25/06/2017

End Of The Week Shorts #11



Today's Shorts: Labyrinth (1963), A Daring Daylight Burglary (1903), Hunting The Panther (1909), The Spirit Of The Beehive (1973), Dawn Of The Dead (1978), Oldboy (2003), Braveheart (1995)



Labyrinth is a surrealist short from Jan Lenica, a significant artist who changed the face of Polish animation in the 60s. 
With an incredibly unique style, this film seemingly explores freedom and tyranny as it follows an angelic figure, a suited man with wings, into a city where he confronts evil to no avail and later witnesses puerile and lewd spectacles before being captured, his mind infected, and then destroyed. This short has been compared to the Icarus myth, but is clearly a reversal; instead of flying too high, our figure flies too low, only to be consumed by darkness, leaving this narrative a pessimistic critique of charity and good intentions. The manner in which this idea is captured through the aesthetics is quite penetrating and so is something I'd certainly recommend.



An impressive early example of multiple location linearity in cinema, A Daring Daylight Burglary is one of the first archetypal chase/action shorts. In such, it follows a burglar who, as the title suggests, daringly tries to rob a house during the day before leading police officers on a chase. 
This is a significant film as it is one made by Frank Mottershaw whose films were an influence on Edwin S. Porter who would go on to release the first American western in this same year, the famous Great Train Robbery. In terms of structure and pace, Mottershaw's film feels much more mature thanks to a stronger sense of space and time jumps as well as a surge of energy gathered in the final few shots - though, this may just be a result of the varying frame rates (which may or may not have been corrected in the version I saw). Moreover, A Daring Daylight Burglary has a much stronger sense of realism thanks to the use of real locations, distinguishing it from a tradition of sensationalised and romantic retrospection that begun with Porter's first western.



This is a film by Alfred Machin, a prolific French filmmaker who was quite significant in the the nineteen-teens thanks to his work during WWI as an operator in the Armed Forces Cinematographic Services. This documentary-esque short (there is clear fictionalisation within) pre-dates his work in WWI, however. Employed by Pathé, Machin travelled all over Africa recording film of people, animals and their practices.
This is then, especially by modern standards, a highly unethical hunting film that sees a panther caught in a trap, poked with sticks and then shot at close range before being skinned. Quite like other shorts in which Machin would document the hunt of animals such as giraffes and hippos, this is then a form of spectacle and an extension of early cinema scenes which would simply document life (which would of course be dated by this point - which explains the expansion into more exotic and dangerous regions). 
Most likely inspired by his interest of animals, Machin shot many of these movies in his early career and would go on to own exotic animals, such as a chimp that would star in a few of his narrative films once he owned his own production company. Almost by some macabre sense of karma Machin would go on to die in 1929 due to injuries he sustained after being struck by in the chest by a panther he owned.



Instantaneously recognisable as a masterpiece, The Spirit Of The Beehive is a beautifully shot film with a heavy reliance on pure cinematic language and the image. 
Despite its allusions to the Spanish Civil war, which add great depth and a poignant social commentary to this narrative, what struck me most was another level of subtext that explores childhood, maturity and imagination. In such, as we watch our protagonist, the young Ana, naively trudge through profound contacts with ideas of good, evil and the grey haze that embodies the two concepts, there is a tremendous sense of resonance thanks to great performances as well as highly metaphorical and symbolic writing that ingeniously incorporates the most complex elements of Frankenstein into this film. 
All in all, The Spirit Of The Beehive is a brilliant cinematic experience that I'll surely be diving into again.



Seen as a straight zombie movie, Dawn Of The Dead is good fun, but objectively a pretty terrible movie. The direction is ok, just like the editing, but the acting and the script are so incredibly dumb at certain points that it's ridiculous. And the zombies... just bad. The main flaw with this movie is then the awfully designed narrative that has no real conflict and shallow characters that only manages to give us some bursts of spectacle to be immersed in. 
However, as most will be able to tell you, Dawn Of The Dead also serves as a poignant commentary on commercialised mindlessness and destruction - and it explores these themes pretty well. For this, Dawn Of The Dead is not only a classic zombie movie that had an immense cultural impact as part of a changing American movie industry, but is also one with, somewhat ironically, a bit of brains. 
All in all, this movie has significant redeeming factors and is intermittently quite a fun movie, but nonetheless suffers from a lot of dumbness - again, somewhat ironically.


