Directors, Cut

Sep 29 2012 @ 8:11pm

Amidst a rant that American filmmaking is dying, David Thomson admits he's been entertained by cinematic mash-ups from the Internet:

Within the last year or two, I have been delighted with these things: a scene (it later proved to be part of The Trip) in which two actors, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, did competing Michael Caine impersonations. This wasn’t just funny; it had the bonus of showing what an elegant fraud Caine is, and born to be imitated. Then there was a ninety-eight-second remake of Brian De Palma’s Scarface (the Al Pacino version) that consisted of nothing except every use of the word "fuck" in the movie. This is as revelatory as it is entertaining, for it leaves one incapable of watching the De Palma film again. I would praise also another brief montage, this one in which still photographs of Lindsay Lohan taken over the course of her life were dissolved together. It is lovely and poignant and the best thing she has done—except that she didn’t really do it. But in a very short time it captures the ebbing half-life of figments such as Lohan or Marilyn Monroe.

Are these bits and pieces as "good" as La Règle du Jeu and The Passion of Joan of Arc? Of course not. But if you’ve seen the Renoir and the Dreyer pictures enough times to keep them in the top ten for so many decades, aren’t you open to a naughty new trick like "fuck Scarface"?

Richard Brody disagrees with Thomson's larger claim that the golden age of cinema was the '40s and late '50s:

No device is intrinsically more moral than another, no technique is intrinsically better than any other; a fixed-focus shot isn’t better than a zoom, a dolly shot isn’t better than a hand-held move, direct sound isn’t better than dubbing, color isn’t better than black-and-white, and film isn’t better than digital.

Film is certainly different, it’s used differently, it evokes a particular variety of moods and connotations on its own, and many filmmakers have the imagination to make personal and artistic use of them. But there are other filmmakers who lazily wallow in nostalgia by way of film, just as there are some filmmakers who make astonishingly imaginative use of digital technology and others who lazily wallow in the manipulative conveniences made possible by digital recording and editing. Different directors, different movies, different tools. The different, and constantly evolving, viewing experiences offered by those possibilities is one of the ongoing joys of movie-watching…

David Denby wishes the talented directors of today, such as Terrence Malick, got more of Hollywood's big budgets.