I had a long conversation yesterday with a former professor of mine. I had originally engaged him in conversation about a programming venture in which I am involved, but the topic gradually changed. Soon we were discussing the use of narrative structure in student film and the problems in teaching such techniques to students so that there is still room for innovation. This is the portion of the discussion I think would be helpful to repeat in a public forum.
Essentially we agreed that the rules and mechanics of narrative film construction are essential to understanding film as an art, but also in allowing the filmmaker to disassemble the same mechanics to reinvent or alter the cinematic dialogue. However, we have found that many students shy away from non-linear narrative construction and will often mislabel such films as experimental or even worse, confusing. However, my former professor pointed out something, which he alone out of the two of us is able to observe. He has said that such tendencies in a class are wholly generational and that one cannot dismiss film as an art because one generation chooses not to disrupt the status quo. Taking that in (of course he’s right), I began to imagine the cinema and how it would be if no one challenged its narrative conventions. If there had never been an Alain Resnais, Jean-Marie Straub, Sergei Eisenstein or Orson Welles; what would the landscape of cinema consist of?
On our “About” page on this website is a quote by Jonas Mekas which I often read when I think the cinema or even myself may be, artistically speaking, in trouble. I hope you’ll forgive me if I post it here again, just in case.
“Every breaking away from the conventional, dead, official cinema is a healthy sign. We need less perfect but more free films. If only our young filmmakers-I have no hopes for the old generation-would really break loose, completely loose, out of themselves, wildly, anarchically! There is no other way to break the frozen cinematic conventions than through a complete derangement of the official cinematic senses.”-Jonas Mekas
First published as Call For A Derangement Of Cinematic Senses on February 4th, 1959 in The Village Voice.