In this episode, Tyler and David are joined by Matthias Stork to discuss Chaos Cinema.
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This is an astonishingly good episode. I haven’t had to think this hard about film in a long time. I would be really interested to hear what Matthias thinks about 3D and how it intensifies the problems with chaos cinema.
What I respond to in cinema is the idea of a consciousness that I can as a member of the audience adopt. Hypothetically, if this is the goal, each cut becomes an obstacle to that ideal. This is magnified under 3D’s synthetic physicality of the diagetic space. I noticed this problem when I went to see “Hugo.” While most audience members have come to expect the splintering of the enunciator in films, I believe it cannot be sustained under the 3D aesthetic.
One last thing, I would disagree with the assertion that Chaos cinema is inherently bad in musicals. I would use the example of the vastly underrated “Evita” as a musical that makes use of the chaos cinema in a unique and creative way. By splintering the enunciator it decentralizes our engagement in an almost Brechtian alienation device. Go back and watch that film and I think you’ll be surprised how well that film holds up.
Thanks, Patrick! I also found the episode to be a extraordinarily engaging discussion. And maybe I’ll watch Evita now.
Thank you very much Patrick. Your comments are much appreciated. I have seen EVITA. And even though I do not harbor any affinity for Madonna as an actress, I think Alan Parker’s explosive direction is extraordinary.
Hey could you explain what an enunciator is. I’m intrested with what your saying I’m just ignorant of what that is. Thanks Patrick. Hey and I love the show guys keep it up.
Even if I still largely disagree with the gist of the argument, I still know great criticism when I hear it. You guys thoroughly investigated the topic, and revealed some nooks and crannies of the genre previously left a little ignored (the discussion about how character is defined in action films was especially astute). Really great episode, guys, and thanks for the shouts out.
I agree, this was a phenomenal episode. I think the discussion of chaos cinema was limited to action movies, where it clearly holds most sway, but I think it’s found everywhere. TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, for instance, adhere to at least some of the hallmarks of this kind of filmmaking, and the handheld style has proliferated recently to the point of ridiculousness. I remember one moment in State of Play where a very high angle looking down on the characters in conversation was used, and I realized it was being done hand held, which really pissed me off, as it was clearly just lazy use of an aesthetic without having it serve your purposes in the film.
The film I kept thinking back to as a stellar example of chaos filmmaking, though, was Fernando Meirelles’ City of God. I just rewatched that recently, and it’s absolutely a film that throws you right in the middle of the city and its life, and immediately immerses you into that life, totally. The use of chaos cinema makes it feel real and feel like a city. It’s quite amazing.
Another thing that was glancingly discussed was the issue of dubbing movies, watching them across cultures. Tyler talked about how film, like math, transcends cultural barriers, and he’s right, though the use of dialogue in films has limited the essential power of the image. Matthias, I’m wondering how you, as a German film student, look at this. Do you feel you appreciate American cinema on a better level since you are fluent in English? Do I lose something when I watch a German film, like a work from Fassbinder, with subtitles, assuming the translation is worthwhile? Of course, one can’t learn every language cinema is made in, but it’s an interesting question to ask.
Dayne, thank you for your comment. In my experience, a dubbed film is an adulterated film. Emotion, wit, atmosphere gets lost in translation. There are of course wonderful voice actors who imbue the onscreen character with an idiosyncratic personality. But I personally feel that if you see a film in its original language, your perception of the material is colored by a distinct authenticity. I cannot watch dubbed American movies anymore, not even televison shows. However, I tend to put on subtitles when I watch films in order to improve my English (at least the first time; when I revisit films, I turn them off as not to get distracted by them). I have only seen a few German films with American subtitles so far and I am afraid your presumption is correct. You do lose meaning. We all know how complex language is. You get the gist but it may not be an accurate reflection of the true meaning (as our Armaggedon example has shown). Sorry for the rambling.
Scott, I am glad you appreciated the episode. I certainly learned a lot. While I will not negate my criticism of chaos cinema, the episode, and your piece, have prompted me to refine it. So, thank you
Hey, I wouldn’t expect you to negate your opinion any more than I would mine. Besides, what would be the fun in total agreement?
Well said, sir!
Hey, I loved this episode and found it very enlightening. I had noticed the Chaos Cinema trend but did not have a name to put to it. It seems to be used more to inspire a feeling rather than to tell a story. If used right, it gives the viewer the feeling of being immersed in the action which could be considered by the audience to be much more exciting than knowing exactly what is going on. I don’t think that I take as negative a view of it as Matthias does. However, I recognize a prevalence of over-use and sloppy execution. It’s certainly employed by Nolan in his Batman films which, if I recall correctly, is one of the reasons people complained about the fight sequences of Batman Begins being difficult to follow. The sequences were filmed so close to the action that the audience couldn’t define what was happening, hereby robbing them of the opportunity to enjoy the action. Similarly, Jim Emerson recently broke down the long chase sequence of The Dark Knight Rises to illustrate how the methods used to film the scene rendered the events of the sequence disorienting.
While I enjoy many old films, having been brought-up on the film styles of today, I can’t help but feel that the methods employed in chaos cinema editing elicit a more emotional reaction. I think that the reason that there are so many bad examples of chaos cinema is that it likely can cover for, or attempt to cover for, weakness in the films’ story of script. At any rate, many of the films used as examples would have been considered to be poor films even without the incorporation of chaos cinema. Similarly, there are countless bad movies that do not include elements of chaos cinema. Regardless, I feel that chaos cinema is certainly a valid designation and filmmakers, viewers and critics can all benefit from continued study and insight into this and other film editing trends
Well, that’s just my two cents.
For what it’s worth, the main reason that I came on to post a message was that I think that Steve Buscemi’s line from Armageddon (and I can’t believe that I know this, but hey, that’s my childhood) comes from when he was marching around in front of the nuclear bomb saying “No Nukes, No Nukes”.
Anyhow, I enjoyed the episode so much that I had to pause it and check-out Matthias’ videos before I could finish listening to the podcast. I’m looking forward to watching more of Matthias’ work in the future.
Thank you very much for your informed comment. I find your points about chaos cinema very stimulating. And I am glad you solved the mystery of the ARMAGEDDON line. I harbor quite an affinity for that particuar scene!
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