Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cinematic Reality: What is real? PART EIGHT


Storytellers like Orson Welles know that our understanding of reality is shaped by our exposure to new media technology and new media formats.

One way to convince us of a story's reality is to inscribe the aesthetics of new media technology and formats within the story itself.

Orson Welles did this in his historic "The War of the Worlds" radio broadcast in 1938.

He also used a variation of the technique in "Citizen Kane" (1941), specifically in his "News on the March" sequence, where he imitated the Newsreel formats that had been exhibited throughout movie theaters, to introduce the real movie audience to the life and death of Charles Foster Kane.

When George Lucas made "Star Wars," he used 16mm documentary footage of aerial dogfights in World War II as animatics for his star ship battles.   Some of the most famous sequences in "Star Wars" were edited shot for shot to footage of real aerial combat.  Obviously, many of the vessels in "Star Wars" bear more than a passing resemblance to the aircraft of World War II.

Again, Lucas was making a movie for an audience in the wake of the Vietnam war.  New expectations for realism had arisen, and Lucas made a movie with these new standards in mind.

When Kubrick made "2001," he drew on his background in documentary filmmaking to give the movie the observational quality of a documentary film.  Most people are surprised to learn that Kubrick, the master stylist, developed his style in an attempt to convey reality, and limit himself from imposing his own sensibility on the truth of a dramatic moment.

"You might say that no film should ever be made which doesn't look as realistic as possible"--Stanley Kubrick

We can also see Kubrick's love of imitating media formats in films like "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) and Doctor Strangelove (1964), two movies that contain documentary footage, albeit for slightly different purposes.

Likewise, Friedkin's background in documentaries was also put to use in "The French Connection" and later on in "The Exorcist" (1973).  

The chase sequence in "The French Connection" is considered to be one of the greatest ever, partially because of the energy provided by its pseudo-documentary realism.   Partially because it was shot without city permits, with the stunt driver going 90 mph for 26 city blocks, in New York.

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