Alejandro Jodorowsky's SANTA SANGRE 2 DVD Special Edition

Discussion in 'Euro Horror' started by KR~!, Mar 5, 2004.

  1. X-human

    X-human I ate my keys

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    He's got a point though, and I think of film as both ways. You need to tell a story the way you feel it needs to be told, but it's a waste if nobody "get's it." So while a lot of people agree there's wiggle room in how you can tell a story, there still needs to be people who understand it.

    Like the Air India flick you watched, the guy next to you understood that form of story telling. It wasn't just random shit pulled out of some guy's ass, it followed their story structure. Essentially Bollywood does the same thing Hollywood does.

    Films are made to entertain, in the truest sense, at the very least in the film maker's own mind. If it didn't, people wouldn't watch it, because by definition watching is entertaining. :D

    At the very least you need to follow your own rules, Kubrick for example didn't use a three arch structure. But he still kept a constant method. I don't think a film maker can just willy nilly do what they want if they want to make a good film. They have to follow their own internal rules at the very least. As David Croneberg once said, there's nothing you can't do in film so long as it fits within the film.
     
  2. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    --Like the Air India flick you watched, the guy next to you understood that form of story telling. It wasn't just random shit pulled out of some guy's ass, it followed their story structure. Essentially Bollywood does the same thing Hollywood does.--

    Of course. But the point is, a westerner looking at it won't get it - not because of the filmmaker, but rather, because of the ignorance of the viewer. In this case, it was MY ignorance.

    I think we simply have to accept that while Hollywood is dominent in our lives, it hasn't cornered the market on cinematic art. In fact, the most artistically interesting films probably arn't coming out of Hollywood.

    There is no reason why film should fit into the same artistic space as sculpture, painting, or more creative theater. 99.9% of the time it does not. It's a pity really. A larger pity though, is that most of us seem dismissive if we encounter a film like this, because it doesn't fit into our neatly defined idea of what a film is supposed to be. A film is supposed to be whatever it is, imo.
     
  3. Well I do not believe anyone ripped me a new one. I guess we all differ in how we define the cinema medium.

    However, to disagree on a few points...

    The Western narrative structure works so well that Hollywood product dominates other countries releases. Most audiences worldwide enjoy and desire American movies over their own product which of course inspires resentment from foreign directors unable to compete. Some countries even have quotas of how many US features can be imported which makes it tough for indies like me to get their pictures distributed overseas.

    As for Kubrick, he did retain a conventional narrative in most of his films
    including "2001". It's one of my favorite movies and is certainly 'arty' although very entertaining first and foremost, at least in it's Cinerama engagements. The main body of the film is a standard story of a computer gone amuck which holds the rest together since the audience has two characters to identify with.

    As for my early comment about defining cinema...

    I define it as an entertainment medium and as a business.
    The art is derived from how the director uses the techniques of film
    to tell his story. Cinematography, lighting styles, editing styles, acting technique, narrative structure are among the items that the art is derived from. The best films, as I see it, were made for an audience.
    They were not just an indulgent exercises by the director trying to impress critics. It's very expensive to make a film and the director ought to have some responsibility in getting the investors their money back. This is probably why Jodorowsky has made so few movies.

    The alternate definition of cinema is usually derived from film school professors who have no experience in the industry and tend to
    see movies in a void. They describe Film as an art form and medium for political activism and espousing messages and ideology. No consideration to narrative conventions or structures are required in this worldview. Indeed, there tends to be a resentment and hostility to Western movies and classic narratives in favor of 'arty' type movies made by Maya Deran, Jean-Luc Godard and of course Jodorwosky.
    It's no surprise that many of their idols were directors who were
    Marxists which by definition are hostile to all things Western.
    It's fine to be a critic and easy to reject conventions but a bit more difficult to come up with a viable alternative. Directors who have abandoned the classic Western narrative structure have not come
    up with anything better.

    When I went to NYU back in the seventies, I had both types of instructors. I can't remember the names of most of those who
    subscribed to the latter definition of film. I remember suffering through films like "Red Desert" and "Salt of the Earth". They almost made me
    switch majors.

    Fortunately, I also studied with William K. Everson and Leonard Maltin
    who subscribed to the earlier definition of cinema as an entertainment
    medium with the art derived from the techniques of story telling.
    Everson had the greatest influence on me because he was able to
    qualify his positions and show the art of B Westerns and horror movies
    like "Strangler of the Swamp". He was also an advocate of Technicolor
    and didn't even consider Eastmancolor 'color'. I also became an advocate of that process and it's uses and ended up traveling to China in 1989 to make dye transfer prints of my third feature, "Space Avenger" in three strip Technicolor. Maltin (proir to becoming a celebrity) was an advocate of animation including those not covered by many historians of the time like the Fleishers. I agree with him that there was more 'art' in a Betty Boop cartoon than in "El Topo".

