The last episodes of the 15-part of THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY (2011), filmmaker and narrator Mark Cousins continues to explore the constancy of change in cinema as it moves from celluloid to the digital era. Throughout the 1990s and onward, authenticity and artifice weave in and out of the picture as directors all over the world explore, question, and reference the realm of possibilities.
During this time, film becomes more “real” with expanded use of documentary style demonstrated in Iranian films like LIFE, AND NOTHING MORE (1992) by Abbas Kiarostami and the handheld roughness of BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Paradoxically, directors are exploring the “unreal” with movies such as the jaw-dropping HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (2004) by Yimou Zhang, horror film RINGU (1998) by Hideo Nakata; and the “mash-up” music video style of MOULIN ROUGE (2001) by Baz Luhrmann.
Of course, as time moves on, computer-generated graphics create spectacle of the kind created in GLADIATOR (2000) and AVATAR (2009) to the point that films start feeling like video games. (The utter disdain with which Cousins spits out the words “hobbits and avatars” is highly entertaining, by the way.)
On the other end of the spectrum are directors like Van Trier, Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers who erase boundaries and artifice to create films that strive to be more real — and less real — at the same time.
Like the adage goes, “Nothing is constant but change.” And film is no different. Technology will continue to influence the realm of possibilities. More corporate marketing (and perhaps less of culture) will continue to influence what’s seen on the silver screen. And directors will continue to strive to deliver their individual visions.
One of the most compelling clips in this part of STORY is the side-by-side comparison the shower scene in Hitchcock’s PSYCHO and Van Sant’s 1998 version. Like an ongoing conversation with the past, film will continue to quote film.
THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY (2011) is a 15-part, 15-hour documentary exploring the convergence of technology, business, intelligence, and vision that has created the remarkable and powerful art of cinema. Music Box Films is distributing this new documentary, and Chicago’s Music Box Theater has just completed a multi-week screening of this ambitious effort. The DVD has been released. You will want to add it to your collection.