All entries for Tuesday 20 September 2005

September 20, 2005

I Hate Artsy–Fartsy

With days left before the new academic year begins, I shall now begin talking about the film I'm planning to do, and why I want it to be more Hollywood-style.

(Before you get turned off by that, just read on about what I mean by 'Hollywood-style'. It does not mean 'hyped-up movies with bombs and sex and cheesiness'.)

Titled The Lives Of Jeremy Wakeham, the story tells of a jaded university student who wakes up to different lives every day. He doesn't know why or how it happens, but as he slowly begins to accept his strange new existence, he finds himself slowly liberated from his jadedness – for a while.

I hope to go into the filmmaking business one day. The question is, if I do go in, what kind of movies would I be doing?

I love Hollywood movies. Grew up with them. I only really began to watch arthouse, independent and foreign movies when I came to the UK, partly because when I took over as Films and Admin Officer for the Student Cinema I made it a point to watch independent films and select them so that I could bring more diversity to the screening schedule.

At the end of the day, though, I always come back to Hollywood films. From what I observed, Brits generally don't respect Hollywood films – some may enjoy it, some may not; many think of it as trashy or popcorn. I think of Hollywood films as replenishment and adventure. Uplifting, positive films, or romantic comedies – they make our day and keep us happy and hopeful. On top of the world. Epics and historical films transport us to a time and place we will never reach. For a couple of hours, we get to experience how it is like to be in ancient Rome or Mogadishu in Oct 1993.

Europeans, I feel, have a tendency to watch films without that crucial suspension of disbelief. They look at plotholes. They analyse. They think that character should not have done that – suddenly whatever else is happening to the rest of the movie isn't paid attention to. Critics, wherever they are from, are very much like that. They always miss the point.

(This is what I think. Critics are a scourge. They should all be shot. In fact, Roger Ebert constantly misses the point.)

Instead, European films have a different culture to it. Most of the independent and arthouse films come from Europe. I rarely enjoy them. Most of the time I think, 'this is pretentious and boring'. Especially when they include 4 minute shots of a chair trying to make a point (and ultimately not making it at all), or some fancy editing style … In such films, the emphasis is with creating a film as art.

I don't think so. For me, the primary function of a film is to tell a story. Once your film IS a story, then you can sculpt out whatever artistic expression you like. But first and foremost the movie must tell a story. Zhang Yimou's Hero is a good example. Even though it was remembered for its use of colours and breathtaking scenes, when I saw the movie the thing that affected me most was its story.

Hence, I don't care about a movie being some artistic expression or whatever. I don't care. It bores the hell out of me.

Hollywood films generally tell stories. All the best directors of recent times like Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, Edward Zwick, James Cameron, Gore Verbinski and so on tell stories. Every decision made before, during and after production are made to make the film feel like one seamless piece of composition. If Ron Howard is being manipulative, he tries his best to hide it – his sincere purpose is to move you to tears, or allow you to share the joy with the characters. If Steven Spielberg uses special effects, his primary concern is to not have you think 'oh, what a cool special effect'. If Ed Zwick wants to tell an epic tale, he is preoccupied with making you FEEL the story, not watch it as a person outside the screen.

Also, the best films in Hollywood generally have a message, or themes, or social commentary. They don't trumpet it around by having the characters spell it out to the audience. But, more significantly, they don't bury it under layers and layers of symbolism so that it is not clear anymore.

I know this is long-winded … but it's my blog and I really want to get this all out coz I have endured enough of people saying Hollywood films suck all the time (not that some Hollywood films don't suck), that they would much rather watch 2046.

The Lives Of Jeremy Wakeham will be a completely British production with a mostly British cast and crew (I expect). Except for me doing an Ang Lee. (Ang Lee directed Sense and Sensibility, and even though he didn't speak much English at the time the film was very much British in its sentiments … yet there is a trace of difference from other English period dramas.)

What I mean by it being 'Hollywood-style' is that I will not be doing cinema verite here. I will not imbue it with meaningless symbolisms unless it reflects the characters or the themes. It will be a straight narrative – it will be a story, and one which hopefully entertains as well as provoking thoughts. And the ending will not be dark and twisted just for the sake of it.

More to be said later.

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