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08/04/2006 05:46 AM
Cinema Militans Lecture Toward a re-invention of cinema
by Peter Greenaway 28/09/2003
Cinema died on the 31st September 1983 when the zapper, or the remote control, was introduced into the living-rooms of the world. Cinema is a passive medium. It might well have fulfilled many of the expectations of an audience of our fathers and forefathers prepared to sit back, watch illusions and suspend disbelief, but I believe we can no longer claim this to be sufficient. New technologies have prepared and empowered the human imagination in new ways. There is, as we all well know, brand new audiences out there who make up not just a television generation, but a post-television generation where the characteristics of the laptop are persuasive and generate new demands and create new benchmark standards. The ideas of excessive choice, personal investigation, personal communication and huge interactivity have come a long way since September 1983, and the act of cinema has had to exist alongside and be a partner to a whole new world of multiple-media activities, which have all intrinsically metamorphosed cinema itself. Interactivity and multimedia may well be words that are too familiar anymore to be truly attended to, but they are certainly the major contemporary cultural stimulants. How will cinema cope with them, because it surely must. If the cinema intends to survive, I believe, it has to make a pact and a relationship with concepts of interactivity, and it has to see itself as only part of a multimedia cultural adventure. Once upon a time, cinema -- after avoiding the issue, refusing to encompass it, pretending that the patient was not sick and the object not broken, so why try to cure one, and mend the other? -- faced and tackled and adapted itself to a new technology of sound. The long existing, world-dominant entertainment technology of the so-called silent cinema changed almost overnight, and in essence it died. And it is virtually entirely buried. Who now watches silent cinema? Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin on television, and a small minority of film enthusiasts. Whether we are going to like it or not, the same may well soon happen to so-called sound cinema. This is a Militans Cinema lecture. I can afford to be militant. I have been given some license to be provocative, disrespectful, irritated and angry. And militant. The terms of this platform expect it of me. And I have been given this license for a second time. Last time I tried to make a little entertainment. With pictures and projected alphabets. And a few thorns. This time I want to make a heavier polemic. With thorns. Because my complaint is that now, after 108 years of activity, we have a cinema that is dull, familiar, predictable, hopelessly weighed down by old conventions and outworn verities, an archaic and heavily restricted system of distribution, and an out-of-date and cumbersome technology. We need to re-invent cinema. Every medium needs to constantly re-invent itself. We need now not to put new wine in old bottles, and certainly not to put old wine in new bottles, we need to put new wine into new bottles. You are allowed to recognize the wine, which is human ingenuity and imagination, and you are permitted to recognize the bottles, which is cinema, though I am convinced we shall be needing to change that name. Current state of the cinema's demise. First, a brief run through of some of the current factors we all know about cinema's demise. Cinema in cinemas is undoubtedly not the popular art it used to be. In the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, it is said that European families saw two films at the cinema every week. We can easily agree that you would be hard pressed to find a European family that would see cinema now in cinemas twice a year. Statistics from the heart of the major Western film industry in Hollywood state that 75% of people see their cinema on television, 20% buy their cinema as video or DVDs, and only 5% view their cinema in places called
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cities. and especially in London. However. a fall in readership of film magazines. but probably for jubilation.co. resulting in banality and repetition. illusionistic cinema has had its day. and can manage to wag its tail until the Friday. The aesthetictechnology of cinema has lasted 108 years -. however. though most filmmakers would not be so blunt as to admit it. a propping up of the institutions by the dismayed. We must move on. Everyone wants to make movies. Confusing and apparently contradictory statistics? Well not necessarily. there is less and less informed film criticism in our newspapers. tears. Rotterdam and London.uk/essay3. A medium is governed and shaped and perceived by the characteristics of its technology. and greater and greater creation of media courses in the universities of the Western world. and possibly never. Perhaps we can say that the cut-and-paste. all of which is no great cause for alarm or despondency. In this country. The head of Kodak has stated that his company will not be manufacturing celluloid in 10 year's time. sadness or nostalgia. and followed it up soon after by saying that the Venice Film Festival was not much better. narrative. or even next week. Shanghai. programming greater and greater numbers of festival films which are never seen again. The reaction is no surprise. The poverty of official cinema distribution means that I cannot. and the exhaustion invariably coincides with rejuvenation. Hollywood product is made in Sydney. Twenty feature films a year hit the big time. the inventor of the primary technologies. films which have no hope of any cinema distribution. And we have arrived at a monoculture.htm Page 2 of 12 . If you believe it is still alive.on average -10 days in a cinema. That is one reasonably distributed film for every week of the year. We await those small creatures in the forest floor who will soon take over the world. He might now say that all the world is created to be put into a film.then. herbivorous and not very bright dinosaur. I am told. These two festivals are traditionally supposed to be a litmus paper to the life and health of the inventive cinema world. the average Dutch citizen watches only two feature films in a cinema every three years. 10 hit the very big time and four make it super big time. is 88 years. and you cannot. from 1895 to 1983. illustrated-text. single model of cinema all over the world. http://petergreenaway. Mallarme suggested that all the world is created to be put into a book. Where do all the undistributed films end up? The usual places are "straight to video" or television. illusionistic cinema has played itself out.although happening over a longer space of time -. We should rejoice that the dinosaur is soon to be a fossil. shot in the head on a Monday. fewer and fewer serious programs about cinema on television. There is precious little invention in the cinema world. It is easier for me to see a minor painting by Caravaggio in a small Umbrian town than it is for me to see Kubrick's "2001" in any cinema that would represent that film in the way it was manufactured to be presented. before the last breath leaves its body. a third of them are dumped. and a deterioration of quality and insight as the means of production apparently seemed easier." We can believe in the phoenix. We must re-invent cinema. European newspapers were noisy in their complaints this year that the Cannes Film Festival was of poor quality. that the energy had evaporated. 