09 August 2009

Slice of Life/Slice of Cake

In the frequent occurrence that I run out of interesting things to say on my Facebook page, I rely on absconding with the wisdom of individuals far more intelligent and prosaic that I - in other words, I use quotes in my status updates from famous people I like.

Alfred Hitchcock is one of my favorite filmmakers. The Hitchcock/Truffaut interview book is my filmmaking bible (other than experience). In it, there is, among many others, an excellent quote that succinctly sums up Hitchcock's filmmaking theology - "Some people make slices of life, I make slices of cake."

Hitchcock above all else was and remains one of the greatest entertainers in film. His films are not incisive and multi-faceted examinations of the human condition - they're pieces of entertainment designed to entertain. The fact that 95% of them are flawlessly executed elevates Hitchcock to his near-deity status.

In finding that ever-elusive "Next Project" after "Gather," I've learned a great deal about my own film sensibilities. (I must add a footnote here - that I do have a "next project," but it's an adaptation - not an original piece - so, I'm talking about my next original piece).

In my mind, there are two trends in indie film today:

1.) Extremes - see-sawing between $70 zombie films which I'm dying to see, by the way), or quirky, slice of life dramedies featuring eccentric characters who explore the human condition through their heartwarming (heart-worming?) tales of existential angst and teenage (or May-December) (b)romance. (Combine the two, and it's a winner!)

2.) Documentaries that want to be cinematic and fictional films that want to be more documentary-like, or "slice of life."

We've got a serious identity crisis here.

My personal sensibility has moved much more to the "slice of cake (though laced with pulpy goodness)" for my fiction work. A large part of this has to do with my background in documentaries; if I want to tell a slice of life story, I'll make a documentary. When I do fictional stories, I want to do stories I can't do as a documentary - a 1930s pulp story, crime, sci-fi, what have you.

Why would I want to bring a documentary sensibility to a fictional project when I've made and can make documentaries?

This current trend towards blurring slice of life and slice of cake into slices of lake worries me a great deal. Have we forgotten the great escapism that can be awarded by narrative film? The transportation to another world of imagination? Does everything have to be a literal reflection of the day-to-day mundaneness of our lives?

Have we become afraid of imagination and it's sugary sweetness?


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