    There does seem to be a re-evaluation of classic movies which is encouraging. In the late sixties, "New Hollywood" rejected everything about "Old Hollywood" including things like narrative structure, a creative use of color in cinematography, polished editing and characters an audience could relate to.

    Now decades later, the editing of movies like "Easy
    Rider" seem gimmicky rather than innovative. What was the point of having flash cuts of another scene? Did it drive the narrative (what there was of it) forward or was it merely the result of editing while stoned.

    The restoration of "Lawrence of Arabia" displays what's lacking in contemporary cinema as a result of thirty years of New Hollywood revisionism. In the sixties, many critics disregarded it as just another big budget Hollywood epic while fawning over titles like "Mickey One". Today Mickey One
    is forgotten about and "Lawrence" shows the classic narrative structure at it's zenith with a lyrical use of 70mm photography and
    superb editing by Anne Coates. I met her at the "Lawrence" premiere back in 89 and discussed her editing style in the film. It's one of the first uses of overlapping sound for transitions. Not a gimmick but part of the structure. We see a close up of Lawrence's face in horror or disgust as his coalition falls apart and then hear the sound of the next scene coming in while Lean lingers on his face. Very haunting editing, not just the jarring flash cuts of Hopper's "Easy Rider" which
    are meaningless.

    I guess we'll all have to agree to disagree about Jodorwosky and others like him based on our definition of the cinema medium. Sure, his movies are curios and worth a look but I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that he's a great artist just because he thinks he is or because he rejects narrative conventions or because his movies are often incomprehensible.

    It seems to be that art works best when there are standards and conventions in place that the artist can either expand upon or deviate from, providing it works for audiences.
     
  4. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    -- Most audiences worldwide enjoy and desire American movies over their own product which of course inspires resentment from foreign directors unable to compete.--

    What do they resent though? Not the movis themselves, but mostly financing - and the talent vacuum. Your view is very simplistic, and ignores that fact the foreign cinema does exist, and does make money (Indian cinema, asian cinema). Hollywood coming to prominence has many cultural and political issues surrounding it. For instance, British cinema was hurt by censorship, and the war. It had nothing to do with American films being "better" in any way. Foreign cinema, that is, non-english, has a tough time in the US not because it's "foreign" par se, but because of the ignorance of the mainstream audience, and their dislike of subtitles. Europeans, as an example, don't have the same hang-up. Not because the films are more worthy, have more value, or are more entertaining (indeed, the case can be made that national cinema is MORE entertaining, since it speaks directly to the culture from which it came) but because Europeans are, generally, more world-wise.

    --They were not just an indulgent exercises by the director trying to impress critics.--

    But I don't think anyone in this thread has suggested different. However, there most definately ARE different audiences. We like Horror around here, that's a niche, and not everyone makes movies aimed at us. Jodorowsky isn't making his movies for the Julia Roberts groupies, and he's no less for that.

    --The alternate definition of cinema is usually derived from film school professors who have no experience in the industry and tend to
    see movies in a void. They describe Film as an art form and medium for political activism and espousing messages and ideology. No consideration to narrative conventions or structures are required in this worldview.--

    Sorry man, but I just see this as more arroagnce on your part. I'm not a "film school professor", an actully, will confess to knowing a whole lot les about film than I should, but I do accept BOTH views readily. It's obvious from listening to ther Director's of today. My favorite is probably Cronenberg - and dismissing his artistic aspirations is missing half the movie, imo. Hoenstly though, suggesting they're Marxist sympathisers is pretty funny.

    --I guess we'll all have to agree to disagree about Jodorwosky and others like him based on our definition of the cinema medium. Sure, his movies are curios and worth a look but I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that he's a great artist just because he thinks he is or because he rejects narrative conventions or because his movies are often incomprehensible.--

    Sure, we'll have to disagree. To my knowledge, but I have yet to ead anyone who has suggested what you have here. I just find Sante Sangre compelling and beautiful, it's that simple.

    --t seems to be that art works best when there are standards and conventions in place that the artist can either expand upon or deviate from, providing it works for audiences.--

    Oh man, that's so wrong, there's probably no point in discussing it further. Art works best when there are standards?!?!?! Whose? Yours? The Western world? Successful artists? Commercial artists?

    Damn, I'd say the opposite. We move forward by breaking free. I'm open to something new, something totally new. It can be a struggle, but I wouldn't have half my music collection if I followed your limited doctrine. This type of thinking is exactly what made Hollywood panic when "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" hit the US shores. Instead of accepting something new, they circled the creative wagons. Not for me thank you.

