This time the reading I reviewed is ‘On film-making: an introduction to the craft of the director, the director and the actor, by Mackendrick, A. (2004), under the folder of drama.
This article discusses the relationship between the director and his collaborator, the actor.
I was always interested in the relationship between directors and actors, but sometimes confused what is a director really responsible for. On one hand, I was told that the role of a director is just directing actors, when I read articles by those who work for Hollywood, such as some readings on DGA ( Directors Guild of America) website. On another it seems that the definition of a diretor in Europe and Asia is beyond just directing actors, and especially since 1954 auteur theory has influenced film criticism.
The most interesting thought for me is ‘ A director contributes not by instructing the actor but by inspiring him’ , says Mackendrick. Indeed I am convinced, after I find some extra contents or ‘behind the scene’ of great films, which the directors use very well the actors’ classic performances which are totally inspired by accidents. For instance, in movie On the Waterfront (1954), The scene where Eva Marie Saint drops her glove and Marlon Brando picks it up and puts it on his hand was not in the script. Once in a take Saint accidentally dropt her glove, but the director Kazan didn’t call the cut, because he wanted to see how Brando deal with it. Normally Brando should have returned it to Saint and for most actors this reaction is natural. Brando picked it up, put it on his hand, talking and walking. Saint was talking to Brando and waiting for a chance taking her glove back. This accident gives two characters larger room to expand their deep inside. Another amazing accident is from Nolan’s film Batman, The Dark Knight. In the scene after the Joker exits the hospital, the intention was for the explosion to start immediately, but the last explosion was delayed, then Heath ledger’s actions while it was stopped were unscripted.
These two movies above are great examples that show how a good director use right accident rather than control everything.
The second reading I reviewed is ‘On film-making’, Slogans for the Screenwriter’s wall, by Mackendrick(2004). This article lists some rules for the screenwriter. It seems extreme useful after I read all of those slogans. However, after I recall and research more and more films, I always can find exceptions that are amazing but against some of those rules. These rules just fit for genres such as most Hollywood films. If a writer is trying to purely artistically create a screenplay, he needs to break those rules.
Mackendrick writes that ‘if it can be cut out, then cut it out’. He thinks non-essential content that eliminate strengthens what’s left. It is true in most situations. However, cutting out all of so-called non-essential content is a reason why Hollywood films are criticized by European and Asian critics as superficial and dumb commercial products. They criticize that in Hollywood, those story teller too much focus on dramatic structure and don’t know how to peacefully telling realistic stories. Also they think story telling is just one form of cinematic arts, and sometime non-conflict or non-moving content is more powerful than conflict/ dramatic ones. The one of the greatest Japanese directors in history is Ozu Yasujirō. Ozu was an innovator in his use of ellipses, in which many major events are left out, leaving only the space between them. It feels like add ‘nothing’ a few seconds between what happens before and after. In Ozu’s films such as Tokyo Story, using ellipses is to condense time, or to allow audiences to fill in the missing portions of the narrative with their imagination. What conventional hollywood film makers do to these ‘nothing’ ? They cut them all.
Ozu bring the film in terms of aesthetic to another level, because he broke the rules. To me, these slogans are useful, but these are set for breaking, rather than just obeying.