Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Very interesting interview here with one of the great masters, Robert Bresson. In this particular clip he speaks of the difference between "cinema" and "movies." The latter, he claims, are simply filmed plays, relying primarily on sensationalism, sentimentalism and the techniques (as well as trickery) of narrative drama and comedy. Most films we see could probably safely be said to fall within this category. Cinema, on the other hand, is created through the juxtaposition of image with image, of image with sound, and of sound with sound, a transfigurative process whereby new horizons of possibility emerge, where the everyday is made numinous.

The distinction is very interesting. It seems almost impossible to think of films as diverse as Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes or Bresson's own Diary of a Country Priest as being in the same ballpark (or even belonging to the same sport - to take the analogy further) as something like Drive Angry 3D or Zookeeper. It's not just that the latter are "bad art." The question arises to what extent they can be called an attempt at art at all. But then we're back in the old dilemma of art versus entertainment, which are both concepts that are impossible to define. There are no necessary and sufficient conditions one can appeal to here, a problem similarly faced when one tries to distinguish between erotica and pornography. That being said, by cultivating a sense of the beautiful, by honing one's spiritual and artistic faculties, one is able to see what is truly good and truly beautiful, without perhaps being able to reduce it to conceptual or analytic terms (to do so would even be tantamount to blasphemy - like trying to "explain" or "conceptualize" love or God). A person of taste and virtue will see the ugliness and crudeness of pornography when presented with it, just like he or she will recognize a work of art when presented with one. That being said, there are obviously shades of grey, dimensions of ambiguity and problematic examples that seem to defy any categorization (is a DePalma film "cinema" or a "movie"  - or both?). But this is all for the better, an opportunity for increased dialogue and shared enthusiasm for a variety of film.

For those of you that are interested there are several more clips from the same interview available on YouTube (which, like the internet as a whole, is a garbage heap that is littered with jewels of astounding beauty). Just search for Bresson's name and they should pop up.

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