If you could have told some of those film students 40-odd years ago that the films they were paying $2 (silver coinage) to see once in the theatre, they could, two score hence, see over and over for just the cost of their internet service, they wouldn’t have believed you. But that is the current reality on youtube and various other archives that have large stores of films in the public domain.
Never has the student of cinema had such an array of films to choose from, and one could, in the course of one twenty-four hour period, see all or most of the major works of countless great cineaste “auteurs”. The French were really the ones to push the “auteur” theory, that films are the direct and sole inspiration of one man, the director-writer, instead of the insipid Hollywooden-American factory technique (you can’t call it a theory) of churning out exactly what it knew it would take to bring them into the boxoffice. The “auteur” theory was prominent in Italian Cinema too, and in Svensk it was manifest in Ingmar Bergman. (Svensk cinema is where they take flickas to the flickers). In Hollywood, only a few survived the factory-production rigidity, like Hitchcock, but most were soon forgotten, as are most good technicians.
In Britain, one gets the feeling it was a combo of auteur and studio demands. But starting in the late fifties, it certain feels like films were becoming the expression of the director as auteur more than a puppet on the strings of the producer. However, everywhere, even in Europe, those who chose to go their own way often had horrendous problems financing their movies, like a compulsive gambler who has suckered so many friends out of money, he can no longer raise a stake. Welles and Fellini both had this problem sucking energy out of their creative drives. Welles bitterly described it as having to put 99% of his creative energy into raising money from producers and put only 1% of it into actually creating the film. We can only imagine what would have been produced if he could have put 100% into his films.
Paradoxically, we could say that there are now so many important movies that the serious film student “must” see, that if he were to see them all, his entire life would pass in the movie theater, and his lack of real life experience would make him unable to empathetically respond to the situations that arise in the film. Film is a veritable opium den where hundreds-of-millions, perhaps billions, of human beings live away their lives, watching a real-seeming fantasy that could never actually occur to them, especially in a socialist society that crushes and fragments the energy of the individual into a thousand superficial directions, and leads to a life lived in lines, dealing with bureaucrats.
Still, there have been so many amazing films made, one cannot but admire the medium as a vehicle that can say so much, almost everything, although it can never duplicate the interior thoughts and reality that a writer of fiction, especially in the first person, is capable of. Film can never express subjectively all that writing can, but no writing can duplicate the cinema’s specific moulding and manipulation of the viewer’s consciousness by the film maker so that they see only what he wants them to see, by his directing their attention. Writing is a dream created by the writer, but seen differently in the mind’s eye by every individual reader. Film is a dream in which everybody sees exactly the same images, but whose emotional reaction in the viewer always differs. (Though notice how, in intelligent discussion of a film, two different people can share the same subtle perceptions as to style or effect that show hardly any difference.)
Whether the film student should watch films at all, or start virgin with only the images in his head to guide him, and never let any other influence him (or even make films without ever having seeing a motion picture or operated a camera, as in the anthropological experiment of Worth and Adair’s, conducted in 1966, in which they gave cameras to a group of Navajos and asked them to film whatever they wanted from their own perspective, in order to learn how certain cultures look at things, something that never could be gleaned from just making films of the people in these cultures)— this is a decision that now few can make given the almost immediate stationing of the tot in front of the television or DVD player. Even the government schools are getting into the act, robotizing the brains of the small children in front of the computer screen, so that those brains can quickly become mechanical and uncreative, and fodder for that “high-paying job” that will never exist.. Soon there will be no unspoilt individuals.
But given the popularity of film, and its amazing possibility of letting us see Shakespeare’s Globe anytime, anywhere, and in any form we like, and for not even that while-a-way-a-shilling Shakespeare charged, we know that people are not going to give up this new form of crack cocaine, invented such a short time ago. And for those who want to study the past milestones of this medium, there never has been such an amazing school and campus of Film Studies as youtube, the cinematheque in a box on your desk.
Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwww — Silverwolf