Cinematic, Generic, and Artistic Reference in Post Research Paper

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Cinematic, Generic, And Artistic Reference in Post 1960 Film

A common and highly salient feature of international films made after 1960 is the comment on other films, film styles, and other artistic media that are presented directly and purposefully in modern attempts at cinematic expression. Such deliberate referencing serves not only to provide symbolism and a sense of the cinematic tradition for specific films, in turn providing specific contexts from which to view this cinematic tradition, but also unifies and unites the films in a collective sense through the same referencing. Though some instances of a celluloid homage might be more explicit and apparent than others, a variety of such references made from a variety of perspectives and in many different contexts can prove important in understanding the growing sense of maturity and self-awareness that such recalls of cinematic tradition indicate on the part of filmmakers.

In My Life to Live, Jean-Luc Godard's portrayal of a woman's -- and arguably symbolically the filmmaker and possibly even the art of filmmaking altogether -- into prostitution and self-destruction at the hands of a society with very specific constraints on womanhood, the character at one point identifies with the judgment scene from Dreyer's the Passion of Joan of Arc. The older film is silent, as is this scene in My Life to Live in which Dreyer's film features; emulation occurs in both the substance and the style of the film, making a specific cinematic recall as well as a generic reference and appeal for appreciation. Godard seems to be commenting on the repetitious nature of history, with different angels and artists forced to succumb to the judgment of the masses in successive generations in much the same ways.

Sholay, a hugely successful Bollywood film from 1975 by director Ramesh Sippy, also shares a connection in both theme and style with films that came before it. Though not as explicit as the Joan of Arc reference described above, Sholay's reference to other, earlier films is perhaps even deeper and more extensive. Several different established and recognizable film genres, most notably Westerns, find echoes both in the plot and in some instances the cinematography that make up Sholay, with lone and often misunderstood good guys facing the bad guys and insurmountable odds in order to save others at their own expense. This sense of sacrifice, which is prototypical of the American Western, found huge success in this movie from the East during a time when India, like the Old West of the nineteenth century, was undergoing a period of increasing industrialization and democratizations, leading to many of the same problems and complications.

In Law of Desire, a 1987 film from Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, differing genres again play a major role in shaping the story and style of the film, as do the references in character and in story to other art forms, particularly live theatre. One of the central characters in the film is a director of both movies and stage shows, and his transsexual sister is an actress in these pieces; the theatre references especially give the sense of artificiality and "putting on a show" in other aspects of life in ways that might not be possible if such performances were not an established part of Western society. The traditions of theatrical believability and the willingness to suspend disbelief play important roles in the development of this film's story.

Each of these films is very different, with stories, characters, and overall styles that contrast hugely with each other. My Life to Live traces a connection to an earlier film with more concrete and explicit plot points, and which is itself a representation of history, suggesting a progressively more symbolic society and method of filmmaking. Sholay, on the other hand, s vibrantly concrete in its plot and storytelling style, borrowing on a different period and perspective of world history through its use of the Western genre in depicting fictional yet believable events in the modernizing and developing India of the 1970s. Law of Desire has the least connection to direct historical references, but its reference to the world and traditions of theatricality are hugely important to the overall understanding and impact of the film. The questions of who certain individuals "truly" are and where performance ends and "personhood" begins are central to the film's major themes and various intertwined plots, and cannot be easily dismissed in Almodovar's piece of cinema.

The differences that these films have, however, are eclipsed by their similarities. All three films, and all three filmmakers, acknowledge -- whether explicitly or otherwise -- a significant debt to the artists and storytellers that have come before them, in the world of film and in other areas. The reference to other pieces of cinema, to overall genres of film, and even to overall artforms, suggest a common trajectory that is unavoidable, and that becomes a touchstone to any modern maker of film whether purposeful or otherwise.

Technology in Modern Cinema

Technology plays an essential role in many aspects of modern daily life, having revolutionized the way the human species moves about, the way we prepare food and eat, and even the very means and modes of interpersonal communication. It should come as no surprise, then, that technology plays an increasingly active role in the formal elements of construction and the themes and direct plotlines of many films; as our society becomes more dependent on and even obsessed with technology, these developments will necessarily become a part of what we see in our society reflected in film. Whether an element of the story of a film or a major constituent part of the film's lens, perspective, and presentation to the viewing audience -- or some combination of any or all of these elements -- technology is of huge and increasing importance in understanding and appreciating modern cinema.

In the very cinematic miniseries the Kingdom from Danish director Lars von Trier, the technology of video itself plays a prominent role in the cinematography and formal construction of the piece. Technology also plays a major role in the hospital-set stories that comprise the Kingdom, but even more essential and more interesting is the use of video and the different vantage points that certain cameras -- both those that exist simply as the lens through which the story is told and those that exist in the world of the story -- i.e. security cameras, etc. -- provide for the viewer (and the filmmaker). The style of cinematography and the formal use of video seems to make the statement that what we perceive and decide is highly dependent on the technology used to mediate this perception.

Abbas Kiarostami, and Iranian filmmaker, also addresses issues of technology as one of the major themes in his 1999 film the Wind Will Carry Us. Though it is never explicitly revealed what the main character's job or purpose is, it is known that he is in a rural town to observe an ancient ritual for an elderly woman's death, and the issue of recording and communicating this ritual through technological means -- and even this character's technological communication with the outside world -- become prominent in both the plot and the overarching themes of the film. It is clear that Kiarostami is providing a lesson on the degree to which technology has come to influence and mediate our society -- the recording and technological communication of the event of this woman's death becomes more important than the experience of the event itself, leading one to question why the film is a shared as a communal experience when so many direct experiences are ignored.

Several different animation and film technologies were used by Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman in his quasi-documentary Waltz with Bashir. The film is essentially about Folman's attempts to reconstruct his memory of what happened during his time in Lebanon as a soldier in the Israeli army, and the various technologies that he employs in telling this story are definitely well-suited to this end. As the varying animation styles produce markedly different emotional tones and perspectives in the film and its reception by audiences, the reconstruction of memory is shown to be largely the creation of memory; rather than limiting our perspectives, technology is shown here to be a useful means for understanding and creating perspective.

Technology is employed to very different ends in each of these three films, and each view and utilization of technology has its own implications for the way technology impacts our society and its stories. Technology can be used to establish a sense of detachment or distance, as is often the case in the Kingdom and which is seen as an endemic feature of modern culture in the Wind Will Carry Us. These films have very different views of technology's ultimate purposes and ends, but both share this quality of technology often being equated with emotional distance. Waltz with Bashir, on the other hand, demonstrates the freedom of expression that modern technology provides, that would simply… [END OF PREVIEW]

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