Friday, 20 May 2011

Manifesto (?)

Today an email on the subject of audience and genre metamorphosed into something of a mission statement. Or is this the opening up of a debate? Let us know what you think:

If we can define lovers of what we could, rather unsatisfactorily, call arthouse comedy dramas like The Royal Tenenbaums, Submarine, Bunny & The Bull, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Napoleon Dynamite and even Amelie - that's the audience. An audience who recognise and are excited by a story that takes place, not in a world that strives primarily to be realistic, like Shane Meadows or Andrea Arnold at their best, but within a new vision or a new reality, comparable to what we know we'll get from Gondry, Wes Anderson, the Coens, Terry Gilliam or Edgar Wright. A truly cinematic, visually distinctive experience; still a character driven story, but also much more than that - not verite or documentary-like, but visually rich from start to finish; packed full of memorable images, sounds, lines of dialogue and cinematic moments. Escapist, yet still a commentary on the place from which it offers one hundred minutes of escape.

The extremity of contrast and juxtaposition created by the science fiction element is what makes the story both a satire and, more importantly, a comedy, but the sci-fi aesthetic can also encourage a cult following of enthusiasts who don't just appreciate and enjoy the story, but want to continue actively inhabiting the world of the film; the colours, props, sound design, soundtrack, posters - every element of a constructed world that's recognisably a variation on our own, only more exciting, more colourful and more entertaining. It's a kind of film that I feel we've been mostly too self-conscious, conservative and under funded to make in this country (at least recently - look back at Nicolas Roeg or even Michael Powell), yet has always been made in Europe and particularly America. Gritty, unflinching, hard-hitting films that demand admiration more than actual love are pronounced daring, but what about daring to be whimsical, escapist, surreal, goofy or even artfully silly? That seems to make the industry nervous - possibly because, as they say, comedy never wins awards and they are a marketing essential - but I don't believe the actual viewing public are similarly disconcerted. I think there's a groundswell of desire for something more than worthiness or realism; as one, extremely EARTHED-enthused, young actress observed to me, "You can only play a battered prostitute so many times".

Beginning with Shaun of the Dead, and now Attack The Block, Submarine and Skeletons, there seems, hopefully, to be an emergent new wave of colourful, inventive films that use genre conventions in a celebratory way while still being about our own time and place. I want EARTHED to be an oasis of warmth, fun and intelligence; a platonic love story set in an instantly recognisable, yet more exciting, fun and fantastical world than this one.