The Trouble With Cinema

Popular films tend to be rather accessible and highly escapist.  These films are designed this way, intended to be sold to an eager target audience.  There are cases when the filmmakers in this system of product and demand make the occasional film which is neither easily accessible now escapist.  But there are also filmmakers who create work and live predominantly outside the studio infrastructure.

Orson Welles has become a tremendously popular and talked about filmmaker in the passed twenty-five years.  Yet, audiences rarely see most of his films, and some of them (like Chimes At Midnight, 1966) aren’t even available in this country.  In contrast to Welles, there are the film artists who exist on the margins of popular cinema.  Filmmakers such as these are Mark Rappaport, Ron Rice, Peter Watkins, Boro Draskovic, Frank Perry, among many others.  These filmmakers represent a coming together of avant-garde and narrative film techniques, whose personal vision surpasses the desire to construct a more economically profitable form of cinema.

That the films created by these filmmakers never find mass distribution is therefore due to the fact that they simply are not marketable.  Yet, they could be.  Consider the argument I made last week about the decline in film literacy in this country.  If audiences were more in tune with various forms of filmic dialects, these films would not be marginalized.  Rather, audiences would be more willing to accept the more challenging or unconventional stimulation these films provide, and would even be able to understand them.  The state of affairs as it is now prevents the everyday moviegoers from ingesting anything less palatable or escapist than a Bergman or Fellini film.  Though these films are among some of the best, they do not represent the pinnacle or even the extent of film art in either experimental or narrative forms.

With technologies as diverse as online streaming and DVDs, marginalized films are slowly breaking into the mainstream conscious.  But the progress afforded by these technologies is limited to the audience utilizing them.  What is essential to the survival of these obscure films is initiative on the audience’s part.  The audience, who contributes so much to the cinema, must seek out these films and educate themselves so that they may comprehend and enjoy more diverse cinematic experiences.  By this late stage in the game it should be clear to any filmmaker that this initiative on the audience’s part is essential to the survival of cinema as we know it.

-Robert Curry

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