Sunday, July 30, 2006
"Me, You and Everyone You Know": Filming art, Arting film
Seeing the film Me, You, and Everyone You Know, I kept getting the impression that it's a series of performances and installations, rather than an actual "life-like" story. They all had a punch, they were beautifuly written, conceived... and that was strange. Something unusually pure about it. Of course, it isn't about the film being "unrealistic". It is about it being a specific type of creation. And I'm afraid I'm having some difficulty describing just what that is.
But take some specific qualities of the film: the characters are sketched rather than painted. Sketched quite well, but nonetheless - they are hinted at and not "described". There is little or no small talk, nothing that can allow us to go deeper, beyond the surface of an action. I believe this is because at the heart of the work lies the need for composition, understood as the composition of a painting or performance rather than the composition of a character. The actions, events, situations, always seem to point to, or refer to, or use the language of, contemporary art.
Example: the two boys, both beautifuly discreet and calm characters, make ASCII drawings. And at a certain point, one of them shows the other a drawing he invented: a map of the neighborhood with "me and you and everyone we know" on it, in the form of dots. It might sound as a perfectly normal thing for boys to do. Well, it's not. And the level of asbtraction is quite high. Which doesn't mean it would be impossible for a twelve-year-old to come up with something of the sort. But it has the fresh scent of good contemporary art much more than of the spontaneous creation of a young adolescent.
It makes the entire experience of watching the film an unusual one. Of course one can enjoy it - it's a great picture - but once you feel what I'm trying to tell you, you simply can't stop thinking of someone writing it. Creating it. Composing it, like some installation.
Guess what. The director and star of the film - Miranda July - is actually a pretty renowned visual/performance/etc artist. This is her first feature film, and until now she has been doing installations and performances, many of which quite similar to the ones her character makes in the film. She is also the co-author of a brilliant web project that has been blogged about quite a lot, Learning To Love You More.
Doesn't this bring a lot of issues to the table?
If visual art can fit so well in a feature film, why not keep with the latter format? Isn't it more important, given the total lack of interest of the wider public towards contemporary art and the amazing success of the film (Golden Camera in Cannes, etc...)?
How close can a film, as in, regular saturday night film and not andy warhol film, be to a visual art work? Can't we judge it as such?
How does our judgement change once we accept something as a film or an installation /video art? Of course it does, and tremendously so. But isn't there something to be discovered by each of the disciplines - in the way we see the other work? For instance, for me a film is much easier to accept as such, to follow, to believe in, while video art creates great spaces for asking questions, for changing my approach, from a dynamic to a contemplative state. Oftentimes, though, the video art could use a little of the pragmatic follow me approach of a film, and vice versa, a film could use a little games with distance, so we can breathe.
Another issue: does the more accessible film equipment (Me, You... was shot on video, though it's still damn expensive video) mean that there is space for artists to go into/play with the more mainstream stream? Or is still going to be an offense to even think of mixing the two?
These questions are sometimes schematic, because I feel a need for schemes, for perspectives, points of view.
It's nice to know Matthew Barney is not the only visual artist making feature films. Although we shouldn't forget there are film directors who also make visual art (Lars von Trier, Peter Greenaway...).
ps.: Miranda July also wrote a blog, openly admitting it was part of the indie film industry strategy to promote the film. Nice nonetheless.