    You need a dose of Tim Berne :D You'll hate him, but he strips off the paint down to the metal, and sets fire to those wagons pretty damn good :)
     
  5. dwatts,

    I think you're way off the mark by insisting their should be no standards of
    artistry. It was New Hollywood's rejection of Old Hollywood standards that sent
    motion picture artistry spiraling downwards from the seventies on. For example,
    the reason no recent film has surpassed much approached the quality of Robert
    Burks ("Vertigo"), Freddie Young's ("Lawrence of Arabia") or Ted Moore's ("Thunderball")
    camerawork is because by rejecting the superior standards and quality of their lighting
    techniques by post-seventies DP's like Gordon Willis and Conrad Hall, the techniques
    that they created were lost over the years. I've been trying to simulate and ressurect
    them in my own pictures which is why I made a film in Technicolor, in 3-D and in B&W noir.

    You seem to subscribe to artistic relativism which ususally results in a decline in quality. If nothing is defined as good or bad, quality or crap, artistic or artless, then
    how can cinema advance as a medium. The fact is, cinema as an artform has declined
    since New Hollywood dominated it in the seventies.
    This is in no way a suggestion that conventions or standards cannot be deviated from but they must be present or else art cannot advance. Something as simple as
    having the film in focus with good resolution and contrast is a good beginning. For example, studio lighting in the forties gave a high key light to the perfomers which caused shadows to be created in the foreground. Additional lights were used to scrim out the shadows to generate a pleasing image in B&W. Now film noir lighting expanded upon this convention for specific artisitic reasons, not just a rejection of lighting stadards or ineptitude. To give the film a sinister look, the DP scrimmed down the key light so part of the actor's face was in shadow. They then turned off the back lights and left the shadows making the image look mysterious and foreboding. There was no way they would've developed the 'noir' look without having the 'studio look' as the starting point. I was able to replicate it in my film "Unsavory Characters" after a great deal of experimentation.

    I guess the most obvious example of the danger of artitistic relatavism is Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate". This exercise in extreme indulgence folded a studio. Ciminio rejected all narrative conventions and ended up with an ugly, murky incomprenhensible
    mess of a movie that dragged on for three and a half hours. He never test screened it for audiences, if indeed he was even considering viewers might want to watch his film.
    The photography is so foggy and murky and colorless it looked like a faded dupe. The sound effects were louder than the dialogue. Of course Cimino considered himself a great artist but destroyed his career and UA. I'd say ignoring all standards and narrative conventions is a risky business. If a director does it, he'd better make damn sure some audience is going to appreciate it and/or it works.
     
  6. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    --I think you're way off the mark by insisting their should be no standards of
    artistry. It was New Hollywood's rejection of Old Hollywood standards that sent motion picture artistry spiraling downwards from the seventies on.--

    Why do you insist on only talking about Hollywood, as though it has cornered the market in the cinematic art form? Am I to ignore all the films from elsewhere? Your entire argument seems based on your western education and indoctrinization. So of course, I'm not surprised you see things this way.

    As for New Hollywood's effect, plus or minus, whom dictates that what you consider a negative, I won't find a positive? There is no "right" and "wrong", only opinion on the matter. You seem to support the idea that there is a right way of doing things, and variants of that are bad. I hope I'm wrong on that assumption though.

    --You seem to subscribe to artistic relativism which ususally results in a decline in quality.--

    Right, but we disagree on the ultimate effect. Hollywood today - mainstream Hollywood that is - fails artistically because films are made to a formula. The "rules" stifle the art form. Films made today should not echo those of the 40's - have we learned nothing in the last 60 odd years? Do modern audiences not have different demands? Don't they come to a movie with different ideals, preconceptions and needs? I think so.

    --Something as simple as having the film in focus with good resolution and contrast is a good beginning. For example, studio lighting in the forties gave a high key light to the perfomers which caused shadows to be created in the foreground. Additional lights were used to scrim out the shadows to generate a pleasing image in B&W. Now film noir lighting expanded upon this convention for specific artisitic reasons, not just a rejection of lighting stadards or ineptitude. To give the film a sinister look, the DP scrimmed down the key light so part of the actor's face was in shadow. They then turned off the back lights and left the shadows making the image look mysterious and foreboding. There was no way they would've developed the 'noir' look without having the 'studio look' as the starting point. I was able to replicate it in my film "Unsavory Characters" after a great deal of experimentation.--

    In principle, I agree with this. But I say, in principle. I wouldn't dismiss a film just because it doesn't do these things. If I did, I'd never have experienced "Begotten", which is a great work or art. Not to say I understand any or all of it, but I think it's a terrific example of cinematic art. None of what you just mentioned applies though.

