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October 1994


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Randy Riddle <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 22 Oct 1994 14:25:49 -0400
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On Sat, 22 Oct 1994 [log in to unmask] wrote:
> Responding to Randy's post about "filmmakers of the past
> Just a couple of questions about things that weren't entirely clear to me:
> (But first, a disclaimer) I would never argue that Welles wasn't a great
> filmmaker, and I don't know if comparing Welles and Tarantino has any
> relevance at this point, but
> Is Coppola already a filmmaker of the past?
I my thinking, yes.  I think you can certainly say that the directors of
the 70s (Coppola, Scorsese, Polanski) had their peak creative period
during that time, forming a unique period in film history.  They were
also the first generation of filmmakers who had an opportunity to study a
great body of well-developed film history that came before them and
expand on it outside of and within the studio system.  During that time,
foreign and American "classic" films were going through a revival on
college campuses -- even people who were not interested in making films,
made these works a part of their overall education.
During the 80's and into the 90's, this enthusiasm for learning about
film history has had a general decline among college students as a whole
and even among film students themselves.  Noting my posts about "Natural
Born Killers", it seems that Stone was directly referencing experimental
works of the 30's-60's, and many of the people on this list (and others I
talked to locally) only saw the influence of MTV, where the roots of
"NBK" go much deeper.
> Is an extensive liberal arts education--knowledge of literature or even film
> history--a prerequisite for great filmmaking?  Besides, some of the really
> early greats didn't have an extensive knowledge of film history b/c there
> wasn't much to have.
Certainly a knowledge of literature is necessary, along with other
disciplines.  Knowing about good literature translates into intelligent
scripts that have good character development and (gasp!) plot.  Knowing
about the history and techniques of photography gives one the
technical information to create good visuals.  Learning about music --
all kinds of music and the theory behind it -- gives the filmmaker a
basic understanding of using music to enhance or emotions or themes in a
given situation.  A good, solid background in general history gives the
filmmaker the ability to comment on contemporary society.  Theater
knowledge gives you information on props, sets, and working with actors.
The "early greats" certainly didn't have alot to work with as far as film
history, since the medium was still developing.  But they did have a good
background in the other areas I'm talking about, giving them the tools to
work in the new medium.  Chaplin's films are generally not noted for
their great technique, but his sense of comedy, timing, plot, and
characters gained from experience in the theater, for example.
I'm not saying that everyone should be able to recall all of
Shakespeare's play verbatim, like Welles probably could, but having a
good knowledge of liberal arts in general can give you the tools to work
with.  Making a film involves alot of different disiplines and involves
more than just picking up a camera or splicing some strips of film
> Doesn't it
seem that nearly everything about P.F. indicates a fair knowledge of
> film/tv/pop culture history--at least American and French New Wave stuff?
> Just curious, M3
I'll make it clear that I'm not commenting on Pulp Fiction in particular
-- I'm waiting until the furor on this list dies down before I see the
film, so I can draw my own conclusions about what I see.  But many of the
comments I'm seeing are based on recent American pop culture and a film,
for me at least, has to have a little more depth than that to get my
adrenaline going.
Randy A. Riddle
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