Thoughts On: August 2019


For The Love Of Photogénie

Thoughts On: Photogénie

Further consideration of the morally enhancing image.

Photogénie. Photogénie. There isn't a more eloquent and abundantly adaptable and meaningful piece of film theory. Despite all the image's failings, all the spectator's scepticism, photogénie stands tall as the irrefutable reason why the image, whether it moves or not, is nothing but lovable. The fact, not the concept, of photogénie has impacted my being tremendously. I can tangibly trace it, a biological reaction in my body, back through my life. Absurd it may seem, but much of the genuine love I have experienced is pinned in images, has flourished through images. Many of those images I keep to myself, but there is a series out there to be shared: those in the cinema. I have loved, I suppose I love, cinema - certain corners and pockets, images and moments. Sparks of photogénie define this, possess me and hold me true to myself. It then seems to be so that I feel truly myself when awash in photogénie, faced with my very own capacities for empathy, yearning and gratitude.

A recent photogénic trip has taught me that that great existential result of photography's and cinema's inception fuels and gives the deepest complexities to photogénie. The photographic image put space and time in the hands of man. We bottled, in some way, reality. What this means, we cannot fathom. Yet in part I believe photogénie allows us to understand that the image has taught us to love anew. It goes beyond likeness, the image bears part of the soul, and it is no metaphor that we encapsulate and hold central in our lives preservations of the moralised human being.

The preserved image may be contemplated, loved, fallen into, can exude photogénie, precisely because it is parts human, parts material: plastic in the artistic sense we may say. The plasticity and humanity that facilitate photogénie are so necessary precisely because existentialism requires a slight evaporation of the present. To understand ones existence, or to at least make the subtle attempt, one is required to conceive of time and being as something greater than the present. Humanity exists through all incarnations of time, in a mental 4D space. Yet, it is through preserving some slice of the past that the plasticity of art opens a gateway to the existential plane, and thus photogénie - and of course, its sensory cousin: lyrosophy. Only in preservation, in a mode of existential consideration, can humanity be absorbed. What an accessible ritual photogénie allows this to be.

It is without intent, more so enamoration, that I try to give further voice to the phenomena. Existentialism via preservation; lyrosophy and photogénie; self to love.


What Is Character?

Thoughts On: Agonists in the Cinematic Space

A question of a seemingly obvious element of story.

There are an array of impossibly simple questions one may ask of cinema: what is drama, the 'cinematic space', cinematic time, why does cinema mean, etc? These questions fascinate me most for the raw and fundamental lines of inquiries they inspire and necessitate. I have returned recently to a question of character. In my thinking, I have come upon the idea that a character is more than subjectivity, that they have a litany of uses, many of which exist outside of a conception of a character as a human or person. A character is a tool of storytelling in this respect. Alas, what do we really mean when we say 'character'? How do we watch a film and point out these entities, and how do we justify and make sense of this demarcation?

One may be urged to suggest that characters are those beings which a story follows. This may hold to be true if we think of protagonists such as Ferris Bueller or Dumbo; the story indeed seems to recount their being - their story. But, there is a complication here. Firstly, what is a story if it tells a character's story? And secondly, what about all non-protagonists? These two questions are pertinent as the assertion that a story follows a character leads to a fractal conception of a narrative or story: stories are composed of layers of stories, a network of different character stories. This definition of story is fascinating, but it rests in opposition to the initial assertion that story follows character. On the one hand we are suggesting that characters are a tool, on the other, that stories are stories that tell stories. It is easy to become confused. One primary reason for this is that we are trying to use character as a means of defining story. Story requires its own definition as it appears to sit in some place higher than character in the construction of the cinematic space - which is to say that it has elements independent of character construction where, in my belief, character does not necessarily have elements independent of story. This formulation will be clarified later. Let us then start by separating character and story by realising that stories (a term that is now a slight thorn in our side because it lacks definition) are served by character and that there are various classes of character in accordance to their place in a narrative.

If we return to a term we used without question, we will find a good place to start. Protagonist. All protagonists are characters, but not all characters are protagonists. It is because of this, because we recognise characters in order of their significance in the narrative, that there are different classes of them. Nonetheless, their is still something connecting the protagonist, deuteragonist, tritagonist, antagonist, etc. I have explored this idea elsewhere and concluded that it is 'agonism' that defines and binds all of those entities we may be so inclined to call characters. Agonism roughly relates to action, and thus that eloquent and all encompassing phenomena we know as drama. An agonist is an actor in the dramatic sense - a being that performs actions, not a performer embodying character. Because characters are related to drama, their place in the cinematic space quickly becomes evident. Before that, some clarification.

