Films About Film

As someone who takes an active interest in a broad range of films I still find it bizarre how I am often over loaded with questions as to what my favourite genre of film is. Now I know that mentioning how interested in film I am suggests that I can make my mind up and I am direct about my opinions, but honestly I think narrowing down one specific type of film I enjoy sounds awfully boring. If I’m going to take an interest in an industry that is so vast and is teeming with such diversity in the pieces of art being produced, why would I want to limit myself to just one specific corner? That would be incredibly stupid of me and actually quite narrow minded. However that being said I do take pleasure in talking in depth about a film type that not many people take in to consideration, well at least people I come in contact with on a regular basis, and that is films that are about films. Literally films that are set within the film industry and focus their story around a film being made is both entertaining and educationally rich for someone like me.

In my previous post I briefly mentioned ‘The Artist’ a film which I consider to be near perfect. When I last talked of the film it was about the dance scene at the end, which is a fantastic piece of film, but when talking of the film in general the whole premise is very interesting. Set amongst the film industry in the 1920s the film shows the movement from silent film to films that use sound, it’s interesting to see the effects that the movement had on people involved in the industry and society as a whole. Showing a true insight in to how films were shot, with the use of cameras and then additional recording equipment shed a new light on the technical advancements that have taken place and the benefits (or hindrances) they have on the film making process. The gender politics linked quite nicely to the film industry depicted in the film, with women being selected for acting roles based on their physical appearance and dancing but then becoming more important as sound was added to the equation. The film manages to show a world that is similar to ours, in the sense that the value of entertainment is very strong, and yet differs from ours because of the attitudes towards film and the people involved in film. Seeing how the audience of the screening would applaud a female actor compared to the thunderous applause for the male actor is quite shocking and really makes you think about how far gender equality has come. The film is an artistic masterpiece that I know some people didn’t enjoy, but personally I feel that it is an entertaining experience that has deeper meanings to it if you go looking for them.

It’s not just films that are based entirely on film however, I find myself interested when the film industry is a smaller element to a film as well. Quite recently ‘Argo’ was a film I found particularly interesting because of the depictions of 70s cinema. It contrasts quite nicely to that of the cinema in ‘The Artist’ because we see this radical shift from love stories and thrillers to lavish science fiction films with low budgets and reliance on make up and props. One of the best elements to the depiction of the film industry in ‘Argo’ is the constant mocking of the people in it and the idea that it was easy to make a film and a become a big shot. There were lines in the film that had me in stitches because of how relaxed they were towards film, lines like “it’s got horses in it, it’s a western” literally made me laugh out loud. It amusing to see how people with little knowledge of film were considered experts and given the responsibility of making big decisions for cinema productions. And one of my favourite lines from the film by far comes from the character of John Chambers played by John Goodman which was “so you want to come to Hollywood, act like a big shot without actually doing anything? You’ll fit right in” which is brilliant because it links quite nicely to film makers of today who appear to do a lot of work and yet actually do very little. It was also of interest to see how easy they people in ‘Argo’ made the process of making a film look, saying that they needed a producer, a script and someone to do the makeup, along with a big push in the press with famous people involved. Sounds a little bit similar to some film makers of today doesn’t it really?

When talking of films that are centered around the film industry it it’s all too easy to talk about the mainstream films that scoop up awards as if they were sheets of paper, but I take joy in watching smaller films that are set in the same world but in a darker corner. One of the best films of 2012 was the Peter Strickland film ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ starring the incredibly talented Toby Jones who gives an absolutely stunning performance in the film. While the other films mentioned show all of the glitz and glamour present in the film industry, what this film manages to achieve was to show the grittier side to cinema that we don’t think about. Set in Italy in the 70s, Jones plays a nervous sound engineer who moves from England to Italy to help with an Italian horror film. Instead of showing a gleaming studio with an extensive soundboard and high tech equipment we would expect to see today, the film actually shows a cramped and darkened studio with young women trapped in sound booths and the sound team hacking at vegetables to record the sounds for bodies being dismembered. As the film delves deeper and deeper in to this dark corner of the art form Jones’ character becomes more and more immersed in to his job and the nature of the cinema starts to effect his thoughts. The film does owe a lot of credit to Giallo horror from the 70s and does somewhat play homage to it, allowing it to be a film that is based around cinema but then also explores territory such as the importance of a career in our lives, and what it means to be a human. It is honestly a very impressive piece of cinema that isn’t really for the faint hearted but I would recommend it to those who take an interest in film.

I realise that by this point it appears that I may have made it look like I am explaining what my favourite genre of film is, on the contrary I am merely showing respect towards films I hold close to me and ones that have made an impact on the way I feel about cinema. One of the best things about the film industry is that it is a business that can be used in an all manner of genres, such as comedy, action, drama and even horror, meaning you’re not restricting in what you watch. All of the films I have mentioned above are incredible and I recommend every one of them, just approach them with an open mind and you will get out of them what you bring to them.

For me showing the different sides to cinema in films is very important because it provides the audience with more information about an art form that is important in all our lives. Films that are based around the motion picture industry remind us of the importance of cinema and how much we value entertainment. Showing the film industry in a time period that is different from our own is of particular significance because it reminds us of what we enjoy about films in the first place; the sense of adventure and the journey outside of our own lives. Films like ‘The Artist’ show how you can make a big and bold film that is entertaining on a number of levels without needing lavish special effects or the use of 3D to be entertaining. The imagination of a human being, and the hard efforts of a team are what it takes to make a film successful and entertaining, not financial gestures or silly technological nonsense.


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