Thursday, April 28, 2005
Une Chienne Andalou

got me a movie
i want you to know
slicing up eyeballs
i want you to know
girlie so groovy
i want you to know
don't know about you
but i am un chien andalusia
wanna grow
up to be
be a debaser

I don't know if it's just being up here out of the fray, but I feel like the hardened outer shell of my filmmaking identity has been peeled back to expose raw flesh -- 'cause everything is blowing my mind. Having spent a few years studying the technical practice of making films, and then a few more trying to convey that knowledge to other people, I came back to school to discover that I had moved completely beyond Bordwell and Thompson and into terra incognita. Now everywhere I look I see strange monsters. At times like this, all I can do is stare gape-mouthed and the inherent bizarreness of my chosen medium.

Check this out:

The rods [of the retina] contain a pigment, rhodopsin, that bleaches in the light and resynthesizes in the dark. This led the nineteenth-century physiologist Willy Kuhne to devise an experiment in which he was able to take a picture with the living eye of a rabbit. First, the rabbit's head was covered to allow rhodopsin to accumulate in the rods. Then it was uncovered and held so that it faced a barred window. After a three-minute "exposure," the animal was killed, its eye removed, and the rear half containing the retina "fixed" in an alum solution, so that the bleached rhodopsin could not be resynthesized. "The next day" [George] Wald reports, "Kuhne saw, printed upon the retina in bleached and unaltered rhodopsin, a picture of the window with a clear pattern of its bars."

From Future Cinema: the Cinematic Imaginary After Film

"Okay," you say, "apart from the vivisection of a helpless little bunny, why is this significant?" Well, it all has to do with the concept of the camera and the eye as the filmmaker's means of transmission. What we're talking about here is the direct interface of my brain with my camera with light with chemistry with a projector with more light with your brain. A camera isn't an eye, it's a machine, but the relationship between camera and eye is one of the big nodes of existential confusion in this medium. A camera doesn't "see" because it doesn't have a brain; but the filmmaker can't manipulate and record light without a camera. So by picking up a camera and shooting something, you become a kind of artistic cyborg. The same is true when you watch a film, 'cause film doesn't happen in the camera or in the projector or on a strip of film or a ribbon of digital tape, it all happens in your head. Some of it's physical, and some of it's psychological, but the essence of film takes place within the confines of your skull. This is real-life Cronenberg stuff, the sweet union of meat and machine to produce visions in people's heads.

And when you consider that little morsel of cinematic truth, then Armageddon starts to seem less like a bit of harmless fluffy entertainment and more like a betrayal of everything cinema should be. Here we have an enormously direct and visceral medium at our command, and Bruce Willis movies are the best* we can do? Eisenstein formulated the montage theory nearly a century ago; apart from technological advances, what have we added since then? We should be further along than we are, film should be more developed as an art form. We're letting our pedecessors down.

So now I have this new, vast expanse of unknown (to me) possibilites before me, and I have to/get to start learning film all over again. This is why I love this medium the way I do: it's not just a medium, it's a super-medium, and an inexhaustable source of new insight to uncover, new skills to acquire, new things to think about. It would take lifetimes of study to take it all in, and that's not even considering the new cinema-defying forms that are almost certain to erupt within the lifetime of work I'm alotted. Which, of course, is frustrating... but it's good to know your subject will never be exhausted.

PS: It took me four hours of trying this evening to get this post published. I think it's about time we rename Blogger "Slogger."

*"best" in the sense that that's what everybody and their grandmother's dog pays to see
4:50 PM ::
Amy :: permalink