Thursday, November 11, 2010

a few comments inspired by something i watched

A quick note: the possibilities I mention below probably aren't really in the video as much as they exist in my mind, but the video gives some idea.

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While watching the video Living in the End Times According to Slavoj Zizek (see below), all I could think about was the possibility of a new kind of cinema-spectacle, one that combines theater, lecture, and live performance with images, text and sound, and which takes place within a dome (or arena) of screens. Or, if not a new kind of cinema, at least a new kind of lecture: interactive, on-the-spot, organic performance essays(?). Such a thing could be filmed in various ways, and, when finished, would exist mostly as something static even though it would be created more organically. (This, along with the abundant use of technology, would differentiate it sufficiently from something like The Living Theatre.)

When the video began and I saw all the screens on stage after reading the premise, I got excited because it -- or what I thought "it" was going to be -- seemed like something Žižek was made for. Standing in a center ring surrounded by screens, I pictured him frenetically jabbing and punching his way through and around a barrage of images while coating the stage with his patented saliva. Since he has the unique ability to speak unendingly (and often humorously, if not insightfully) about practically anything, and because he possesses a great breadth of cultural and political knowledge, Žižek is the perfect candidate for such an endeavor. (He's always reminded me of one of those pull-string dolls, only in his case the string flies into the doll at five times the speed and stretches all the way to Pluto. One needs a pair of scissors to debate him properly.)

If something truly spontaneous, collaborative, and organic was to be made using a similar format, the person controlling the images/screens and sounds would also have to be a quick thinking genius, a visual DJ of sorts spinning and combining things left and right at a moments notice, playing off the reactions and commentary of the "performer" (lecturer, improviser, participant, actor, protagonist, audience) with a near limitless collection of easy to find clips (or entire films from which to select scenes from), text, and audio. A kind of "freestyle filmmaking." (I imagine some things would have to be planned, or at least have some sort of framework in order to ensure that the result wouldn't be a rapid, flashy, nearly nonsensical mess of images, sound, and commentary.)

I wish there was more free association and less direct questioning in the actual video, as well as a better use of the multiple screens and images. Overall it's more standard than the things that rushed through my mind at various moments while I watched (and which I tried to give some impression of above). Most of it, at its core, is unfortunately little more than someone responding to pre-recorded questions and comments.

If 50 minutes is too long, jump around a bit. (And, as is often the case, see the comments section for more.)


Hectocotylus said...

Adam Curtis would make for a great "visual-DJ", as well as on-stage participant... The experimental yearly history series he has started working on is certainly in this vein. (From what I gather, his production of It Felt Like a Kiss was quite different from what I'm suggesting, though it certainly sounded unique in its own way. Of course it's hard to envision based solely on descriptions.) Jean-Luc Godard would also make for a good DJ.

I also got excited by the video because I was picturing living in a country where such a spectacle would be talked about and looked forward to on Monday nights instead of football. Since we already spend millions upon millions to build stadiums for various sports, why not build a giant, state of the art, experimental debate room/lecture hall/film studio/theater? People will watch anything if it's aggressively marketed.

Whether we think the ideas and analysis expressed by Zizek and other such people is right or wrong, it would be nice if they were promoted and became our newest sports stars, admired for their knowledge, intellect, and for the fact that they recognize the importance of trying to tackle the biggest questions. Such a vocation certainly takes more guts and bravado than being crushed between two three-hundred and fifty pound linebackers, to say nothing of its importance. There's your commercial.

Hectocotylus said...

Perhaps some of the images (feeds) could also be live, unexpectedly responding back from time to time.

I remember an experiment called Freedogme, a documentary of sorts that can be found on the DVD of Lars von Trier's (worst film?) EPIDEMIC (1987). It features Lone Scherfig (Dogme # 12: Italian for Beginners), Jean-Marc Barr (Dogme # 5: Lovers), Lars von Trier, and Wim Wenders. (Harmony Korine was supposed to take part but canceled at the last minute.) Basically the four filmmakers are hooked up in real time with microphones (only audio) and each given two cameras with which they can film whatever they want. The whole session is moderated by a Swedish film critic who can hear/speak to everyone. They all interact to a degree but also do their own thing. Von Trier, for example, ends up canoeing on his lake, something the moderator realizes after splashing water and chirping birds can be heard on the soundtrack. The film is not as interesting as one might imagine but it gives a tiny glimpse into von Trier's and Wenders lives (which I enjoyed), and it's interesting as well for some of von Trier's questions and comments to Wim, whose early films von Trier admires very much (as do I). To my point: it seems like the idea behind this (or some variation of it) -- hooking different people up through audio and giving them cameras (minus the moderator) -- could be used in a way that might produce a meaningful feature film.

Something else I've never seen done before is an exquisite corpse film. Not like Weerasethakul's MYSTERIOUS OBJECT AT NOON where the participants add to the story, but one in which someone sets up a scene and characters, films it for 15 minutes or so, and then another person comes in and tries to make sense of what they see, creating another 15 minute film, etc., until you have 60 or 90 minutes.

I know there's a film called CHAIN CAMERA where a camera is passed around various high school students who can then film whatever they want. (I believe they also get to choose who they hand it off to but I'm not sure as I've not seen it.) This is perhaps a more pure exquisite corpse, though, because there is no true overlap in film, it's really more of a collage film. Still, an interesting idea.

Tyler said...

Trailer for "Antonioni Project"