Friday, December 20, 2013

Perceiving a Director's World View

by Bill Johnson

The Great Beauty, written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, is about an aging author who wrote one book when young that gave him entre into the night life of Rome. His barbed wit and interviews eventually made him an arbitrator of what made a party cool (his presence) or not cool (his absence).

Reviews call the film Felliniest because of the set up (creatively stuck main character, similar to the director in 8 1/2), and visual references to Federico Fellini films, a young girl around jaded adults and a reference to a sea monster (La Dolce Vita).

In Beauty, the opening third of the film has a surface resemblance to Fellini, but a comparison of the two directors and their work reveal a difference in the mind-set of the directors. Fellini loved people, and his films reflect that; the art of his films reflect that. Paolo is more artist as observer. He creates beautiful, lovely images, but they lack that underlying warmth.

An example of a Hollywood film described as Felliniest is Big Fish, directed by Tim Burton. Again we have the same kind of images (an adult son learns that his father's apparent boastful, fanciful lies had some basis in reality), but one character is set up to be assaulted in a kind of standard, he's standing in the way of the main character so he deserves to be beaten up, that conveys a lack of warmth for the characters in the film.

Because Fellini was a great artist and film maker, his techniques down to the composition of his scenes is often copied by others.

When I read manuscripts, particularly troubled manuscripts, I often find that the writer is creating a work to act out their inner drama, but failing to realize they are the sole audience for their work. They aren't reaching out to connect to an audience. The result is stories that have vague main characters (who, as actors, have their back turned to the audience while they perform for their creators).