Filming Images or Filming Reality: The Life Cycles of Important Movie Directors From D. W. Griffith to Federico Fellini
By Galenson, David W Kotin, Joshua
Abstract. Why have some movie directors made important films early in their careers but subsequently failed to match their initial successes, whereas other directors have begun much more modestly but have made great movies late in life? The authors demonstrate that the answer lies in the directors’ motivations and in the nature of their films. Conceptual directors, who use their films to express ideas or emotions, mature early; thus, such great conceptual innovators as D. W. Griffith, Buster Keaton, Sergei Eisenstein, and Orson Welles made their major contributions early in their careers and declined thereafter. In contrast, experimental directors, whose films present realistic characters in convincing situations, improve their techniques with experience, so that such great experimental innovators as Charlie Chaplin, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and Akira Kurosawa made their greatest films later in life. Understanding these contrasting approaches to film provides a new systematic understanding of the creative life cycles of individual directors. Keywords: Charlie Chaplin, John Ford, Jean- Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Orson Welles
In an essay written 50 years ago, the eminent film critic Andre Bazin ( 2005a, 24-26) declared that it was useful to “distinguish, in the cinema between 1920 and 1940, between two broad and opposing trends: those directors who put their faith in the image and those who put their faith in reality.” Bazin explained that for the purposes of this distinction, he defined “image” very broadly, as “everything that the representation on the screen adds to the object there represented,” comprising a variety of means that could be used to allow the cinema “to impose its interpretation of an event on the spectator.” Bazin’s insight was a striking one, which under other circumstances might have served as the basis for an analytical framework for subsequent studies of the history of the development of film. In the event, it has received little attention, in part perhaps because of Bazin’s diffidence in stating and applying his analysis. For the validity of Bazin’s distinction is not bound by the time limits he suggested, and its implications are far broader than he claimed in his essay. In this article, we will develop this distinction and pursue in some detail what we consider one of its key implications. We believe that doing this can yield a deeper understanding not only of the development of film but also of the careers of the important filmmakers of the past, present, and future.
Two Kinds of Innovators
Important film directors are either conceptual or experimental innovators. These two categories-conceptual and experimental- describe two distinct career paths and two opposing sets of concerns, styles, methods, and values. Conceptual innovators tend to produce their most important work early in their careers, creating art based on ideas. Experimental innovators, in contrast, tend to produce their most important work late in their careers, creating art based on experience, particularly visual experience. These two categories, which correspond to Bazin’s distinction, apply to all the arts (and most likely to all creative endeavors) and in film entail specific characteristics that account for specific innovations and contributions. They also account for various phenomena related to artistic careers, such as the one-hit wonder, the sophomore jinx, and the wise old master.
The ideas that motivate conceptual filmmakers are usually one of three kinds: moral, philosophical, or psychological. Films based on moral ideas tend to be allegorical or didactic (or both). In these films, cinematic elements serve to promote a certain worldview. Filmmakers often employ typological, well-defined characters and elaborate special effects to influence audiences. Their films are often extremely entertaining and moving: audiences lose medium awareness (i.e., they forget that they are watching a movie), getting caught up in the story. Epic battles between good and evil symbolize everyday moral problems and contemporary political debates. The films often appeal to and attract large audiences, allowing filmmakers to bring their messages to multitudes. At other times, however, films based on moral ideas are self-reflexive (calling attention to the fact that they are movies) and programmatic, aiming to convince viewers through provocative images and the rhetorical use of artifice (e.g., spotlighting and close- ups). These films are usually less absorbing and more blatantly didactic, relying on argument or accusation rather than symbolism to convey their filmmakers’ ideas. These films are often targeted to specialized audiences with specific interests and concerns.