A flawless film that really didn't need the remake - which I've not seen in full, so don't really have a valid opinion on. 
With his newest feature, The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook certainly proved himself to be one of the most interesting directors working today. But, the Vengeance Trilogy, which Oldboy is apart of, is an example that Chan-wook has been making great films for well over a decade now. As the most sensational film of the trilogy, Oldboy is edited and directly masterfully with great, though over-the-top at points, performances all round.
What stands out most about Oldboy, however, is the story which, looking past the plot twists on numerous re-watches, is very intricate and darkly profound. In short, Oldboy is an exploration of inhumanity and isolation - a crushing aspect of existence that can leave people only wanting to be numb. The manner in which these themes and ideas are explored is entirely exceptional with some unforgiving dark humour.
All in all, I think it's safe to say that Oldboy is probably a masterpiece - one that maybe isn't for everyone.



A tremendous epic, Braveheart is a movie I've seen from beginning to end about 3 times now - but have seen to the half-way mark about a dozen times more than that. What this of course implies is that this is quite a long movie (just over 3 hours) with an awful lot going on within - maybe a little too much. The only faults with this film in my view are then its somewhat bloated nature and over-abundance of plot beats and characters. 
Despite the plethora of notorious historical inaccuracies, this is an all-time classic and a near-perfect movie when viewed with the right amount of time and energy. What stands out most are of course the action scenes, which, much like any great battle scene that somehow makes it to a screen, are a tremendous and quite rare feat - and there are many in this movie. Added to this is a performance of a lifetime given by Mel Gibson, who, no matter what he does or has done, will be the guy who made Braveheart. 
All in all, what more can be said other than that this is a brilliant movie that everyone has to see at least once.



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24/06/2017

Africa Paradis - Transportive Mediocrity

Quick Thoughts: Africa Paradis (2007)


This is a film made by Sylvestre Amoussou, and is the Beninese film of the series.


Africa Paradis is a weirdly transportive movie. Not only is this a sci-fi(ish) film about a world in which the West essentially falls and Africa unites as a world-leading power, but Africa Paradis feels so much like a movie directly from the 90s - even though it was made in 2007. To better define this movie, it feels like a very mediocre movie from the 90s (a class of film I seemingly have a weak spot for). I then found this oddly entertaining and was, quite unexpectedly, left wanting more.

Starting with the positives, this is a very amusing film thanks to its use of light satire. What's more, the direction is fine - never anything spectacular - just like the performances and writing. Moreover, the characters are all well constructed and probably the most compelling aspect of this movie. The real downfalls of Africa Paradis come with the dumb action scenes and jarring soundtrack. However, concerning the narrative, this is an ok story that is just a little too sentimental and simple. As could be guessed, this is a highly political film that essentially means to comment on immigration by depicting an alternate, reversed world in which French people struggle to immigrate into African countries such as Benin and find work. Whilst this is an interesting concept, however cliched, and the narrative handles the perspective of an immigrant somewhat well, the wider commentary is nothing more than a call for open boarders and more lenient immigration laws. This is certainly nothing profound, nor nuanced and complex enough to really be considered and pondered upon too deeply.

So, all in all, this shouldn't really be a movie you go to see for its subtext, rather its characters and weirdly immersive narrative. Whilst many people probably won't like this, if you're interested in world cinema, certainly give this a go.


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23/06/2017

2012: The Curse Of The Xtabai - Skin Deep

Thoughts On: 2012: The Curse Of The Xtabai (2012: Kurse a di Xtabai, 2012)


This is the Belizean film of the series made by Matthiew Klinck.


This is an awful movie, but a very... unique cinematic experience. It is the first major full-length movie that has been '100% made in Belize' and is centred on a curse that suddenly plagues a small town, many people stricken dead for unknown reasons, leaving a group of students to venture into the forest to find a cure.

A Creole-language film, The Curse Of The Xtabai can be understood quite well without subtitles - and this was one of the more amusing elements of this film as it did keep my mind active in the duller moments. Beyond this, the director, Matthiew Klinck, has some degree of competence and shoots some strangely beautiful and weirdly effective sequences, but the quality of this film's direction and cinematography undulate significantly. The acting is consistently bad though - as is the script. Actually, the script is probably the worst aspect of this movie, just about beating out the horrific soundtrack.

