Friday, May 15, 2015

Cinematic Reality: What is real? PART ONE

Reality versus fantasy.

This seems to be a big topic in cinema these days as the discussion has trickled down to the masses, and you hear things like "I liked this movie because it's more realistic."

Or, "I thought the director treated the story realistically?"

But what is "realism" in cinema?   What makes a movie seem more realistic than another?

Is it how the director shoots the scene?

If that were the case, then many of the film noirs of the '30s and '40s would be considered "realistic," and yet film noir has become something of a formal style -- a "look" that film students mock, and commercials parody.

Even De Sica's "The Bicycle Thieves" (1948), which became the flag of Italy's neorealism, seems less real today, than it did when it came out.

Image from "The Bicycle Thieves" (1948)

A perfect example would be Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964), which seemed to usher in a new age of realistic, gritty westerns.  And indeed it did.

Images from "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964)

But the Leone western has become so thoroughly understood, that its power to convey a heightened reality in the western genre has vanished.  To employ his method is to invoke Sergio Leone, and not necessarily to refer to reality in the West.   And countless film students and filmmakers like Raimi and Tarantino do this regularly as homage.

Cinema is the world of heightened reality.  And because it remains so, every attempt at reality ultimately, over time -- whether it wishes to or not -- becomes cinematic fantasy.

And yet by some magic, by some powerful instinct, there are those directors and writers who are able to convince us that the movie we are watching is indeed the most real of its kind.

The question is how?

Thoughts for you to ponder until PART TWO.

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