On Cinematic Beauty

Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon

Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon

When did the movie world stop feeling?

I miss movies that make you feel. Have you noticed that they are almost gone from the screen. No offense to the hard working producers and directors that exist today, but movies, especially main stream ones, have become very cowardly on screen.

Very few working directors want to handle raw emotions; emotions are volatile both onscreen and off. I suppose it has grown easier and simpler to make films about simple problems where people fall in love and get over it, whole nations are wiped out and saved, and people die and are reborn as angels, devils, and experiments, all at the end of 95 minutes.

If people don’t feel too much, perhaps they’ll make it to the end of the movie in this era of multiplexes is what studio execs must be thinking. We’ll stick in so much action, so many special FX, so many personified animal characters, that there will be no need to think. If they don’t feel too much, maybe they’ll want to see it again. But I believe the opposite is true. Maybe if we allow ourselves to wake up just a little bit, maybe movies will show us something special. Maybe they’ll remind us what it feels to be grateful to be alive again.

Here are some of the movies that moved me once long ago. Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Edward Scissorhands. Platoon. When Harry Met Sally. Silkwood. The animated version of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Blue. Backstreet. Casablanca. Sophie’s Choice. The Decalogue. Camille Claudel. Cinema Paradiso. In the Mood for Love. The English Patient. The Piano. The Color Purple. Dreams. These films, they’re beautiful, devastatingly beautiful.

People don’t like to deal with complex emotions onscreen anymore. Grief is resolved in 5 minute sound bites, while mended broken hearts are squeezed into 7. Even rape scenes are downgraded into incremental excerpts of thrusting and screaming. Audiences want escapism studio execs think. They don’t want movies that remind us that life can be hard. They don’t want fairy tales that don’t have happy endings. But the truth is we need these things. Life IS hard. Whoever said it was easy was lying. Movies are there to remind us that we are even harder. We can overcome the grandest obstacles. Movies remind us that humanity is a beautiful thing.

I was at a film conference this past month and one of the musicians spoke his mind. He was unapologetically truthful. He shook me to my core because we get to see that so rarely these days. I felt awakened and inspired. His honesty was so thick and heavy, I felt it cover me like a magical cloak … and strengthen me. He said something that on this journey to making my film I often forget. An artist should make art for himself. My art is my expression of a feeling that I want to share. That is my job. Let marketers, investors, and execs do theirs. Filmmakers need to articulate their vision. That is what we are losing in the art of filmmaking these days.

I have covered the walls in my bedroom with the quotes of the filmmakers I admire the most. This is what none of them say: Make movies because you want to make living. Make movies because you need a job. Make movies because it will break the box office. Make movies because you’ll entertain your audience. Make movies because you can.

I am making The Repass because I have something that I feel and I want to share it. I want people to feel what it is like to struggle to find love again when your life has been shattered by an unexpected tragedy—how powerful that is. I want people to feel what it is like to be alone in the world and want to share your life with someone that you must let go. I want people in the world to feel that when things go horribly wrong, we have both the strength and the ability to come together and make things right. I want to feel that my movie will do something more than hover on a screen. I want it to do some good, even just a little bit for someone, even one person in the world. If I am really really lucky, it will drop just a gem of something we all need at some point in our lives: hope.

When people ask me lately what movie I’ve seen that I’ve loved, I struggle. I have a brain vault of old movies to draw from, but in the last year. Umm… really? I can probably name a few movies that were good, that I likely enjoyed—but LOVED? I can’t even stutter. All the technology in the world means little to me if there’s no emotional connection to it. I need films about more than cool shots and subversive plots, about characters who do more than shock and titillate. These things need to come together to have meaning. What I really wish is that there were more movies about beauty, justice, love… living.

Here is a quote by one of my favorite directors that drives me: “There is something that might be called cinematic beauty. It can only be expressed in a film, and it must be present for that film to be a moving work. When it is very well expressed, one experiences a particularly deep emotion while watching that film. I believe that it is this quality that draws people to come and see a film, and that it is the hope of attaining this quality that inspires the filmmaker to make his film in the first place. – Akira Kurosawa

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