Author Topic: A Bloody Mess  (Read 10615 times)

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Re: A Bloody Mess
« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2009, 03:26:44 PM »
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I've ignored, delayed and even be reluctant to respond to Children's last reply, but I'll make a quick comment that deals with the major strand running throughout each of his responces. While I dont expect a reply because I really don't deserve one considering I've stopped this discussion, I'll still post but also admit that there is a major difference of thought in film between Children and I. To say it mildly.

I don't believe in collapsing form and content and making it one. While you may see all the technical choices in There Will Be Blood as a process of choices that fit into one category of artistic expression, I believe you do films a disservice when you think all of its different parts as one and the same. Film is a luxurious art that has lots of layers and combine aesthetics of numerous arts so I just can't understand why anyone would want to minimize those aspects to say everything is speaking to content. Other arts that have numerous influences (like film) specifically want to highlight all the different particles running into and see how the different divisions work out. Thus form and content should be separate and continually contrasted against each other or compared to see how they are similar. But it should not be an assumption that they work one way or another. I can see collapsing form and content together in painting because that art is more within itself and not drawing on the influence of other arts as much, but in film, you always deal with levels and schisms because there are so many strands working at once. But I will admit that some films are intentionally simplistic enough where they do ask for form and content to be married into being, but I don't believe There Will Be Blood is one example.

children with angels

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Re: A Bloody Mess
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2009, 09:12:31 PM »
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This is confusing: from this it doesn’t look like you’ve understood my argument, plus your own comments seem to contradict themselves, and in the process appear to prove my main point…

You say that

it should not be an assumption that they [form and content] work one way or another.

My position isn’t that we SHOULD combine ‘form’ and ‘content’, but rather that they simply ARE always combined, whether we like it or not, and that to separate them is thus to make a false distinction.

How exactly, in a film, do we have access to ‘content’ other than through ‘form’? That is to say: how exactly do we see what is going on in a scene other than through how that scene has been filmed? We could potentially read the script, but then we’re not talking about a film – we’re talking about the script for a film. A film is only a film because it has been filmed. This means that anything we might want to call ‘content’ is only available to us through, and is thus for the viewer a product of, ‘form’.

We can’t know who a character in a film is, what an action in a film is, or what themes are at play in a film (all things you might call ‘content’) other than via they way they have been related to us by the ways in which that film has been made – i.e.: its ‘form’. To consider them as inseparable therefore isn’t just a good idea – it is completely unavoidable. To attempt to separate them is to make a distinction that is simply not in operation – and not, in fact, possible – in the film itself. When you talk about a film’s ‘content’ what you are actually talking about is something that can only have been communicated to you by ‘form’. This means that your views on this ‘content’ are – whether you admit it or not – created by the ‘form’ in which you have experienced them. This simply cannot be got around.

This is precisely because film is such a mongrel artform. As you say:

Film is a luxurious art that has lots of layers and combine aesthetics of numerous arts

The key word here is COMBINE. These different layers are always, because of the nature of film, combined. The most sensitive and accurate account of a film will therefore also need to view it in this way: as a combination of elements that cannot help but all interact one with the other simultaneously.

You go on to say:

in film, you always deal with levels and schisms because there are so many strands working at once

They key point here is that these strands are WORKING AT ONCE. We may well deal with ‘levels’ and ‘schisms’, but a proper appreciation of them will not come from looking at ‘form’ and ‘content’ in isolation – because such a task is impossible: ‘content’ can’t be perceived/created other than through ‘form’, and ‘form’ cannot help but represent/create ‘content’ (the only possible exception might be purely abstract film like, say, Brakhage).

You say that:

Thus form and content should be separate and continually contrasted against each other or compared to see how they are similar.

But where is this ‘content’ that you have managed to experience outside the realm of ‘form’? And where is this ‘form’ that has managed to escape expressing ‘content’?

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Gold Trumpet

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Re: A Bloody Mess
« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2009, 11:18:42 PM »
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I still refuse the notion to combine all the elements together. I'm appreciative that you say there are layers in your combining of the aesthetic elements (which allows for analysis of a film on different levels) and I'm willing to say that making the discussion about "content" and "form" is probably too simplistic because they are sometimes inter-married in different ways, but I think combining the elements together still misses the greater objective of a film.

In terms of There Will Be Blood, I don't see the formal connection between the form and content that they become one and the other. You seem to say both speak to the other. I may agree that the film tries to make the style speak for the story, but I don't think it's successful in what I was criticizing. When you think of visual structures, you think of films where the style and filmmaking approach dictates how the story is handled. The themes in a film like Dark City could not be fully expressed unless it had that filmmaking where the camera continually motioned in circles and had chaotic editing. The film wrapped the story around its style, but in There Will Be Blood, I believe the style is more of a tone setter than anything. It has connections to the story and its themes, but I believe the style more supports the story than anchor it one way or another. It attaches a level of realism to the story, but it doesn't fully dictate the way we see the story like how we do in a Dark City. If you believe there are levels to form and content being combined, then I believe there are levels to its prominence. You're right on a technicality that both speak for each other, but it's not in such a protruding fashion. The important thing about discussing the themes of There Will be Blood is to separate the story from the filmmaking because as I pointed out before, the story draws on so many historical understandings of bloodlines and religious identity. You have to talk about things other than the style to go in depth about what it is and if it even matters. There are themes in There Will Be Blood that do fall into discussion of the style, but there are themes that fall into discussion outside of it.

