Run not to be literal?

Fritz Lang in his 1975 conversations with William Friedkin said two things that may be connected:

“I run away from home.  I think that any decent human being should run away from home”

and another:

“Don’t show so that the audience is forced to imagine and become a collaborator”. 


The director’s disease

Robert Altman as a director, according to Sissy Spacek, from "Robert Altman, the oral biography" by Mitchell Zuckoff, “didn’t have that disease where as a director you have to know everything”. 

Altman said himself:

“I don’t think I know the truth. Or if I do, I’ve been disguising it for a long time.   I don’t know that I want to give that up, this late in the game.  But I don’t think it makes any difference.”

How did he operate? Among other techniques: cherishing and encouraging accidents, using active verbs, being open to suggestions, treating actors as equals in creating a story.   



I am reading “Altman” a truly wonderful oral biography of Robert Altman by Mitchell Zuckoff.   It quotes from the “Player”:

- It lacked certain elements that we need to market a film successfully.
- What elements?
- Suspense, laughter, violence.  Hope, heart, nudity, sex.  Happy endings.  Mainly happy endings. -
- What about reality?

The struggle to question the recognizable and safe narrative elements (which are not necessarily cliches) is at the heart of any honest attempt to make one step closer to something as elusive as reality.  

And what is “reality”?

A maverick storyteller faces a tremendously impossible task: to come up with new tools to describe something that has not even been properly defined.   All the “aristotelian” tools, all subtle or not so subtle tricks and conventions of sustaining the audience’s attention crumble when the “what about reality” question releases its inconvenient roar.  


Philosophy and mystery

My favorite director, Roman Polanski, a very pragmatic, precise and logical filmmaker, when asked what’s more important in life: chance or fate, responds (in my translation from an interview in Polish

“To me it’s something between chance and necessity.  It seems to me that chance plays the main part, however if one thinks about it - if one has a realistic approach and thinks that the world begun with the Big Bang - then one has to conclude that everything that happens results from that which was before.  Therefore it can’t happen any other way.  If one talks to God, one is religious.  If however God responds to him, one is schizophrenic.  But these are philosophical issues, and we live in times that are unkind to philosophy.  Philosophy has been replaced by science.  There is no place for mystery.”  


The skin of the images

Naran Ja (One Act Orange Dance) 

Commenting on his bold and powerful 12 min. short Once Act Orange Dance Oscar nominated Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Biutiful (2010), Babel (2006)) says about his format choice (VHS):

“We have lost the skin of the images. Cameras reproduce reality much more sharply than my eyes can see and that’s why it looks fake”.

VHS! And it works!

The brilliance of the piece does not relay on technology, but the format choice enhances the dreamy quality of the flow of the dance.

It is somehow liberating to stop carrying so much about whether it should be shot on 2K or 4K when telling a story.

Yesterday I watched a documentary about a poet. It was beautifully shot using the latest HD gear. Carefully staged shots were just breathtaking. Yet, half way through its length the doc simply folded, froze, died and barely crawled to its end. Seems like the physical weight of the technology got the makers down. They run out of steam. They also came up way too close to the poet so that instead of getting to know her soul I was attacked by the imperfections of her skin. Hmmm.

Clearly the sharper is not always the better.  Clearly a filmmaker should respect “the skin of the images”.