Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The French New Wave & the Language of the Cinema

As a student in filmmaking I had some contempt for older filmmakers. The arrogance of youth prevented me from appreciating artists that had come first. It was only in my second year in college that I discovered the French New Wave, and I feel in love. I began devouring all things that covered that period, which also lead me to learning other American directors such as Ford, Hawks, and Chaplin. The history of cinema is not that old, but yet all that we do toady is based on things that other filmmakers did. Such filmmakers as Keaton, Chaplin, Eisenstein, and Griffith were pioneers in filmmaking. They discovered the language of the cinema. What is this language of cinema you ask? Well like any other subject filmmaking has rules that seem to have been grounded in the narrative. The way we tell a story can be done in several ways, and in the cinema different shots, and angles can be used to convey a different emotions. The early filmmakers found out this by trial and error. After all Edison was the inventor of the cinema, but no one talks about Edison as a pioneer in filmmaking. It seems Edison was just it's father and such filmmakers as Chaplin, Keaton, Griffith and Eisenstein were his children that played with the medium of the cinema and gave it its voice. I always seemed to have had contempt for cinema language classes as a young turk, but as I grew older I learned that a lot of what was taught in cinema language was the foundation of filmmaking as we know it today. After all one must know why a certain trick, or device works, and where it came from before one can use it in his film. We talked about Hichcock, Chaplin, Eisenstein, and a host of others and slowly an appreciation began to develop which still holds firmly today. Sure the film industry is a business, and I've worked on a number of projects to know that, but it is also MORE then just a business. A lot of that is lost in today's films, and audiences seem to see film as huge spectacles and an art form last. The proliferation of media in the past few years have flooded the market of products of various quality. The audience has become jaded, and it seems as though filmmaking has been rendered as just product. Occasionally a film enters the market that reminds us that film or cinema is an art form, and that good storytelling is usually done with quality. No matter what type of gimmicks studio's come up with to market their film it is the filmmaker who decides how to tell that story that makes the film a classic or not. The filmmaker who knows his or her history will invariable create a better product then one who does not.

So you see that studying films has it's advantages. With me the French New Wave struck a cord, and it shook me to the core. I discovered a whole new world in cinema, and my world opened up. I still am learning to this day, and I never dismiss the past. The language of the cinema is one that I hold very dear. I seem to always be the student of cinema, and it's helped me in my filmmaking career. Unfortunately there is more hype then scholarly discussion about film. I just hope that I can continue to use that knowledge about the cinema and apply it to my own films.

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