What makes this script so terrible isn't really the complete lack of sense, tone, atmosphere, drama, verisimilitude and character. These elements (or the lack of them) actually work with the alien cinematic approach that the director takes as you do get the sense that this is just supposed to be a dumb movie that doesn't take itself too seriously; a Belizean remix of The Blair Witch Project and Predator. What takes the fun out of this is the allusion to the folklore that is completely out of place, making this film seem like a 10-year-old Sam Raimi was once told a Belizean bed time story and then given a camera for the first time.

The underlying tale that this film refers to is of the Xtabay or X'tabai. This is a story that follows two women, one that is promiscuous, a prostitute who sleeps with anyone who asks, and another who is beautiful and austere. Xkeban, the promiscuous one, is, however, an honest, humble and self-sacrificing person that, in the archetypal fashion, serves the poor, sick and homeless. On the other hand, Utz-Colel, the virtuous woman, is cold, full of pride, disgust and disdain.

One day Xkeban is found dead after villagers follow a sweet scent to her home. Here, Utz-Colel proclaims that there shouldn't be anything so sweet coming from such a vile being and that such a perfume should come from a body like hers when she dies. As you could guess, one day, Utz-Colel dies, a virgin whose corpse emanates a disgusting smell. Embodying the Tzacam cactus flower that grows from her grave, Utz-Colel surmises that she met such a foul end because she was unlike Xkeban, whose sins must have came from a place of love. And so, by calling upon evil demons, Utz-Colel moves back into the realm of the living so that she could seduce men, becoming the X'tabai. However, her nature had not really changed; she was still cold and corrupt of compassion. So, when she attracts men, she kills them, disguising herself in tress, even as trees or, some say, as snakes and other animals.

Whilst this isn't the most profound of parables, it conveys an idea of internal worth with clarity and so is a thousand times more intriguing than the incomprehensible narrative that we're given by The Curse Of The Xtabai. There are allusions to themes of selfishness and destruction within this narrative, but the manner in which they're implemented into the script is below an amateur level. With some grip on their story, the screenwriter could have used this folklore and the tropes of horror to produce an interesting commentary on a vast number of things - most directly, promiscuity, envy or charity - as to expand on this legend. However, using a cheap reference to a 'scary story' to give this narrative a Belizean texture that's only really skin-deep (what lies beneath is a lot of influence from dumb-but-fun American movies), The Curse Of The Xtabai really sullies all of its initial elements of cheap fun and dumbness. In such, with just a little bit of effort and thought in the scripting process, this could have been a much more respectable film, but, as is, it's a bit of a let down.

All in all, this is a bad movie that you may be able to have some fun with if you go in completely blind (though, at this point, you can't - sorry), but it ultimately shoots itself in the foot with its cheap attempt at capturing and projecting complexity and depth from its own culture.

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Every Year In Film #13 - Poor Pierrot

Thoughts On: Poor Pierrot (Pauvre Pierrot, 1892)


Two lovers meet. A third man, Pierrot, comes to sing to the woman, but is scared off by her lover.


Made by Charles-Émile Reynaud, this is not only the first known movie to operate with perforated film stock, but is also one of the first ever animated and narrative films. Reynaud built toward these innovations, much like many inventors of these days, seemingly from his childhood. In such, he was raised by his father and mother, home-educated in painting by his mother, and mechanics by his father. This lead him into many apprenticeships as a young kid; he would work with optics, industrial design, precision engineering and also photography. However, one of his most significant meetings would come in 1864 when he went on to become the assistant of François-Napoléon-Marie Moigno, otherwise know as Abbé Moigno, a Catholic cleric, an educator, writer and lecturer of science. Working with Moigno, Reynaud had to operate the magic lanterns that would accompany his lectures - and such must have sparked an interest in projection that would come into play later on in Reynaud's life.

However, a year after he started to work for Moigno, Reynaud's father died and so he moved to Puy-en-Velay with his mother. It's here that his late father's cousin educated him in chemistry, engineering and other sciences. This would eventually lead to Reynaud working with Moigno again, however, this period of study was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, which Reynaud served in as a nurse. After a period of retirement in which Reynaud tried to overcome the lasting trauma that his experience in the war had on him, he would be called upon by Moigno where he continued to work with magic lanterns in courses taught to students. After a few years of this, Reynaud would begin to significantly contribute to film history.

