Sunday, 24 July 2016

The future of film - Further discussion with contributions from David Hare, Bruce Hodsdon (and Adrian Martin and Noel Bjorndahl) for which many thanks

In a previous post which you can find here Bruce Hodson passed along some thoughts prompted by Kent Jones and the appearance of Jones feature doco on Hitchcock & Truffaut. This prompted some further commentary which I have gathered up, slightly edited, added one self-indulgent link, and now posted. Read on.this need not be the end.

David Hare Bruce you are surely not wrong to think of Jodie Foster's comments as basically promotional. Money Monster, which we saw last month with an appreciative full house in Paris, did not impress as very much more than any old style Stanley Kramer liberal message pic with the usual suspects doing their dues (Clooney in place of Spencer Tracy, etc). But it was weighted down with characterizations of such reductionist simplicity it made the old Kramer characters play like characters from Tolstoy. Even Clooney's ambivalent TV personality and semi-insider economics presenter has little depth. But the part of the "hostage taker", which did have some depth, was undermined by an embarrassingly bad Hays code morality obliging his death at the climax. A really brave independent movie would have kept him alive at the end and fighting for freedom but fighting very much against an authoritarian establishment whose immorality is even more insidious than the pro-neocon BS Clooney peddles on his show. That would have clearly been too subversive for Foster and I frankly thought the resultant picture was in fact completely "mainstream".

But maybe that's just me. The death of cinema has been coming for decades, but I feel the new miracle is the world wide web and the possibility of multiple and endless parallel universes of gigantic personal film collections (Like the ones several of us hold) going online into numerous download/streaming sites - copyright nazis allowing - into some non-profit infinite cloud very much like the way music collecting is now largely cloud/server based and completely transforming into a virtual future. The concomitant question of what if any physical media the movies will continue to be delivered in is the key one for me. Maybe 4K/HDR SUHD home video is the next wave with what is potentially the equivalent of commercial studio and cinema quality resolution and image quality, and the ongoing restoration projects of the big American studios (to take an example) of their archives into 4K or upwards data folders is the real future. Whatever, the hierarchy of production distribution exhibition seems to be breaking down which is not necessarily all bad?

Geoffrey Gardner‪ Very acute text David, and the segue to the enormous and ever-expanding personal collection, bypassing film archives and official collections such as those held by TV stations in the past at least, a development assisted by the technology of the day and fortunately by the disregard that collectors have, and have always had, for the structures of copyright and ownership. (That disregard is of course why many films survive at all over time and it opens up some very interesting areas of discussion, especially so as the death of the DVD is already predicted and that's the basic storage for huge amounts of those personal collections you refer to.)

Bruce Hodsdon Kent is not predicting "the death of cinema" (that has been predicted many times starting with the introduction of synchronous sound) but the death of 'a certain kind of cinema' - the classical cinema of the of the Hollywood studios. What he's referring to is the classical cinema of the of the Hollywood studios. What he's referring to is the split between that cinema (the 100 year merging of art and commerce) and popular screen based entertainment franchises. In cinephiliac terms it amounts to something like the death of a popular cinema that we have grown up with and immersed ourselves in. I think HD DVD is likely to survive for a specialist market. For some of the complexities of the relationship wrought by digitisation the monograph by Andre Gaudreault and Philippe Marion "The Kinematic Turn: Film in the Digital Era and its Ten problems" challenges the prognosis that the cinema is dying and it should be read by all cinephiles. Available for purchase online from Caboose along with other essential publications including 'The New Cinephilia'.

David Hare Bruce again I think Kent is not predicting anything new, for this is surely paralleled by the effective demise of the "arthouse", and the reduction of great "cinephilic cities" to half a dozen or less - NYC, London, Berlin. Los Angeles. Even Paris can no longer make a claim as one. What is of far more concern to me is the apparent death of film culture which was passed on through generations of peers and which is now all but dead. Even French movie scholars will pin you to the wall for the night to lament the complete loss of cinephilia and ignorance amongst the new French intelligentsia. The old days of unbridled retrospectives and dozens of incomparable small revival cinemas on the left bank and elsewhere are long gone. The last time Paris had a thriving film culture outside the walls of the CInematheque of course was maybe fifteen years ago, circa anno 2000. It should not pass unnoticed that film culture of the sort we understand, as does Kent who is himself one of its outstanding spokesmen, is the parallel exponential rise in so called "Film Studies" in American so called Universities which has for the most part been a sinecure for the talent free, and cinephilically illiterate, and a haven for unbridled mediocrity. One of the tenets being, naturally, that there can be no canon nor any possible range of demonstrable excellence and superiority of one artist to another in the era of mindless PC. The great culture war of the new tertiary education sector to dumb everything down to Politically Correct non specialization ( a form of bogus "democracy") has done even more damage than the limitations of physical print or Digital distribution and mass marketing