50 hit sensible distribution figures in 80 U.an excess of attention as the quality and proliferation declined. lasting for about -. Tokyo. The prime time of fresco-painting technology in the Renaissance spans Giotto. however. narrative.000. long live cinema. Friday will soon be upon us.S. and probably not next month. Consider that they say a slow-moving. because it is a situation fitting to a recognizable pattern. the length of three generations. Four out of 4. We have every right to be optimistic about the future as long as we are prepared to acknowledge "cinema is dead.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM cinemas. because traditional cut-andpaste. Four thousand feature-potential films have been made in the U. covering the activities of invention. chronologically plotted.but if cinema essentially expired on the apocryphal 31st September 1983 -. It is a sign of overkill and a state of exhaustion. consolidation and then a throwing away in anticipation of a new cycle.S. It would seem that the life of many aesthetic-technologies might fit into an exaggerated three generation lifespan. see any film of your choice in any cinema of your choosing this afternoon. It would seem that something very similar happened at the decline of opera and classical dance as major cultural forces -. It is a fact that there are more and more film festivals instituted every year. is brain dead for a week. every year for the last four years: 350 get some cinema distribution.
or simply to enjoy the well-oiled machineries of production structures and studio facilities. innocents exonerated. smarter equipment and superior publicity. there will be revisionist filmmakers. consolidation and rejection will not suit your perception of the progress of 108 years of cinema. the consolidator.out of a desire for change itself. in the theater. revenge ordained and completed. And we can.Strauss to Stockhausen via Schoenberg. the vast sums of money.co. There are better emulsions. greater accessibility and greater ease of handling.van Eyck to Durer -. we have experienced Osborne and Pinter. the medium might continue wagging its tail. structurally and narratively. Orson Welles and Cassavetes. consider that. to the restless Carracci brothers who experimented with oil-based techniques in association with the wet plaster. And getting closer and closer to cinema. further trading. retribution obtained. then the cycle might read Griffith. swiftness. the technology changes -. Cinema has responded to the theory very well. or out of a wish to repudiate the past. Eisenstein invents the language. When we are brought to realize that most cinema is illustrated text. None. to discover that of all these texts illustrated by cinema. cinema as an entire medium has always been slow and sluggish and resistant to vigourous change. we then have a further demoralization. Running parallel to the last throws of the old medium.these are structures that are repeated over and over and over again -. Chekov is alive in 1895. If this theory of the three generations of invention. middles and ends. or because the bending of the medium creates various breaking points. the Coen brothers and Wenders working the Godard vein.with these factors doesn't it seem we could have expected greater developmental thrust and pull and range of practice? However. but the same structures with beginnings. Brecht and Beckett. a tradition. Zola. Consider the changes that have occurred from 1895 to 1995 in music -. and then the post-revisionists of the late '80s. Tolstoy. has been first magnetic tape. El Greco -. The game is over. as in music. If you are a European. in literature -. or to further mine fields already strongly prospected. finishing with happy closures -.htm Page 3 of 12 . Similar arguments can be put forward for the subsequent painting technologies of egg tempera painters on wood panels -.uk/essay3. Goya and Delacroix. the huge crowds of manufacturers and the sheer number of movies made throughout this century of years -. employed and elaborated by the 19th century literary giants. Gaugin.from Hardy and Mann to Borges and Perec. and essentially corrupted its primacy to make way for a significant change. David. or because the stretching of the previous technology generates huge improvements along the avenues of cheapness. the founder of narrative in cinema. wrongs righted.and the first and second waves of post-baroque canvas painters -Bernini. as in the 1973 to 1986 period -. it is now too late. Cezanne. and persisted after it. The distances of language change and development travelled in cinema are slight compared to what has happened in the other media in the same 1895 to 1995 period. or Debussy to Reich via John Cage. Picasso. the one-time large public audiences. language. Rothko and Jasper Johns. Dickens. Is this such an unfair comparison? Consider the huge energies.and Woody Allen. It is difficult to imagine such changes in characteristics. perspective and immense plurality. Kubrick.Coppola.Caravaggio and de la Tour. as Griffith. Scorsese working the Fellini-Welles vein -. but the major significant work in the medium is created within this span of time. in the march of cinema from 1895 to 1995. which in the case of the moving picture industry. success rewarded. We must roll over and start again. Velasquez. if any.and then the painters of artificial light -. and we have now have traveled to Warhol and Keifer via Matisse and Duchamp. in painting. few. for example appear to have approached James Joyce. as in so many other fields. have not changed. or in admiration of. Malevich and Klee are all alive and well and kicking in 1895. moving from a position of negative behaviour to positive behaviour on a largely Christian morality program. but in homage to. van Gogh. We have lost our opportunity. And closer still to the ideals of a pictorial cinema. and then.and they are structures that have previously been invented. Stone and Scott. Fellini consolidates the language and Godard throws it away. http://petergreenaway. Balzac. If you are American. the full explosion of the digital revolution. pastiching and homaging like Tarantino. attitude. Even a well-respected cinema director like Scorsese basically makes the same films. and sometimes even because of the introduction of a brand-new base-energy source. In all cases.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM through Michelangelo. have advanced to even the early years of literary excitements of the 20th century. The basic fresco characteristics existed before this cycle. and by 1995.
