Monday, April 4, 2011


It's a little predictable for a Melbourne film geek that I always fall back on the 'new wave/nouvelle vague/cinema novo' periods of cinema reinvention in the 60s. Mostly out of a subterranean sense of embarrassment, I often question why. All I can come up with is the idea that intertwined with the various national cinema waves of experimentation that took over cinema in the late 50s and 60s was a complete love for and belief in the transformative power of cinema as an art form and not as a medium of commerce. Many of the defining films of that time seem to just revel in what was possible through cinema. So, if you're an idealist - and I am and getting worse - then these films remain perfect touchstones, devoid of the creative cynicism and commercial manipulation that defines films of the recent decades. When they're cool, they're cool as hell. When they're sentimental, their heart is pinned on their sleeve. When they're intelligent, they show off the footnotes to their philosophical references. And when they're inviting, they use every trick to lure you into a state of rapture. In this way, they are inspiring because the filmmakers seem to love what they are doing and assume that, if they love it, you'll love it, too. Which mostly, we do.

A few days back, after one of these touchstone urges - which usually go hand in hand with a period of working on an unmade project and wondering why the fuck we even get involved in this madness - I rewatched Agnes Varda's 'Cleo from 5 to 7' and it seems from the first images that each sequence in the film wants to charm and seduce and be playful and show you something new and possible. It wants to glory in the simple pleasure of cinema. It seems effortless. And to, do all this while also incrementally moving to a rich emotional depth is pretty startling. It seems so much more modern than 9 of 10 of the films made in the last few years.

Take this credit sequence. Seriously. 1962.

Where has that energy, inventiveness and celebration gone? It's gone into the safety and security of aligning images and stories with advertising and promotion and 'jobs' and 'content' and guaranteed audiences and investor caution. Filmmakers these days don't live in film, they live in those 'jobs' and in that 'content', in being sensible and safe, while waiting for the films to drop from the sky. I'm guilty. We're all guilty except for a blazing few who keep the film world as honest as it will ever be in these dark days. The dumb, beautiful belief in film should be an obsession that demands dedication and it's a relentless, driving thing to try and keep that alive and always on call.

So, this is what I have learned from being a film geek trapped in the past.

1. Make a film that you know you yourself will LOVE like crazy.
2. Make films with swagger.
3. Mess with heads, with expectations, with hearts, with desire.
4. Make smart films.
5. Be playful at all times. The energy and joy will seep from the seams.
6. Make films with anger and desire and an urge for freedom.
7. Make films that are like a gift to someone you love.
8. Make films that are about what we all know. Sex, love, work, family, petty crime and conflict, fear of death, fear of life.
9. Make films that feel like a dream.
10. Make films that pull at us like the songs we love, the pictures we return to, the books we hold closest to our hearts; films that have concealed inside of them love, death and desire, fear, bravado and stupidity, the messiness and beauty of life, the madness of the world outside our doors and the strangeness of the world inside our doors.

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