Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions #3 cont.

Today's recommendations are some of the many films by John Ford.

Doctor Bull
The Lost Patrol
Judge Priest
The Informer
Steamboat Round the Bend
Mary of Scotland
Submarine Patrol
Young Mr. Lincoln
Drums Along the Mohawk
The Grapes of Wrath
The Long Voyage Home
How Green Was My Valley
They Were Expendable
My Darling Clementine
The Fugitive
Fort Apache
3 Godfathers
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
Rio Grande
What Price Glory
The Horse Soldiers

But most especially

The Quiet Man
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
The Searchers

For those of you who say things like, "Eh I don't like Westerns." get the Hell out of Show-business! The genre of the Western, like any genre, is merely an excuse to remove characters and social convention from present day reality allowing the film maker to explore the human condition with a cooler eye. It also allows the audience the emotional distance necessary to relate to another point of view.

Take The Searchers. Not only is it possibly the best shot and edited film ever made, but it's a movie made in 1956 America about RACISM. Okay, racism with cool horse chases and great action, but it is essentially a morality play about the personal human cost of racism. And because it is a genre film with Indians Americans taking the place of African Americans, it was a hugely popular film that got it's message all across the country at a time when blind unexamined hatred of race was literally about to tear the country in half. That is the power of film art. And that is the special ability of genre films.

A genre film is about people, not place, time, or special effects. Or at least it should be.

So do not limit yourself to a particular kind of film. Watch them all. The artists who make them will have some wonderful surprises waiting for you.

(By the way, Animation is not a genre! It is a technique. Any animated movie must be judged by whether or not it is an effective film, not given special allowance to be badly written and shot because it's "just a cartoon". Don't think of an animated film as something given a license to be "less than". Too many people making animated films already have that attitude ingrained in their approach to the process. If your going to do this for a living, then treat all film with respect. If an animated film is not worth your effort to do as well as you would a live action film, don't do it at all.)

Also pay special attention to Ford's camera style. Notice how little he cuts and how he uses his impeccable sense of design to recompose action within a single shot to direct the audience's eye and attention. Modern directors/editors cut far too often out of habit.

I was once told by a very good film maker that the most unnatural, disconcerting thing a director can do is cut. There is nothing like it in reality. It like the human eye suddenly transports to a new location. Just because we are used to it (thanks to the devil box television) doesn't mean it should be done haphazardly. A director needs a legitimate reason within the structure of the story to cut. (As opposed to modern film and animation where it seems that a punctuation mark in the script is the main cue to change shots.)

Watch when and how Ford does it. Masterful.