explode it. under the generic title the Stairs. If you were exceptionally fortunate. We can easily believe that Bill Viola is worth 10 Scorseses. to the advent of the television ratios -. the town hall.the absolute strength of the medium is in its aesthetic. the unusual and the extraordinary. projection. You could watch a man take a dog for a walk. encourage wholehearted participation -. we made screen projections to simulate the essence of the cinema experience -. the significance of the inanimate object in cinema . provide stimulus to dream.100 illuminated screens -. could be said as easily and probably more forcefully and more efficiently in other ways. After that. This time the motive was to demonstrate the central cinema experience. watch a dog bite a man. useful. could we reinvent it? What were the advantages and what were the disadvantages? And the most important question -was action. The exhibition in the series of the Stairs dedicated to props. and. simply fails to do this. and embarked on a series of citywide exhibitions. primarily. the opera-house. and the framings were available to all for 24 hours a day in sunshine and rain. the projection of light across a distance onto a framed space to be viewable simultaneously to a mass audience.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM I believe the last time we saw radical cinema-language change and novel cinematic invention was with the German cinema in the mid and late seventies -. economic and cultural pressure -.erecting 100 wooden staircases across the city where a viewer was invited to climb a short flight of stairs to an eyepiece to examine a framing of the city. video clips. views the world within the confines of a rectangle.encourage wholehearted participation to the point of the panic of overexcitement. I planned an investigation into film language to see what about it was investigative. the all-embracing symphonic form that encapsulated the total vocabulary. and the energy that always follows money.Herzog. What could cinema do. and the really interesting inventive minds of the moving image went to places where life was more stimulating -. Maybe there could not have been anymore. After 1980 there is little evidence of investigative finances being put into the cinema media.co.light. if you were lucky. moonlight and fog.can you imagine a gangster movie without a gun. and the subject was the act of projection. after a century. was being placed elsewhere.and I would say -. there has been little radical experiment and radical invention.video experiments. The money. the police station. The first motive was to consider why cinema.pursuing a chronology of cinema history from simple black and white 1895 Lumiere projection through to color and the experimental ratios of the 1950s and '60s. Web-mastering. its relationship of language to content. shops and shopping malls. is due to four tyrannies. We succeeded in placing a large exhibition in the streets and squares. what might that mean? And do we need to continue to do this. props. However important the factors are of social. music. a telephone and a car. within the boundaries of four right-angles? And when we do so indeed.100 cinema screens alive with projected light all the hours of darkness. And I believe this. unique. The four tyrannies In association with the cinema celebrations of 1995. the frame. parks and buildings of Geneva focused on the frame -. that no other media could do? I constantly saw cinema as being easily deconstructed back into other media forms where what it had to say. the ability to stimulate and entrance. television had finally won the battle for the moving image experience. event and activity within the single frame separable from the single frame itself? In 1995 we were privileged to place a second exhibition in the series in the city of Munich. a Shakespearian feature without a http://petergreenaway. the text. actors and the camera. I believe cinema as we know it now. because by 1980. indicate what happens next. legitimize imagination. The scenarios of this living cinema-film of 100 viewpoints for 100 days were anything that might happen.uk/essay3. gasometers. Fassbinder and the early Wenders. time. The staircases remained in the city for 100 days.the feature film was no longer the vehicle for major synthesis and change. autonomous and worthy of preservation. We considered ten characteristics that seemed especial to cinema -.the ordinary. a parallelogram. offices. along with all the other plastic arts. churches and theaters. could we break it. in some good measure. a wide-shot or a medium-shot or a close-up. scale. its relevance to now. and how was the act of framing relevant to the act of filmmaking itself? And which single frame is the most relevant and is it possible to get the timing of the framing right? Was the single frame necessary. You could.htm Page 4 of 12 . you could watch a man bite a dog -. animation -. On the cathedral. Straub. set fire to possibilities. political. with some considerable anxiety and some deep disenchantment about contemporary cinema. multimedia investigations.
