Friday, May 25, 2012

"Movies" some notes on the art form


I had written a essay about movies, but it was way to larded with commentary on particular movies, which I have subsequently removed. Here are some of my notes on the value of the movies as art form and moral educator.





                Egypt the pyramids, Medieval ages the Cathedrals, Italy the Opera, and America the Cinema. These multimillion dollar movie franchises are America's art form, they absorb endless social energy and financial and psychological resources, and in return give us what the sermons and novels used to give the general population: general life guidance. These movies explain psychology, desire, sex, and justice to us, show us what "normal" us, show us how to be normal or how to be different, teach us what to want, what to strive for, what to lust for, and also what to avoid.

                You read life, you read books, you read the minds of your friends and enemies. Read also movies. America’s art is the motion picture. She invented it, and pours her excess into it. See how the celebrities hero us! Not the philosophers, the politicians, the poets, but the dust licking actors faking orgasms--faking life.

                Yet, in a sense, the novelists, whom I myself prefer, also "act" out the different characters they portray. A novelist must "be" each of his characters, to think through their heads, and so his writing, though done in private, is as much a performance as the actor before the camera. A speaker once told me: “movies are the highest art form, subsuming every other art into her presentation: music, acting, writing, art, sculpture.”

                 “Actors” are pretenders. They have no doing, only faking. They have no actions at all. How is it, then, that these men and women have become our greatest moral teachers?



                What is conscious and open lacks power. We must tuck our worlds within our souls. But gander upon yonder movie screen and you can see what was too close to see or know. What is conscious and hidden has great power. Whoever seduced a girl by announcing his intent straight out? As if the girl couldn’t guess such an intent, no matter how severely he hid it! She, to be a lady, must dance a complicated courtly dance, if she is a worthy woman. Sex doesn’t disgrace, but cheap sex disgusts. So why do the movies hit us over the head with endless sex and violence? How is it the make spectacles which in our own lives is so intimate and near? And how do we subtly approach these things? Do these movies express values? Not only do movies express values, but they entertain us with them -- the surest way to teach.

                Oh the power of cinema! A novel isn’t even established, nowadays, till it makes the box office. This American artform, democratic in production, structured so that crowds react as one, so that crowds teach each other to experience as one, as one democratically subjugated unit, this market driven, capitalistically programmed medium, – what does this art form, this version of literature, offer us that no other medium can?

                The visual of course, a close and intense look at drama. It does this better than the theater, for unlike the stage, our perspectives have a wider range, and are at the control of the director. He can repeat a scene a thousand times till he gets it right.

                The movie offers perspectives no stage can, offers close ups and visual effects that paintings cannot, nor sculpture. Further, the movie has mastered the art of soundtrack, uniting music and its intimacy with touch. No other art form so perfectly fuses visual with audio.

                The theater has slowly replaced the sermon as audience unifier, the box office and not the chapel as unifying the group mind. Not that the morals are different, but the medium offers some things the other couldn’t, and loses some the other had.

                As far as the most socially important art forms, the ones that define our morality, our identity, our way of life, the top two are the movie and the novel. The movie is of course the easier to consume: it requires less thinking and participation, and the medium makes love to the senses. The novel, however, is not without its heft. Unlike any movie, the novel is able to offer a completely unified work in that it is one man's vision, one man's passion and work, and so has an integrity that the movie, even in its comparative incredible simplicity, lacks. And the novel, being able to engage our care, imagination, attention, and interest for longer periods of times -- hours a day for weeks -- is able to teach us those lessons that can only be taught slowly. Some ideas enter the mind's mouth only over weeks and months, if not years. A novel is able to invite us to leave in a world and stay there, to be constantly and deeply affected by it. This, the movie cannot offer.

                Both manage to educate indirectly, so insidiously that we do not even regard them as educative, but only entertaining. We do not see -- cannot see -- how thoroughly our values, our desires, our hopes, fears, and judgments are shaped, modified, molded and programmed by these grand narrative forms. We fancy we learn ethics from philosophy books or from sermons. Not at all. Take notes and repeat the verses to yourself every day, it makes no difference. The mind is structured to learn from stories. The hero, whether historical or fictional, still saves mankind, saves you and me, not by figthings monsters, but by being himself, so that we too, though we seem totally different and act in completely different ways, can also be ourselves.




\ ~@M@~ /


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