Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In Hindsight : I

What did he know?

To quote an event in history without also elaborating on what led to its occurrence or what followed deprives it of any vitality whatsoever. It just becomes a footnote in history, a piece of trivia to be memorized, or worse still, a piece of trivia to be forgotten. The history of cinema is like the history of the world - preserved in amputated anecdotal segments that are individually, and thus deprived of context, nonsense. However, when they are accompanied by other segments that grant their audience the benefit of chronology i.e. to say, segments that inform us of simple details : what happened after a certain event, what happened before it, they suddenly acquire a more total form. 

The audience of this total or complete historical chronology assumes the status of an all-pervasive, all-knowing overlord then. They know everything. Even as they read details of an event set in 1954, they know its repercussions in 1959, thereby managing to view the erstwhile concern/ambition/hope of the people in 1954 with an almost condescending or sympathetic eye - the condescension or sympathy resulting from their awareness of the characters' future (and thus, the effectiveness of their respective emotions). That is the benefit of hindsight.

 It is funny to read Director Interviews where film directors talk about starting work on a film that you as the audience of history (or the overlord) know the eventual fate of. Your feeling on the subject could be determined by how the film turned out, ofcourse. If it eventually came to be revered as a classic, you can only feel happy for the young director so lovingly talk about a pet-project that he doesn't yet know will blossom into certain immortality. Or if the film was  eventually disregarded as waste, you can only feel sorry for the tragedies of blind ambition. Ofcourse, you may never read an interview of the latter director. 

Preservation of the amputated anecdotes of cinematic history ensures that one can read an interview from 1974 after having watched a film from 1977. The overlord-perspective can thus afford us the peculiar experience of measuring up an ambition against its yield. In what will hopefully be a series, the first of such interview excerpts. In this case, when measured up against the eventual result, you feel simultaneously elated for the young director, and sorry for him. For his next film is guided by a primal urge to film things, but it is also the film that will kill both the primal and the urge in him forever.

George Lucas on his new film, The Star Wars, and excerpts from a 1974 Film Quarterly article about him.

"The film I'm writing now, The Star Wars, has been turned down by a couple of studios already, but now we're finally getting a deal because they say, 'Oh, he's had a hit movie. We don't really know about the idea, but he's a hot director, so let's do it.' They don't do it on the basis of the material; they do it on the kind of deal they can make. because most of the people at the studios are former agents, and all they know are deals. They're like used-car dealers."
His next two projects are more obviously "commercial" projects than his first two films.
He describes The Star Wars as "a space opera in the tradition of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. It's James Bond and 2001 combined --super fantasy, capes and swords and laser guns and spaceships shooting each other, and all that sort of stuff. But it's not camp. It's meant to be an exciting action adventure-film."

After Star Wars he wants to try a slapstick comedy -"Woody Allen, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton all rolled into one. It's been a long time since anybody made a really goofy corneay that had people rolling in the aisles. It's very hard to do, which is why nobody does it, but it's a challenge; it's like climbing that mountain."

"I always see images flash into my head, and I just have to make those scenes. I have an overwhelming drive to get that great shot of the two spaceships, one firing at the other as they dive through the space fortress. By God I want to see it. That image is in my head, and I won't rest until I see it on the screen."

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