and "Spider-Man. The last three dominant significant cinema events have been "The Lord of the Rings. written and spoken. design school. straight-jacketing. Othello without Desdemona's handkerchief -. could you. But the analogy is important because traditional cinema insists on creating an illusionistic space to give audiences a window experience -. Few. We need a cinema-maker's cinema. with very little exception.it is of course a false statement. I finally saw those major tyrannies as the tyrannies of the frame. Kubrick to Fassbinder. yet we have a text-based cinema.a systematic universal act of education in the word. illustrating literature. does that mean you can see? And if you can see. it needs training. with precious few exceptions. can you project and communicate your meaning indeed to those who also have had no extensive training of the eye? Would you. tyrannies that were perhaps destroying any further emancipation of the idea of the moving image in cinema. probably eventually.was eventually turned into an exhibition in Vienna called One Hundred Objects to Represent the World. all you have witnessed is 108 years of illustrated text." at least that is supposed to spring from a semi-visual source. which were confining. The cinema is supposed to be an art and an industry of the image. and cinema copied the theatre. You have a tongue. and expect to be rewarded with support to make a movie. Since painting separated itself from architecture at the end of the Medieval period. Every film you have watched you can see the director following the text. it is not questioned. I would argue that you have never seen any cinema. to fit four right-angles. a comic. and then into an opera of the same name that travelled the world. The cinema should not be an adjunct to the bookshop. The tyranny of the frame We view all the plastic arts through a rigid frame. at making and using and receiving texts. This wholesale practice has become so traditional and orthodox. persuaded upon us by a textobsessive educational insistence. Derrida famously and wittily suggested that "the image always has the last word" -. even abusing the cinema. and if you are lucky. We are all very sophisticated. Our educational systems are based on forcefully feeding the letters of the alphabet to reluctant children.uk/essay3.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM skull. servicing. four books.three books -"Harry Potter. The tyranny of the text Every film director. continually persuaded practice. In pessimistic moments." a book. opera and ballet arranged its scenarios and choreography to be seen in association with theatre's proscenium arch stage-space. No single characteristic of cinema is entirely separable from all the others. not the image. the text. in proportion to the mass attendance at the textual altar.a http://petergreenaway. From Spielberg to Godard. and television copied the cinema." a book -. and then to press home a necessity to amassing an understanding of words. hones and refines and focuses our abilities -. As adolescents the reading procedures become more sophisticated. it need not have happened that way -. Hence the reliance on the word. With the cinema that we have developed -though of course. receive architectural training. You have an eye -. and I was beginning to see the characteristics as tyrannies. and then there are photographs squared up for painting-picture-frames and to fit the right angles of a book.can it truly see without being trained? Just because you have eyes. it is the view through a window. leave alone a novel.co. Lynch to Tarantino. copied painting. four prints and a sketch-book of drawings. even across all the language barriers. presume to write a sensible comprehensible letter. and anyway isn't a word an image? In England and America. the actor and the camera. with a proscenium arch. making pictures as an after-thought. and as adults. And theater. the word always has the last word. It will not speak comprehensively on its own. without undergoing intensive training in text? It could be said that most of us suffer from considerable visual illiteracy.htm Page 5 of 12 . Retrospectively. but essentially an illustrated book. a dagger and a crown. since the major horizontal aspect window ratio of a cinema screen could not have been matched architecturally by a window much before the middle of the nineteenth century. has to have a text before he or she can have an image.it is impossible to approach a studio or a producer with three paintings. though we are thinking now from a contemporary window point-of-view. there is great and vigourous support for a writer's cinema. it regulated its parameters. attend art school. We do not need or want or desire a writer's cinema. No surprise of course.
The tyranny of the actor To acknowledge and overcome the third tyranny. It is true I take many of my cues and precedences from painting where there are other considerations than human performance. It is of course not so familiar a condition to the actor who is led to believe by his profession that the camera should persistently centre his contribution.co. the physical space they occupy. http://petergreenaway. especially since we have created off-screens systems to excessively promote the actor and surround him with agents and managers. though in 108 years we have allowed and permitted it to be so. body. since Oriental picture-making has steadfastly. We have developed a cinema where the identification of an actor's emotional and psychological performance is considered to be the key to an audience's response. the pose they take. There are many genres of painting in which the actor is absent. It could be said that we delight in being tyrannised by actors. The legitimate supremacy of the actor in the viewing space is a characteristic of theatre. a lighting space. then just as it has been created. So many films are set up to create a space for an actor to perform. And all professional film practitioners know the contortions and humiliations that cinema has had to experience to get its non-television ratio demands onto the television screen with letter-boxing. so it can be un-created. a still life. I am not advocating a cinema where there are no actors. is perhaps not going to be so popular. eschewed the frame. where the human figure is not by inference the centre of our interest. has to be. It is an ironic curiosity that the Japanese have tried to reverse the game by forcing man-devised frames into landscape design using the sea horizon as the absolute horizontal. reducing. light and colour and texture itself. a diagrammatically sharpened and regulated reaction to his own irregular horizontal view of the world bordered by the brow and the cheek-bones when the face is held rigid and the eyes kept steady. darkness. the tyranny of the actor. but now we have been steadily reduced to that most convenient of aspect ratio frames. in essence a figure in a landscape which is likely to give attention to space. shadows. and planting tall straight-trunked trees to make the vertical frame-lines -. not finding it at all necessary to use a frame to contain and shape the world. And the frame in the cinema has ever restrictingly tightened. or reduced to the concept of a figure in a landscape. various devices of invisibility.33. but I