What does Pure Cinema look like?

Remember the French New Wave? Remember Dogma95?  Do you remember that feeling you had when all the stale commercial rules about filmmaking you have been swallowing all you life were shredded in front of your eyes by a pure cinematic moment?  For me, it was watching a crappy 3/4 inch video tape of Bergman’s PERSONA in a windowless classroom as I was hiding out from a hot Texas afternoon in the 1970’s. That film wacked me out forever… there it was, the idea that cinema can be so much more than what we were being fed by the status quo.

Years later I had the pleasure of to having dinner with Liv Ullmann in Chicago when my film STILL BREATHING was honored with a special screening at The Chicago Film Festival.  As you probably know, Ms. Ullmann starred in PERSONA. It told her about my experience with PERSONA and she said “I had no idea what I was doing… I was just doing what I was told.  It was all Ingmar.”  Well, I don’t discount Ms. Ullmann’s considerable talent, but the film is a close to Pure Cinema as there was in the 1960’s (It was released in 1966).  I could go on… but maybe I’ll save that for a future post.

Fast forward to 2008.  Millions of aspiring filmmakers and film fans own digital “video” cameras that in many ways are superior to the cameras that shot GONE WITH THE WIND. So filmmaking is finally in the hands of the common “unconnected” artist.  We can create films in the same way as we can all write a novel.  All it takes is talent, craft, determination, vision and grit. The future Coppola talked about 20 years ago is here… there is no reason the next CITIZEN KANE can’t be made by a “civilian” with a DV camera and a laptop.

So, uh… where is this film?  Or where is a hint of it at least?  Instead, the next generation of filmmakers seem tragically obsessed with genre and parody. 

Before I go too far off on a rant… my point is that occasionally I see something that truly inspires me… and fits the new dynamics (global, social, viral and otherwise) of the New Digital Cinema. This brings me to the unique simplicity and power of Matthew Harding‘s “Where the hell is Matt?” videos.  You have seen them – a guy dancing the same dance all over the world, simply shot, authentic and poetic and down-to-earth all at the same time.  His newest version, the 2008 clip, is the rare kind of pure cinema that produces a palette of emotions inside of me (all good) that are pretty hard to describe.  

Hey, the New Digital Cinema doesn’t have to be a genre film or a parody.  It doesn’t have to wear superficiality like a badge of honor.  It can be about TRUTH… something every artist is trying to get at.


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