While the Contemplative Cinema blogathon is going on over at Harry Tuttle's blog, Unspoken Cinema
, I'm scurrying around, trying to come to terms with the very idea of it as a "movement," so to speak. A movement, which Tuttle defines in his latest post with four characteristics:
1. PLOTLESSNESS : no obvious (forefront) drama, no beguining, no denouement, open-ending, no drive to go forward, no major narrative gimmicks (flashback, multilayered stories), simplicity, atmospherical depiction, distanciation of protagonist(s) with background action, no imminent threat, no external forces pressuring the protagonist(s).
2. WORDLESSNESS : laconical interactions (or silent protagonist), no plot-drive expository filling, no psychological arguments, no voiceover, direct-sound (no score), body language.
3. SLOWNESS : long takes, static shots/slow camerawork, patient pace, uneventfulness (down time), "unnecessary" mundanity, uncut movements, activities filmed in their entirety, extended wait/pauses, conscience of time.
4. SOLITUDE : disconnectedness, wandering/idleness, loneliness, fatalism, ennui/melancholy/depression, no intellectualized existentialism, distanciation of protagonist(s) with the world, with other characters.
It seems to be a pretty broad movement if we accept the terms that Harry Tuttle gives us. I don't think that what Jarmusch, Tarr, or Ming-Liang do is particularly new. Cinema has always dabbled in meditative camerawork, visual minimalism, and non-narrativity. Take many silent films for example, which Tuttle acknowledges, or in a few of the precursors to the movement (Tarkovsky, Ozu, Bresson, the triumvirate Paul Schrader annointed as "transcendental" filmmakers). How is it that we can say that Contemplative Cinema is now and not then? One might even argue that Contemplative Cinema verges on the definition of art film in general.
Of course, I don't think anyone is arguing over there that the parameters of the movement are set in stone. They've spent quite a bit of time defining their terms. I'm just wondering what you Criterion folk think of the idea. Although this strikes me as a similar classification to the transcendental film idea, in this case, the argument is for a proposed model for what would be one of the major movements taking place in world cinema in the last 25-30 years, especially in the last 10 or 15.
Additionally, I wanted to reference the chronological list
they use because I think it gives a better idea of what we're dealing with when we say Contemplative Cinema.
If you want a list of directors, Tuttle mentions the following:
This idea came from a few auteurs who seem to follow this path in total contradition to the narrative cinema tradition, to me they represent the epitome of "contemplation" since only images are left to hold the film together : Bela Tarr, Tsai Ming-liang, Bruno Dumont, Weerasethakul, Sharuna Bartas, Kore-eda, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Sokurov, Lisandro Alonso, Carlos Reygadas, Pedro Costa. So they are the ones I'd like to focus on primarily. There are also individual films by other auteurs that fit this profile perfectly without being a consistant trademark.