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Qualities Of Better Films #26 of 31: AWARENESS OR AVOIDENCE OF PRETENSION

Film is an art form that invites the pretentious to participate. Up until very recently cinema was always conceived of being displayed on the largest of screens in front of large numbers of audiences. The scale of it alone gave it a pomposity that was hard to avoid. Recognition of this inherent phenomenon is the mark of an ambitious filmmaker, regardless of which direction they may chose to go in – but to try to hide it or avoid it demonstrates a lack of understanding of culture, time, and the medium. So many of the Hollywood prestige films try to deny that they think themselves important, but whether it is the moody lighting, the overwrought performances, or the burnished tones to the sets, we know what they want us to feel, even before we hear their score cue us. An alternative is to let it all hang out and let the audience know that you want to be thought of as Art from the get go. I adored Atom Egoyan’s films for precisely this reason: every aspect of their design and presentation cued us that what we were watching was important and unique. The current trend of overt “naturalism” in independent cinema carries with it a form of pretension delivered by the filmmakers’ disavowal of any pretentious devises – its lack thereof becomes the very thing it runs from, but at least it is directly on the surface and acknowledged by the filmmakers from the start. But it is an embrace and not an ignorance that those filmmakers have chosen and the fact they have made a choice to acknowledge pretension lifts those works above many others.

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