Films by conceptual directors based on philosophical ideas share many techniques with these self-reflexive morality tales. Their filmmakers tend to foreground artifice and seldom allow viewers to lose medium awareness. Their stories are often disjointed, cause- and-effect relationships are intentionally ambiguous or nonexistent, and it is often difficult to identify with their characters. This type of conceptual director often employs various distancing techniques that betray the conventions of cinematic realism, such as jump cuts, extreme long shots and close-ups, and unusual camera angles. By thwarting absorption in this way, the conceptual filmmakers promote particular ideas, using their movies to speculate about various philosophical problems or comment on earlier films (or both). These films usually attract smaller audiences, earning critical, rather than popular, success. These audiences are happy to decode difficult films and to consider a particular film’s relation to its antecedents, its place in the history of cinema.
The third kind of idea that motivates conceptual filmmakers is psychological and is based on emotions and reflections of the self (usually the filmmaker’s self). The main aim of such films is to convey these emotions. (One may object by claiming that emotions are not ideas. But the achievement of these films is to turn emotions into ideas, to encapsulate emotions in an easily communicable form.) Some of these films are vehicles of self-expression, whereas others are complex examinations of a particular character’s psyche. Like all conceptual films, they employ techniques that promote their final aims. And these aims usually involve relating concepts and feelings within a filmmaker’s mind, rather than issues in the world without.
Over their careers, conceptual filmmakers may make films of all three kinds, or combine elements of all three into a single film. What unites all conceptual filmmakers is their use of ideas. These ideas motivate and orient their films. Often the films are end- driven, with the idea as the film’s goal. And conceptual directors will often subordinate photography to dialogue-choosing to propel their films through language rather than visual images-in order to relate their ideas clearly. (In fact, conceptual filmmakers are more likely than their experimental counterparts to write the films they direct.) Conceptual filmmakers will also subordinate particular elements of a film (e.g., character and narrative) to its overall structure. Whether a giant blockbuster with a moral message or a small art-house film exploring intersubjectivity or some other philosophical issue, films by conceptual directors rely on the intellect, on the persuasiveness of ideas.
Experimental filmmakers have vastly different motivations. They tend to make movies based on experience and are unwilling to encapsulate this experience in particular concepts or ideological statements. They usually make movies using unobtrusive techniques and invisible direction. They want to entertain, rather than inform, educate, or influence. Accordingly, they encourage identification and absorption, designing their films to promote the loss of medium awareness. Experimental filmmakers tend to avoid explicit symbolism; they prefer realism, which they promote through their use of photography. They want their viewers to see for themselves, to be participants in their films, rather than recipients of conceptual messages. Toward this end, experimental directors tend to subordinate dialogue to photography, often using eye-level cameras, bright lighting, seamless editing, and natural-seeming camera angles. They respect the conventions of cinematic realism, such as the 180-degree rule (which “dictates that the camera should stay on one side of the action to ensure consistent left-right spatial relations between objects from shot to shot”) (Bor-dwell and Thompson 1997, 480). As a result of their desire to entertain, films by experimental film directors are often popular and financially successful, garnering large audiences and box-office receipts.
Unlike their conceptual counterparts, experimental filmmakers usually do not have clear objectives (besides the desire to entertain or the ambiguous aim to present reality). Without predetermined goals, they often create films around characters and individual scenes, proceeding by trial and error toward a finished product. They tend to be uncertain and suspicious of the tightly structured, purposeful films of conceptual directors. And they will often forsake coherency for effect, designing scenes to absorb viewers rather than contribute to a final climax or a tightly structured plot. Previous studies of conceptual and experimental innovators in other arts have identified two distinct methods of innovation: the first proceeding from predetermined ideas, the second from experience via a long process of trial and error. These studies have shown that the first method describes the contributions of conceptual artists and accounts for careers that begin brilliantly and decline with age. Correspondingly, the second method describes experimental artists and accounts for careers that improve with age, as the artists learn from their mistakes and gradually discover their voice. These models apply to filmmakers as well with only slight modification-for filmmaking is an extremely expensive endeavor requiring support from large corporate studios, which require sound business plans and responsible production schedules. Directors must coordinate large crews and budgets or collaborate with producers who will orchestrate their productions for them. But even in collaborative partnerships, filmmakers must communicate their aims and beliefs to, among others, producers, cinematographers, editors, actors, lighting people, and engineers. As a result of these conventions and requirements, experimental filmmakers cannot be as extreme in their methods as their experimental counterparts in the other arts. They cannot revise endlessly or begin a project without some conception of its ultimate structure. Because of budget constraints they cannot always shoot scenes in sequence or on location. They must compromise and develop production plans to coordinate their films and generate support from the studios. It should also be noted that the structure of the cinema places equal limitations on conceptual filmmakers, for studios seldom trust very young, inexperienced artists with large budgets. Thus, young directors often work in lower-level positions before directing movies (e.g., as second or third directors, as television or commercial directors, or as assistants). As a result, the cinema has fewer young upstarts than the other arts, fewer brash young geniuses.
