Unreal Nature

February 12, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:14 am

… we, confronted in the flutter of light through celluloid … project upon the films’ makers a creative solitude which is nothing but the mirrors of our own.

This is from Portrait of an Invisible Man: The Working Life of Stewart McAllister, Film Editor by Dai Vaughan (1983):

[ … ]

Cavalcanti: … it is safe to say that cinema can in no case be the expression of one man’s personality, but must represent the achievement of collective effort. So, cinema can never be an art.

Legg: That’s the kind of statement that takes the spice out of life. For our little reputations’ sake, it is necessary that we should wear the sacred halo of artistry. Otherwise our dignity and self-respect may be seriously impaired.

Cavalcanti: But isn’t it true?

Legg: Perfectly.

[ … ]

… People who fear the supposed impersonality of collaborative work entertain, I suspect, being arrived at by majority vote. ‘Team,’ I would argue, is exactly the right word for a film unit working at its best: the difference being that a team reaches its decisions by a non-arithmetic consensus based on similarity of purpose and mutual sympathy. There must, of course, be someone empowered to settle differences which have proved irreconcilable; but whether he or she becomes thereby more of an ‘individual’ than everybody else is open to question.

… What matters — and it matters supremely if we are not to see art disappear down the diminishing spirals of psychological or social reductionism — is that evidence bearing upon how films are made should be rigorously distinguished from evidence bearing upon how they are to be understood. Auteurism, as we have seen, does not respect that distinction. It admits the relevancy, in criticism, of knowledge extraneous to the text — be it only knowledge of the same director’s other works.

… the auteurists have created a criticism in which no one but the director may be discussed; and this, while not even satisfying the desiderata of critical purity, sets the seal of academic approval upon the exclusion of ‘technicians’ from all other discourses: and film, the most collaborative of the arts, is stuck with a literature which cannot at any level handle the idea of collaboration.

Thus the invisibility of editors to criticism does not derive from a history of casual omission, but is the product of complex ideological pressures and responses — including, as I have pointed out, a desire to rid the discipline of certain reactionary tendencies. But if the Great Artist myth is powerful and pervasive, one source of its compulsion may be found in the very experience of film-going where we, confronted in the flutter of light through celluloid with a structure of signs to which we must impart meaning, aware of the inalienable responsibility which this places upon us, defensively project upon the films’ makers a creative solitude which is nothing but the mirrors of our own.




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