    --I guess the most obvious example of the danger of artitistic relatavism is Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate".--

    Sorry - there is no "danger". What is to fear here? The worst is - a movie comes out that I don't like. Big deal. On the other hand, as I mentioned with Begotten, I might - just might - find something that's a WOW. What a wonderful moment that is!

    Still, I note you're still avoiding the real topic here - which is that culturally, western art is different thata rt from the rest of the world. You seem quick to dismiss it because it might not follow the conventions of your continent. I've learned too much, art appreciation wise, to ever be able to do that.

    Heck, if I followed your doctrine, in the horror genre, I'd have to throw out a bunch of my beloved Fulci films - get rid of my giallo's! AHHHH Say it aint' so!
     
  7. dwatts,

    Of course I see things through a Western perspective. Have I been indoctrinated into it? Well I guess all education is indoctrination but I also subscribe to it intellectually. I believe that political, religious and economic freedom is a criteria for cultural advancement. I also acknowledge that non-Western countries do not feel these things are desirable which is reflected in their culture and movies. As a result, I cannot relate to them although I do not consider this a flaw on my part.
    I also cannot adhere
    to cultural relativism. Not all movies (or art of any kind) is of equal merit. For example, sitting through Russian movies made during the Soviet era can be pretty excrutiating. Even when the premise is interesting ("Solaris"), the pacing and technical specs are very poor primarily because the government controlled all aspects of production. Is it arrogant to suggest that American movies were better than Russian films?
    Capitalist movies better than Socialist pictures? Perhaps but I call em' as I see em'.


    I'm a world traveler (as opposed to fellow traveler) and I've been to China, Russia, Israel and Italy among other places. I remember reading some critical reviews about how great Soviet films were precisely because the pacing was so slow and audiences could study the compositions and story at their leisure instead of being manipulated by the director as they were in American movies.
    I guess they were dusting off those Andre Bazan theories about cinema. When I was in Moscow in 96', I discussed the slow pace of most Russian movies. One of my sponsors explained why that was. During the Soviet era, technicians in production and in exhibition were paid by the hour.
    The longer things dragged on, the more they were paid so they decided to keep their movies very slow so they had extra cash to buy coffee and toilet
    paper. I asked "What about the audience". They replied 'What audience?' The government controlled the cinemas and they played what they were forced to play. People came and went as they wanted to get out of the cold and relax inside a warm theater. They didn't always wander in at the start of the movie. I wonder what those critics who fawned over Soviet movies would say to that?


    I guess we're getting caught up in a mini culture war here. In order to
    have a discourse, there needs to be some common ground to discuss an
    issue and it doesn't appear to be one here. I cannot subscribe to cultural
    relavism so we're going in circles. I do believe there is quality and crap which can be defined. If you don't have standards and conventions you cannot advance. Indeed, without defining what's good and bad, how will anyone know the difference? I also believe the decline in cinema was by and large a result of sixties cultural relativism. Certainly the boxoffice figures supports this claim. Attendence was cut in half from 1969-1973 with the glut of counter-culture, sexploitation and exploitation dominated the screens. Any attempt to critique these movies was pointless because the people that produced them set up roadblocks that made them above criticism. When you would say, "how come the color is terrible or the movie drifts in and out of focus", they would say, "how dare you impose your "old Hollywood" standards of art on us!" and so forth. Filming a man sleeping (Warhol's Sleep), is of equal merit to "Citizen Kane" and so on.


    This attitude continues to this day with pictures like "Pi". A very intriquing premise is destroyed by unwatchable images. The director shot the movie in 16mm then intentionally altered it in printing to make the film look like a grainy, blurry, 3rd generation dupe. I would recommend listening to the movie but not watching it. I'm sure if I suggested that the movie would've been more effective if you could see what was going on, I'd be condemned for being a cultural imperialist or worse...



    As I said before, I'm very glad that Bob Harris (co-producer of "Space Avenger" by the by) is restoring Old Hollywood classics to their former glory so that young filmmakers have a better understanding of what was acheived in the past to build upon or surpass rather than using contemporary
    pictures like "Pi" as a barometer for quality. I think better results will be obtainable from studying the use of color and composition in "Vertigo" than in any current movie.



    Having said this, I am not close minded in the sense that I cannot enjoy crap.
    I used to see all the exploitation movies and even sexploitation pictures in the seventies. My friends would cram into a car with a six pack and laugh our way through "Last House on the Left", "Don't Look in the Basement" at drive ins. I even traveled to Jersey to see "Deep Throat" in a strip club just to brag that I saw it when it was banned in New York. However, there's no way I can claim that these movies were cinematic art or that the directors
    were even concerned with quality. Once in a rare while, I'd see some exploitation movies that clearly were above average if not artistic like "Night of the Living Dead" or Morrissey's "Blood for Dracula".