Geoffrey Gardner (This is a contribution that wasnt put up among the Facebook posts  here so it should be in parentheses because its egomaniacal but Im not sure that Davids characterization of Paris is a bit unfair. Anyway for my impressions of that city way back in 2004 may I refer you all to my little essay A Cinephile Winter and Spring (2004) on rue des Ecoles, a memoir of a time I still recall with great fondness though it was a dozen years ago.)

Bruce Hodsdon Maybe it's only the "death" of the sort of film culture that we have grown up with - of course no longer a film culture but a screen culture. Digitisation nevertheless makes it possible for the "film'" culture to renew itself as it 'increasingly mingles with other media'.

Bruce Hodsdon   I think there is actually more arthouse exhibition in Melbourne multiplexes now than there ever was in the sixties including much expanded film festival exhibition.

David Hare I hope so Bruce. But that completely depends on us and what we do with our own collections, to say nothing of our experience and knowledge.At some point there has to be an open confrontation between the world of the copyright holders and the rest of us. This ownership factor alone is also an instrument in the savage lmiitation of what people can now see and hear. Rosenbaum seems the only film writer so far who's really recognized and analyzed this. For the moment if any of us tried to do anything with our collections openly we'd end up in prison sharing a cell with the Ukrainian gentleman from KAT who was thrown into porridge earlier this week. Obama's US FBI are extraditing him on behalf of their masters, the GIgantic Bomb Corporation/Sony/UniversalMSNBC/Vivendi, IBM, etc etc as we speak. (You can never keep an old bolshie down Bruce, especially these days!)

David Hare: Melbourne is a staggering and very fortunately driven exception. It is one of the possibly six real cinephilic cities still standing. One of the reasons is the man I am currently answering on Facebook (and many others of course.)

Bruce Hodsdon In the Oz context Melbourne still remains the FC capital. However I would have thought that the proliferation of national film fests greatly facilitated by digitisation is widespread. I was probably just repeating in my first reply above what was clear  in the Kent quotes, but what did strike me was the implication of a growing divide in cinema between 'art' and 'the popular', also becoming something of the generational divide that Kent is referring to. At the risk of being nostalgic what impacted me back in 1964 was the way Sarris merged the two so engagingly.

David Hare Amen! there's much to ponder and discuss here.

Adrian Martin This is a great discussion, and I hope FILM ALERT can give it more play. But, for the record, I don't buy the 'generational divide' line that Kent J. suggests. When I taught in Frankfurt between 2013 and 2015, the main director that the non-cinephile students always referred to with enthusiasm was Hitchcock. Everything and everyone in contemporary cinema got compared to him (and not by their teacher, may I add). You can't keep that guy's reputation down! And, to my eyes, this situation has never altered since I began teaching in the 1980s. And it takes very little good screening/teaching, in my experience, to turn students on to a wide range of other stuff: Lang, Lubitsch, Cassavetes, Ingmar Bergman, modern Austrian avant-garde, Maya Deren, etc etc.

Noel Bjorndahl Great discussion. In the last 10 years of teaching film at TAFE which ended in 2014, I had a degree of optimism about the new generation of cinephiles and budding film scholars-I was able to interest many of my students to specialise in and write about a range of key genres including the Western, Film Noir, Musicals, Sci-fi and Horror, Comedy and even Romantic Melodrama like McCarey's An Affair to To Remember. One of my youngest students in my final teaching wrote a perceptive and detailed essay on Errol Flynn and the Swashbuckler. But from the wider view, I share David's pessimism on the future of film.

Bruce Hodsdon In a way it's hard not to be Noel, but like KJ I'm not pessimistic. What I think we are seeing is not the death throes of cinema period, but only the death throes of a cinema: a system of production, distribution and exhibition that we came of age with, a hundred years of 'cinema' is being re-defined. Classical narrative is part of the dialectic.

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