Friday, 27 December 2013

King Vidor

King Vidor's penultimate film is called Truth or Illusion: An Introduction to Metaphysics (1964), which does show quite clearly that Vidor was not like other filmmakers. He was a philosopher who used moving images instead of books to explain his ideas and his vision (although he did write some book too) and he made films with a remarkable combination of naiveté, conviction, optimism and passion. The characters that his films are about are also a combination of naiveté, conviction, optimism and passion. The films often have a pointed social critique, sometimes even anger, and this is combined with very strong, raw feelings. The emotions and the visuals are often startling. There will be a lot more about Vidor in the next issue of La Furia Umana, but I felt like letting the last blog post of 2013 be of his words and his images. First an image from War and Peace (1956):

Here he is talking about cinema and consciousness:
Something about the lens is very akin to the human consciousness which looks out at the universe. "I am a camera" - we are all cameras. We are recording eyes, you know, we look out and record and we use our consciousness to do this. The motion picture camera is the [tool closest] to the human sense of observation and sense of the universe. When the men land on the moon, I land on the moon - because I am conscious of it, and I take it into myself, and I am landing on the moon. This is what happens with a motion-picture camera. It approximates the consciousness that everyone has. /.../ And the motion-picture camera is the really solipsistic instrument for awareness and realization.
There is a moral dimension to it. Once you have seen something you are aware of it, and being conscious of it you can no longer avoid it or deny it. Vidor mentions the war in Vietnam as an example ("You can't just say, 'that war over there' - way off in Asia. You can't say that any more.") With awareness comes responsibility. The heroes of Vidor's films are those who take responsibility, and who create, be it a farm, an industry or a work of art. To live is to create.

Duel in the Sun (1946)
The Fountainhead (1949)
Natasha (Audrey Hepburn) sinking into darkness after being told her beloved Andrei is dying. War and Peace.
Filming John Gilbert and Renée Adorée. The Big Parade (1925).

The quotes are from Richard Schickel's interview with Vidor, published in The Men Who Made the Movies.
He had an extraordinary long career. He made his first short films in 1913 and his last in 1980. The oldest film of him I have seen is Wild Oranges (1924), which is unknown but very good.

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