If light, sound, time and space are the foundations of cinematic speech, then cut, composition, continuity, movement and tone are its grammar. The novel use of those grammatical components create dialects, and in the case of the auteur we sometimes enter the realm of idiolect. All of this sensory material is in service of ideas (story or concept). The most transcendent films, in my growing experience, are those with strong linguistic expression, meaning that they utilize the very elements of the medium (taken largely for granted) as a deliberate syntax for storytelling. This doesn’t always mean something overt. Less-is-more can be as communicative as the-more-the-merrier, because its all about meeting material with an effective approach. Such works will be the focus of this new Cinedelphia column called CINtactics.
Our global culture is increasingly visual and radically recombinant. It mines, borrows, mashes, bends and recontextualizes information and imagery frenetically through the organism of the internet. It seems to hold true that if these times are evolving a language which is so primarily visual, where words are almost subsurvient to the image, then that language would have to be filmic. The components of this language have been building for over a century, and they have now fallen into the hands of the greater populace. The line between cinema and video is almost fully blurred, but the long gestating morphemes and phonemes of “visual speech” are in tact. The jumpcuts, axial cuts, blending of archival materials, etc. that are staple to youtube, vine videos and the like are a vernacular as old as celluloid, and yet they are being honed all over again on a massive scale in this digital age. Online platforms like youtube and Vimeo are even presenting original feature length films. CINtactics is a timely forum for this reason: the cinematic language is becoming a mother tongue.
In works of great fluency we recognize the development of coded aesthetics, method, symbolisms, themes, etc. Some mistakenly call this “style” when talking only of the surface, but what has made films most memorable is the joining of form with function. Names like Wes Anderson, David Lynch, Gaspar Noe, Krzyztof Kieslowski, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Asghar Farhadi, Kathryn Bigelow, Shion Sono, Nobuhiko Obayashi, Jane Campion, Bernardo Bertolucci, Johnnie To, Joe Wright, Kim Ki-duk, Tsai Ming-liang, Danny Boyle and many others will populate CINtactics posts to come, as their works illustrate aspects of functional film grammar.
CINtactics takes a more analytical and less critical approach because it is a space to unpack ideas. It will also have an anecdotal sensibility because these essays will be generated with relevance to my experience and an openness to happenstance. Films and events of today evoke works of the past, and incorporating that lineage in the discussion of film as an evolving language will be an important vehicle.
My hope is that CINtactics will be enriching to novice and seasoned filmgoers alike. Look forward to the first post on friday where we dig into cinematic time inspired by two recent works from opposite sides of the globe.