will argue that the actor has to seriously share the cinematic space with other evidences of the world. Such has been this so dominant industrial practice that few television viewers are even remotely aware that they are not watching the real thing.htm Page 6 of 12 . that it would seem sometimes that the cinema is a vehicle for their appearance alone. their weight on the floor. until it came in contact with Western practices of seeing. reductive and undersells the visual potential of cinematic language. the way they wear and shape their clothes. panning and scanning. a sympathetic production system and a Press and publicity organisation who appear to need his public relations power. especially in the years of pre-standardization. ideas. the gestures they make. that their movements are too bounded by the demands of the composition. architecture. and again when cinema tried to fight the effects of television with a rash of experimental ratios in the '60s and '70s. but I believe the actor should take his contribution in association with a sense of ensemble with the world and certainly ensemble with the cinematic language.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM surveillance through a window frame out into a parallel universe connected to that which the audience physically experiences as it sits in the cinema. There is no such thing as a frame in the natural world -. And I am going to have some difficulty in following through the premise that the cinema is not. If the frame is a man-made device. that I am more interested in their legs. feet. their relationship to a wall or a ceiling. inanimacy.it is a man-made. that they have to arrange their contribution to be subservient to a tree. their given physical anatomy. and the actor has to relinquish any supremacy he rightly might believe is his for the taking in the theatre. the cinema should not be a species of recorded theatre. or their skill at interpreting a narrative imperative. cropping. the television frame of the ratio 1 to 1.uk/essay3. rather than their face or their interpretation of a psychological role.ironic and curious. man-created device. There used to be several aspect ratios open to a cinematographer. The parallelogram can go. where the demands on his dominant visibility are essential to give credence to the suspension of disbelief in a patently symbolic world. This is limiting. and should not be a playground for Sharon Stone or a Sylvester Stallone or even a Nicole Kidman or a Robert de Niro. but like it or not. but some particular television-convenienced version. I have had actors complain that they are too much subject to the insistence of the frame.
jolted into the necessity of accepting the novelties of inter-activity and the revitalised possibilities of multimedia. is to shake out these tyrannies of the frame. or reproduction of the known world. On his way to Mexico. by gathering together every known trope of narrative and storytelling and exposition of experience in words. linear perspective. with his view of known beliefs on the Sistine ceiling. then the fourth and last tyranny is perhaps even more of a blasphemy -. but a cinema of virtual unreality. aerial perspective. One from Picasso: "I do not paint what I see.htm Page 7 of 12 . from Raphael to Giorgione -. There is a necessity in a curious way to bypass the lazy. Benchmarks." a work that self-confessedly suggests an attempt to unite the angels in their heavens with the stones on the road? Did the van Eyck brothers in Ghent with their triptych of the "Adoration of the Lamb. The camera is not a painter." the most influential but least read of the 20th century's novels. and thereby having to invent a new sort of word exposition to realise it -. are made only after the event. from Masaccio to Uccello. It has been an upward success story in getting painted images to look more and more like the natural world -the gradual controlling of the technologies of chiaroscuro and scale. to make this happen.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM The tyranny of the camera If the tyranny of the actor is difficult to accept. where it would have been better to have entered at Richter zero -. And it is suggested that we have now the tools. the seat of creation. Two quotations. and we can easily imagine the tools we shall have tomorrow. The Renaissance contribution to the modern world in visual terms is usually couched in terms of forever and forever successfully reproducing reality. anatomy. The connection between the two quotations is suggestive. and suggested that Walt Disney was the only filmmaker because he started at ground zero." or Michelangelo. met Walt Disney. the actor and the camera. It gives us an image of the world that is mimetic. more appealing than the world that can be reproduced by the camera. a figure you can compare with Beethoven or Michelangelo. And did Joyce in writing "Ulysses. sculptural modelling. not even a cinema of virtual reality. more terrifying. which of course is what my proposition is all about. We have to get rid of the camera. text. know that." made in 1924. and there are few cinema-makers you can elevate to such heights.human or mechanical -. more exciting." The second from Eisenstein. Did Dante know that he was making profound significance with "The Divine Comedy. and not be embarrassed by the comparison. investigative pursuits. From the http://petergreenaway. passive recording eye -.did he have consciousness of the bench-mark he was making? It maybe that the first total cinema masterpiece benchmark was Eisenstein's "Strike.its major pursuit -and attempt to manufacture the imaginative world alone? My militant response then to the current circumstances of a dying aesthetic technology called cinema. a blank screen. the imagination. to pursue the possibilities of the inventive human imagination. Should therefore cinema eschew ambitions of illusionistic recreation of the known world -. Eisenstein. to reproduce what we already have around us. From Giotto to Masaccio. Cinematic benchmarks It is an arrogant assumption to think we can make cultural benchmarks. We should not want a cinema of appropriation. and try to place product in the firing line of these polemics. The camera is a recording device. from Uccello to Raphael. Is that such a success story? Should not the energies have been spent in more worthwhile. It has entered the cinema equation too high up the Richter scale -say at Richter six. I suspect.co. know that they were both manufacturing works that would attempt to put everything in one place.and jump straight to the brain. systematic and comprehensible? Would Shakespeare and Cervantes have known that their cultural contributions would occupy the same sort of significance.uk/essay3. traveling through California. probably the most complex and self-regarding phenomenon in the universe? The real world is always going to be more real. more dangerous. significant artefacts with which to measure the state of a total practice.for it is the tyranny of the camera. certainly the greatest maker of cinema.you can choose your own chain of ever-rising realism. it reproduces what we put in front of it. ordered. of mimesis. but what I think.which of course is contradictory because there would have been nothing there. mimetic. in order in the end.
