Aptly titled page.

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The following is a response to the Remodernist Film Manifesto that Jesse Richards wrote up. You can see the manifesto here. Jesse never replied.

I am an amateur filmmaker, and longtime amateur philosophy debater, and I’ve been thinking about this manifesto for the last couple days in my spare time, re-reading it occasionally. I really like it, and feel like I largely ascribe to it already, with a few caveats.

But I feel like you have made some fundamental errors, which I wasn’t able to place until giving it quite some thought. Here’s my stab at communicating some of these thoughts:

“For the most part, the creative possibilities of cinema have been squandered. Cinema is not a painting, a novel, a play, or a still photograph. The rules and methods used to create cinema should not be tied to these other creative endeavors. Cinema should NOT be thought of as being “all about telling a story”. Story is a convention of writing, and should not necessarily be considered a convention of filmmaking.“

You have failed most crucially here; everything else below is footnotes to this flaw.

All forms of art seek to express humanity, and the concept of narrative is central to humanity itself. Film most often resembles writing not because it erroneously and naively aspires to copy writing as a form, but because both seek to express the authorship of humanity. Film resembles photography because the same human eye aims both lenses looking for the same kind of beauty. You are right that film is not a play; this is the difference between the heavy handed acting, for example, present in early cinema, that has slowly been discarded as the potential of film has been realized. You are right that film is not a novel; we now see films that are based on scripts which were written as a novel, and know something feels wrong. Movies are now done differently, as the collective understanding of what film was grew.

But narrative is still there. Narrative can also be abandoned–but it has also been abandoned before in plays, in novels, paintings and pictures. They are all seeking to express humanity, and they are all seeking to break the same cliches and limitations. I fully support exploring the full potential of cinema, but if you want a spirituality in film, do not try and divorce it from its human roots thinking that you are purifying it from preconceived notions of other arts–the spirituality of film will be a kindred spirit to the spirituality of other arts, since they are of the same hands and mind.

With that, I continue.

“. The Japanese idea of wabi-sabi… has the ability to show the truth of existence, and should always be considered when making the remodernist film.“

“An artificial sense of “perfection” should never be imposed on a remodernist film. Flaws should be accepted and even encouraged. To that end, a remodernist filmmaker should consider the use of film, and particularly film like Super-8mm and 16mm because these mediums entail more of a risk and a requirement to leave things up to chance, as opposed to digital video. Digital video is for people who are afraid of, and unwilling to make mistakes.** Video leads to a boring and sterile cinema. Mistakes and failures make your work honest and human.***“

I do feel like you captured something crucial in your reflection on the notion of wabi-sabi, but I also personally feel a strong disagreement with the notion of ‘encouraging’ mistakes *in general*, (though in specific pieces it could be used to make a point). I think you have exchanged one distortion of human expression for the opposite; to remove all trace of imperfection, as we are empowered (to some extent) to do in digital mediums, removes the human fingerprint that imperfection brings. There is some truth to that. It’s why we prefer a human voice to a digitized one. It’s why we would find hand painted calligraphy more beautiful than the same done in vector graphics.

To encourage mistakes, however, is to do something entirely different from not being afraid to make mistakes–and this difference of wording is crucial. A previous response duly pointed out that the acceptance of the imperfection of humanity comes hand in hand with the constant attempt at perfection–to fail to acknowledge this pursuit of perfection is to dearly miss the mark in reference to Japanese philosophy. (I will continue talking about this issue below.)

“Film, particularly Super-8mm film, has a rawness, and an ability to capture the poetic essence of life, that video has never been able to accomplish.*** “

You have glorified Super8mm and film without explaining what characteristics make them admirable; we are left asking why Super8 is a superior medium. What makes it better? Only then can the truth of this statement be clearly debated. Until then, it is a subjective statement (or bizarre, arbitrary value statement) that is unfalsifiable. If we are to take a hint from the context of your statement, and say that it is because of the inherent flaws, intuition required to use, and it being prone to imperfections… Then we can begin dialogue.

