understand it completely or they have seen a completely diffirent film. Because it operates under different laws. I think new unconventional filmmakers don’t always think about this gap that exists between their film and the audience. I think there are a lot of new filmmakers out there who are tired of these laws and conventions and want to do something new and refreshing. But it’s still a problem they do it without paying attention to the audience. A filmmaker evolves, but the audience has to evolve to. With other words: the audience needs to change his way of looking at things. They have to free themselves from these conventions. But they can’t change from the one day to the next. I think using a genre and it’s conventions is a great way to start. To take the first step towards the audience. People like David Lynch know this so he uses a genre to reach the audience. Then when the audience is in the theatre they’re on their own.

I have seen many fragmented films, films who do not operate under a plot, or have characters, but do have something important to say. They just do it in another way and I think people aren’t ready for it.

Personally I think the best films of Tarkovsky are the ones who have a story. Maybe it’s essential to use the genre or story as a vehicle to communicate your thoughts. Maybe these are the elements to fill the gap.


Chris - Kelvin

9/28/2003, 9:10 pm Link to this post Send Email to visitor99   Send PM to visitor99
 
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Re: The gap between artfilm and audience - Matthew


Well, I meant to say that genre structures in Hollywood have become too simple, too formulized. Hollywood has always been in it for the money, of course, but it does seem tightened the bottle neck of creativity to the choking point. Advertizers continue to gain more and more control over the movies released, and the more money invested in these films, the less risks will be taken. And art rests on its ability to take risks and to innovate. Art film theatres are becoming fewer and fewer. I know at least in the metro Atlanta area there are only a handful and they are usually small, playing only four movies or so at any given time.

That isn't to say genres or agreed-upon structures in art don't serve functions. It's often been said they are liberating for one's creativity to work within their rules. Tarantino is doing just that in his new Kill Bill film, utilizing the structures of old kung fu films. If that's art.

What I mean is that art needs a culture to draw from. Spiritual art especially needs this. And we live with a great poverty of culture in America, and I am sure this holds true to a lesser extent in Europe. The new generations are raised on bad tv, video games, recent movies, recent pop music. Spirituality, values and morals are either at rock bottom or in a state of mass flux. Stepping back from things we seem to be in a major world revolution in so far as how we are living and how we are raising our kids (or not raising them). There really is no predicting what these newfangled technologies will bring mankind. All this has to be taken into account when considering why art cinema seems dead or dying and unlikely for a revival. What's left of spirituality has become far more internalized or individualized. People do seek religious answers in their lives - no doubt this is an instinct ultimately irrepressible in man without genetic engineering. As some have put it, they shop for a new religion every week (maybe the key word here is "shop"!) Certainly there is a hunger for it. What we lack though is a collective vision of what we are to believe in, what our relationship to God or gods are meant to be like; the lack of rituals and traditions that everyone is expected to practice. And we lack mythologies, as our mythological thought often seems constrained to the latest news in popular culture. Without a deep, enriching spiritual well to draw from, new artists will not arise, or will not be properly formed, and the art appreciators - the audiences and the critics - will find little common ground to share their experiences in. Hopefully, in the near future there will be a stabilizing period in which much needed cultural unification will occur. Considering the variety of backgrounds and ancestries living together now in America, this seems like a prospect one shouldn’t bet on.

It’s hard to imagine that the production of great art will entirely cease, though. Certainly small packets of artists will continue to congregate and share their works amongst each other, as has been common to do now for well over a century. What bothers me is the inability for the whole country to be exposed to great art now. Does it really matter to the world if some loner with a website has made a great movie (or piece of music, or painting, etc.) for less than ten thousand dollars? It does if you hear of the site and can find it, but that’s difficult to do even now. I guess this website is as good as any for people to connect to.

And you raised the issue of the need of stories in the medium of film. I think this is true. There are sometimes ways to communicate ideas through non-narrative means (the 'Qatsi films are a prime example of a success story here), but I've always felt telling stories is so deeply ingrained in the psyche of mankind that a medium like film which is based on a long stretch of time, will require the utilization of stories and characters. Even video games have increasingly utilized non-interactive stories because of their selling power.

----

There are other problems looming on the horizon. Machine-based art creation is becoming more and more common, indeed the norm now in areas like music. I posted that New Scientist article here a few days ago. It seems likely that we will not only relinquish more and more control and creativity over to complex machines. Turn on the radio in the past ten years and you will hear music that’s obviously computer-aided to a great degree. Will the need for human thought and spirituality be needed in the future? Can this be programmed (or can a machine program another machine to do this)?

