Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shamelessly Stealing from "Scanners" (Again!): The Sequel

Yesterday, we posted the first part of Matthias Stork's video essay on what he has termed "Chaos Cinema."

This is part two, and where I could semi-agree with Stork (and appreciate what he was saying) in the first part, here is where his thesis breaks down (and it's partially his chosen examples and partially his myopic view of what makes good film).  He does himself no favors by choosing for his musical examples a comparison of Donald O'Connor's "Make 'Em Laugh" sequence from Singing in the Rain (all done in one shot, full figure—the pressure of completing the scene on the performer, while the filmic presentation is rather artless, moving the camera in to catch expressions, and tracking to follow the action (the bare minimum of competency)—and clips from Moulin Rouge! and Chicago, which use intense editing and a limited mise-en scene to focus the viewers' attention.  Some of this is practical—Catherine Zeta-Jones is no Donald O'Connor and—Oscar or no—the editing helps and intensifies the performance (and probably excises mis-steps and compiles the "best" takes (you know, the way editing does in its most basic form), but also builds the intensity of the scene. Moulin Rouge! is one of the best examples of music-intensifying editing, and is somewhat necessary in some sequences because the songs are mash-ups—audio montages of several songs slammed together.  To do it any other way, without transitions from song-cluster to song-cluster, I think would be jarring, maybe more jarring than what is already on the screen.  It also projects the wild intensity of the night-club setting, especially in the sequence Stork includes that pits performers against audience.  Baz Luhrmann and his editor Jill Bilcock build the conflict (I imagine this like the "Tonight Quintet and Chorus" from West Side Story where five points of view are joined in one song from different locations, and where cuts are made—in the film—to locate the groups and induividuals singing their parts) and the intensity and sets up the tension between performer and audience, making it seem manically dangerous.  When emotion and music and dancing is what's most important, who gives a rat's ass for "spatial integrity?" (ESPECIALLY when what you're viewing is a BARE stage).  It is film, after all—not theater.

Also, his closing narration could have been just as effective over the featured sequence of The Hurt Locker to illustrate his point.  The fact that The Hurt Locker is a great film and Unstoppable merely an entertaining (if lunk-headed) one, just goes back to what I said's not the technique that's bad or the audiences' short attention's the bad directors who don't know how to use them to communicate information.  And create art.

He shoulda stuck with Part 1.

No comments: