Speed and politics

Need for Speed (d. Scott Waugh, 2015).
Need for Speed (d. Scott Waugh, 2015).

Cinema is movement. Movement is change. Change is politics — politics regulates change.

Movement in the frame is thus political.

The addition of speed amplifies the political impetus of cinema. Movement is cinema.

* * *

[It’s okay, I haven’t lost it. These are perfunctory scribblings for upcoming research, that I thought were strangely poetic. Rough thoughts on the disappointingly not-that-disappointing Need for Speed here.]

Writing

I haven’t written for a very long time.

That seems a strange thing to say, given that I bill myself as a ‘writer, producer, and researcher’. But it’s true. In terms of actually setting mind to page without the baggage of scholarly rigour, it’s been an age.

Given I now work for an institution that lauds, encourages, creative practice as research, I’m wondering if there’s an element of writing that needs a punch in the face. Or — maybe I just need to write, and figure the rest out afterwards.

I surround myself with people who I know have outstanding skills in their respective fields, whether living or dead. But I’ve not opened a screenwriting program in some three or four years. There’s something there.

There’s always something there.

I just have to go find it, capture it, and ensure I can type it out in Courier New 12pt.

Re-framing the frame

Blow Up, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966.
Blow Up, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966.

‘Framing is a position of thinking.’

– Daniel Frampton, Filmosophy, p. 125.

As previously alluded to, I’m in the very strange process of having to think through my own comprehension of the cinematic medium. In a way, I’m taking baby steps towards my own theory of film. I’ll be taking these initial explorations to a couple of conferences in New Zealand in a couple of months, and I’m also running a studio around the same topic in the second half of the year.

The basis of this new research is that throughout film history, film theory, the notion of the ‘frame’ is never questioned. So much of this is due to the fact that up until very recently, the frame itself was a tangible thing: there’s little need to theorise or philosophise about something you can cut up and hold in your hand. While my research goes out on multiple tangents, the ones we’ll be looking at in the studio have to do with our framing of the world, and how we can link this notion of framing to our conception of self, and our own thought process. It sounds pretentious, I’m well aware, but I’m hoping that through exploring what a cinematic frame is in 2015, we can move towards a comprehension of digital cinema that is either entirely new or, at best, a – ahem – reframing of older theories of film form and philosophy.

7 February 2010

Thoughts from the elder Moleskine:

‘When I was a child, I thought as a child acted as a child, spoke as a child… but when I became a man, I turned my back on childish things.’ [1 Corinthians 13:11]

The church expects that every person should grow up. Why? There is no harm, no danger, no inherent negative effect in striving to hold on to childish notions, to innocence, to a wonder at the world, to a genuine and pure interest in others. If everyone held to these, maybe the world would be a better place.

A Thursday

She’s laughing at an in-joke with herself about everyone on board;
She’s engrossed in her book;
He has his headphones in, openly staring at each commuter in turn;
All the other men are suited, reading their papers or fumbling with technology that was crafted much later than their fingers stopped working;
There is an amicably animated conversation in French – naturally the phrase “I’m entering the City Loop, I’ll call you back” needs no translation for eavesdroppers.

[originally put here, photo by me, original here]

On Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer is a funny one. In a lot of ways it’s a mere shadow of films like The Road or I Am Legend, in the sense that humanity’s last remnants must struggle to survive after some great global calamity. However, it’s also about the Arab Spring. Maybe. Or about the Occupy movement. But, again, it’s not. Because the film was based on an obscure French graphic novel released some thirty years ago.

The parallel most easily drawn, I think, is with Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta. In terms of setting, mood, tone, colour palette, the two films work quite well in this politico-apocalyptic mode. The fact that Snowpiercer (and its originator, Le Transperceneige) take place on a train, is often secondary to the class struggles that occur within. I’ve not read the comic, but I watched the French-language adaptation documentary on the bluray, and it seems that director Bong Joon Ho was determined to adapt the story rather than just translate it directly to the screen. This works, for me, in the film’s favour. The characters are mostly changed, from what I can tell; rather the setting, mood, and overall arcs are what remain from the comic.

As a few friends have noted, the pacing is odd, and I tend to agree. Rather than build and build right to the climax, the film seems to peak and trough with no rhythm. There are some stunning sequences, including the long-distance gunfight between carriages on a long bend: possibly my favourite from the entire film. These great set-pieces, though, are disconnected, and don’t fall into any sequential logic.

Snowpiercer fits alongside the other texts I’ve mentioned as ‘political’ cinema, albeit speculative. However, more than that, it fits into a cultural movement that transcends culture: what scientists and social commentators are calling the Anthropocene. McKenzie Wark has written and spoken eloquently on the cinema of the Anthropocene, in terms of a broad definition. He suggests it is now worth exploring cinema not in terms of character, but more in terms of setting. Further, he writes that maybe we should ‘ask about cinema as both a practice and a representation of energy-using systems.’

Snowpiercer is ‘Anthropocentric’ on all counts. The setting is crucial, despite its seeming obliviousness to the narrative. All characters are aware of the cold, and know they are secondary to it. The environment, thus, is the true tyrant. The train’s engine, ‘sacred’ as it is called by all the front passengers, is a representation of mankind’s reliance on technology, but also reflects this need to present energy and its considerations on screen. The cinema of the Anthropocene is contradictory in that human characters are both central to it, and yet entirely external. Rather, it is humanity’s irrevocable ruin of the landscape, inscribed as it is now geologically and atmospherically, that truly takes a starring role.

Today I wrote a letter

Writing
Photo by me.

For the longest time – certainly longer than any of us have been alive – writing letters was a necessity. Putting pen to paper was as frequent an act as a keystroke or a mouse-click is to most of us today. The glide of a nib across the surface of the paper was a crucial part of conducting business, of negotiating local and international politics, of creative expression, and of interpersonal communication.

It’s been a very long time since I sat down to write a letter. On paper. Without the aid of a spell-check, or the need to select a font, or to find and insert an email, or remember to attach an attachment. But today, I did. In fact, I wrote two. And I’m about to carry them to the post office and send them away. The reason? The Strangers podcast. Strangers is part of the Radiotopia network, who, last year, ran a Kickstarter to keep running, and to expand on their current line-up of shows. If you’re not listening to, in particular, Strangers and 99% Invisible, you need to do yourself a favour.

I threw a couple of dollars their way, not really thinking much of it, and in fact forgetting about one of the perks, which was being assigned a penpal by the Strangers team. Rather than being assigned in pairs, each backer gets one name and address, while their name and address is forwarded to – perhaps appropriately – a total stranger. I’d forgotten about it until I received a modest envelope in today’s post, containing a handwritten note from my new penpal in the US. I had also received my assigned recipient, so I sat down today and wrote them both.

As I explained to one of them, I’ve not had a penpal since I was about ten, and from memory they were in India. I’m sure with my living in Australia they think I’m equally exotic, despite living in the comfort of the uniquely non-threatening suburbs of Melbourne (yes, the letter I received today made a crack about Aussie wildlife). There is something very refreshing about writing again, like, properly writing. Though after writing about five pages of correspondence my hand is aching — a sign of the times, anyone?

The point of this post was to make some grand observation about how writing has gone from a necessary part of everyday life, to a hobby reserved usually only for older generations, to some quirk or quaint pastime that’s very rare. But such an observation is not forthcoming. Nevertheless, pick up a pen, and write someone a letter. It’s good fun.