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January 23, 2011


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Ryan Kelly

Over at Brooklyn College, where I'm majoring in film, the first assignment you have is to make a silent film on 16mm, which I think is boss.

Though in fairness, I don't think silent films were necessarily more "pure" - yes, the end of the silent period was great, but so were the early '30s, an era underrated by some mega-formalists. Hitchcock made this point throughout his life, but pretty much all of his best films had sound.

Ryan Holt

"The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary. The young filmmakers will express themselves in the first person and will relate what has happened to them; it may be the story of their first love, or their most recent; of their political awakening; the story of a trip, a sickness, their military service, their marriage, their last vacation...and it will be enjoyable because it will be true and new..."

So the film of tomorrow is an arty video blog with a confessional emphasis?


I also can't help but note that most of today's young aspiring filmmakers (aka 20-somethings who can afford cameras and editing software and film schools) haven't had about half of the experiences that Truffaut mentions.

warren oates

Truffaut's film of tomorrow puts me in mind of contemporary films like UNKNOWN PLEASURES or INLAND EMPIRE or even ALAMAR, which I just caught yesterday. All small personal films and true acts of love. As opposed to half-assed acts of Facebook "like." This is more or less apropos of all the Swanberg stuff, isn't it Glenn? Truffaut's statement could be (mis)taken as a very superficial gloss on all that mumblecore aspires to and imagines itself to be. Except for the parts about love and experience. I think Truffaut was envisioning a much deeper well of experience and much bigger and riskier kind of love at the heart of this new cinema.

Glenn Kenny

That's an interesting question, Warren, and I think you are correct: it's only from a superficial gloss on Truffaut's prediction that one could extrapolate a Swanberg work, and yet...

What did strike me in Truffaut was the notion of the "civil servant of the camera," which our friend Richard B. sometimes uses a variation of to express disapprobation for "festishists" of Hollywood classicism, or what have you. I thought it did make for a nice contrast with Hitchcock's insistence on a baseline level of both technical and creative competence. But yes, the debate and the fact that my buddy Tim Lucas (who I've never met) put up a part of the Truffaut quote as a Facebook status update inspired the juxtaposition.


Jeff, why shouldn't today's young filmmakers have had any of the experiences Truffaut mentioned? Also, access to film equipment has never been cheaper - you can rent a good camera for 150 a day and get Final Cut Studio for 750 to cover post production.

Glenn Kenny

Hee-hee. Not for nothing, I would pay SERIOUS MONEY to see a film about Joe Swanberg joining the military. Likely funnier than "Buck Privates," "At War With The Army," and "Stripes" combined. And likely to have a very satisfying ending.

John Keefer

I made a silent film a while ago:


Pretty much I'm afraid of commitment. Also, one of the things that stuck in my brain after reading Truffaut/Hitchcock was Hitchcock's insistence that if a film does not do well it is a failure because they are designed to be watched and appreciated by an audience. Which makes me think about alot of films that come out of Hollywood these days that don't seem to take that into consideration. I refer to the Bays and Nolans of the world where it seems the pacing is all over the place and not for any discernible effect. They forget that on the most basic level this is a medium of communication and the way you communicate your ideas says alot more than you might imagine. That Hitchcock, funny guy.

warren oates

I suppose, to me, the real question is: What defines a film made as an act of love? For starters, I'd say that the film itself is made as a kind of offering. That there's really something there for the audience, something as Truffaut says "true and new." Maybe some of the other comments are right about this. It's not so much the amount or variety or depth of life experience, but what you do with it. Flannery O'Connor once wrote something to the effect of 'Every truly imaginative human has enough life experience to be a writer by the time they are twenty.' What's missing from the Swanberg films is any sense--from Truffaut's camp or Hitchcock's or any others'--of any kind of engagement with or responsibility to the audience. As if the films really are made only for his friends. Don't get me wrong, I love obscure art films and I'm fine with work that doesn't aim for the widest possible audience. But that has nothing to do with the smugness and emptiness of the Swanberg films I've suffered through. They couldn't be further from Truffaut's ideal. Or even from other films that get unfairly ghettoized along with his as mumblecore. You don't get a sense of a creator who yearns to tell the truth about life or to craft a unique experience for viewers or even just honestly entertain us for a while. In the end, you're faced with these indifferent, seemingly tossed-off curiosities scratching your head a little about why he keeps it up. And at such a frantic pace too.


Well there's plenty of talk in Hitchcock's later films starting with "Marnie" and ending with that blab fest "Family Plot." And now that I think about it the first 30 minutes of "Vertigo" is really dialog heavy, Hitchcock should have taken his own advice.

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