In the last decade, more and more people have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that while in terms of technological advancement and material comforts, we are becoming a race of supermen – in terms of the content and meaning of our lives, we have not yet reached a human level.
If we scale this problem down to trends in so relatively minor a sphere as the film medium, an interesting parallel arises.
In terms of technological proficiency, the movies have never been more perfect. In terms of content, the art of the cinema remains on a primitive level.
The very means employed to ensure technical proficiency have become impediments of film art. Surrounded by huge cameras, elaborate sound systems, total pre-planning, carefully written-out scripts, hundreds of technicians, the artist grows pale and withers; the organization man takes over and creates products, instead of works of art.
It is in this respect that the films you will see tonight are so important. First, they attempt to re-introduce improvisation and spontaneity into the medium. They employ no written scripts nor carefully contrived dialogue; they aim at approximating the disorderedness, unpredictability, immediacy of life.
Thus, they contain conversations that lead nowhere; they record seemingly aimless, yet so relevant action; they begin in the middle and end in the middle; they solve no problems and resolve no conflict; they dispense with cinematic devices designed to tell us where we are and what we are going to see; instead, they are voyages of discovery, compelling us to think for ourselves.
Secondly, they reflect attempts at artistic self-expression rather than financial gain. They are films made from passion, not on demand.
Thirdly, they are films that search, films that pose questions without providing the answers. Thus, they are very different from the usual commercial film that gives the answers without posing the questions.
Fourthly, they are truly contemporary films; they reflect aspects of an American reality in mid-century which, in Hollywood films, are either glossed over or commercially exploited.
They deal with the beats and the outs, the so-called marginal people in a so-called affluent society, who may be more of a warning signal to our civilization than many of us care to admit.
Finally, it must be clearly stated that these films are an open affront to the kind of realistic, well-ordered, 19th century movies we are accustomed to see; instead of transposing literary values into a visual medium and thereby bastardizing them, they aim at the creation of a truly filmic reality; instead of traveling horizontally to a well-scrubbed happy end, they dig down vertically into one single experience, they explore atmosphere, they examine a moment in time.
Thus, they approach the values of modern art, which, in breaking with the standards of previous generations, has opened new possibilities to the creative artists of our time.
It is in this sense that we at Cinema 16 welcome these films, and it is in this sense that I welcome you here tonight so that we can share this experience together. Thank you.
© Amos Vogel
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