Babel vs. Bresson (and more Commandments)

In response to my initial post on Babel -- my dear friend Antonius Block, knowing of my love for Bresson (a filmmaker that does nothing for him), threw up this challenge, which in turn inspired more commandments on filmmaking as a way to help me understand why I love Bresson and despise Babel:

How many of these apply to Bresson?
  by Antonius Block     1 day ago (Tue Jan 23 2007 22:06:21 )

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I - Thou shalt not treat thine characters as pawns shuttled around in a grand narrative about universal suffering.

Check.


III - Thou shalt not pass bogus and nonconsequential coincidences off on viewer as rationalizations to connect unrelated stories.

Check.


IV - Thou shalt not take thyself too seriously and instead look for moments of disarming humor.

Check.


V - Thou shalt not waste Cate Blanchett

Ch -- err, I guess not. And this is the most important of the five, so...

Re: How many of these apply to Bresson?
  by zetes     1 day ago (Tue Jan 23 2007 22:22:37 )

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III - Thou shalt not pass bogus and nonconsequential coincidences off on viewer as rationalizations to connect unrelated stories.

Check.


Are you referring to Balthazar?

You sound hostile, I like that in a chick.

Re: How many of these apply to Bresson?
  by Antonius Block     1 day ago (Tue Jan 23 2007 22:32:31 )

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Actually I was thinking of L'Argent.

But I'm being facetious, of course.

I haven't seen Babel -- and don't particularly want to. In fact, none of the Oscar nominees that I haven't seen even look interesting to me. Not that that's anything new...

An interesting comparison
  by alsolikelife     23 hours ago (Wed Jan 24 2007 14:21:44 )

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In many ways, Bresson and Inarritu couldn't be more dissimilar, so it's worth considering what makes them different. Like I said I want to come up with 5 more commandments, so comparing them offers such an opportunity.

I think in doing so, first I should address your points at least in pertaining to Bresson.

I agree that item I fits many of Bresson's films to a tee, though somehow it doesn't bother me. I guess, to touch on something I wrote to zetes, there's enough of a spark of interest in the moments offered in his films to serve as counterpoint to the predetermined narratives. This is why I can watch Bresson's films repeatedly even though their plots and endings are well familiar to me -- the execution almost always feels fresh and of the moment. I think it comes down to the fact that through his cinematography and editing he offers a completely different way of seeing that will probably always be jarring to a viewer. Inarritu's filmmaking, with the keyed up dramatic climaxes and the histrionic acting, already feels dated in our era of globalized punishment narratives.

So maybe my problem isn't so much with the use of a grand universalist narrative (a lot of my favorite films would probably fit this category), but with the execution of it.

For III - If you're singling out L'ARGENT, I have no problem with the "coincidences" in that film at all since they all fall within the trajectory of the counterfeit bill -- they're not as jarringly incongruous as the "connection" that links the Japan story to the rest of BABEL, which is dangled in front of the viewer in anticipation but once its revealed is a fizzling non-event.

IV - regarding humor -- maybe it's not so much humor I'm after but some sort of tonal counterpoint, or a certain approach to the material that just keeps things from being obvious and boring. Of course there are plenty of people who find Bresson's technique boring, off-putting or one-dimensional, but I find them endlessly fascinating in their uniqueness.

I'll think about whether I want to reword I and IV to be more accurate in my complaints with BABEL. In the meantime, I'll offer some new ones based on these new considerations you provoked --

VI. Thou shalt not become too inured in convoluted plot mechanics at the expense of organic observation.

VII. Thou shalt let moments speak for themselves.

VIII. Thou shalt distinguish between the suffering found in real life and the suffering manufactured by drama.

as a substittue for I - Thou shalt not sacrifice thine characters at the altar of histrionic affect.

as a substitute for IV - Thou shalt seek ways to challenge thine own assumptions and transcend thine own designs.

two more to go!

shooting.alsolikelife.com

some more, inspired by the original commandments
  by alsolikelife     23 hours ago (Wed Jan 24 2007 15:02:13 )

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UPDATED Wed Jan 24 2007 15:02:24

Thou shalt have no cinema before reality

Thou shalt not worship the false idol of histrionic affect

Thou shalt not use contrived narrative designs in vain

Remember the cinema, to keep it holy. On the script shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but cinema is the sabbath of reality: in it thou shalt not sacrifice to false dramatic scenarios

Honor thy characters' humanity

Thou shalt not kill spontaneity and surprise

Thou shalt not commit adultery on the audience with superficial emotional reactions

Thou shalt not steal cliched sentiments on the world without the authority of real life observation

Thou shalt not bear false witness on thine characters' behavior and judgment.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's Palme d'Or, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's Oscar, nor his Golden Globe, nor his opening weekend box office receipts, nor any thing that is a false idol of cinematic quality.

shooting.alsolikelife.com

Re: An interesting comparison
  by Fesch     22 hours ago (Wed Jan 24 2007 16:04:45 )

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This is why I can watch Bresson's films repeatedly even though their plots and endings are well familiar to me -- the execution almost always feels fresh and of the moment. I think it comes down to the fact that through his cinematography and editing he offers a completely different way of seeing that will probably always be jarring to a viewer. Inarritu's filmmaking, with the keyed up dramatic climaxes and the histrionic acting, already feels dated in our era of globalized punishment narratives.

Proving once more that cinema is more than a mere script, and that although a good script may turn into a good movie, this is an art of the image above all. Well, and of sound, if we're talking Bresson...

Did I read somewhere that Iñárritu will no longer work with screenwriter Arriaga, or is it a false rumor? If true, I we'll see (well, I don't think I will) if he manages to pull another film on his own.

¿En qué ayer, en qué patios de Cartago, cae también esta lluvia?

V - Thou shalt not waste Cate Blanchett
  by Lucia_Harper     20 hours ago (Wed Jan 24 2007 17:23:20 )

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UPDATED Wed Jan 24 2007 17:24:15

From the Newsweek Roundtable (thanks Binx)


Was there a role that caused you more anxiety than others?

BLANCHETT: They all scare me. But I tell myself that anxiety is just misplaced excitement. You're constantly risking failure, so I never watch the films I'm in. That way, I always feel like, "OK, that worked." I had an experience on "Babel" which I've never had shooting a film. I thought, "God, that was a really great take." And then I saw the film, and the whole scene was played on Brad. [Laughter]


Lucia.