Are revolutionaries in reality conservatives?

Young George Lucas

The classic “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood” by Peter Biskind is a fascinating read. It brings close the characters and personalities of the key players of one of the best decades in film making anywhere. Interestingly there is very little about the essence of their contribution to the film making craft, besides emphasizing their understanding and connection with the zeitgaist. Maybe that’s what makes or breaks the film. Still, we learn more about the shortcomings of Coppola, Spielberg, Scorsese and others as humans than about the reasons why their film were so revolutionary.

The phrase “saved Hollywood” seems to have a double, ironic meaning. Many of the characters point out that it is Lucas and Spielberg who changed the film industry into its present, blockbuster, comic book based mode.

In this light the Lucas’ remark "Popcorn pictures have always ruled. Why do people go see them? Why is the public so stupid? That's not my fault.” sounds particularly chilly. I’ve read the book carefully but didn’t register this particular sentence. Maybe it was a denial on my part. Only later I found it on the amazon page for the book.



Warsaw, July 2016.  Polish Academy of Sciences

I enjoyed meeting old friends and making new ones at the XI World Congress of ISUD.  Here is a video I produced from that event.  

Once you are there you may check the Warsaw Congress Playlist with additional 34 clips from the event. 


Love and philosophy

The flyer of the tenth edition of the Philosophical Film Festival, Krakow.  This year the subject was love.

Juxtaposition of these two cathegories: philosophy and love is a huge challenge.

Prof. Marek Siemek, the hero of my (still in the works) documentary "The View from A Cathedral" astutely noticed that the ethics of  love stops where the ethics of law begins.


When birds spoke

Henryk Schonker in "The Touch of an Angel" 
by Marek Tomasz Pawłowski

I watched this amazing documentary around the time I saw another Holocaust-themed film, the Oscar winner "Son on Saul". The comparison automatically sprung to mind: the feature with its frames soaked in attempts to recreate and authenticate many a time took me outside of its goal: I was seeing staging on screen and couldn't get it out of my mind. On the other hand the documentary did not hide its kitchen, things would start as the recollection and then move to their recreation. At which point I was hooked without reservation.

It's either the techniques of both storytellers or the cleverness of the initial deflecting of "it's not real" reaction. Or the combination of both.  An example of that "start with the talk and move to its recreation" is also in the scene that, breaking through the screen and further through the limitations of "now and here"  totally floored me.

In the scene Henryk Schönker recalls a 1938 Auschwitz conversation with a young mentally challenged boy as they both stand by a river bank.  The boy points to the other side of the river,  toward Auschwitz, and says "I see a lot of your people burned there, but you will survive". 

Henryk is perplexed and asks where did he get that from. The boy points to the birds flying above and says "the birds told me so".


Swimming in Kieslowski

Filming "Blue"

It just so happened that I have started analyzing "Blue", which for a long time I treated as the second best to "Red".  Now reading the script and going scene by scene I am amazed how profound a meditation it is.  How that which originally I perceived as unclear is in fact extremely sophisticated.

While "Red" hits with its precision and strong interconnections obvious to anybody with open eyes, "Blue" is way more subtle.  Perhaps because it deals with even more esoteric and mysterious matters than these in "Red".

The accomplishment is really head spinning.  One of the explanation for this mastery may come from the way Kieslowski worked.  As he explained in an interview while writing each subsequent piece about the upcoming movie he always went for  wholeness.  The wholeness of each "pass", even in editing was something he valued the most.  This means he always thought about structure.   Although it sounds obvious, it is not.  At least not to me, since it's so easy to get lost in particular sub themes of a story.

For the ability of thinking "wholeness" all the time one has to have a precise and poetic mind. Otherwise it just won't work.


The camera behind

Son of Saul, written by Laszlo Nemes and Clara Royer
directed by Laszlo Nemes

I dreaded seeing this film. Every trip to Auschwitz leaves me sick for days.  The subject is almost too much to be touched with a camera.  Regardless of the level of the craft employed.  

One day however I was taken to see this film.  The reaction noted below might be an extension of the just mentioned attitude.  When something is so much outside of one's ability to process and comprehend one can attempt to seek refuge in criticism of the aesthetics. 

Here is mine:

Son of Saul, with the exception of one dantean night sequence brining in your face with full harrowing force the Bosch like imaginary, has kept me confused. For surprisingly long gaps I felt out of the narrative. I wasn’t clear if I was supposed to feel with the hero or just watch his horror.

The immediate reason I think comes from too often placing the camera behind the hero’s back. Why don’t I see the face of the hero, I wondered many times. Then I learned that the main part was given to a rock musician/poet and a theologian.   Nothing wrong with basing a film on a non-professional actor but it carries certain limitations (unless one is David Bowie) and “Son of Saul” might be an example of them. To be fair, the musician playing the lead is doing fine as much as he can. But clearly when the task is too much (and the challenges of that role are huge), the director uses a substitutive camera technique, which when overdone, throws the experience of kilter.