Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Dying Art Of Vision

During this current break, a brief discussion regarding the subjective topic of modern film, the growing dearth of concentrated vision, and the preference of handheld point and shoot over actual shot composition. The talk essentially boiled down to the suggestion of a potential podcast making this growing phenomenon the primary focus. As to how this "Zero Vision" topic could ever truly carry entire episodes still eludes me, as it feels like a subject far more confined to being a mere singular discussion for the to-be-recorded roster. And it is perhaps a position I will always carry along with me since television and feature film have spent the last several years adopting a more economical, and almost factory-minded thrust. It has permeated so much of the visual landscape, that it seems that merely fine arts, comics, sequential art, and the like are the only places where a painterly eye can continue to have a home.

And why not? After all, in the days when camera size was overwhelming, and in turn, rigs were the only ideal way with which to utilize them, it felt far more imperative that your shots were cared for, and were a bastion of meticulousness for those well-produced enough to use them. So when digital tech came about, rendering the every person the power to create their own content, it became a less reductive science, and this was only bolstered further by way of emerging styles such as documentary filmmaking, music videos, POV work, and cinema verite, the less studied visual approach was something of an inevitability. And with the added availability of affordable technology, and reduced budgets, and increased demand for entertainment, cinematography, as well as photography in general was bound to be democratized to the most generalized level imaginable. More demand, meaning faster production schedules, and much less emphasis on selling a collective vision, led to an environment where consumers consciously, or unconsciously lost track of what made any piece of filmed/ video work memorable, and in turn, the creators cared even less. Which leads to a sometimes fractured perception of how to show as opposed to telling within the realm of stories.

The reason this has recently come to mind, and why this is a post within the Kaijyu blog as opposed to my more personal V.Zero blog, is that certain friends have asked me many times as to how one identifies something made with clarity of vision in mind, versus something obviously made for commercial/arbitrary purposes. And instead of merely opining about the obvious stunt-casting, mundane premises, and often petty advertising campaigns, it is suspect when the cinematography featured in many of the trailers for many a throwaway rom-com, or action pic, is seemingly more interested in selling the stars, rather than any manner of story or theme. Quick, dirty, but almost always absurdly well lit, and almost overtly composed for efficiency, and often with stylistic flourishes that imply boredom, rather than a painterly eye. Very often, shots for romantic comedies/dramas are shot with almost TV-movie stiffness, while action movies are often dim, and shadowy, complete with aggressive quick-cutting to avoid the audience's "this feels off" vibe that would soon overtake them. At the end of the day, the clues can be numerous, often fat too many to count, and possibly, it's the biggest tell to just listen to the dialogue being spouted. But imagery can tell a viewer so much about the film's creative spark, or lack thereof.

A good, recent example of this particularly careless approach to filmmaking can be seen in trailers for recent films such as Battleship, What To Expect, and perhaps even Rock Of Ages. Cross this manner of "cheap", in-theaters-one-week-and-out-the-other, multiplex missiles, combined with an environment where some viewers seen no distinction between large budget tentpole releases and microbudget indies filmed on home grade video equipment, perhaps this lack of care is the end result. So please, do not merely regard this post as something of an old guy, merely complaining about the "loss of cinematic vision" in movies. Even in the far flung past, there were some poorly planned and shot works made, but rather that now more than ever, is it important that filmmakers, photographers, and videographers remind themselves of the immediacy, and potential permanence of the images we share relies solely on actually having a passion for what comes through the lens. It's the one thing that the rest of us will appreciate, whether we voice about it, or not.

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