Over the past Labor Day weekend, I was blessed to be offered a scholarship to attend the 2016 Telluride Film Festival. During this intense, yet breathtaking three-day weekend of movie-watching expeditions, there was one film that I feel absolutely honored to have watched, especially for its premiere, no less! Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight was nothing short of a masterpiece. Although I tend to view mainstream films with scepticism, this particular cinematic work had me on the edge of my seat (practically in tears) from beginning to end.
The film is scheduled for official (USA) release on October 21, 2016. You can watch the trailer here. To keep some suspense going, I will hold off on a full synopsis and hope you go out and watch this film immediately upon its release.
Now, I want to talk about the two most important nuances of this film that makes it an extremely valuable cinematic piece of art (especially for the mainstream world). First, the cinematography. Brilliant. Just absolutely positively astonishing. In the first 5 minutes of the film, you know you are watching the work of a master. The camera takes you on an emotional ride throughout the course of the film. You don’t just peer into the lives of the characters, you become part of their lives.
Finally, the content of the film is extremely taboo and for many, controversial. However, this type of subject matter is what makes art wonderful. This film brings forth touchy topics revolving around identity politics and self-exploration of sexuality, all taking place in an extremely adverse and drug-fueled environment. Many film dramas tend to navigate through similar, tumultuous envrionments but none get so close to home, so candid, and so raw than Moonlight. Mark your calendars, because seeing this gem in a cineplex will confirm that there is still hope for mainstream cinema.
Many people assume that cinema irrevocably involves the utilization of a camera. Well, in some instances it doesn’t. In this context, I am particularly thinking of the Don of experimental cinema, Stan Brakhage. Brakhage is a true moving image art experimenter and one of his simple, yet most creative works is “Mothlight” (you can watch a 1 minute clip of the film here). What makes this cinematic work so unique is that it is a completely camera-less film.
After viewing the film, many spectators initially question what flashed before their eyes for a whole 4 minutes. The images presented in this cinematic work are far from discernible, which makes the ambiguity of this piece quite fascinating.
What I feel makes this cinematic work innovative is how Brakhage used pieces of bug wings, leaves, grass and plant material from his own backyard and put these objects onto a film strip and ran it through a projector. It gives the images a very organic and mesmerizing texture.
It just goes to show that cinematic art doesn’t always require a camera. In fact, Brakhage (among many other experimental artists) have proven that cinematic art doesn’t necessarily need to be coherent and narrative-driven at all. Moving image art – especially in the experimental realm, is just as important (if not more) than your average box-office hit as it subverts our expectations and opens our minds to so many forms of visual possibilities. Indeed, cinematic art is a wonderful artistic medium that allow artists to convey innermost feelings, anxieties, revelations and political stances in ways other artistic mediums cannot achieve.
Stan Brakhage even concluded the film by signing his name like a true artist.
(Fun fact: Brakhage achieved this by physically scratching his name onto the film strip)
If that’s not imaginative, I don’t know what is.
After going on a long and tedious search for numerous film blogs, I found myself reading yet another film review or another gossip piece on our beloved celebrities (cough cough, bradgelina). Out of the countless blogs, there were two particular blog sites that I appreciated (to an extent) and also disapproved of (to an extent). One of the blogs that I am referring to is The Guardian, while it offered interesting posts that are up-to-date and a well designed layout, it lacked substance.
By substance, I mean – what am I getting out of these posts?
As much as I might be entertained by such topics, where exactly do I see anything about the importance, the artistry, or the hard work that goes into cinema? How am I getting informed (besides by virtually barging in on Brad and Angelina’s love life)? Well the answer is – I’m not. I do appreciate the entertainment value that this blog holds, but it doesn’t offer my particular interests in film any merit.
Now the second blog was a bit more suiting to my tastes and that is the blog at Film Independent. This blog actually had a post regarding a cultural exchange program and included the participants’ shorts. I don’t know about you, but seeing up-and-coming filmmakers’ cinematic works is exciting, refreshing, and for me – educational.
It also seems that Film Independent is fond of the “oldies but goodies” and includes content regarding the importance of these films, like Spirited Away. The blog as a whole also includes not reviews, but actual critical analyses of films that I’ve personally never heard of before. Now that’s substance.
Even though Film Independent offered a lot more informative and useful information than the blog at The Guardian, they both lack certain topics that I will include in my posts. These topics include local information regarding undependant films and film festivals as well as analysis over many experimental works that do not even fall under the “Independent” genre. I will look deeper than what these two blogs have to offer. Stay tuned.