Cinema's New Possibilities – Cinema is Dead, Long Live Cinema
You have decided to show your film The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover, which is very rich in a determination to use colour. You are still very interested in this kind of work in your recent projects - feature films, installations and VJing set ups - can we still speak about the determination of film colour?
The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover was made way back in the 1980s - so is some 30 years old. We have made perhaps some 50 films since then, and all my cinema practice is experimental - searching to be alive and curious and very contemporary, push the cinematic boundaries to new places. My interests primarily have always been about form and language over content, seriously believing the medium is the message and we have seen a great many changes in cinema practice in the last 30 years - changes that primarily technically have moved from celluloid to tape which has changed everything - cinema distribution, cinema funding, cinema thinking - no longer are audiences content to sit in a dark cinema watching someone's else dreams - they want to make their own, break down the old criteria, invest in new narrativities, think in a non-linear way - such that if cinema is going to survive in any way that our grandfathers would still recognise it - it surely has to be interactive and multi-medial. Youtube has broken amazing barriers - the middlemen are disappearing - film-makers can get to audiences swifter and more urgently. Few young people spend much time in the cinema any more in Western Europe - if they watch movies they are all down-loaded from broadcast TV or pirated - and we all know European Cinema is now finished - who is there now working in Europe with vision and identity? There are now better things to do with our time.
The Cook etc was a fairly conventional thriller in the gangster-movie genre - maybe it was excessive with violence and language for its time - but what made it different were its formal concerns - its cinematic vocabulary, its unjudgemental moral stance, its pursuit of metaphor into reality and its very self-conscious determination to say - watch me - I am only a movie, I am a construct, I am a formal artificial instrument to show you what a movie is, what a movie does. And the very self-conscious use of colour coding was part of that issue. Very few films indeed ever undertake to use colour in a structural way, use colour to determine the drama. I am trained as a painter and for many years colour has been a self-conscious instrument for many painters. Why should we not use the same apparatus in cinema which is supposed to be a visual medium - but alas - so often is not - we have a text-based cinema not an image-based cinema. Everything I wish to do must have these priorities - concentrate on what the media itself is offering and saying - don't make illustrated books all over again on the silver screen - don' t support literature by making text-mimetic films. Use what only the image uses. Colour is certainly intrinsically visual. Let's make visual cinema.
Your lecture is going to be about the new possibilities in cinema, but on the other hand you speak about the death of cinema. Can you describe this ambivalence?
Much of the above answer indicates my thinking. Financially, socially, politically we have moved on from Casablanca and Star Wars. We are living in the information age and the age of the screen - screens are absolutely everywhere - there are more screens in our world than cinemas. The cinema-screen is a minority screen. I am writing this on a screen - you are reading this on a screen. Precious little so-called cinema demonstrates this. Cinema language is now fantastic and grows more so everyday - but cinema language is now wasted on cinema - look at that prime example Avatar - a stupid silly narrative with ridiculous morals and an exceedingly familiar cliche vision - all exhibitionist technology proving what? 3D cinema is an expensive no-go cul-de-sac. Cameron makes the same movies as Griffiths - and that was 80 years ago.
Your presentation is going to have three parts probably - 1. your interpretation of the moving image within the context of gallery installations, 2. visual literacy and the debate of painting versus cinema, and finally 3. introduction to the VJ phenomenon. When you prepare new projects, do you feel some kind of "schizophrenia", when you need to decide where to present new works?
I will introduce my reasons for believing that not only economically and socially cinema no longer answers the necessary demands of our developed imaginations in a visually digital world - but is aesthetically bankrupt.
I will show many clips to demonstrate how cinema does not need cinemas any more - the possibilities of pushing it into new places - the multi-screen possibilities, the uses of new venues for projection, the harnessing of new technologies for programming installational architectonic experiences, the Second Life phenomenon, a renaissance of the actual act of projection, the VJ phenomenon, the possibilities of tie-ins between 8000 years of painting and only 115 years of cinema. I have some 40 hours of material on a laptop cinema - I would need a couple of days to expound on all the excitements but we will see what can be demonstrated during one afternoon.
What is your recent project you work on?
The next big thing is a major show at the Armory in Park Avenue, New York, of installational cinema, premiere 2nd December. Then a project about sex and religion and every new media's use of erotica - in conjunction with the Getty Institute in California, the Copenhagen Libraries and the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. Then a project about Eisenstein losing his virginity in Mexico. Then a live-action/animation project about re-introducing nursery stories in to adult life. Then an ironic remake project of Death in Venice via Vivaldi. Then a documentary about the murders around the Last Supper table. Then a painting exhibition in Tel Aviv called Heavy Water. Then the publication of two new literary fictions called Toys and then Pricks in The Historians series. Fulfilling an ambition to make 92 catalogues...
There is more - but that's enough for the moment.
16.11.2010 – Martin Mazanec with Peter Greenaway