The following post is my contribution to the Contemplative Cinema Blog-a-thon. It is a series of notes written by Rick Linklater and taken from the booklet accompanying the Criterion Edition DVD of SLACKER, a film which I think fits comfortably into the category of “contemplative cinema” (as defined here by Harry Tuttle of Unspoken Cinema), the one difference being that SLACKER actually does employ the use of dialogue. Incidentally, I may not fully agree with the proposed definition of “contemplative cinema” (although I do like the term), but I will admit that it did provoke a great deal of thought on my part, which was probably its primary intention all along, and it did help recall to mind a film that I had not seen in years and eventually decided to use as a “starting point” for my participation in the Blog-a-thon. In the process of revisiting it, though, I discovered a collection of musings (which the director penned before launching the project) that I found just as fascinating as the film itself and which I thought would be far more interesting than anything I had to say on the subject. So, here are Linklater’s thoughts and ideas about SLACKER, a work that, if you have not yet seen it, I highly recommend and which serves, I think, as a prime example of “contemplative cinema.”
From Richard Linklater:
Knowing this film would depend so much on its own methodology, I put these thoughts and “rules” to keep everyone somewhat “calibrated” and in sync with the film’s original spirit and intentions. Many of these are quotes or lines from or about filmmakers (such as Bresson, Tarkovsky, Godard, Rohmer) I’d written down over the years and seemed to apply to what I had in mind.
-A film as one long sequence in which each shot, each event and character, lead only to the next.
-New scene/New start: each complete in itself, the next is simply juxtaposed to it. The relationship between various scenes can be connected later (or before–cause can follow effect).
-The audience will itself construct causal relationships.
-The scenes and characters change… but the preoccupations of the movie remain the same.
-What seems like a straight line (as narrative) will actually be a circle (emotionally speaking).
-“…any apparent philosophical and political contradictions are actually an integral part of the non-narrative…”
-A film where anything goes–anything people do can be integrated into this film.
-A film of posing problems, even in a confused state (possibly to be solved or addressed differently elsewhere).
-Optimistic cinema: anything is possible, nothing is prohibited.
-Avoiding the “mechanically intellectual…”
-“Something filmed is automatically different from something written, and therefore original.” –Jean Luc Godard
-Camera: quiet but eloquent (especially when it moves)
-Colors: muted, not bright, muddied by the environment.
-Fiction… entering into documentary. Documentary of characters acting out a fiction?
-Lack of establishing shots: has a partitioning effect (same with the characters’ lack of development).
-Environment: suggests documentary.
-Method of casting: (a) choose people based on their visual aesthetic and attitude; (b) interview: testing for camera shyness and presence; (c) question them on their life, attitudes and tastes, and on the basis of their answers, match them with a character and situation in the script and shape the role. An entirely new role can always be created and fit in somewhere.
-Performances will depend on screen presence: the actor must give off the right vibrations, be the surface that represents the complex depths, and be able to capture the essence of the moment of that time.
-Pick actors whose sheer physical presence conveys a distinct reality (the physicality of the characters imposing itself).
TO THE ACTOR
-The character’s emotions will always be your own (can’t be forced on you/must arise from yourself). We must labor to bring forward the right FEELING from which the right expression arises.
-Disconnect your scene from the whole (especially the preceding scene).
-We are striving for a TRUTHFUL state of mind/being that cannot be feigned… the truth of THAT moment’s state of mind.
-Live your OWN inner life in front of the sensitive camera. Don’t try to convey the full depths of what is going on with you. Simply show LIFE (the audience will find within themselves the appreciation of what you’re doing).
-The film is much more interested in who you are than what you’re doing.
-Need to accept the rules of the film and have a large capacity for trust (in the film and its personnel).
-They are deliberately constructed, not developed.
-Obsessed by their own thoughts.
-People without a history or dramatic evolution. May seem less sympathetic or unattractive… good… forces the audience to analyze rather than emote.
-Dialogue is a kind of monologue in which the interior is brought forth.
-Actors speaking as if to themselves… in alternating monologues… Self-analysis…
-A film locked in with the moment locked in with the moment and place of its on making.
-To be avoided: deliberate generalizations, false exaggeration, and established clichés… Must force ourselves to search for truthfulness.
-Tension in the film: Characters’ desire to act contrasted with their inability to do so.
-Tension outside the film: Those who expect a traditional narrative and are not getting one.
-If we are sincere and honest (not to mention driven into a corner) over every aspect of this film, the result will necessarily be sincere and honest.
-Rather than a singular realism–concerned with the cumulative effect in the head of the viewer (subject to contradictions).
-It’s okay for the viewer to be aware that they are watching a construct.
-The form of a film makes the viewer experience the discomfort and alienation/disorientation of the characters.
-Cinema should be a part of living–normal and natural… Live your cinema.
The process is more important than achievement. The questions are more valuable than the answers. The attempts are more admirable than successes.
To be continued…