Imagine our ability to create programs that can heuristically generate millions and millions of unexplored (based on the data – the history of art – imputed into its memory banks) combinations of kinds of works of art, exploring every conceivable possibility at a much more rapid speed than humans are capable. I’ve often wondered what man will do when faced with the mathematical certainty that all types of art have already been created and that creating duplicates – whether by his hand alone or computer-aided – is unnecessary, superfluous. I realize such doomsday speak harkens back to the earliest theories and worries over humans’ interactions with machines, but I feel these problems are finally occurring, right under our noses, and with faster and faster acceleration.

I don’t know what to expect, even five or ten years from now. Does anybody?

Matthew
9/28/2003, 9:12 pm Link to this post Send Email to visitor99   Send PM to visitor99
 
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Re: The gap between artfilm and audience - Chris Kelvin



It does seem to me that mankind's last fortification of the spirit, art, has slowly surrendered to the intellect - although this is not hard to predict if you are familiar with spiritual laws. Sadly, cinema has been hit harder than most for the obvious reason that there needs to be some sort of commercial viability to recoup the huge costs involved - and imo digital is just not up to standard. I don't even think Reggio's latest outing was released in most of Europe - so what chance have the rest of us got?

As for "art" films, I have to say that for me I find it very hard to gain anything from the vast majority of them. In fact I don't watch so many films now, so deluded have I become with cinema as an artform. I think far too many have become cliched or copycat, and I am uncertain what the end aim of most of them is, how this film is meant to affect my life for the better.

Tarkovsky is one of the small number who still motivates me, especially now reading Time within Time I see the great constraints placed on him. His films awaken something in the spirit rather than crass emotions as the manipulative Speilberg-esque Hollywood types. And surely this is the point of art? What else can it do? This is the highest goal of art, to strike a spark in the spirit, no matter how small. And only several directors have really done this - mostly through poetic cinema, I feel this and non-narrative films are the way forward, something that culminates towards a realisation or awakening in the audience, no matter how small. It's always a worthwhile purpose.

That the audience doesn't want it (Spirit) is merely a reflection of the present decay in civilization. The average 9-5 American and European would rather consume at the weekend than be challenged, so really a huge barrier is already put up. And these films are consumed, really they are no different to drugs, with the directors and studios the dealers. The effects Hollywood has had spiritually cannot be underestimated. But if people want it, it is there for them....

As for the near future, I do see more and more comprimise, as maybe Stanley Kubrick did (who I don't rate at all incidentally). But I don't see this as the answer. A want on behalf of society is the only answer for a change in art.

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Re: The gap between artfilm and audience - Chris Kelvin


I do not know that I personally know what it is like to be moved spiritually, to have my spirit "sparked," set aflame. I think, though, that the range of human experiences, so far as feelings or emotions go, are, for better or for worse, small in number and easily, intuitively identifiable to almost everyone, even at very young ages. A problem of considerable difficulty in the social sciences has been in seeking for a unification of theory in regard to the range of human experiences on a worldwide level. Was tbe internal moving of the spirit similar for the Eskimos during their rites and festivals as it was for Europeans in the middle ages during mass? Or in private prayer? Can I person, for instance, witness a horrible killing on a city street, run away for safety and from the feeling of security in knowing that they had escaped death also feel an approximately similar movement in the spirit? Is this a readibly noticable feeling that most regular people become accustomed to early on in life, whereas it is the religious "seekers" who are slow to awaken to these everyday occurences? Is the spirit or soul, at least within the range of the human intellect, quantifiable and can be scientifically studied? Consider that the brains of spiritualists have been scanned during a variety of religious experiences in which each vary considerably in their beliefs and thoughts, but whose experience, as noted by the scans, is rather similar? What then does one make of the validity of these varying, contradictory belief systems?

I may give the "Light" books another look sometime, but the more I hear this obscure work mentioned on this site the more it reminds me of the "Heaven's Gate" cult introductory video tape I received in the mail today which I was getting a kick out of earlier.

Matthew
10/29/2003, 5:58 am Link to this post  
 
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Re: The gap between artfilm and audience - Chris Kelvin


I used to love movies. And there was a time in my life when I saw a lot of films. It was a very rich experience to see films by masters like Tarkovsky, Bresson, Bergman, Antonioni, Kieslowski, Kiarostami, Reggio,...
But today there are not many films that challenge me. I hardly go to the cinema anymore. I get so bored by these films: more of the same. 99% of all the film they make today is crap. Even artfilms !!! (because there’s a huge difference between artfilms and films with spiritual capacities). I really have a need for spiritual art but where do I find it? Like you said “Naqoyqatsi”?!? I haven’t seen it yet: nowhere to find, never played in a cinema here. Waited for months for it’s release in Europe, but nothing, no Naqoyqatsi. Now once every two years some film really surprises me and then I believe there’s still hope for this kind of film. I can only hope that the majority of people get tired one day of all these bullshitmovies (just like we do). But how does a drugaddict ever get tired of drugs?

