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August 2012, Week 5


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Tue, 28 Aug 2012 17:51:51 +0000
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
"Larsson, Donald F" <[log in to unmask]>
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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I don't really understand the question you pose or your respondents' replies.  As provisional as any categorization of the earlier directors may be  (see David Bordwell's description of the "art cinema as a mode of production" in "Narration in the Fiction Film"), the second group seems less coherent in historical terms.  I don't know much of Ruiz's work, except that he was amazingly prolific and diverse in style in his short lifetime and is best known for his filmed-for-tv costume epic "The Mysteries of Lisbon."  Tarkovsky made only a handful of films in his short life and has been dead for almost 26 years.  Tarr's films differ in style, and he has claimed influence by Fassbinder, who himself is stylistically difficult to pigeon-hole.  And Lynch is, well, Lynch.  

As far as "high status" goes, certainly Tarr and Tarkovsky do not fit the first response group's explanation as appealing (!) to "people who want immediate sensation and emotion."  Take the "e" (electronic/digital media, I assume) out of that group's characterization of critics and audiences conditioned by "a computerized, media-ized, and e-musicked world," and it seems to me that their reply is far better suited in various ways to the earlier group of directors (especially the Antonioni of "Blow-Up" and "Zabriskie Point" and early Godard).  (And, of course, many critics had and still have trouble watching or analyzing those directors' films.)

If  Tarr, Tarkovsky and Lynch at least have anything in common, it may be that their aims are more metaphysical than existential and psychological or overtly political.  But even then the distinctions aren't hard and fast. (Are they ever?)  Antonioni's avowed aim to was to probe the mysteries of the surface of the world, after all.

Don Larsson

"I don't deduce.  I observe."
--Roger O Thornhill

Donald F. Larsson, Professor
English Department, Minnesota State University, Mankato
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From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Norman Holland [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2012 9:31 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SCREEN-L] Query / Answers

A few days ago, I sent around a query (see below).  Why the high status
accorded films by Ruiz, Tarr, Tarkovsky, and Lynch compared to 50s and 60s
auteurs like Bergman, Fellini, or Antonioni?  And is there a way to set
one's mind to enjoy them?  If you're curious, I got basically two lines of

One group said that this change in taste reflected a computerized,
media-ized, and e-musicked world in which people want immediate sensation
and emotion and don't care any more about traditional ideas of motivation,
character, plot, or timing.

A much smaller, but to me more subtle group, said that this was a
difference of degree, not kind.  To quote one of my respondents, "Is Lynch
any more alienating than Godard though?  . . . .  Are the longeurs in Béla
Tarr so much different from those in Antonioni?"  I think this is an
intriguing point of view.

I still, however, have great difficulty in either enjoying these films or
analyzing them.  Let's see how it all plays out, whether their current high
reputation will continue and what critics write about them in the future.

                      --With warm regards,


A query.  As I review non-Hollywood films for our local Film Club, I am
> struck by the admiration and awards accorded filmmakers in the style of
> Raoul Ruiz, Bela Tarr, Andrei Tarkovsky, or David Lynch.  They seem to me
> to be occupying the place in the pantheon that Bergman, Fellini, or
> Antonioni occupied in the '60s.  Yet they also seem to me to have almost
> totally abandoned conventional ideas of story, character, and motivation
> while providing extraordinary effects in individual shots and scenes.
> Bergman famously said of Tarkovsky, that he had developed "a new language,
> true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a
> dream."
> Do you have any explanation for this change in taste?  And how does one
> set one's mind to enjoy this kind of film?

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