Thursday, February 28, 2008

"If only we had a Mormon (insert your favorite filmmaker here)..."

I'll admit that I consider the concept slightly crass, and the phrasing extremely crass, but I will say that perhaps the fruits are beneficial. I believe the intended outcomes of such exercises are many: 1. To suggest that Mormon artists should look outside of themselves to be inspired and taught. To 'read the best books' so to speak, but in a much more intense and formally concentrated way. 2. To counter the opinion that the creation of art is something that "only members of the church can do, because only they have the Spirit." I can't tell you how similar this sounds to certain prayers offered from the Rameumptom, and it is, in my opinion, the greatest stumbling block to "Mormon artists." (I don't think the Spirit works that way.) 3. That there are many ways and forms which both might be informed by the doctrine of Christ, and also inform that doctrine, meaning expound upon it and allow it to take on more meaning and application for us. 4. That there are other options for creation than the Hollywood model or overwrought cliche, or even the 'Church films' standard.

Of course, that being said, I must add that of course I don't mean that we should try and be "Mormon Frank Capras." But I do think we could learn a thing or two. Also its said that the Stones we trying to recreate the Blues of the American south. But they fell short. So their miraculous addition to music history was an attempt to recreate, not to create. But create they did. Failure as creation. Fascinating. If taken with a salt lick I hope this to be very beneficial.

So here I go, and feel free to add.

Frank Capra: I think we could learn a lot from his 'small town' aesthetics and underdog vs. the system while championing the system approach to filmmaking. Likewise his clarity is remarkable.

Alain Resnais: I think that if someone, if anyone, could film the Doctrine and Covenants, it would be him. Not only are his films intellectually dense, but they are also deeply affecting. He understands torment and romance and fairness and longing all at the same time, all the while being a moralist. He also reminds us that its OK not to understand everything. Somethings are more important that understanding. Yet he appears to be one of the most humble filmmakers in the world, ever.

Carl Th. Dreyer: We can just allow his name to hold its place here without elaboration. If you don't know him, look him up.

Ozu, Yasujiro: The greatest reminder that eternity is family and eternity is change. More peace, beauty and insight in one of his stills than in most movies you'll find.

Eric Rohmer: I'm falling in love with this man's films. There is way too much sex outside of marriage to fulfill our world view of divinity, and I strongly take issue with his notion of 'love,' but I can't think of infatuation more gently presented. That is a big part of my world view as well.

Ming-Liang Tsai: Strangely the least religious of the "Taiwanese New Wave," and the least concerned with morality, but the most affecting in my book (though I can't stand watching "The River" without getting some fresh air in the middle several times). Grotesque, alienated, horrifying. All true. Yet in my book, he is the living filmmaker most aware and in tune with the meaning of "ritual." One of the most affecting of all filmmakers. His What Time is it There? is one of my favorite movies ever. And even though I can't seem to stand most of Truffaut's films, the whole thing is a love story of sorts to him.

Robert Benton: Though he is a much better handler of his own scripts, he is quite a handler. Rarely have I seen movies so packed with Americana, and yet filled with delight.

David Cronenberg: I have listed him elsewhere on this site as someone we should take note of, but I wanted to mention his name again (by the way, I now have seem the edited down version of his 'Crash' and would not ever recommend it to any member of the church or anyone outside the church. I found it foul, nihilistic, and pornographic in its anti-pornography. I know that there's got to be something else there, but I can't say that I will ever want to re-watch that or revisit it in anyway. I do highly recommend the Senses of Cinema article that got me excited about the film. It is more thought provoking than the film, in my estimation. However I consider Cronenberg a master director).

Fred Wiseman: True, that he's been on my mind since the release of his newest film with is filmed in Boise, Idaho, but there are few filmmakers in all of history willing to do what he does. Such patience and skill in expression without aver manipulating whats in front of the camera.

William Wyler: Remembered mainly for his Ben Hur, only now am I finding the joys of his earlier artistry.

Nicolas Philibert: Perhaps the greatest of all documentarians... perhaps not. Maybe a stronger case could be made that he is the most Christ-like in his treatment of his subjects. Maybe the most Christian of all filmmakers. That is a tall order, but I can't think of anyone who outright pushes him from that place. I can't remember a conversation I've had with my father where I didn't plead with him to see "To Be and To Have." That is a tall order as well. I haven't seen Back to Normandy yet, but I'm grateful for Second Run DVD and their release of two of his movies with English subtitles.

Robert Bresson: of course. But I didn't always see it. The things I would write here seem better whispered, so I'll abstain. But I didn't always see it. I hope to learn from him for my whole lifetime.

Maya Deren: Speaking of ritual, her discussion of film as ritual is the thing that shifted me finally to film. I different view of space and time than I've yet to come across anywhere. Here shifting views between ritual, art, and ethnography seem worthy of reading by anyone interested in the temple. I highly recommend the anthology of writing edited by Bill Nichols put out a few years ago devoted to this American avant garde ritualist. Her "Anagram" is also included. It is the only printing of it available. You may not agree with hardly anything written there (she often changes her mind and perspective), but even her self-contradicting hypotheses give more reference for thought and pondering on the meaning and power of film as ritual than any other writing I know.

The Dardennes Brothers: Who else can say that their films have changed social and legislation? Who can say that one film has changed so much? But not just Rosetta. The Son left me weeping for two days. From, joy? not completely. From pain, because I changed that day. I became a better person in such a deep way, that it ached.

Charles Burnett
Abbas Kiarostami
Hayao Miyazaki
Terrence Malick
Jafar Panahi
Ernst Lubitsch
The entire Makhmalbaf family
Zhang Yimou
Jacques Rivette
Jacques Tati
F. W. Murau
Andrei Tarkovsky
Emir Kusturica
James Benning
Otar Iosseliani
Raul Ruiz
Agnes Varda
Terrence Davies

I'm realizing how incomplete this list will always be. I hope we'll keep adding to it. But I feel like putting Murnau on, but not Lang even though Lang might have been the greater of the two. Just a reminder of how subjective and preferential these lists always are. I also realize how I'll never be able to have viewed everything or heard of everything, but this is a start.

Feel free to add.

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