Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chaos Reigns

This was tweeted by Roger Ebert yesterday and since then it's made the rounds pretty quickly. It's a fascinating video essay dissecting what the narrator calls the rise of "Chaos Cinema," with plenty of bemoaning of the death of the more elegant and coherent style of action filmmaking that's been left in its wake. Many of the points he makes are dead-on, and I especially agree when he places at least part of the blame for the sensory onslaught style employed by a lot of directors these days on our rapidly decreasing attention spans; there's a lovely irony to the fact that this essay was widely circulated on a communication platform that allows for only 140 characters, after all. That being said, I think that, like most things, there's a good way and bad way to use the techniques he's decrying almost wholesale. In other words, when it comes to pummeling the crap out of the audience, there's a difference between, say, a Michael Bay and a Paul Greengrass.

Anyway, it's definitely worth 20 minutes of your time.

Press Play: Matthias Stork on Chaos Cinema


Nathan said...

The technique of Chaos Cinema should be relegated to being the rare exception, not the rule. It represents laziness on the filmmaker's part. It's a hell of a lot easier to show a closeup of the front of a car smashing into a pole and then an explosion that may (or may not) be visually connected to the event than it is to show a car run into a pole and explode. Chaos Cinema releases the filmmaker from the requirement to care about things like composition, screen direction and lighting.

It's done for the same reason that it's always really, really dark when the alien or the monster shows up; it's a lot harder to actually show a believable monster than to have a "shape" and some menacing music.

Chaos Cinema and Vaguely Seen Aliens actually come out of the world of low budget filmmaking where the director can't afford to actually show anything. The fact that Michael Bay can afford to blow shit up more spectacularly doesn't excuse him for taking the easy way out.

Hex said...

To me there's always going to be stumbling in the modern era between the splinter styles that attempt to push away from classical standards (say the way that cubism or punk rock did in their respective worlds) because especially in cinema money talks. While indie film exists and thrives in certain circles -- film is one of the main art forms outside of music where trends are bolstered by bucks.

I'm with you, sometimes chaos cinema works -- most frequently when you pair it with solid story and strong characters, but it is easy to replicate, and is a cheap and effective way to cover up CGI additions and subtractions from what would otherwise be superexpensive action sequences.

People like tentpoles. Sometimes the choices they make are frustrating, but to me the worst part is how an event film is somehow considered equal to something with far more ambition and reach.

Still, very interesting stuff. Thanks for the find.

LzyMom said...

hmmm I tend to avoid a lot of mainstream movies and I don't watch a lot of tv so I wasn't aware of this. Yes, the rock I live under is large and comfortable.

This partially explains why my husband loses his shit when I watch slower paced indie movies. I just feel like there's space for something to happen when nothing's happening. Does that make sense?

Erin said...

Did Paul Greengrass use any jolty editing and shaky cam in Bloody Sunday or United 93? It's been a long time since I've seen either movie, just trying to remember. I agree with the guy, but it seems kind of cruel somehow to lump Paul Greengrass' stuff in with fucking Domino.