Sunday, 2 October 2011

Intensified Continuity ramble

David Bordwell spent time analysing the duration of cuts in the edit sequence to monitor a trend in cinematic narratives which he has labelled 'Intensified Continuity', it's a particular device that perhaps sought to oppose the 'art-house' method of prolonged cuts that lingered on parts of subjects or scenes. In the documentary 'The Cutting Edge' Martin Scorsese expressed concern regarding this technique not as a something adverse to story telling, but something he felt concern about in regards to how audiences felt about art and their needs within society in general (Which is unusual because he used these kinds of techniques often in his earlier work). The instant mix of space, time and continuity.

It's funny because listening to directors who make films with intensified continuity and listening to directors who don't, you'll notice that those who do, talk fast without much pause for reflection, and those who don't are more deliberate and slower in their speech. This is just a general passing observation of course, but it occurred to me whilst recalling the many interviews I've seen with directors discussing their work - there are many obvious exceptions, such as filmmakers like Terry Gilliam.

That aside, you'll also notice that commonly now days you'll see a rapid succession of shots, possibly a sped up camera movement, and when the film wants to deliberate on something, the film is slowed down. Read David Cox's article on trend techniques here. What I think the concern with over-using trends like this in filmmaking is whether or not the film will hold up in twenty years. You may like the technique now as a youngster but will you like it when you've planted a fine batch of white hairs on your head, and are seeking something more contemplative to match the slowing down of your lifestyle? Will the same audiences that gleaned it whilst the film was a mere five years old want to return to it when the film reaches the grand old age of twenty? Will younger generations be interested in it since they will have their own trends to follow.

Does preference for stylisation and technique over performance, narrative and well written material really create a movie that can be viewed with enthusiasm more than once or twice? Or will that film end up in a catalogue of $1.00 specials mostly forgotten about or only suitable as day-time television material? Do you as a filmmaker even care about the longevity of your film, or is it simply something you can boast about conversation wise at industry parties? Alluding to be actively making something, anything, to be ... 'a filmmaker'. Or something you just want on your shelf so you can stare at it and think, "I made that", "Yes, me. Me, me the filmmaker. I made that, and I'm a filmmaker who made that. I'm me. Me the filmmaker.".

Sorry, got carried away there. I think it is funny because I know of people who think like that when it comes to making films. It's a bit like Charlie Kaufman's comment in regards to his new film, about competition in the industry, about people wanting to be seen ... I guess this relates back to the painful personage in media culture; the one who calls themselves, "writer, director, actor" - the person who needs to caption their image with those titles in every bit of self placed imagery and publicity they can muster, who has to put on the above the title credits, "Johnny Me presents ... a Johnny Me production ... a film by Johnny Me" ...

... and perhaps harking to the current trend in Australian amateur video production, to make pseudo documentary "Ricky Gervais" like productions that focus primarily on either one "writer, director, actor" who need to appear in every frame talking slightly off camera, arduously force feeding us their awful performances and virtually plagiarised dialogue with unrealistic 'erms', 'ums' sideways glances and biting of bottom lips (We are all so 'natural' it's unnatural), whilst having the camera follow them as they interact with the most unremarkable situations and the candid reactions of others who in trying so hard to be realistic come across as over-acting their actual personalities which are fairly conventionally uninteresting as any starting point to characterisation; or an ensemble of extremely poor performances and sufferingly uninteresting commentary sutured together with a hand held camera. All because the technique allows them scope to be 'noticed'.

Sorry, once again I've totally digressed with this post, to rant a bit, but it has been a while since I've allowed myself a bit of ranting space in regards to the 'local scene'.

Returning to Intensified Continuity, visit Cinemetrics, a movie measurement and study tool database. I think it is interesting because I tend to like rambling editing sequences, those found in the work of Peter Bogdanovich and Robert Altman, but perhaps that technique was just the leftovers from the Cinéma Vérité trend - I don't have any issue with the technique of Intensified Continuity, indeed suitably used it can be very effective, however, I started thinking more about it after having heard Jim Henson talk about using 'pauses' in his work, and not just individual shots as pauses but entire scenes that are pauses. I happen to find pauses incredibly satisfying in allowing me to soak up aspects of character and story.




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