Chris - Kelvin
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Re: The gap between artfilm and audience - Chris Kelvin


It's quite simple, people have to go out there and challenge the public. Reggio didn't succeed by sitting at home, he went out and did it, no money and everything. Like I said in another post, I am reading Time Within Time and the things Tarkovsky had to go through to get a film made you would not believe. It is possible. I don't think directors of spiritual cinema are fighting a losing battle if there are even a small number of people who are looking for it. But the situation is bleak. Even the art films, noticeably the French, have started to comprimise. Yet another good director whose films I haven't been able to locate anywhere is Bela Tarr. Pretty sad.
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Re: The gap between artfilm and audience - Chris Kelvin


I never heard of the problems Tarkovsky had encountered. He graduated at filmschool didn’t he ? He’s father was a famous poet so he could meet all the right people. His first shortfilms won prizes. And his first featurefilm « Ivan’s Childhood » won the top prize at the Venize Filmfestival. I know later he was forced to move to Italy, but I have to admit I do not know the exact reason. I read « Sculpting in Time » and in this book he talks mostly about filmmaking, acting, philosophy, responsibility of the artist, the value of art, etc… But never about the difficulties he encountered to make his films. If you have read the book I would like to hear your comment. Because I also to try to get some projects of the ground, but I think it’s all a matter of finding the right people (with a lot of money) who believe in film as art and not as entertainment. I think in France and Russia you can still find some producers there.

The problem is films cost a lot of money which I don’t have. And if you choose to shoot it on digital video the one thing you can do is show it on the internet: which is far from the way it supposed to be. If I will ever make a feature film I want to go all the way with it so it can be shown in cinemas.
I admire filmmakers who do it on their own. Like Carlos Reygades. He made his first film « Jápon » completely on his own with some friends from filmschool which he never graduated : he never even succeeded in the exams to enter the school. And now he made this wonderfull film. He shot it completely in the village he was born : in Mexico. He is his own producer. But the question I ask myself : where did he get the money to make this film ?
Challenge the public ? If the public doesn’t want to see it, they’re not going to see it !
Now Reygades was lucky a lot of people went to go see it, but I also heard about directors who I think make brilliant films and the general public just doesn’t want to go see them. They even detest these films! Maybe that explains why most film we are searching are so hard to find.
I don’t know in America film are more available there in videostores or not. Certainly you can find films you don’t find in Europe and the other way around.

Chris - Kelvin.
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Re: The gap between artfilm and audience - Chris Kelvin


With today's digital technology it is no longer necessary to have a lot of money in order to make a film. We have made "Return to Light: a Spiritual Odyssey" on an almost zero budget and it is now available on DVD http://www.cinemaseekers.com/DVDSpecial.html In time, it can be transferred to film stock and shown in cinemas. The important thing for any true artist is to make a film, which is within him, no matter what his circumstances may be.
 
Reggio's "Naqoyqatsi" is available on Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005JLIA/qid%3D1067465068/sr%3D11-1/ref%3Dsr%5F11%5F1/102-7377633-6683360 and it can be played on any multi-system DVD player.
 
Gregory and Maria Pearse (cinemaseekers)
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Re: The gap between artfilm and audience - Chris Kelvin


The blame for few films being released in America of artistic and spiritual quality should be placed on the film studios, Hollywood producers, theatre chains and the American government, which allots astoundingly little in its budget for funding for the arts. Entertainment films will always sell the best, and will always be the most easily marketable, but we cannot put our faith in the masses to change this situation through their individual buying power, because it is the mass of men who are the conformists that will be led by the nose wherever those in power want them to go.

Matthew
10/30/2003, 12:01 am Link to this post  
 
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Re: The gap between artfilm and audience - Chris Kelvin


About Bela Tarr :
The film « Werckmeister Harmonies/Damnation » will be released on 24 november 2003 on DVD. You can by it at http://www.amazon.co.uk but only in regio 2 (Europe, Middle East & Japan).

For Naqoyqatsi: only regio 0 (U.S. and Canada). I think it’s the same with « Return to Light : a Spiritual Odyssey ».

I live in region 2, so again no Naqoyqatsi for me. Maybe they release it later on DVD here in Europe: I hope.


Chris.

(note : I think the process of transferring digital video to film is more expensive than shooting it on 16mm and then blow it up to 35mm).
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