Archive for May 9, 2022

Pg. Seventeen IV: The Return of Michael Myers

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2022 by dcairns

Porter rummaged through the stock of Edison’s old films, searching for suitable scenes around which to build a story. He found quantities of pictures of fire department activities. Since fire departments had such a strong popular appeal, with their colour and action, Porter chose them as his subject. But he still needed some central idea or incident by which to organise the scenes of the fire department in action . . . Porter therefore concocted a scheme that was as startling as it was different : a mother and child were to be caught in a burning building and rescued at the last moment by the fire department.

Loading the camera is a simple operation, fully described in any instruction book.

When all this was arranged and we had heard mass, we commended ourselves to God and his blessed Mother, and began our voyage.

Here is a conversation with a child of four who was, in my view, on the way to literacy. He did not know letter shapes but he had a vocabulary big enough for him to understand verbal jokes, rare in four-year-olds. Television gave us a talking point.

His character moved me by its intensely dramatic quality, which I found far more convincing than those personalities which are revealed in the gradual process of human development, through situations of conflict and clashes of principle.

As against the dramatic actor, who has his character established from the first and simply exposes it to the inclemencies of the world and the tragedy, the epic actor lets his character grow before the spectator’s eyes out of the way in which he behaves . . . The actor Chaplin . . . would in many ways come closer to the epic than the dramatic theatre’s requirements. (Brecht, 1964a, p.56)

At first glance this aspect of our discussion may seem a far cry from the role of the camera as voyeur, the image with which I started and which seems to me so important in the evolution of the film medium. Motion pictures brought to the still photograph the only element, the reproduction of motion, that was lacking to simulate life itself. No matter how complicated an art (indeed, a fine art) the film may become, the elementary charm of witnessing life as it happened or may still be happening outstrips in closeness to reality, t life ‘as it is’, any other medium containing representations of the natural world. The visual image is more immediate in communicative terms than the word, either printed or spoken — and anyway, for some time now the film has also possessed the spoken word, absorbed it. As for the visual imagery of the stage, it exists within a literally confined space of which the spectator is always tacitly aware, no matter how many mobility devices are used to create a sense of spatial expansion. The stage cannot hope to achieve what the film achieves without effort: the illusion of being a window opened on the world itself. And not only does the world move; the window also moves in the world.

Seven passages from seven page seventeens from six books abandoned in my office at work and one found at home. I should note that the description of Edwin S. Porter’s methodology seems to me to be probably not quite accurate.

RIP Gavin Millar.

The Rise of the American Film by Lewis Jacobs, quoted in The Technique of Film Editing by Karel Reisz & Gavin Millar; How to Film: A Focal Cinebook by G. Wain; The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz; The Box in the Corner: Television and the Under-Fives by Gwen Dunn; Sculpting in Time by Andrei Tarkovsky; Bertholdt Brecht, quoted in The Brechtian Aspect of Radical Cinema, essays by Martin Walsh; Underground Film: A Critical History by Parker Tyler.