It was then in 1976, a year before Muybridge would shoot and project some of the first major moving images, that Reynaud produced his prototype praxinoscope. This is yet another device to add to a lavish list of pre-film inventions with crazy names. The praxinoscope was then an improvement upon devices like the early stroboscope, phenakistoscope, daedaleum and, most directly, the zoetrope. Remembering the early Every Year post on these devices, these were all mechanisms that would feature elements with moving images on that would rotate behind slits of some kind:


There were always three major problems with all of these devices, however, and Reynaud began to solve them all. The first problem with devices like the zoetrope was that they were too simplistic and impractical; they were mere toys. In such, to view the moving images, you'd have to bend down and look through the slits...


It's this fundamental restriction, which was largely a technical one, that deeply impacted film for years to come; for about a decade after the Lumières, films were seen as short spectacles and so, in certain respects, were simply more complicated zoetropes. However, this is a tangential idea that we may come to explore at a later date.

What Reynaud initially did to combat the impracticalities of pre-filmic devices was to invent the praxinoscope.


The similarities between the zoetrope and this device are obvious, yet subtly significant. Instead of using slits that act as a shutter of sorts through which to view fluid moving imagery, Reynaud used mirrors. Because each mirror was angled individually, the difference between one reflection and the next would have, in an around about way, acted as a gap or shutter between them. This is exactly what allowed for the the reflected image to be crisp and fluid - all without the arduous and intricate mechanics of actual shutters and stop-start mechanisms.


This is a significant device because it not only made the zoetrope a more practical idea with easier access, but approached light (reflections) in a more nuanced, yet ingeniously simple manner - which would later become pivotal to Reynaud's innovations.

In 1977, Reynaud patented this device and began to sell it commercially - which was met with much success and acclaim. However, despite being a significant improvement on the zoetrope, the praxinoscope was still, quite clearly, a toy. A major reason as to why the praxinoscope was still a toy comes down to its scale. Understanding this, Reynaud's next endeavour was the praxinoscope theatre.


This initially began as an extension of the original praxinoscope. In such, Reynaud designed a small theatre around his device with backgrounds and a peep hole...


Expanding upon this, however, he wanted to project his moving imagery in a similar manner to which he'd project magic lantern slides for Moigno. And it's here where the use of mirrors became an irreplaceable design choice. With a simple use of lenses and lights, Reynaud would bounce light from the mirrored moving image onto a screen...


This would then allow Reynaud to project his circulating, gif-like sequences with a background setting provided by a painted magic lantern-esque slide - all for dozens of people to watch at a time. You can see each of these elements by studying the above image, paying attention to the two projectors, one for the background and other for the praxinoscope image (whose own background was black so that it could be superimposed onto a setting). As is clear, with this, Reynaud solved the second major problem with pre-film devices whilst eradicating the first problem. In such, he made the device practical and accessible to numerous people at a time, increasing the scale of his spectacle.

It's this increase in scale that gives arts greater complexity and in turn leads to forms being respected as significant mediums of storytelling. But, as one of the most forward-thinking filmmakers of this entire era, Reynaud recognised that a looped sequence of movement wasn't a viable form of storytelling.

This is something so incredibly significant because, by this time, the only forms of 'film' were scientific and spectacle. In such, around the 1880s and 90s you had figures such as Marey, Muybridge and Demenÿ working on the study of motion itself. Added to this, you also had Friese-Greene, Le Prince and Edison rushing to produce the first viable form of spectacle cinema (Edison would win this race with W.K.L Dickson and the kinetoscope). What all of these endeavours lacked, however, was a narrative. Figures such as Muybridge and Marey were only interested in a few seconds of movement, never any form of storytelling, and the same can be said about Greene as well as Edison and Dickson; these figures were clearly more preoccupied with technological innovation rather than innovation in storytelling during the late 1800s. In such, you do not need complex moving imagery lasting at least an hour to put across the points that these figures were trying to make, as well as satisfy their intentions - which is not really cinema as we know it today.

Reynaud then distinguished himself from all of these figures because his innovation was clearly focused on bettering the content of devices such as the zoetrope as well as improving the manner in which audiences interacted with them. It's exactly this that we can see as the guiding force of his simplistic, yet substantial decision to project his praxinoscope strips and later out-do himself yet again.