    Of course if you look at my credits on imdb.com, I started by making crap but would like to think I upgraded my pictures over the years by adding some "Old Hollywood" techniques to contemporary stories which is why
    I printed "Space Avenger" in Technicolor and shot "Run for Cover" in 3-D.
    At least one reviewer noted my attempt to replicate the B&W film noir look in "Unsavory Characters". As to whether I succeeded,I'll let you evaluate them. I suppose if I subscribed to cultural relavism, I'd still be making things like "Splatter U" and "The Class of Nuke Em High" or other pictures that are best enjoyed with a six pack.
     
  8. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    --Well I guess all education is indoctrination but I also subscribe to it intellectually.--

    If you haven't studied the other cultures, then you can't intellectually subscribe to them - you just subscribe to what you know - the ONLY thing you know. I'm getting on in years, and I'm still learning, thank goodness.

    -- I believe that political, religious and economic freedom is a criteria for cultural advancement.--

    I'm sorry - what was the topic again? This is a huge tangent. But, for instance, if you think no great art, let alone bad art, came out of say - Communist Russia during its worst days - then I don't know what to tell you. There is an argument that great art comes from struggle or conflict, and trust me, you don't need to be free to do that.

    Actually, the reverse *might* be true. There is a lot of freedom in the US, but then, a lot of "art" that comes out is so processed, they sell it beside Baked Beans and no-one notices.

    --I also acknowledge that non-Western countries do not feel these things are desirable which is reflected in their culture and movies. As a result, I cannot relate to them although I do not consider this a flaw on my part.--

    We can agree to disagree. I believe it is a flaw on your part, and that you're happy in your little corner of the western world, surrounded by the things that you can easily quantify. It's the failing of an education - but then that's just *my* opinion. I don't like closets, and I won't limit what I'll try to what I learned at school.

    -- Is it arrogant to suggest that American movies were better than Russian films?--

    That's the point - IT DEPENDS ON THE FILM. You can't make blanket statements like this. Surely you wouldn't suggest that all Russian films are inferior to all American films, would you - or that the only good Russian films mirror American films? You have to take each on their merits. But then, you and I might well disagree on what is good and bad - it's subjective. You seem to suggest that US movies are somehow intrinsically better, just by being made in the US. I don't subscribe to such a myopic view.

    --I guess we're getting caught up in a mini culture war here. In order to
    have a discourse, there needs to be some common ground to discuss an
    issue and it doesn't appear to be one here.--

    I confess, there doesn't seem much point in our discussing it :D

    Common ground? Sure there is, I hope we both love movies, and I hope we both enjoy art - whatever form it takes. I don't subscribe to your - apparent - US Centric view, as though the art world revolves around the US, that's all. There's good everywhere - there's bad everywhere. To really appreciate some art though - you need to know the culture, or other philosophies entirely. It can be hard to let go of what we were once certain of. The more movies I watch, the less certain of things I am. The world is too large, and I don't know enough.

    -- I do believe there is quality and crap which can be defined. If you don't have standards and conventions you cannot advance.--

    You keep avoiding the question. Whose standards? Yours? American? New York criticis, LA Critics?!?!? Whom? Why should YOUR quality be mine? Why should my crap be yours? Why do you want us all to be the same?

    --Any attempt to critique these movies was pointless because the people that produced them set up roadblocks that made them above criticism.--

    Huh?!?! Plenty of people did this - and they're fun to read too :)

    -- Filming a man sleeping (Warhol's Sleep), is of equal merit to "Citizen Kane" and so on.--

    I would never claim they are of "equal merit". But what do you mean by "equal merit"? I find it perfectly okay to say I might like one, but you like the other. No issue at all. Otherwise, art becomes homogenized. That's far far worse than Warhols movies.

    --This attitude continues to this day with pictures like "Pi". A very intriquing premise is destroyed by unwatchable images.--

    See, I can understand why YOU would think this - because it doesn't fit into your rules. But because you say so doesn't make it so. But yes, the movie is not for you. Fine, move on to something else :)

    --Having said this, I am not close minded--

    No offense, but you sound to me VERY closed minded. You watched some exploitation and therefore think it's a "get out of jail free" card for insisting all films should build on "Vertigo". Weird. But hey, you can buy your DVD's, and I can buy mine :)

    However, OF COURSE exploitation movies are art. I happen to think they're pretty damn good, as it happens. I really thought this intellectual mumbo jumbo myopic view had died out, guess not. There was a time when all horror was dismissed, period. I'm glad that's over. The Internet put paid to the isolationism that allowed the doors of the closets to be welded shut.