Character is agonism. Therefore, a character is action of some kind. I would not be so quick to reduce character to physical action, however, as abstract action existent in the psyche seems to be a valid means of identifying character. Character--or rather, agonism--then includes, but is not limited to, (physical) actions, traits and consciousness. The traditional character thus has a physical place, is identifiable and is aware. By identifiable, I mean they have being (traits). By traits I then mean they are actions, in that they are--are composed of traits. I say 'traditional character' here because, of course, not all characters require all three attributes, but, seemingly, require at least one. One may think of a setting or an element of a setting to be a character - for example, the dilapidated city gate where the (other) characters converge in Rashomon. The structure has no consciousness and does not act, but it is an essential element of drama thanks to its traits, which may be read as having thematic implications. Some agonists bearing traditional visages, such as figures used in exploitation films (e.g. The Last House on the Left), seemingly have almost as little consciousness as and even less distinctive traits than Roshomon's city gate. Other agonists, take the majority of the cast in Slackers for example, have very little physical presence or significance, yet exude consciousness. Alas, the traditional character has these three distinctive elements making them a character. A hero such as Frodo is then forced by story and world into action. His actions, as mediated by his consciousness, alter his subjectivity. And thus his characterlogical traits transform, signalling a heroic metamorphosis of being and a becoming of a traditional agonist.

One of the most significant results of an agonist's composition (their share of action, consciousness and traits), is their ability to enact transformation. Character is change - an aphorism that surely belongs on a screenwriting guru's blog if it already doesn't. Character is change. I mean this both simply and otherwise. A character often has an arc that motivates and structures narrative. Alas, they are more than a structural motivation. Deep in the fabric of agonism is a flux of drama and theme, of that most fundamental reason for the being of a cinematic space. Agonists are agents that serve a role in translating that from the unknown into materiality. Both mimetic processes and tools of a storyteller, pneumatic and logical, agonists are one of the most explicit means of transforming Tao to Logos, a unknowable way to a spoken word. This cites the agonist's place as a process related to theme because, indeed, one of the most basic transformations a character can incite is one in the thematic discourse of a narrative.  Whether aiding the succession or transformation of narrative, a character, be it a tree or a troll, impacts theme, moulding and shaping a vesicle from Tao (the unknown) into ineligibility. The complexities and qualities of a character as constructed emerge from this understanding. Before making any note of this, however, let it be made explicit that the actions (physical or otherwise concerned with trait and consciousness) are defined by transformation. The actions making up the agonists all lead to transformation: the state inciting transformative action may then be the best definition of agonism. That said, let us not seek clarity just yet. There is mud in the water.

A character can present itself as a voice of narrative, of theme - sometimes of a writer's or director's very own consciousness. Such explains the phenomena of exposition, visual or spoken. As an agent or means of clarification, agonists enact transformation (and succession) and simultaneously bare their chests to the whims of consciousness. That is to say that the reasoning for an agonist's transformation is most vulnerable to the realities that suppress narrative. Stories are written, are made, contrived - so are characters. There are elements of autonomy in the construction of narrative that escape the grips of the conscious creator, but whilst all the decisions an artist makes during their process are not understood to them, many are interpreted and considered intentional, possessed or understood. Characters are entities most easily possessed. I do not care to delve into seemingly depthless swamp that is this issue of reality suppressants in the cinematic space. Alas, it must be made note of before an attempt is made to shine light on the fundamental being and purpose of character.

We come now, then, to the conclusion. A character, an agonist, is an entity of action and being. Because they are action, they are tools in the construction of narrative, primarily serving the purpose of transforming the cinematic space and its thematic discourse, they have a deep relationship with drama. Whilst it cannot be overlooked that agonists are tools that are manipulated, in part by conscious creators, agonists articulate those flares from Tao that a story means to translate. In this, we not only find a useful conception of character, but see also its function. We then know and understand a character as action because we explicitly see and feel them committing transformative acts in the cinematic space, altering and translating the meaning of a narrative. To further contemplate the function of characters beyond this fundamental definition, we could turn back to our theory of objective and subjective impressionism and therefore the objective-subjective wheel - ideas I will leave as self-evidently related to our conclusion here.


Once Upon A Time In Hollywood - Layers & Mess

Thoughts On: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

An alternative historical account of the Manson murders.

The endless tiring layers that cushion and cause to swell the existence of Tarantino and his films has me questioning everything non-cinematic about cinema: the egos, its audience and the endless opinions. Why must it all exist? Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a trite yet simple film in need of distance and silence to be looked upon with anything more than a stupefied gawp. It can only be processed properly as a projection of a particular bulging ego attempting to re-manifest the exploitation film in the present day. Thus, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood makes no sense; it has sensibility, however - sensibility of a debased and unattractively elementary character. With lowly spectacle mediated by a consciousness aware not of itself, but of its liberties, this film is inevitably - by design you could say - incohesive. It is in all its cracks and through all its spillages that it successfully operates as an irrational exploitation of concept. Most intriguingly, alas, the concept exploited by Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is equally the director's caricature and his alternative history. This impacts the characterisation. Characters should not exist in the exploitation film, yet they almost do in this film. Agonistic entities are imbued with the ego of their creator and thus tied to the concept of the film as subjects - a queer byproduct of a celebrity directing an exploitation film. The final fold of the messy situation comes with the fact that there is a failure to secure proper measures of intimacy in this film. Thus, it does not work in total as an exploitation film - it is an aberration, a manifest of a culturally significant ego; a confusion at best. Hopefully Tarantino will retire soon so his filmography can be made sense of.