that centres. and is. and as far as cinematic language is concerned. the substance of "The Tulse Luper Suitcases" was written out indeed in words. as its cement and superstructure. so to speak.because the industry is slow to take advantage of the revolution around us -. and cinema might do well to imitate and develop its exploits. employ calligraphy and typography to define text as that very thing. in a deeply investigative way.on 35mm film. around the life and times of its central character Tulse Luper. two theatre productions in Lille and Bremen. there are three hours of highly wrought cinema material shot. Matching the atomic number of uranium. There is a very necessary content reason for this. The Tulse Luper Suitcases project hopes to address and answer and find. the deliberate product of a writer. his life-history covers 92 years. Text usually shapes the cinema narrative and certainly provides the cinema dialogue. Leipzig and Berlin.we have 8 years to go to make the first masterpiece bench-mark of the new visual technologies. and three more hours of HD material. and intimated possible ways http://petergreenaway. after 13 months of manufacture. to place them alongside one another and get them to converse. though as you will see tonight. In the next thirteen months. with links to the making of theatre and opera. he is a professional prisoner. and the film is so full of narratives that narrative is often negated by excess. Considering the tyranny of the text In the first place. in essence. To date. though it still begs my anxious questioning of the creation of a visual medium through text.co. It certainly revolves around.in England. If the new post-cinema-cinema began on 31st September 1983 -. Conventional cinema seeks to conceal that written textual origin. two hours exist -.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM start of cinema on the 20th December 1895 to Eisenstein's "Strike" in 1924 is very nearly 28 years -. and hopefully to be projected on HD television. interactivity and multi-media.until now -. on one or more websites. Acknowledge that most of the images seen in cinema began as textual descriptions. There are two published books. Considering the tyranny of the frame Abel Gance with his film "Napoleon" in 1927 developed a three-screen projection.the text therefore is much in evidence. and two exhibitions. the 29th September. as a serious collection of DVDs and in association with a library of books. one in Milan and one currently in Ghent. and desires to exploit. Since it would seem text and image are a pair. there will be three new exhibitions . The whole project is an attempt to make a gathering together of today's languages. or a play. to find ways out of the above stated tyrannies. edited. scratch it" -. a play performed in German at the Frankfort National Theatre. On the argument of "If it itches. and certainly narrative is constantly interrupted and fragmented by side-bars and listings and sub-narratives.that is 20 years somewhere between next Tuesday and next Wednesday -. as to make conventional narrative continuity problematic. I do not want to reveal just yet. though perhaps like us all.uk/essay3. Contemporary advertising has made of the combination of text and image. albeit with a text of some complexity that makes it looks more perhaps like a vertical and horizontal musical score than a conventional film-script. as it is written. since it soon becomes evident that the film is happening. I give you frequent doses of the text on screen. often of unequal status. In the Tulse Luper Suitcases there is no hiding of these origins. on television. whose activities are multifarious. though quite how that shapes up. and soon to be rehearsed and performed in 12 cities in Holland. It is not an adaptation of a book. some answers to some of these concerns and anxieties. exhibitions and installations in museums and galleries. and there is much evidence to suggest they have co-existed in painting for much of its history . or any phenomenon that saw light first as literature of any description. The project is manufactured for exploitation in the cinema. an art of its own. uneasy marriage but seek to exploit it.the length of a generation.do not try to break up the unequal. He is 92 tomorrow.htm Page 8 of 12 . deliberately use text as image. The ambition is to make an integrated product viable and comprehensible in different forms for the first decade of the 21st century. for that would give away the whole containing conceit of the thing. bringing us up to seven episodes in the 16-episode Tulse Luper saga.