    -- I suppose if I subscribed to cultural relavism, I'd still be making things like "Splatter U" and "The Class of Nuke Em High" or other pictures that are best enjoyed with a six pack.--

    I've not seen any of your movies. But honestly, given your views, I don't feel at all compelled too. You come at it from a very different direction to myself. I'm sorry you made some "crap" - but you never know, I might prefer your "crap" over your later work. If I ever bump into your films I'll let you know. As it stands, I have a ton of other "crap" to catch up with :D
     
  9. dwatts,

    We have no commond ground and cannot agree on what is good and bad,
    art or crap. You do not feel it can be defined or qualified and I do. I believe it should be defined and there should be standards (also known as craftsmanship) which can be expanded upon or deviated from for effect or artistic considerations. You do not. I believe historically American films have created most of what is great art in cinema from the technology to the genres that other countries have attempted to contribute to, at times effectively. However, because America is so large and it's product so
    great, US pictures have dominated throughout the decades. Admittedly,
    it would be difficult to impossible for a small country like Sweden to
    compete with Hollywood due it's size and the fact that so much of Swedish
    product is financed by the government rather than private enterprise.
    Many countries have this problem. The government is so involved in film
    production it limits the amount of product and quality.
    I will continue to argue for a restoration of the craftsmanship that was
    lost during the New Hollywood movement in the late sixties which is still
    prevalent in current product. I believe I qualify my arguements in my last
    book, "The Moviegoing Experience 1968-2001" if you care to consider them
    and of course review them either negatively or positively.
    Part of the problem I believe we have is that you're unfamiliar with all of the changes in production techniques and exhibition since New Hollywood took over the industry. Suffice it to say, I believe there is a major quality difference between "2001" in 70mm and Cinerama and any contemporary
    movie shot digitally and shown in murky high speed prints in a megaplex with poor resolution and sharpness. I know that everyone says "everything changes and change is inevitable" but I respond with "change is inevitable but change is not always for the better and often for the worse".
    I'll end this thread by an additional example of what happens when craftsmanship is undermined by artistic relativism...

    In the forties, there was an attempt by certain cinematographers to improve the depth of field of lenses to create a greater illusion of reality.
    As you may or may not know, camera lenses and film stocks in no way
    replicate what the human eyes see. Film stock is sensitive to a different spectrum of light so you have to use special filters or lighting techniques
    to simulate what we see in nature. For example, when you look up and
    see a dark blue sky, the film stock cannot photograph it without a polarizing filter. Otherwise, it will look washed out.
    Lenses have similar problems. Most lenses then and now have a limited
    depth of field. That means either the foreground or background will be soft depending on the subject and amount of light. Greg Toland decided to develop a new type of lens that would have an infinite depth of field regardless of focus length. In short, you could have a person's face in the foreground in razor sharp focus while still seeing the background in sharp focus. Toland used these lenses for "Citizen Kane" which most people
    acknowledge as a major advance forward in cinematic art. Perhaps the
    most famous use of these lenses was the shot of Agnes Moorehead making a deal to give Charles Kane to an uncle for adoption in the foreground in close up while Kane rides on his sled outside the window in the background.
    These lenses were later upgraded and used in "Cyrano" and other pictures
    to good effect to. They were known as Garutso balanced lenses. The next evolutionary stage of imagery was to adapt the depth focus lenses to Cinerama. It was scientifically determined that a 27mm deep focus Garutso type lens replicated human vision. When you used three of them in a U formation in 3 cameras and projected them on a deeply curved screen, you
    also simulated peripheral vision. Of course the problem with Cinerama was that you saw the join lines of the three panels which was distracting. The next stage was to develop a single lens wide film format that accomplished the same which was the Todd-AO 70mm process with it's bug eyed lens that
    generated a 120 degree angle or field of view. When shown on a deeply curved screen it surpassed Cinerama. In the mid-sixties, a comparable process with even better lenses was developed which was known as Dimension 150. "Patton" was film and exhibited in this process to great effect. Certainly it represented the zenith of the motion picture medium both
    technically and artistically.
    Simultaneously when "Patton" was released, there was the counter-culture New Hollywood movement which rejected virtually all of the standards and advancements made in cinema. They grabbed 16mm hand held cameras and made heavily politicized amateur type productions, then blew them up to grainy 35mm. Technical standards and quality were awful but they dominated the industry's output for five years or so. (The counter-culture movement started and ended with the Vietnam war which it was linked to and they also cut movie attendence in half which is why the movie palaces folded and single screen theaters were twinned).
    Of course many sympathetic critics applauded each new degredation of the visual image with accolades. The grainier, the murkier, the uglier, the better.
    Words like 'neo-realism', 'avant-guarde' and 'cinema verite' were thrown around as a shield against any criticism for the bad quality. Indeed, a lot of critics and New Hollywood filmmakers acted as appologists for this style of filmmaking. In the long run, most of these films have not withstood the test of time other than as cultural curiosities of a lost and by and large discredited cinema movement. Few people consider "The Strawberry Statement", "Alex in Wonderland" or "Medium Cool" great works of art. As I see it, they were responsible for the overall degredation of quality in the medium because now, decades later, the techniques and artistry of the past has been lost due to the fact that subsequent generations of filmmakers have no idea how they were achieved. Film schools were no help when the professors refused to define good and bad quality and claimed all films
    and all cinematography was of equal merit. As a result, students had no
    background in cinematic art as a guiding force in their later efforts.


