Saturday, October 31, 2009
"I’m not able to name the moment I wanted to be a director because I also didn’t know the word for that. I couldn’t distinguish between producer, director, and author."
"I think the first director I was ever aware of was Alfred Hitchcock—before I even understood the idea of a director. I was aware of Hitchcock because of The Alfred Hitchcock Collection. That was the first time I was aware that there’s a guy who is not in the movie who’s on the front of the box. He’s responsible."
"Audiences don't know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along."
I've long held a simmering belief that one of the primary reasons most people have a hard time appreciating film as art is because the artist is not immediately evident. With nearly any other art form - music, literature, painting, sculpture - the artist is present and readily identifiable. Their name is on the cover, on a placard accompanying the display, etc. Sure, the director's name is usually one of the most prominent credits in a film, but who pays attention to the credits?
I'm not saying most people don't know films are directed. Most kids don't, and those kids become adults, who may recognize that films are directed - usually through brand name directors like Kubrick, Hitchcock, Spielberg, or Shyamalan - but already have their basic approach to film cemented in youth. And, to be fair, unless you're an avid moviewatcher, most directors don't call attention to their work the way a painter does.
But they'll be aware of a director's presence, even if they're unsure about what that presence determines. And this knowledge will be key for the first crossover film. The first film that person will see that will make them go, "This...this is different from everything else. This couldn't have existed in any normal way. Somebody created this." Then...they will know, even if they can't articulate, what a director means for a film. For some, this film was Pulp Fiction. Others, Fight Club. I take great joy in knowing there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, thinking that as they took in Inglourious Basterds this summer.
And this is a major reason I feel, very strongly and in spite of the constant cries that film is dead, that film is the most vital of all forms of art. Our cultural approaches to...really, any other art form I can think of, our approach has become so codified. We grow up taught and explained the importance of painting and other visual arts. The theater is the place for fine drama. Music is so integral to us as people, we seem to have such a total understanding of it before we could even begin to understand it, that whatever it means to us is totally individual, totally universal, and totally unchangeable.
But film is totally different. We're surrounded by it almost as early as we are music, but while film can express essential truths about who we are, film isn't a part of us the way music is. But it is a nearly constant part of our lives as far back as we can remember, and nobody tells us how to approach it aside from "here, sit down and watch this. You'll enjoy it." How you enjoy it and why you enjoy it is totally up to you. You come to that conclusion completely reflexively, and completely on your own. Literature is similar in this way, but will soon become completely divorced as academics typically decide what you read more than personal interest.
As you grow, film becomes a part of social life in a way that no other art form could be. Music...sometimes is (how often do we hear music for the first time with other people, devoting total attention to it? Quite rarely). Few people grow up visiting art galleries with friends, or going to the theater. And anyway, those activities weren't ones we participated in privately as children, and our approach to them is already codified - "this is art...this is important." You go to a gallery or museum to experience art. But film is typically something to do on a Saturday night; an entertaining diversion as you hope the girl next to you will brush up against you for just a second.
Very few people have someone to tell them film is important. They'll decide that on their own. Or not. If they do decide that, they'll have come to that decision totally organically, and because of an artist. More than any other art form, in the way art exists today, an artist will have told them what the medium can mean. And that's an incredibly powerful notion. It's what keeps film vital, important, and living. Music is alive because it's a part of who we are. Theatre is alive because it's happening right in front of you. Film is alive because it's constantly happening, constantly redefining itelf for millions of people.
Posted by Scott Nye at 7:46 PM