though rarely structured in other than illustrative and decorative ways. The camera views I normally employ would rarely http://petergreenaway. To synchronise three 35mm projections in 1927 was not so easy and the technological experiment essentially stopped with Gance. plucked the fig leaves and were expelled from the Garden of Eden all in the same interconnected single space.an animated cubism. Christ. and with condensed and simultaneous time. Multiple screens imply a sense of choice. The historical key markers to a philosophy of the moving image can be profitably revisited and revitalised .uk/essay3. and certainly with renewed interest in the last 150 years after the long years spent pursuing the chimera of reproducing the apparent reality of the eye. fast. ate the apple.htm Page 9 of 12 . still-life. being the most important figure at the table. And morphing such a snake into such a giraffe can be accomplished with hands-on ease. re-shot. a giraffe. played with subjective scale. back.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM to use it. was depicted physically larger than his disciples. and to be aware of the human figure as a strong compositional element within a self-conscious frame. Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. There was a wait of some forty years before the technology and thus the possibilities of the language could be resurrected. real time and true scale. landscape. after. you can see both sides of the wall. having no imperatives to depict the real. "The Tulse Luper Suitcases" endeavours to utilise and develop a multi-screen language in the various ways Abel Gance anticipated and certainly to take it beyond. a snake travelling across the grass suggests a long horizontal frame. both considerations being relevant to the dictates of theological ideals. There was a spate of films in the 1980s where it became not uncommon. These are expressionistic devices long explored by painting. choice for major attention has to made. Adam and Eve were tempted. and until such time it can and will. It is not easy to look at all screens with equal attention simultaneously. slow. but noticeably the device was a decoration to the narrative not substantial to it. during.to use a convenience concept-word . medium shot. a tall vertical one. engendered essentially non-narrative multi-screen experiments. at the Last Supper. front and side. memory and imagination. by offering only more sheer retinal stimulus and pattern-making. Pre-Renaissance painting. Considering the tyranny of the actor The tyranny or conventional dominant contribution of the actor has been considered for some time in the feature films I have made over then past twelve years within bounds of what could be described as a cinema of passionate detachment. repetitions. will probably be rejected or simply not seen. portrait. The frame can be cut and cropped with various layers of density. or reformatted to give them visual compositional significance. dancers and athletes can resume significance. immaculate framed edges are digitally edited on High Definition tape at increasing near real-time editing speeds. all at the same time. and rarely added more than retinal excitement. Making for a God-like ubiquity. The digital revolution technologies can re-explore these issues to make -. Before. Superb steadiness. downstairs and upstairs. insides and outsides.Muybridge sequential photography. and Marey's multiple-image fencers. It can be characterised by being sparing of close-ups. across screen devices of innumerable continuities. past present future. It is no longer a passive jail of four right angles. Wide shot. reprises. any gestures or actions that are not sympathetic to the visual composition within a frame. and such language is now the stable diet in pop concerts and video-walls. slowest. developing a language that equates more with human experience in its interactions between reality. more than once associated with movies featuring Steve McQueen. The conventional cinema cinema still cannot perform multi-screen projection. macrocosm and microcosm. overlap and metamorphosis. One of the greatest potential excitements is the ability and freedom now to fashion the frame to suit the content. Very crudely. though those choices can be conducted and orchestrated by the director. a desire not to cut the body unless absolutely necessary. or if considered a valuable contribution. though as suggested with a single screen agenda. New digital technology minimises Gance's difficulties.co. The frame has come alive. the single screen can suffice to be spliced. and to a certain extent by flourishing comic-book arts. Special feature events like the Tokyo Olympic Games with large sums of money to exhibitionistically flaunt. close-up. split and fragmented.
" the use of the actor has been taken further in such directions. noticeably celebrated in a film like Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an example. lines of moving text. a characteristic of cinema rarely seen by viewers but extremely commonplace to actors themselves and certainly to all those involved in the making of a film. though peripherally we are aware that communications of the world are coming at us fast and furiously. Largely we take what we want. returns to explore thematic areas further and in greater detail. but also at snobbish sloth. We see their auditions. Consequently we have tried to give a cinema audience alternatives. The introduction of more and yet more multiple pictures. a respect and an acknowledgement for the actor's essential presence is certainly championed. Mixed visual genres in the cinema are not common. gives greater scope to their contribution. unlike the theatre for example. melancholic or yet again pathetic. singular treatment and singular subject. and though curiously I suspect consciously unaware of the gesture. We have often given these interpretations simultaneously or overlaid them with one another in a cubistlike phenomenon. For example I would never use an over-shoulder shot in a two-way conversation and viewpoints are constructed from the ideal position of the camera not the eye-line or viewpoint of the character. I suppose the combination of live action and the cartoon. which I believe. but also to demonstrate that there is no singular verity. a pointed reference at anatomical reality. We can ignore English-language moving text of stock market reports in Tokyo. Napoleon could have behaved like this.co. has not noticeably created apoplexy in viewers. that history.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM be person orientated. We often show different takes of the same action. but down at television". and it was a drama that afterall pursued illusionist conceptions. and not merely what is conveyed through it. The narratives as a consequence often behave like musical scores. The days of strict adherence to the Platonic verities. insert talking heads. and certainly many of the actors believe. Hollywood-style and art-house style. there are only historians. the actors are often viewed as actors. any breaking of the frame techniques. Conventional cinema editing in true cut-and-paste chronology style. and traditionally the feature film only uses a small section of that spectrum. it is becoming common now for the screen itself to be self referenced with fixed company logos -. and any Tex Avery self-conscious anarchies. Whilst feature films. editing and layering techniques which could probably only be achieved with the help of the new technologies. One of the major metaphors of the project is the saying that there is no such thing as history. titles. In "The Tulse Luper Suitcases.which really do demonstrate to the viewer that he is watching a screen. So much is this a characteristic that. That this conversation could have been delivered like this or this or this. singular place. to interpret the same material. and eclecticism is legitimate and honourable. stayed within those conventions. often using different actors to play the same role. Considering the tyranny of the camera The spectrum of visual possibilities in the manufacture of the moving image is large. though it was an experiment not overenthusiastically copied. using a whole range of communication languages simultaneously. certainly in keeping with the interactivity choices laid down in our ambitions. observing singular time. It is curious that cinema so long regarded as a vulgar medium by the traditional arts has adopted its own http://petergreenaway. deliberately full of repeats and reprises. gives you one event at a time sequentially. at simultaneity. We have developed habits of visual selection. another window-on the world construction. Godard suggested that "We look up at cinema. is a highly subjective business recorded with vested interests. have been pursing the straight and narrow. though staying inside the film and not outside of it. The cinema has never been good. within the dramas themselves. inter-titles. in effect. are long gone. sub-titles. television has been revelling in communication skills for a long time. whilst we focus our attention to watch animated diagrams of hurricanes in Florida. variations on a theme. whilst still holding them firmly within a space that denies orthodox actor dominance. even extravagantly championed.uk/essay3. So although the conventional virtuosity of the actor on screen is denied or at least abrogated to eradicate the tyranny of his contribution. The supermarket of visual and dramatic possibilities is huge. It would be difficult to see how it could be otherwise in an information age with encouraged encyclopaedic thinking. animated maps. or like this. split screen conversations. animated diagrams. or like this.htm Page 10 of 12 . That this interpretation of the event could have been melodramatic or sentimental. Watching virtually any four minutes of CNN News demonstrates what television has been doing for a long time. sufficient to realise an illusionist drama. I believe cinema should seize the opportunity to shop vigourously in the supermarket.