    I was briefly in correspondance with Freddie Young (David Leans DP) after he had retired to painting in England. I asked him why the new generation of
    camerman were unable to replicate the spectacular and artistic visuals of his movies. Why has no contemporary film matched much less surpassed the imagery of "Lawrence of Arabia" (painting with light on film)? His answer was, "No one asked and no one cared". Now Young has passed on along with Ted Moore, Robert Burkes and other great cinematographers along with their secrets. I've been trying to figure out how they achieved their effects on my own films although it's like pulling teeth to get cameramen to do it.
    They're so used to the low standards of current features which is to load high speed stock and shoot with as little light as you can get away with which results in murky detail, color and shallow depth of field.
    So, yea, I do think there should be standards and craftsmanship and not
    all films should be defined as art nor is all cinematography or direction of equal merit. Hell, Roger Corman's low budget "Pit and the Pendulum" has better color, compositions and Panavision than most current features so
    clearly there was a decline in quality. I simply cannot subscribe to relavism and I'll continue to call em as I see em even though it often gets me into heated debates and in some cases name calling. I left www.16mmforum.com when three participants started calling me all kind of names because I dared to disagree with them.
     
  10. dwatts,

    If you're interested, email your address to me at: Newavedist@aol.com, and I'll send you screeners of my movies and articles for your consideration. I especially would
    like you to screen "Space Avenger" which is an exploitation film but photographed
    in the "Old Hollywood" style and printed in Technicolor. It's the story of a comic book
    artist and I wanted to replicate the look of them on film so the dye transfer process
    worked thematically. Aside from that, it contains a great deal of over the top gore
    and sex but with a tongue in cheek approach. For example, porn star Jaimie Gillis
    has a cameo as a businessman who screws one of the aliens and is literally 'fucked to death'. I got a great deal of publicity and positive reviews for my use of Technicolor
    including a good one from LA Times, Kevin Thomas, who usually hates these types of
    movies but liked how I handed the subject matter stylistically. You'll see quite a difference between this movie and my Troma films.
     
  11. poe

    poe Guest

    Andre Bazan?!!
    I believe you want to say André Bazin, the great film theorist.
    "Un Chien Adaleu"?!!
    I believe you want to say "Un chien Andalou".
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2004
  12. X-human

    X-human I ate my keys

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    I had the same arguement with my English teacher. She screened Georgy Girl to our class and then asked us to give responses in writing. I honestly couldn't think of anything good in the film except the nod to James Mason and his roll in Lolita. The film is horribly shot and composed, I argued that it was so poorly done that it was impossible for audiences to connect with the story. They used cheap film stock, no additional lights (it was so dark at times you couldn't see the actors) and did nothing to attempt competent framing. They also allowed the cast to bassically go where they wanted to go with the characters, and it the end it was just a mess with no flow between characters; they weren't interacting well with each other. And when you have a mediocre story, it's really draining on the audience.

    Anyways, the teacher shot something back about how critics were applauding the film at the time for it's rejection of Hollywood standards. And although I admit it's a good thing the challenge the status quo, when what becomes of it is something like Georgy Girl people should realize that when it works it works, when it doesn't it doesn't. By all means, go, play, have fun. But don't come back with a mess of a film and call it brilliant. (Which, I think Santa Sangre is a good film)

    I think of the best examples of this is Superman II. Geoffrey Unsworth is one of my favorite cinematographers, he was a mad genius who used all sorts of tricks to light his scenes. Superman: The Movie is a great mix of lighting techniques to create settings and show Clark's position in life, and about 80% of Superman II was shot at the same time. But production was held off on 2 to complete 1. Once 1 was completed, Geoggrey Unsworth died and Richard Donner (the director) was fired, Richard Lester was brought in to direct and a new D.P. to re-shoot most of the movie. But whenever I watch Superman II, I can always tell what was shot by Donner and what was shot by Lester, because one's lit by a master. It's actually rather iritating, because Unsworth's lighting is so damn good all the rest of the shots look like made for TV when spliced with it! It really sucks out the magic out of the rest of the Superman series. The original made you believe a man could fly with that lighting, it created a world where a man could fly. That world's lost now, and I seriously doubt Superman 5 will bring that world back to us.
     
  13. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    --If you're interested, email your address to me at: Newavedist@aol.com, and I'll send you screeners of my movies and articles for your consideration--

    I'll not only do that, I will review them for this sitea Readers Review section.
     
  14. Poe,

    Sorry for the spelling errors. I'll double check them next time...

    X-Human,

    Good post. You're very observant and I think we somewhat agree. My point was that there should be some standards of craftsmanship in place so that artists have a guideline of quality that they can either expand upon or deviate from. The demise
    of Technicolor, 70mm, Cinerama and other superior processes from the medium has
    caused a decline in quality to the level where no one knows how to replicate the look of "2001" (shot by Unsworth) if they so desire. All these advanced techniques of cinematography, lighting design and composition have been lost since the late sixties. I'd like to bring them back or at least make them available again to those who would like to continue to advance the art of cinema.

    dwatts,

    As soon as I get your email and address, I'll send you the materials. Make sure you indicate your screen name from horrordvd (I believe I'm the only one here using my real name) so I don't automatically delete you. I've been hacked into (on ebay) and get a lot of spam so if I don't know who's emailing me, I automatically delete it.
     
  15. X-Human,

    I agree with you on "Georgy Girl". Structurally, it's a mess. Performances are good
    but the story doesn't really add up or make sense. For example, what on earth does
    James Mason see in the Lynn Redgrave character? There should've been some explanation for his obsession. The end doesn't ring true either and the camerawork
    is poor. At least it had a catchy theme song.
    I recall English teachers screening movies for me too (in 16mm) in my school years.
    Of course they tended to emphasize the literary aspect of film rather than the cinematic aspects. Little, if any, discussion about editing, compositions, cinematography or direction. Most of it centered on how well the screenwriter adapted the book it was based on. Of course movies are a separate art form
    and it doesn't really matter whether it followed the plot of a book it
    was derived from. The question was whether it worked as a movie . Most of the films the teachers screened were of the 'talking head' variety like "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". Not my favorite type of picture.
     
  16. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    I'll use PM - then you know it's me :)
     
  17. X-Human,

    I just remembered the "Superman II" story and why Lester finished the film.
    He had been screwed by the producers on the "Three Musketeers" which was
    originally a 3 1/2 movie but released in two parts. He only got paid for the first
    part when it was released. The producers told him they'd pay him what he was
    owed on that film if he agreed to finish "Superman II" or so the story goes...

    I agree that the cinematography is inconsistent but the villains are bit more
    threatening and realistic compared to the first film. I thought Hackman camped
    it up too much in part I. That was a problem with the series from the git go. What was it? A legitimate epic version of the comic book or a campy send up like TV's "Batman". The original film started out quite nicely and worked fine until Ned Beatty appeared and then it took off in another direction. The ending was awful too with Superman spinning the earth backwards and altering time. The choppy continuity
    was probably caused by too many screenwriters with different perspectives. However,
    I will say it was a good show in 70mm at the Loews Astor Plaza, especially the opening credits with the surround sound whooshing through the theater as the titles strobed. The audience broke out in spontaneous applause at the end which was the first time they reacted that way to a title sequence.
     
  18. mcchrist

    mcchrist A new breed of pervert!

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    Well, in the case of Superman II, you can play the game "spot the filter." A nice soft-focus or diffusion filter can make all the difference. Of course, there's a lot to be said about a cinematographer who knows how to use them...

    Sometimes I wonder if knowing this kind of shit takes the enjoyment out of watching movies...

    I'll be honest, I'm watching the movie right now, and the thought that came to mind is "I enjoy the Batman series and all, but this is a terrible legacy."

    Lex Luthor is supposed to be quite the nemesis, not some comic foil.

    It works, I guess.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2004
  19. McChrist,

    In most cases, knowing this shit doesn't take the enjoyment out of the movie because when it's done right, you appreciate the artistry that went into the production. The downside is that when it's done wrong, it's very distracting.
    I recently saw a new 35mm Panavision print of "Planet of the Apes" at a science fiction festival. Visually, the movie looked great since the copy was made directly
    off the camera negative. The original prints had all faded (color by De Luxe of course)
    so it was great to see the picture with good color again. I knew the manager of the theater and he remarked how annoying it was to hear the layer of hiss on the track everytime one of the apes talked. Apparently the masks made the original dialogue recording too muffled so the actors had to loop every line for the mix. In those pre-Dolby/pre-digital days, everytime you looped a line you added some analogue hiss.
    I never noticed this before but when I listened to the track this time it was very annoying. Heston had a clear voice then McDowall would say something and you could hear the hiss on top of his line. I guess in some cases, knowing these kinds of things could be a liability.
     

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