We will apply this analytical framework to the work and careers of 13 important directors who are all included among the 20 most influential directors of all time (as designated by a panel of 48 expert judges for Movie Maker Magazine), who had all been born by 1918 (Wood 2002). The directors are listed in table 1. They completed their careers sufficiently long ago that all their films have been extensively evaluated. All 13 directors are of obvious importance. Five of them were ranked among the top 10 directors in the Sight & Sound polls of directors in both 1992 and 2002, and another 4 were ranked among the top 10 in one of these two polls. Eleven of the 13 directors had at least one film ranked in the top 10 by the six Sight & Sound critics’ polls held during 1952-2002, and 4 of them placed more than one film in those polls.
That MovieMaker designated these directors as the most influential, rather than simply the greatest, is significant. In any creative activity, genuine importance-the long-term status that makes an individual the subject of serious and sustained study-is a function of innovation. In the short run, many practices may attract attention and gain publicity, but in the long run it is only those individuals who innovate, who create new practices that influence the work of others in their disciplines, who are remembered and studied. Their importance stems from the changes they make in their discipline; the greater the changes, the greater the importance. What matters most about these innovators is their specific contributions: which of their practices were influential? In categorizing individual directors, our attention consequently focuses not on all aspects of their work but more narrowly on their most important contributions to the cinema. The nature of these innovative contributions is the basis for categorizing the directors as experimental or conceptual, and the timing of these contributions is the basis for determining when in their careers the directors were at their creative peak.
In categorizing the directors considered in this study as either experimental or conceptual, we have drawn on a range of evidence, including the judgments of scholars and critics, and statements by the directors themselves, as well as our own understanding of each director’s work. We subsequently present some evidence on which we based our decisions. There is no way to prove the correctness of any of the statements, by experts or by the directors, for these statements generally represent individual opinions. Similarly, there is no way to prove that our own judgments as to the directors’ categorization are correct, for there is no way to prove inductive propositions. We believe, however, that the division of these directors into the two types we have described can be done quite unambiguously, and that doing so helps us to gain a more systematic understanding of these directors’ careers than has previously been available. To this end, we proceed to a consideration of each of the 13 directors, who are treated chronologically by date of birth.
Seekers and Finders
This picture is not about how beautiful life is. It’s about how life is.
-Billy Wilder on The Apartment (Chandler 2002, 227)
Real life isn’t what interests me . . . Even as a child, I drew pictures not of a person, but of the picture in my mind of the person.
-Federico Fellini (Chandler 1995, 11)
Andrew Sarris (1985, 51) wrote in The American Cinema: “The debt that all film-makers owe to D. W. Griffith defies calculation. Even before The Birth of a Nation, he had managed to synthesize the dramatic and documentary elements of the modern feature film.” Although The Birth of a Nation is now widely condemned for its racist portrayal of blacks, it stood with Griffith’s other major films for its dramatic technical innovations, including the use of close-ups to focus attention on parts of scenes, the aggressive use of crosscutting to increase dramatic tension, and rapid editing that accelerated the tempo and added excitement to the narrative. In recognition of his technical contributions, James Agee (l964, 397) later reflected: “As a director, Griffith hit the picture business like a tornado. Before he walked on the set, motion pictures had been, in actuality, static . . . His camera was alive, picking off shots; then he built the shots into sequences, the sequences into tense, swift narrative.”