It is in 1888, after quite a few years of producing and modifying praxinoscopes, praxinoscope strips as well as praxinoscope theatres, that Reynaud decided to confront his realisation that these short, cyclic images were not sufficient ways of telling stories. He did this with a patent of his Théâtre Optique. Reynaud's Optical Theatres' main intention was to extend the dozen-or-so frame cycles of praxinoscopes into something much longer through which a story could be told. So, as many people were at this point, Reynaud decided to approach film as opposed to solid static plates. However, he was not going to dive into the huge technological mess of photographing the real world with photographic film. Instead, Reynaud mimicked the form of film strips with his own flexible gelatin plates that he painted on and then fixed into cardboard and fabric, creating a reel of his own 'film'. These would then need to be perforated so that they could be spun on an outer frame.


The perforations on this film would be on the segments between each frame and would simply serve as holes that the sprockets on the outer frame (look to the largest upper circle of the diagram) would use to move the film. However, these original designs were modified with outer spools so that Reynaud could both move the film around the mechanism better, but also inject in his light system. You can see this here:


In the simplest terms, light would then be reflected through the film strips made up of up to 700 frames as it spun around the system. This light would be bounced off of mirrors and onto a translucent screen that simultaneously has a background slide projected onto it. To have a better practical understanding of this image, check out this brilliant visualisation:


What isn't visualised here is Reynaud's later use of sound. He would often animate his films to scores that would be played live, as well as inject synchronised sound effects, such as buzzers and drums, into his narrative through electronics (these effects and sounds have been injected into modern 'prints' of his films).

So, what we are seeing here is the establishment of sound in cinema - which, spoilers, did not just pop out of nowhere in 1927 - as well as Reynaud solving the 3 major problems with pre-filmic devices. He firstly made the devices practical, then took them out of the home, giving them a greater scale through projection and various attributes such as backgrounds and, finally, Reynaud found a way of telling actual stories through images; extended narratives in shows that would last up to 15 minutes. This, as anyone could recognise, was a huge jump in cinematic sensibilities, which is of course represented through our subject for today: Poor Pierrot, or, Pauvre Pierrot.

Made in 1892, Poor Pierrot was one of Reynaud's initial works to be publicly and commercially screened in Paris - which of course pre-dates the first Lumière screenings. However, on the note of the Lumières, with the rise of Cinématographe in 1895 came overwhelming competition from both the Lumières and their imitators. So, despite new films, modifications with colour and sound design as well as experimentation with mirrors, Reynaud's Optical Theatre was doomed to fail, and performed its last show in 1900 - a point at which over half a million people would have seen Reynaud's work.

The reason for this decline was quite simple. Though Reynaud had solved the 3 major problem with pre-filmic devices, his solution wasn't practical enough and the scale wasn't great enough to compete with the advancing complex motion picture photography and projection (which had of course caught up with him in the 3 years after he began the Optical Theatre). With Reynaud's decline, longer form narrative cinema was lost for a few years, but cinema nonetheless evolved past Reynaud's ingenious invention that was unfortunately too perfect as is; it simply couldn't evolve any further.

In the following decade, Reynaud moved on from his Optical Theatre to work on a stereo-cinema, but this never amounted to much. So, in 1910, depressed, financially ruined and almost entirely forgotten, Reynaud discarded almost all of his work, including his precious films and equipment, into the river Seine. He would then go on to die in a hospice during 1918 at age 73.

All but two of Reynaud's films were thrown into the Seine, Autour d’une Cabine and Pauvre Pierrot. It is through these films that Reynaud is then remembered as the founder of animated film and narrative cinematic storytelling who significantly contributed to cinematic technology as well as its publicly perceived image. Without much more to be said, I'll leave the importance of Reynaud to be articulated by one of his surviving films...


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Au Hasard Balthazar - Cinema As A Religion

Thoughts On: Religion, via Au Hasard Balthazar (Balthazar, At Random, 1966)

This is a post that very lightly touches on Bresson's film. For some quick thoughts on this film, click here.


The following, the title of this essay, is an idea I've been thinking about for quite a while, but have been refraining from writing about. Firstly, this is because it sounds like a frivolous and rather silly idea that would take some careful articulation to do justice. But, secondly, I had not yet seen Au Hasard Balthazar. This is a movie I've been wanting to watch for years, but have only just managed to find, sit down and watch. In doing so, it has become an immediate personal favourite and one that has really lit a fire under me to pursue this idea.

