Thoughts on Studying Film

Possibly my first love, and likely for everyone, is the language of film. It’s something we use to define our world, used for both propaganda and high art, it’s become the most ubiquitous form of media, ceasing to be something rare or in novelty but almost reality itself. It may be said the dominant form of understanding comes from our sense of vision, though I have learned in describing my art to some folks on twitter who are blind that we can reach new understandings without our eyes. The world become writing, or even just someting we can feel, a kind of emotional literacy that finds it’s way back to speech, and to the mind, sound to vision, vision to language, sound to meaning.

I can’t ever say that I’ve been far away from it, and so none of us can, in this world of ticktock and loops of fiilms that for a long time have changed the way I view film. The standard two hour film length of modern cinema is a specific form of narration, a construct that defines itself in it’s underlying structure, from it’s earliest inception to our current tolereance for film. Even though for a long time I gave it up, only going to superhero films and special effects experiments that are at a juncture quite unlike the quietness of the films I’ve been watching. I’ve been watching for days, but I’m used to it. One of my most memorable experiences was watching Out 1 in a theater in San Francisco, a full 12 hour film. It may seem like a a long time, and the small audience at the Alamo theater created a camaraderie among those of us that gathered to watch the rerelase. We encouraged each other to not give up, to always wait until we had finished our work viewing the film. We became part of the experience, the films length giving it the process of initiation. Are all films initiations, are they all ceremony?

I’ve been watching for several days, researching global cinema. The films we allow ourselves to view in our culture rarely speak to the quieteness of the films I’ve been watching. Of Men and Gods, Pather Panchali, Chronicle of the Years of Fire, and Andrei Rublev, across French, Algerian, Indian, and Russian films from some of the best directors, and I could go on for the rest of the day but after four films and eight hours I’m taking a break, returning to study later in the evening or during the day. Because if I don’t allow them to change my consciousness I don’t know what will.

That is the problem of the pervasiveness of media, I am often seeing reviews that imply that many people view so. many films, while I have only seen a few. Each one I”m selecting carefully, and researching to find exactly where I left off and what I have kept in memory of things I wanted to see. I have been utterly transformed in the last two days, almost beyond recognition in my own mind, because I have finally realized the ability to see through anothers eyes that are not my own, and that is from researching aesthetics and film theory that made me realize that the filmic art is both inductive and tranductive, transcendental and transformative, as we enter our own lives into the wold of another, a gathering of ideas and structures that creates something new between the perception and reality that is a shared agreement we enter into as we become the films themselves, and the films become us.

There is a problem in our society that I could call the spectator issue, which is by admonition of our own existence that we indirectly imply our reality by non participation into the experience of the film itself. We often understand things in the context of sports, and it was mentioned in one of the books I have been reading something that was fascinating, the idea that if you look at sports without bias, all of it is in a way quite akin to dance. It’s just abstracted with a mathematical and rule based architectural construct. It’s quite formal but it is also it’s own language, beautiful and complex in a way that many other arts are not. But that is a language for it’s own use and not that of film, as what I’m learning in my current mode of studying that some languages can only be understood unto themselves, making a vast landscape of indefinable and immutable beauty in the reality that it builds, from simple sounds to the most complex forms of human thought.

The modern film structure reads like the limits of a conversation, it ends almost like the perfect end of a conversation with a friends, probably defined by how long our physical bodies can sustain the stress of the organic forms of speech. Indefinable though, like love, is the thoughts that follow. How long we hold on to these images as time goes by. I hope I never see too many films, or if I do, always understand that there are more than I could ever see, and the few that I have seen, by their rareness have allowed themselves to stay with me as friends as a long conversation, for when we realize how long that conversation happens, is almost as though there is no length to the film experience, at least with great film. But if we don’t allow ourselves to be transformed by film itself, we just become spectators, only quickening the pace toward more misunderstanding, as if we reject each embrace from the poetic forms act of sacrifice and love. That’s what great film does, and so far, these films are that for me. I have seen through new eyes in work that spans years and lifetimes, and I’m sitting for awhile and just letting them stay in my mind. Because that is the greatest repayment I can give to the hundreds of artists and lives that bring us these films. I’m going to study these four films and see where it can take me for the rest of the day, because more than a conversation, I have fallen in love with them all.


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