In some ways I may be bending previous statements, but I do allow comments and criticisms from others to help me formulate my positions, but while you believe that the existence of a film is dictated after all the different elements have been combined, I say that may be technically correct, but I think to hold that truth as an inherent truth for all films is to just collapse all the elements and I don't think that's good. Each film is a different entity and needs to be approached from different discussion points. Sometimes that does mean separating discussion of the style and content. In There Will Be Blood's case for its problems (as I saw them), I think so.


Stefen

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Re: A Bloody Mess
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2009, 11:26:33 PM »
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This title cracks me up.
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children with angels

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Re: A Bloody Mess
« Reply #19 on: December 17, 2009, 08:51:11 AM »
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I'm willing to say that making the discussion about "content" and "form" is probably too simplistic because they are sometimes inter-married in different ways

I'm saying that they are ALWAYS inter-married - cannot help but be.

you believe that the existence of a film is dictated after all the different elements have been combined, I say that may be technically correct, but I think to hold that truth as an inherent truth for all films is to just collapse all the elements and I don't think that's good.

But I'm afraid it just IS an inherent truth for all films! As you say, it is "technically correct".

I think I've laid out my points as clearly as I can, and I don't want to get back into a discussion about There Will Be Blood in particular because I've already made my case for it in detail both in my initial essay and in my earlier posts in this thread.

My basic point is this: if you aren't willing to follow through the implications of the "technically correct" fact that a film consists - and CAN ONLY consist - of all its elements combined, then you aren't able to discuss what makes a film a film, and thus what makes it good as a film.
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Re: A Bloody Mess
« Reply #20 on: December 17, 2009, 12:43:06 PM »
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My basic point is this: if you aren't willing to follow through the implications of the "technically correct" fact that a film consists - and CAN ONLY consist - of all its elements combined, then you aren't able to discuss what makes a film a film, and thus what makes it good as a film.

And I guess I can say the same toward you. Considering I have read numerous essays that are about films but steer the conversation away from having to include commentary on all its technical features, then I think you also miss the point of what makes a film a film. Literature is a sophisticated art not because commentary always need to fall back on having to include technical details like style and grammar, but because literature can inspire discussion to sometimes go beyond it. I think film needs to aspire to that sort of gravity. Nothing wrong with talking about style and its importance, but it's still collapsing the elements together by trying to force feed discussion on them all the time.

children with angels

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Re: A Bloody Mess
« Reply #21 on: December 17, 2009, 04:23:26 PM »
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Considering I have read numerous essays that are about films but steer the conversation away from having to include commentary on all its technical features, then I think you also miss the point of what makes a film a film.

This doesn't make any sense. The fact that there are many, many, many essays out there like this proves nothing about "what makes a film a film" - in fact, it merely proves that, unfortunately, what makes film unique is very often ignored.

Literature is a sophisticated art not because commentary always need to fall back on having to include technical details like style and grammar, but because literature can inspire discussion to sometimes go beyond it. I think film needs to aspire to that sort of gravity.

And of course film too CAN be talked about without reference to "technical details" (a phrase that doesn't begin to cover everything I'm talking about - i.e.: the entire film as we have it) - whether it should is another matter. I would be the absolute last person to suggest that we don't need to talk about the (say) political or philosophical meanings of movies, and i haven't suggested anything of the kind. However, I would point out, again, that we have no access to these meanings without the 'form' of the film, and our response to them is thus dictated BY this 'form'; this, in turn, means that the most correct and sensitive account OF these meanings would need to discuss how they were communicated to us cinematically.

The main reason I have been pushing this point here, however, is that especially if we want to EVALUATE a film (which is where this discussion grew from - you saying TWBB was bad), then we need to evaluate it AS A FILM. This necessarily involves differentiating it from any other mediums that also happen to convey meanings and messages.

To use your analogy: literature IS a sophisticated art form, but it is most definitely not sophisticated because it can "inspire discussion", since ANYTHING (not even only artforms) can inspire discussion, so what is particularly special about literature being able to do so? A piece of literature has the capacity to be sophisticated precisely because of what makes it LITERATURE, rather than an essay, or a pamphlet, or a movie. In order to convince someone of the greatness of a novel we would need to convince them of more than the fact that it brings up (say) weighty philosophical concepts, because otherwise they might as well read a book of philosophy, which would likely convey these concepts in a much more direct and in-depth manner. No - to convince someone a novel is great, we need to argue that it is great because of what it does AS A NOVEL. The same is true of film.

I know you often want to bypass 'form' because it allows you to talk about issues emerging from 'content', which you regard as having more (as you put it) "gravity". But if you really just want to talk about, say, philosophy, or politics, or history, or psychology, then you should study one of those subjects. If you want to talk about film, then you need to be constantly alive to what makes this medium unique.
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