So, as the title suggests, I've been contemplating cinema's textures and qualities as a kind of religious body. By this I do not mean to suggest that there is a God, certainly not one of cinema, that needs to be prayed to - nor are there rules, doctrines or particular hierarchies and divinities (beyond maybe personal conceptualisation). The parallels I mean to draw between a religion and cinema as a holistic body of art is a simple one predicated on the nature of stories as a medium for the sharing of ideas and values.

We all, arguably and in a certain sense, have some kind of religion. This is a common idea that is often used cynically to suggests that T.V, material objects or certain celebrities have become a form of pop religion. Whilst I understand that this can be a valid form of critique as many 'pop deities' are useless, vapid and, frankly, stupid, there is an impulse or sensibility in all people that clearly has them drawn to 'religion'. It must be said, however, that I use this term very loosely. In saying 'religion', I do not really refer to an idea of God or even an entity of superhuman power - as most definitions will outline religion to be. I instead mean to imply that most people are bound to some form of hierarchy, an ambiguous one that often transcends realistic, tangible comprehension, that provides reason or purpose to an individual. As suggested with the allusion to 'pop deities', these figures, their provisional reasons and purposes, may be ridiculous and harmful - just as many sects and interpretations of actual religions have the capacity to be. However, the paradigm stands as a poignant, self-evident and strong one nonetheless.

With that established, we only need to recognise that all forms of religion come with some body of narratives and stories to begin to see my point of 'cinema as a religion'. In such, all established religions have texts; the Bible, Qur'an, Guru Granth Sahib, etc. Mirroring this, all other forms of 'religion' have texts too. If T.V is your religion, then your texts are the T.V guide (if those things are commonly used anymore), more specifically, the T.V shows you watch. If the internet is your religion, then the sites you use that provide you information and entertainment are your religious texts. If science is your religion, then the texts are the lectures, papers and text books. If a sport, say for instance, football (soccer), is your religion, then your texts are the statistics, matches and written histories. We could go on establishing hundreds, if not thousands, of alternative religions, but what all of them have in common are individually voiced, yet archetypal, narratives that each teach fundamental lessons and philosophies about the human condition.

This is something that, in my view, has been overlooked throughout the world and history. Religion, philosophy and thinking have seemingly always been bound to entities that govern us all - if not, huge sects of populations. This often occurs through education, religion and government. All of these entities are perceived as established and true mediums through which people may unite under common ideas, beliefs and practices. By suggesting a more ambiguous definition of 'religion', I am then essentially asking the following: Why are there so few recognised structures that act as uniting concepts of philosophy and action?

The reason for this seems to be an obvious one: my distinction of religion is far too arbitrary. Religion, education and government are institutions that are often protected and managed by a collective idea of a country. In such, these are often state-run entities or are sympathised with greatly by states. You only have to consider the function of taxes and law in respect to the mentioned entities to realise how they are managed and sympathised with as significant pillars of human dedication. It is for this very reason that all arts and entertainment can't, and won't (and probably shouldn't), be recognised as traditional religions. After all, we cannot all claim that T.V is our religion and expect to have national holidays and for our industry to be tax exempt (among other things) - the effect on the world would, after all, be catastrophic.

However, there is another answer to be given to our question, Why are there so few recognised structures that act as uniting concepts of philosophy and action? The second answer is actually a contradiction. The fact is that alternative entities, arts especially, have almost always been considered significant elements of society through which education, thought, politics and philosophy have ran through. After all, why would any art form, whether it be painting, writing, dancing, songwriting or filmmaking, ever confront censorship if they weren't universally recognised to be, under our current interpretation, 'religions'; pillars of education, philosophy, morality and ideas?

There are then only a few entities that are protected and governed by states that serve as archetypes of thought, morality and action because people need to have as few distinct categorisations as possible so that these institutions can all be best managed. However, I nonetheless question this notion. I don't so much question why there can't be a plethora of religions recognised by states - T.V, sports and cinema being amongst them. Instead, I question why any religion (not so much government and education) is supported in the manner it is.