As it is, I would posit that the more control an artist has over his medium, the more creative power is given to him to express whatever it is he is trying to express. This is why hand painted calligraphy is preferred to a digital replica; it is not, however, in my eyes, a reasonable reason to cling to analog film over digital.

“The remodernist film is always subjective and never aspires to be objective.“

I believe there is a difference between aspiring to be objective, and pretending to be objective–and I think you should allow the former and instead criticize the latter. I always aspire to be objective, though I constantly doubt that I have arrived. To seek to be objective is to seek to be honest; if you start stating that there is no such honesty found within objectivity, then you have strayed right back into the post-modernism you are attempting to reject and replace.

“The remodernist filmmaker must always have the courage to fail, even hoping to fail, and to find the honesty, beauty and humanity in failure.“

Courage to fail is admirable; hoping to fail is a dishonest coping mechanism to prevent the pain of failure. Perhaps embracing failure would be wisdom… Seeking failure, however, is foolishness.

“The remodernist filmmaker should never expect to be thanked or congratulated. Instead, insults and criticism should be welcomed. You must be willing to go ignored and overlooked.“

Congratulations and criticism best go hand in hand; either without the other is partially dishonest. To flatter or tear down are both to lie. On the other hand, to seek approval and congratulations is inherently human, natural, and not to be despised. Those who do despise such desires have not yet found the maturity of humility; stoicism is a lie.

These last two points that I have responded to sounded like an immature artist’s running away from some issues that need to be come to terms with. (This sounds harsh, judgmental perhaps. I don’t mean it so, but even if it does sound this way, we are given permission to mock and insult at will in the manifesto–here I just choose to openly question and disagree.)

“Art manifestos, despite the good intentions of the writer should always “be taken with a grain of salt” as the cliché goes, because they are subject to the ego, pretensions, and plain old ignorance and stupidity of their authors. This goes all the way back to the Die Brücke manifesto of 1906, and continues through time to this one that you’re reading now. A healthy wariness of manifestos is understood and encouraged. However, the ideas put forth here are meant sincerely and with the hope of bringing inspiration and change to others, as well as to myself.“

This entire response has been criticism; I hope you will forgive me for not equally thoroughly going over every point to be complimented, because there is much beauty and truth in this manifesto as well. However, all of the positive points have been acknowledged and praised a thousand times by many others–I feel some of my criticisms are unique, and thus more meriting your reading time. Suffice, however, a sincere congratulations on the success of this manifesto until present. 🙂

All the best.
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The Producers: Are Pictures Detaching Us From Life?

Interesting things I noted from the comments:

I’m reminded of all the many public demonstrations I’ve witnessed where the participants were few, but the ‘producers’ were many (although some also took on dual roles). Only when one is very intimately or passionately connected to an event do they simultaneously participate and produce with equal vigor. …We have to consider individual motivation and desire factors in different situations. I tend to see the degree of ‘detachment’ as situational, rather than due to the ubiquity of digital photo technology only.

Despite the article’s point I often experience the reverse: simply carrying my camera helps me see and experience my environment more fully. I take more interest in examining it for detail and artistic composition. I don’t necessarily have to take the picture, but I certainly notice a lot more than when the camera stays at home.

I agree with this article, even as an amateur photographer and someone who has a photography based blog, etc. etc. Sometimes you really do have to put down the camera and just EXPERIENCE.

I think this is what separates the “point and shooters” from real photographers. A real photographer has to be completely attached to a moment in order to attempt to truly represent its beauty by making an image that will last beyond the moment itself. Detaching yourself removes the ability to anticipate. Beyond the photographs I have taken I have truly vivid memories of every event I have ever photographed. The pictures on my wall are gateways to brightly colored vacations and stark black and white feelings. If you’re looking at a photo and you don’t feel something like this… you’re doing it wrong.

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Some random movies:
Down by Law
Soy Cuba
Stranger than Paradise

Interesting topics:
Remodernism
Experimental Film
World Film
History of Film
Brackhage
Yuri Landman
Peter Tscherkassky
Found Footage
Dogme 95