Good Scene / Bad Scene
A C Grayling
A. C. Grayling is an English philosopher and founder of independent undergraduate college, New College of the Humanities. He is the author of several books including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Meaning of Things (2001) and The Good Book (2011).
Friday 24 October 2003
THE GOOD: Vivre sa vie, Jean-Luc Godard, 1962
The film is about a woman who is becoming a prostitute. It's a very touching story because of the way she retains her personality and integrity. This is shown particularly in a humiliating scene when Nana (played by Anna Karina) has been caught and is giving her name to a police officer. She looks directly at him, and it's wonderful how she uses her eyes. She's shy, but at the same time a little provocative. I like that ambiguity. She's a wonderful actress who is stripped by the director to very minimal actions, but gives a lot of herself in that scene. The best scenes give the whole story - and this one contains the entire plot of the film. In my own film-making, I believe in the strength of the scene, even that it should have priority over continuity. I would even say that a scene can be more important than the complete film.
THE BAD: Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999
This came to my mind immediately, particularly the scene when hundreds of frogs drop out of the sky. I hate it for its sheer vulgarity. I'm a big fan of surrealism, but this is a cheap bombardment of the senses. I don't have any idea of or interest in what the frogs represent. I work with surrealism and I try to juxtapose elements subtly so that I am questioning the very language of film: What is image? What is sound? What is the function of music? I like to play with these things. I also like the surrealism found in life everyday . I live in Haiti and life there is full of surreal scenes, which I try to film. I also like early surrealist movies by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. Which brings me to a point about Magnolia and film-making in general - it's behind the times compared to other arts. Surrealism in movies hasn't developed.
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