Skip’s Quips: Silent Running (of the Mouth)

Blog Sketch 082813Raise your hand if you thought The Artist would usher in a new era of silent, black-and-white movies.

OK, I didn’t, either. But I can’t say I wasn’t hoping. We need a little dose of the past to get us schlepping toward the future, and a retro attitude toward the cinema wouldn’t hurt. It certainly didn’t for M. Truffaut and other members of la Nouvelle Vague.

True, The Artist was a standout—not perfect, but clever and entertaining … like some of the best silent movies. The worst, however, are akin to any other lousy film: awful. Just because something’s silent doesn’t mean it’s good. Or vice versa.

Still, the film showed that the genre could be revitalized for a new audience, with a novelty value transcended by a smart script and direction. The question is, will a few more irises and wipes make for self-conscious cinema? They’d have to be incorporated organically to avoid affectation, and that’s a tall order. Skilled directors need apply.

I’d suggest starting a dialogue about this, but I think I need a title card.

Skip’s Quips: Cinema of the Irritating

Blog Sketch 082813A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (well, Manhattan), I was told by an otherwise rational budding critic that Jean-Luc Godard was the real French New Wave director–not François Truffaut.

In the words of Michael Caine’s character Peachy Carnehan in The Man Who Would Be King: “Pardon me while I fall down laughing.”

Yes, this was told to me in all seriousness, with the utmost authority. I guess if you make movies that are too enjoyable, it’s trendy to discount them in favor of more “experimental” cinema.

Frankly, I like to be entertained. And in general, Truffaut’s body of work is light-years more entertaining than Godard’s–Breathless aside.

You’re right: The critic’s point was that Godard was more of a New Wave exponent than Truffaut … not necessarily a better filmmaker (although I think that was implied). Yet I’ll have to disagree with this, too. Truffaut’s edgy cuts, intimate camera, and use of tricks ranging from irises to freeze-frames invigorated the cinema, bringing it close to an accessible, pertinent ideal. That his films are greater, in general, than Godard’s is just gravy. It’s François I think of when I think of La Nouvelle Vague, not Jean-Luc.

Do I consider Breathless a hallmark of world cinema? Of course. But I consider it a Truffaut film, anyway. Sans François, Godard’s films aren’t as good–and often veer on the irritating.

To be a “real” artist in any medium, one must excel in the field. That’s why I also prefer Alban Berg’s compositions to Arnold Schoenberg’s–despite the latter’s involvement in the development of 12-tone music. And I like Picasso’s art more than Braque’s, though they both had a hand in Cubism. The greater creator is the real one, the one whose works you’d rather absorb.

At least, that’s my reality. Is it everyone’s?

Ha. In my dreams.