by Pauline Kael.
(This piece originally appeared at The New Republic on September 24, 1966.)
The basic ideas among young American film-makers are simple: the big movies we grew up on are either corrupt, obsolete or dead, or are beyond our reach (we can’t get a chance to make Hollywood films)—so we’ll make films of our own, cheap films that we can make in our own way. For some, this is an attempt to break into the “industry”; for others it is a different approach to movies, a view of movies not as popular art or as a mass medium but as an art form to be explored.
Much of the movie style of young American film-makers may be explained as a reaction against the banality and luxuriant wastefulness which are so often called the superior “craftsmanship” of Hollywood. In reaction, the young become movie brutalists.
They, and many in their audiences, may prefer the rough messiness—the uneven lighting, awkward editing, flat camera work, the undramatic succession of scenes, unexplained actions, and confusion about what, if anything, is going on—because it makes their movies seem so different from Hollywood movies. This inexpensive, inexperienced, untrained look serves as a kind of testimonial to sincerity, poverty, even purity of intentions. It is like the sackcloth of true believers which they wear in moral revulsion against the rich in their fancy garments.
The look of poverty is not necessarily a necessity. I once had the experience, as chairman of the jury at an experimental film festival, of getting on the stage in the black silk dress I had carefully mended and ironed for the occasion, to present the check to the prizewinner who came forward in patched, faded dungarees. He got an ovation, of course. I had seen him the night before in a good dark suit, but now he had dressed for his role (deserving artist) as I had dressed for mine (distinguished critic).
Read the rest of this article from New Republic.
Sign up now for your own FREE monthly subscription to “The Director’s Chair” filmmaking ezine and get the first 41 pages of my 261 page Film Directing Multi-Media Online course, “The Art and Craft of the Director Audio Seminar.”