My name is Ryan. I am a senior majoring in Film Studies. I will be posting regularly as the trip to Sundance unfolds and through the end. But this will not just be me talking all the time. Each student in the class will be posting at least five times before the trip ends. You can expect a lot of logs with pictures to complement. We will be talking about both our reactions to the films and our experience at the festival in general.
What does it mean to watch a movie? Why do we watch movies? Is it purely for escapism? Is it some Jungian shadow from which we attain self-identification? What about those of us who watch films compulsively? Well, perhaps compulsively is not the right word. What about those of us who watch movies all the time? Anyway, he said, "Cinephilia, in one way or another, seems to be indicative of a mild form of autism" (not an exact quote but pretty close ;). I thought about this a lot. I believe that it is true to an interesting extent. Because of course communication is an innately deficient aspect of any human being's life. Why is it deficient? Because there is really no such thing as effective verbal communication is there? We are all unable to communicate in the sense that we are unable to get across what we really think. We are impaired in that sense. Once the words I have verbalized have been processed by my fellow interlocutor, the idea which originally gave me the compulsion to speak those words has already been lost. The idea is already dead in my mind and is certainly dead by the time my words reach his ears. Verbal communication is definitely indicative of some immaterial specter. Film is beautiful because it encounters perhaps the same phenomenon and is therefore reminiscent of the human condition of essentially being unable to communicate. We are perhaps related to film in this sense more than any thing else.
What is the reel of celluloid strip which is passed through the projector and illuminated by a lamp to be projected onto a wall? In one sense it is this beautiful magical thing which almost hypnotizes the viewer. But on the other hand, it is indigestible. It is the unknown. It is mortality. The projections on screen are what film theorist Gil Perez calls "the material ghosts". They are dead but very much alive... like a spectral idea doomed to be held in the indecisive memory of time-space for all eternity. But we can never really understand them. But of course in both film and verbal communication there are moments of transcendence. These are moments when we perhaps realize something about what is really being communicated. Perhaps that idea was not known to the filmmaker/interlocutor originally but it came out nonetheless. Film is beautiful and terrifying. It is indicative of both our inability as humans to understand the other but also of our ability to transcend our communicative boundaries at special moments... to defy memory and perception. In the same sense that Emmanuel Levinas said that the encounter with the other is the encounter with some sort of terrifying force (like mortality) so is the encounter with the projected moving image.
Therefore, how can such importance be put into the evaluations critics put on films, since they are really this kind of other which cannot be firmly grasped? No matter how much I see that one of the movies that I like has been creamed by some critic I respect, I still like the movie. Well, I am definitely not super totally righteous about that kind of stuff. I go massive critic pile-up sites like rottentomatoes.com. But we really must ask this question of this tendency to perhaps put too much credence into what any critic says. For instance, is it ethical to map generalize the plot of a film and say it is part of a "review"? Shouldn't a story tell itself? Is it right to say a certain movie is bad because of this ultimately petty matter? What makes a movie good? Well, one might say, "It's a number of factors." But are those factors really clear? Can there exist a kind of criticism that takes into account all of these questions and their implications?
|Nathan Andersen and filmmaker Andrew Bujalski at Eckerd College/ICS presentation of "Funny Ha Ha"|
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