In my last post, 100 Movies in 60 Days, I discussed my recent experience of viewing of over 100 movies in the past two months.
Having digested all those films in such a short period, I”m ready to offer a few random thoughts and generalizations. Here they are in no particular order:
Great directors have a style that is as recognizable as a the prose style of an accomplished author or the songs of a gifted musician.
It is a pleasure to watch the work of a great director in top form, but torture to watch the work of a director who thinks he’s great but really isn’t.
Catherine Deneuve = amazing.
When a foreign film tells a story, it tends to be told in the form that best suits the story, whatever that might be. American films usually fit stories into standard templates. That’s why so many Hollywood films seem the same, and why you can usually predict what’s coming next before it happens.
When foreign filmmakers are inspired by American movies, they usually take that influence and develop it into something fresh.
For instance, the French New Wave directors were influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, Film Noir and other Hollywood genre films, and drew on that inspiration to create fresh, bold and innovative works.
And the great Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa, was influenced by American Westerns and turned those influences into Epic Samurai films (which, in turn, ended up influencing later American Westerns).
However, when American filmmakers are inspired by foreign films they just seem to remake them, and the remakes are almost always inferior.
I get the feeling that most foreign filmmakers take their craft more seriously than their Hollywood counterparts, and, consequently, make better movies. This is probably because American film producers and studios are far less concerned about quality and artistic expression than they are about making money. It also means that a lot of American movies are like American cheese – a pasteurized, processed product.
Black and white is not old or boring. It’s classic, and I agree with Roger Ebert:
Black and white…creates a mysterious dream state, a world of form and gesture. Try this. If you have wedding photos of your parents and grandparents, chances are your parents are in color and your grandparents are in black and white. Put the photographs side by side and consider them honestly. Your grandparents look timeless. Your parents look goofy.
Good point. And as a photographer, I love black and white for that “timeless” quality, BUT, it seems better suited for still pictures.
Black and white just doesn’t seem to work in movies anymore, except for specific effects or moods. And Color is important. Used properly, color is evocative and expressive and can be a great tool in a director’s creative arsenal.
All that said, movies originally made in black and white should stay that way. They should never, ever, ever be colorized. Thankfully that was a fad with a short shelf life.
Most people have never heard of some of the greatest film directors of all time: Luis Bunuel, Yasujiro Ozu, Robert Bresson, Michael Powell and Samuel Fuller, and that is a shame.
Hollywood’s studio formula pictures aren’t always bad (just unoriginal and uninspired). You can make good cookies with cookie cutters, but the same cookies all the time tend to get old fast.
Independent movies aren’t inherently better than studio films. Some indies are bad. In fact some are absolutely awful. And some formulaic genre Hollywood pictures with 7 screenwriters and a hack director end up being pretty fantastic.
A genuinely great movie can come from any genre or style, and a good movie is a good movie in any language.
There are great films, good films, average films, and a lot of bad films; but cinema, at it’s best, is an art form, one that encompasses many others – writing, acting, directing, editing, costume design, set design, special effects and music, and blends them all to create something distinct and universal in it’s appeal.
There might be such a thing as watching too many movies, but I haven’t hit that threshold yet.