Griffith used cinematic techniques for conceptual ends. Dwight Macdonald observed that “Griffith treats his epic subjects as Eisenstein does, not as historical narratives running through time but as cinematizations in space of abstract themes. He shapes them primarily to express an idea . . . to which the story is subordinated as a mere allegory” (Hoch-man 1974, 149). Gerald Mast (1981, 54) further pointed out that Griffith’s allegories were personal statements, born of deep conviction: “that material was simply the Truth, the humanistic gospel according to Saint D. W. . . . He wanted the images on the screen to illuminate his personal vision of good and evil.” Griffith himself affirmed this. In a publicity interview for The Birth of a Nation, he stated, “I believe in the motion picture not only as a means of amusement, but as a moral and educational force.” His belief in the didactic value of movies was such that in 1915 he made a startling prediction: “The time will come, and in less than ten years . . . where the children in the public schools will be taught practically everything by moving pictures. Certainly they will never be obliged to read history again” (Geduld 1971, 29, 34).
The deterioration of Griffith’s work (after his landmark films) became a commonplace even during his lifetime. So, for example, a critic observed in 1926: “His development has followed a peculiar line . . . Griffith . . . was the great creative mind on the direction side of picture-making in the early days . . . [H]e made great pictures such as Judith of Bethulia, The Birth of a Nation, Broken Blossoms, Intolerance. Then he began to repeat his faults and not merely fail to acquire new virtues, but even to lose grasp on those which he had” (Hochman 1974, 146). Many theories have been proposed to explain Griffith’s decline. Among them, Gerald Mast (1981, 74) noted, was one that refers to a common problem among conceptual artists: “Perhaps he ran out of innovative ideas, both technically and intellectually.”
Charlie Chaplin’s goal was not to educate his viewers but to entertain them. Max Linder, an earlier star of comic films, paid tribute to Chaplin’s methodical pursuit of his goal: “Charlie . . . has studied laughter with care, and knows how to provoke it with the rarest precision” (McCaffrey 1971, 55). Chaplin explained that the key to his comedy was a sympathetic understanding of human nature, which he used to avoid affectation: “I strive for naturalness in all my action.” He achieved this by observing normal people in the course of their daily lives: “I start out to find my characters in real life . . . I search for the man I am going to represent myself. When I find that man, I follow him, watch him at his work, and his fun, at the table, and every other place I can see him. Often, I will study one man for a week” (ibid., 45-47).
The basis of Chaplin’s art in the observation of real people and situations marks him as an experimental artist, and from early in his career, evaluations of his work stressed that his films had both the virtues and defects of experimental art. Thus, a review of The Great Dictator, made when Chaplin was 51, praised it as “not only the climax of Chaplin, so far, but a resume of Chaplin’s whole growth, in his picture-making and in the evolution of his social conscience.” However, the reviewer also noted: “There is practically no plot . . . [T]he picture is a rambling, episodic sort of thing that a Chaplin picture has always been” (Hochman 1974, 50-51). Andre Bazin ( 2005b, 118-19), a great admirer of Chaplin’s, similarly recognized that the power of his films lay in characterization and situations rather than in unifying themes or consistent technique: “Think back to what you can remember of Charlie, and dozens of scenes will come to mind as clear cut as the picture of the character himself . . . The only serious formal criticisms that can be leveled against a Chaplin film concern its unity of style, the unfortunate variations in tone, the conflicts in the symbolism implicit in the situations.” Chaplin wasn’t troubled by critics’ complaints about his films’ lack of unity. He told an interviewer: “I don’t care much about story . . . If you have the neatest tailored plot in the world and yet haven’t personalities, living characters, you’ve nothing” (Hayes 2005, 81). Gerald Mast (1971, 109-10) stressed that development of character was a necessary part of Chaplin’s films: “The Chaplin structure not only allows for the examination of character but demands it. The long sequences deny the possibility of a mere string of gags; the gags revolve around the location, the objects, and especially the people in the sequence.” As a director, Chaplin subordinated style to substance. Mast (1986, 92-93) observed that “unlike discussions of Griffith, discussion of Chaplin’s contribution to the cinema focuses on what he does on film rather than with film. Whereas Griffith combined the devices of cinema into a coherent narrative medium, Chaplin advanced the art by making all consciousness of the cinematic medium disappear so completely that we concentrate on the photographic subject rather than the process.” In similar terms, Andrew Sarris (1985, 40) remarked: “The apparent simplicity of Chaplin’s art should never be confused with lack of technique. For Chaplin, his other self on the screen has always been the supreme object of contemplation, and the style that logically followed from this assumption represents the antithesis to Eisenstein’s early formulations on montage.”
