Sunday, December 4, 2011

Alan Rudolph On Filmmaking

One of America’s most striking and original filmmakers, Alan Rudolph hasn’t made a movie in 9 years. Disgruntled with the process of financing, he has turned to painting, having done a solo show recently at the Bainbridge Public Library in Bainbridge Island, WA where he lives. Even without having the privilege of watching a new movie from him, his oeuvre is a statement to his cinematic genius, from “Welcome to L.A.”(1976) and “Remember My Name” (1978) to his masterpieces, “Choose Me” (1984) and “Trouble In Mind” (1985) to “The Moderns”(1988) and “Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle”(1994), and I’m just naming a few. A complete retrospective of his films is in order so we can re-evaluate this important living American filmmaker. For now, and until that happens or some wise producer decides to bring him out of retirement, I’ll leave here a few bits and pieces of filmmaking wisdom from the man himself, extracted from a few of the interviews he has done over the years.

I am humbled by film's potential and power; it's so rarely used to get inside you in a way that is really meaningful. People allow it to crawl inside them but only the conditioning responses - instead of new doors opening up, they're happy to just go through the same doors. It's what advertising does, replaces your identity with a version of your identity that seems more appealing to you and can also be programmed. The problem is you wind up being like everybody else. Human identity is the most fragile thing that we have, and it's often only found in moments of truth.

Now people go to the movies to see their investment in their own culture. Some people are so conditioned they don't know it. They want to see how to be married. How to be a lawyer. How to become a human being on every level, which would be okay if the films were really teaching you that, but it's all manipulated.

These awful things that have happened to our world the last couple of years - when 9/11 happened, you'd turn on the television, and I don't care if it was the man on the street or Dan Rather or the President of the United States, what did they say? "It's like a movie." That was the number one description, "It was like a bad movie." "Like a Hollywood movie." Even when they started bombing Baghdad, people were saying that. It was harder to handle when put on a real, emotional level. Movies are our point of reference now. Which would be great if it wasn't just the technical side of movies that people were referencing.

People talk about reality, about realism (in movies). And yes, it gets to you if it’s something you’ve never seen or it has manipulation appeal, but in the final analysis, anything that is creatively dramatic is a take on realism. I can’t seem to take any of the circus seriously.

The thing that's different from when I started is that film used to be a sharp elbow in society's ribs. But now it's like a style.

Movies have become merchandising and they've also become a currency. Basic Hollywood movies are corporate propaganda and the corporation is really attacking our souls and trying to get each of our identities. People are going to movies to learn how to behave as human beings because they're so confused now. It would be great if it were Frank Capra, but instead it's imitators and imitators of imitators and suddenly people are confused.

As the world either progresses or degenerates, depending on your opinion, this surface interconnection and interaction that we are all required to have becomes just that: surface. It’s very disingenuous. I don’t find there’s a lot of truth in people’s lives in society, and I find that television and advertising have invaded the movies and eaten all the good stuff in the emotional content. The symbols are now overwhelming the substance.

The two things I know about film are 1)the natural human creation. It just seems like the ultimate cave drawing. If you were from another solar system and said the human race invented one thing, what would it be? Well, the ability to see themselves, to observe themselves. 2)the other thing I know that since its invention 100 years ago, it's been under constant assault, and it's indestructable, the essense of it. It's like that Picasso thing, the lie that enables you to understand the truth.

It occurred to me, in this very political season, that filmmaking is a lot like politics . . . Every two years we're looking for more money, fiction is our way of getting at the truth, and we all seem to celebrate strange bedfellows.

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