operatic. I need to use it. is to use it.as a candidate for that benchmark position. Now a cinema of what you think and not what you lazily see is truly possible. With a cinema with characteristics like this. brightening gloomy days. as well as to give you end-results. surveillance.cinema. stand-up comic. But the language. vaudeville. stripped down to a black box. What was cinema? Rows and rows of people sitting still (and who in any other human occupation sits still for 120 minutes?). and. although admiring the technique. Drama elaborated. but clandestinely. actors and the camera. Chekovian.co. It exuberates and celebrates new cinema language. made expensively for the patronised many by the condescending few. perhaps a little recorded theatre. children are convinced they exist somewhere outside Jurassic Park and demand to see them at the zoo. The ethics are decidedly problematical. If I am making a project whose central metaphor is "there is no such thing as history. cartoon simplicities and cartoon complexities. multiple typographies and multiple calligraphies. talking heads. such technical manipulations now are commonplace. and not patronise audiences. kitchen-sink. with a distribution system that has made its own product virtually unviewable. there are only historians". television. We can. soap-opera. static and animated texts. changing colours. melodrama. perhaps the sooner dead.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM snobbisms in the face of competition. sexing-up entertainers. then we still have a few year's grace to invent its first benchmark masterpiece. interactive project of "The Tulse Luper Suitcases" -.not just in front of us). I offer you the first toe in the water of an ocean of possibilities in the multi-media. to make the first benchmark masterpiece of this new aesthetic-technology of film. And such uses of the actor's trade are interspliced and elaborated with animated maps and diagrams. Web site. Cinema as our fathers and forefathers knew it was a passive elitist medium. Let us now re-invent that cinema. with Eisenstein's "Strike" in 1924. Tulse Luper: Was an eclectic opportunist who elusively modelled his personality on an everchanging succession of heroes. really start with an art of the moving image with viewer participation that can truly empower the imagination. And indeed every possibility of communication by visual image is used. It is a commonplace now that post-production is extremely sophisticated and permeates practically everything we see on screens -. being interested in process and wishing to demonstrate that process. solutions and closures. Well-aware of the dangers of the discrepancies of what I say matching with what I make. And this new medium of the moving image will almost certainly not be experienced in those strange high-street pieces of architecture called cinemas.uk/essay3. Now we need the desire and the courage. if you have been lucky. If a New Moving Image aesthetic-technology was baptised on 31st September 1983. Many years ago. adding blood and smoke. Let us seize that nettle and begin the art of the moving image all over again. library -. But what are we talking about anyway? You haven't seen any cinema yet. the frame. Every medium needs constant re-invention. DVD. cinema-verite. and of course the opposite. We now have the most amazing new tools to do so. the better. diversify interminably. worked up to a David Lean exuberance. transposing grief and pain from one location to another to suit public relations and political expediency. Now we can break the monopolies. erasing mistakes. This is an anti-Dogme film. So-called cinema was invented in 1895. all we have seen is 108 years of illustrated text. polishing up politicians. in the dark (man is not a nocturnal animal). all looking in one direction (the world is all around you . Home http://petergreenaway. cater for all. is extraordinary.htm Page 11 of 12 . Finale Cinema died on the 31st September 1983 when the zapper or the remote control was introduced into the living-rooms of the world. we were shocked at the way unwanted politicians disappeared from official Soviet Politburo photographs. Let us rid cinema of the four tyrannies of text. pantomime.not just the ubiquitous dinosaur that is so believable. pastiche amateur theatricals. My fascination and inclination. almost what we could call an anti-camera language. It took 29 years.
co.Cinema Militans Lecture 08/04/2006 05:46 AM http://petergreenaway.uk/essay3.htm Page 12 of 12 .
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