Art Films about the path of Art


This year in my opinion was a horrible year for great movies…I’ve only seen 2 and heard of 5 that were good and that is probably how many on average a country makes. But I guess it seems like there is an over saturation of really bad romantic and comedy movies. We maybe be in denial about the economic depression of the world as much as the depression of 2010’s filmography but at least we can delve back into the past productions that were the true cinematic gems of their season. When I watch movie it can only be a favorite of mine if I can watch numerous times and not be bored with it. Typically intense human dramas, indirect science fiction, and poor quality but funny movies are my prefered stories. However as an aspiring artist I think a lot about what it takes to make art…the time, events, and effort that compose an art piece.

“The medium is the message” as said by Mcluhan and there are few films that aren’t biographies or pop driven that explore the process of art without being predictable and forced. I liked Pollock but it’s about Pollocks ego and psyche not his process only progression and Factory Girl isn’t really about Andy Warhol it’s a caricature. Since the criteria is high the three movies I say that fit into this exploration are Charlie Kaufman’s (any film written by him also but specifically) Synecdoche New York, David Mamet’s Red Belt, and the recent Black Swan by Aronofsky.

Synecdoche New York is the story of the frustrated and failing theater director Caden Cotard. The movie is highly complex both in writing and pictorially due to the length of Caden’s masterpiece play that is meant to be true and real to the fullest. He is also convinced he is dying and wants to create a great play before he dies.  Through out Caden’s life from age 40-? he uses every significant happening in his life and transforms it into a play piece that is composed of an epic huge play that is a recreation of places he’s been in a warehouse in NYC recreated in another warehouse that holds neighborhoods of NYC recreated in another warehouse that envelopes the city blocks around the old warehouse…baffling logic. However the work never ends it keeps manifesting with no end in sight and never comes into fruition because Caden can’t stop creating and his life’s work becomes his life work ending with his death. The film zeros in on the fears and abilities of an artist. No matter how much they work and achieve they will never be satisfied and will die unfulfilled and feel insignificant. It’s hard to talk about this movie in without spoiling and detailing so much about it and that the plot is always in flux. Overall it is a prime example of what art is, how its made, and what happens to artists in their life. I don’t think its a guide-book to how everyone life is…but this is a near bulls eye to me.

Red Belt is simply a about Mike Terry a Jujitsu teacher trying to be a good person in a world where martial arts revolves around media spectacle for money. Yet the film reaches a dark level of corruption when Terry’s handicap lesson is stolen by fight promoters in order to fix fights without the fighters ever knowing the match was predetermined by the chance handicap. Fights are pumped up by racial and nationalistic sentiments all in order to raise profits and maintain an illusion of warrior spirit. What is most compelling to me is the contrast between the commercial and pure paths of martial arts. In everything I believe that there are two divisions between art and commercialism. Despite Terry staying out of competitions and maintaining the honor of his dojo and style he has no money and through a series of events the people who followed his code of honor are helpless in our society where money is necessary to survive. It is a narrative of how money degrades the and mutates the ideas and image of martial arts from a science in training the body and mind into a function of monetary value. Fighters must choose whether they are in it for the money or honor the style itself. Basically an entity similar to the UFC industry as the commercial entity has brought the martial “Artist” to his knees and pressures him into fighting for money in a tournament and breaking his principles in order to save the victims of his code. Mike Terry concludes the movie by seeking to expose the fixing of the matches to tournament audience. The ending is one of most powerful scenes I’ve ever viewed in a theater.

The Black Swan illustrates what is necessary to make an art ballet rendition of Swan Lake. Nina a timid and conservative but talented dancer is chosen as the lead for the play as the Swan Queen. Due to her fragile and timid dancing she is ideal for the white swan but under qualified to match the mood of the black swan. However due to the sexual pressures of her teacher, her rivalry, rebellion against her mother, and strains of envy and hate against Nina she undergoes a personal transformation. She becomes of loose, violent, and paranoid of everyone. Nina essentially becomes the Swan Queen as she fears other dancers who threaten her role and she also revels in her status as queen. She becomes so involved that she begins to transform into a swan. I’m not going to go into what was and wasn’t a hallucination on Nina’s part but this film showed all the suffering and challenge a person must overcome to be truely great. Behind every performance are events that shape the mood, quality, and interaction of performers. An audience never knows from behind the scenes who fucked who, who hates who, who inspired who…it’s all undocumented interaction that leads to either a supreme or dull product. Other films by Kaufman I think nearly fit in are Being John Malcavich and Adaptation for the record. If another person were to follow this I guess Amadeus could fit but it was too fabricated for me to base an opinion on it and no look into the process other than his perfect note scribing. Art described in documentary can be dulled and in a movie feature is subject to be distorted for entertainment value. Movies like the ones listed above I think are uncompromising to let their ideas be drowned in hollywood glamour but at the same time are compelling stories. I hope the directors will keep writing and finding scripts that can be copuled with their visionary expertise to make true art films. On that note No Country for Old Men might fit into this category too.

2 Responses to “Art Films about the path of Art”

  1. The ending to Red Belt is bad ass!

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