Saturday, January 17, 2009

Poetry in motion

Every now and again a film comes along that makes me think deeply about the art form. It doesn't happen very often for me. Most movies I watch I tend to think are "ok" or "not bad", but rarely do I find a movie that surpasses any expectation or premonition. In fact, I would go so far to say that prior to most movie going experiences I go in thinking that it's probably going to suck.

I watched the 1991 film "The Man In The Moon" tonight. I hadn't even heard of it before sitting down and watching it with my parents.

I did a bit of research afterwards and found that it is directed by Robert Mulligan, who also directed one of the greatest films of all time "To Kill A Mockingbird." I had a discussion with my parents about film earlier today, and we decided that just about any story can make for a good film if it is done right. I can watch a sappy love story and my grandmother can watch a comic book film, and we can both enjoy them if they are well done. This is where the art comes in. Camera angles, dialogue, pacing, soundtrack, cuts, duration of shots, closeups, slow motion - there's a million things a director chooses to do in order to tell his or her story the most effectively. I find that taking it back to basics is usually the best way to go. Robert Mulligan did this in "The Man In The Moon." He realized that less is always more. A shot of Reese Witherspoon giving a small smile or a quick frown says more than any words ever could. Silence in a situation where talking might make more sense actually creates the realistic tension that hits way harder.

Show, don't tell.


  1. 'Show, don't tell' is the prime rule for art of any kind, I think. The difference between "Lions for Lambs" and "In the Valley of Elah" for example, in the Iraq War film category. The first is nothing but telling telling telling, literally mostly conversations. Nothing against that in the right film (such as "Mind Walk" - fantastic, you need to watch it Bo). But Redford clobbers you over the head with his good message, whereas with some subtle techniques, Paul Haggis blew me away without seeming to try in "In the Valley of Elah." It was still intense, but the unfolding was 10 X more powerful, because I wasn't conscious of being conscious of it.

    Yes, "The Man in the Moon" sticks with me this morning. I am enthralled that movie makers can make this happen. I wonder if even they don't always know if they're doing it right before the release.

  2. I frankly don't get why ALL movie makers don't at least try to make good movies every time. I feel that most movies I watch are not very good and one that is good surprises me.

    "The Man in the Moon" definitely surprised me.