The Interviewer, Her Mic, The Director & His Tulselooper
Variety reports that Peter Greenaway is writing cinema’s obituary:
Famously uncompromising British helmer Peter Greenaway declared cinema officially dead but said interactive forms of filmmaking offered exciting new possibilities.
“New electronic filmmaking means the potential for expanding the notions of cinema have become very rich indeed,” Greenaway said during a master class at the Pusan Intl. Film Festival Tuesday.
“Cinema’s death date was in 1983, when the remote control was introduced to the living room,” said Greenaway, who has shocked and delighted auds, often simultaneously, with classic movies such as “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” and “Prospero’s Books.”
The Welsh-born, English-raised helmer shocked the film students in attendance by taking aim at some of the biggest figures in the biz.
“Here’s a real provocation — (U.S. video artist) Bill Viola is worth 10 Martin Scorseses,” he said. “Scorsese is old-fashioned and is making the same films that D.W. Griffith was making early last century.”
Greenaway then warned: “I like a fight” and he got one too, dismissing a comment on his views as “not intelligent” and “humbug.”
He also spoke a line in Welsh, to the Korean translators’ horror.
“Every medium has to be redeveloped, otherwise we would still be looking at cave paintings … My desire to tell you stories is very strong but it’s difficult because I am looking for cinema that is non-narrative,” he said.
Greenaway went on to knock populism as well. “Cinema is predicated on the 19th-century novel. We’re still illustrating Jane Austen novels — there are 41 films of Jane Austen novels in the world — what a waste of time,” he said.
The director, whose film “Nightwatching” is taking part in the Pusan festival, trained as a painter, and considered cinema a “pathetic adjunct” to that medium.
His visually rich, difficult movies, often based on paintings or visual images, have earned him accusations of intellectual snobbery, but Greenaway said that he firmly believed the changes in how films were made would ultimately be acceptable to a wider audience.
” ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Harry Potter’ were not films, but illustrated books,” he said.
He also attacked fests in general, saying there were too many.
“Thirty-five years of silent cinema is gone, no one looks at it anymore. This will happen to the rest of cinema. If you shoot a dinosaur in the brain on Monday, its tail is still waggling on Friday. Cinema is brain-dead,” he said.
What Greenaway is saying here is nothing new…from Bela Balazs to Andre Bazin to Guy Debord to Susan Sontag to JLG, who concluded Weekend with the title card: “Fin de Cinéma.” filmmakers and critics have been trying to bury the seventh art.
What no one is say is how disingenuous Greenaway’s provocation is. Honestly, how hard is it to proclaim the death of cinema at 1983 when you haven’t made a good film since 1983 (OK…maybe I’ll include a “Zee and to O’s” from 1985, or whatever it’s called…)
Ironically, Greenaway’s desire to proclaim an end to linear and narrative story telling (on film), is actually a very 20th Century idea. When he says he is “looking for cinema that is non-narrative,” he ought to get his head off of his “choose your own adventure cinema mixer” and look back to the American Visionary films from the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s–and discover any and all of the filmmakers in P. Adams Sitney’s Visionary Film. He should watch the back catalog of at the “pure cinematic” works of Maya Deren, Brakhage, Anger, Snow, Peterson, Broughton, Sharits, Baille, Jacobs, Lawder etc.
Where was Mr. Greenaway in Toronto when Peter Hutton was unveiling his purely cinematic At Sea?