Whilst I respect religion as a medium through which people find structure, reason and purpose, whilst I can respect elements of its humanly fundamental content that teach stories and ideas, I don't respect the form that religions assume. In such, I think that dogma, especially when it concerns ambiguity, is reprehensible. When people do not have definite answers, they should be truthful and suggest their ideas, their personally sourced answers, as exactly what they are - no disguises. For there to be a 'word of God', one that is often translated through parables, metaphors and content that must be interpreted, is a huge fault of thinking and propagating ideas. Not only are we suggesting that ideas are inherently true on only belief and with no evidence by doing this, but we are providing 'answers' through constructed stories with no direct clarity - only a plethora of mines and catch 22s that tie indoctrinated subjects into a web. In such, religion often associates authority with ambiguity, and that is the biggest problem, in my view, with the whole phenomena.

If ambiguity is a device or tool that humanity is to wield responsibly, it must be done so with clarity. In such, though religious texts have profound answers and guidance within them, to mask these with authoritative references to a benevolent god is to treat people, religious followers, like complete fools who cannot handle the truth - that truth being that, though humans have a lot of great ideas, we're not sure if this is what 'God' said, designed or wants.

This is a significant reason as to why I'm suggesting that cinema can or should be seen a 'religion'. Not only does cinema have countless narratives that can contain profound, life-changing messages within, but cinema, especially in the modern age, is a somewhat democratic and an entirely transparent entity. In such, everyone knows that cinema is a constructed entity once they hit about age 6 and realise that people don't actually die for real in films. This means that the use of ambiguity and answers by cinema is a relatively ethical one (relative to religion - there are of course ethical conundrums concerning cinema). No matter how full of verisimilitude and seeming reality a film is, we all know that 'cinema' is made by people and industries. All other religions have their human touches, their prophets and founders, but always refer to something intangible, a god, to deceitfully appeal to an inescapable authority that cannot be rationally argued against due to its basis outside of reality. What's more, cinema can be contributed to by any and everyone. Whether it is with your phone's camera or through your free blog on the internet, everyone has a potential voice when it concerns cinema. And this is so important as it fully embraces the idea that human ideas come from people - not some constructed deity. However, whilst it is certainly true that the market place for film is heavily weighted toward big-budget American cinema, anyone can quite easily find a plethora of directions towards a more diverse cinema that isn't entirely weighted down by Hollywood's influence if this is what you seek and are concerned about. Moreover, anyone can make films and change the landscape (even to a minute degree) of cinema, inserting into the vast, ever-evolving body of text their own chapters.

What I am then imploring with an idea that cinema can be your religion is nothing at all radical. You do not need to change your birth certificate, drop other religions, start or join a film society or go pray at your local cinema - and I think that is a major advantage of cinema as a religion; there is no real form or structure if you do not want it. With an idea such as 'cinema as a religion', all you are recognising is the cultural influence of stories, moreover, the powerful ability for cinema to articulate them. This is the crux of all religions; it is the substance of the stories they tell - a lot of everything that surrounds that is just bullshit. Recognising that cinema may be one of your 'religions' is simply a way of grappling and taking control of this entity and what it provides to you. In other words, seeing cinema as a 'religion' is simply a means of recognising it as important to all of humanity as well as personally significant to you.

A note I then have to touch on before concluding is the film that spurred me to write this: Au Hasard Balthazar. Whilst this is a subtextually religious film, one that you may say entirely corrupts my idea that cinema is a purer or better religion than others as it differentiates itself from the traditional archetypes, it can be interpreted and understood without this given subtext. What this film then does is, in my view, transcend dogma, using its intertextual nature to refer to age-old ideas instead of allowing them to engulf it. Another film that manages this in a different light for me was The Seashell And The Clergyman. This is a seen to be a feminist film, but I simply don't view it as such. What this suggests is that cinema can also act as an ideology - and maybe that is a part two to this initial claim. Nonetheless, what lies at the very heart of all we've discussed is this ethical use of ambiguity to tell stories and impart knowledge, philosophy, morals and ideas.

In conclusion, if you choose to consider cinema as a religion, what you are recognising is its capacity to provide meaning and purpose to people through stories. An extension of this may - this probably will not directly apply to all people - an extension of this may be that you appreciate more, or have better hopes for, the structure of the world-wide cinematic industry than any other religion; you believe that these stories are provided and voiced in a manner that is overwhelmingly more accessible and pliable (in that it can evolve and change as cultures do) than any traditional and established religion.

So, to end, I simply leave you with a question I always do: what are your thoughts on this subject?






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