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All my senses tell me that Aristotle's Poetics is in vogue.Â This work enumerates the principles writers should adhere to in order to produce imitations of life that are believable and relatable to other people.Â It is the Newtonian physics of drama and portions of it are clearly applicable to almost every form of storytelling. With regard to the visual aspect of what audiences experience, Aristotle suggests, “In constructing the plot and working it out with the proper diction, the poet should place the scene, as far as possible, before his eyes.”Â Modern dramatists are able to present the images the language and action of their film is built around with vividness impossible to achieve in Aristotle's time.Â Through this and the possibilities created by the ability to record rather than perform live, the film is a medium that automatically bleeds beyond the boundaries Aristotle draws. DOGME 95, arguing that, “by using new technology anyone at
any time can wash the last grains of truth away in the deadly embrace of sensation,” introduced a set of rules that in some ways returned the film medium to a form that would have been more familiar to Aristotle–with its strict rules regarding light and sound eliminating use of some film production techniques and devices that distance the film from life as our senses present it. Poeticsâ€™ treatment of medium is obscure and seems to reflect a lack of opinion when compared to other sections.Â He simply lists different musical ensembles that may be utilized and clearly bores himself as he describes some different rhyme schemes and meters, concluding with, “So much then for these distinctions.”Â He has a lot of good things to say about Homer, and doesn't seem to mind a bit about all the deadly revenge his protagonists serve both cold and with vim.Â Rather than condemning the use of music, he considers it a useful tool. In this light, DOGME 95 must be seen as going a step further than mere corrective measures against the perverted and excessive Hollywood filmmaking ethic.Â The ethics laid out in DOGME 95's Vow of Chastity act in the category Aristotle defined as “medium.”Â The apparent goal is to liberate filmmaking from bloated conventions, exaggerated scenarios, and tired genresâ€”though it is controversial because of the constraints it places on filmmakers. There are good DOGME 95 movies, and there are also good movies that have soundtracks.Â Lars von Triers's evolving working relationship with the problems in drama–discussed in Poetics or otherwise–is an article unto itself.Â You can find it here.Â In summary, himself as a pillar of DOGME 95 no longer adheres to his original manifesto. Directors Wes Anderson and Richard Kelly have earned the reputation for controversy that also marks Lars von Trier's career.Â Anderson and Kelly have both shown themselves capable of using unlikely music to establish complex moods, with lyrical imagery and lush visual styles that can utilize rubber monsters and CGI with equal ease.Â They create emotional and changing characters that are often forced to confront the disconnect between their own desires and the part they're expected to play in the lives of those around them.Â They've gotten interesting and useful performances out of actors like Patrick Swayze and Jeff Goldblum.Â In most ways, their films are effective and offer many excellent scenes. Irreproachable on a technical level, most of the criticism of these directors seems to center on the spontaneous nature of their plots, which present serious contradictions.Â Kelly's Donnie Darko presents a time puzzle the solution of which is something like looking at your right eye with the left.Â I have argued amongst friends with a 100% failure rate that Cate Blanchett's Cubby in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is actually pregnant with her lover Owen Wilson as Ned Plimpton, who may or may not be Steve Zissou's
son. Thinking of the film in these terms illustrates the problem many have with the film.Â The Life Aquatic features tragic loss as the first act and as the second to last act.Â It is confusing because it avoids the tragic plot outline Aristotle breaks into first and second introductions and deductions.Â There is no second deduction to elucidate the plot, but instead a senseless, joyful conclusion that explains nothing. Multiple viewings have convinced me that Anderson avoided clarifying certain situations and confounding the audience revelations that typically codify film plots, with his shift resulting in dramatic storytelling where emotion and subjectivity are constantly producing the sort of unreliable narrator Fitzgerald specialized in.Â Zissou's recreational drug use, vanity, and penchant for escapism and giving play to his ego are reflected in the structure of the plot, as well as Anderson's setting of the film out of time and space. In both this film and Donnie Darko, the conclusion finds the protagonists laughing at the futility of their plans, in full knowledge that their own actions have caused the death of a loved one.Â The emotional contradiction is an excellent imitation of life, while the plot swings freely between satirical and fantastical episodes and depictions of the commonplace.Â To achieve this effect requires the director to abandon some of the plot guidelines found in Poetics as well as similar conventions that appear in most movies. The extension of spontaneity to new aspects of a film is a risky business as directors run the risk of “stretch[ing] the plot beyond its capacity, [being] often forced to break the continuity.”Â Woody Allen's brilliant and notoriously uneven productions may serve as fair warning for these directors, although the sensitive relativism of their style is applied to protagonists more diverse than those found in Allen's films. But in any case I would rather some non-sequiturs than the garish and overwhelming continuity that spreads through Jerry Bruckheimer's catalog.Â The man must dream the same dream every night.Â “Then Nicholas Cage does a pushup.Â Then Nicholas Cage steals a car.Â Then Nicholas Cage . . .”
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