A reader of an earlier draft of this article objected to our characterization of Chaplin as an experimental director, arguing that the ideas of Chaplin’s films are important: thus, for example, the reader described The Great Dictator as “a two-hour lecture on fascism,” and “one of the most obvious idea pictures made between WWI and the US involvement in WWII.” We disagree. We believe that The Great Dictator is not a film about ideas. It assumes a moral perspective-that Nazism is wrong-but it makes no argument for it. Instead, the film uses a well-defined, uncontroversial political backdrop to generate experimental antics: to explore character via physical comedy. The political backdrop should not be mistaken for the film’s central concern. Chaplin’s portrayal of Jews in the film demonstrates his experimentalism. They are not martyrs, but human beings-at times pessimistic, hysterical, cowardly, fickle, ignorant, brave, and idealistic. Just like real people. A conceptual director making a propaganda film about anti-Semitism in 1940 would have portrayed the Jews as innocents. Chaplin adopted a different approach.
Chaplin’s experimental approach allowed him to develop artistically throughout his career, and to continue making significant films in his 50s and 60s. So, for example, Sarris praised Monsieur Verdoux, made when Chaplin was 58, for its “genius of economy and essentiality” (Hochman 1974, 56); and Bosley Crowther (Amberg 1971, 274) wrote of the brilliance of Limelight, made when Chaplin was 63, for the sensitivity of its “appreciation of the courage and the gallantry of an aging man.” Bazin ( 2005b, 138- 39) stressed Chaplin’s unusual longevity as an artist: “Chaplin is the only film director whose work stretches over forty years of the history of cinema . . . The average duration of film genius is somewhere between five and fifteen years . . . Only Chaplin has been capable, I will not say of adapting himself to the evolution of the film, but of continuing to be the cinema.” And Bazin recognized that this ability was related to Chaplin’s persistent experimentation: “Chaplin has never stopped moving forward into the unknown, rediscovering the cinema in relation to himself.”
John Ford’s attitude toward movies was pragmatic: “This is a business. If we can give the public what it wants, then it’s a good business and makes money. The audience is happy and we’re happy” (Peary 2001, 48). He wanted his movies to achieve immediacy and realism: “I try to make people forget they’re in a theatre. I don’t want them to be conscious of a camera or a screen. I want them to feel what they’re seeing is real” (ibid., 85). Ford believed that simple and unpretentious techniques were the best means to this end: “I like, as a director and spectator, simple, direct, frank films. Nothing disgusts me more than snobbism, mannerism, technical gratuity . . . and, most of all, intellectualism” (ibid., 71). Francois Truffaut (1994, 63) remarked on Ford’s success in achieving his goal: “John Ford might be awarded (the same goes for Howard Hawks) the prize for ‘invisible direction.’ The camera work of these two great storytellers is never apparent to the eye.”
Ford’s work is consistently praised for its visual qualities. Alfred Hitchcock declared that “a John Ford film was a visual gratification,” and Elia Kazan stated that Ford “taught me to tell it in pictures” (Peary 2001, ix). Gerald Mast (1981, 240) commented: “Ford’s method emphasized visual images rather than talk,” with which Ford agreed, stating: “Pictures, not words, should tell the story” (Peary 2001, 64). On another occasion, Ford elaborated on his philosophy: “When a motion picture is at its best, it is long on action and short on dialogue. When it tells its story and reveals its characters in a series of simple, beautiful, active pictures, and does it with as little talk as possible, then the motion picture medium is being used to its fullest advan-tage” (ibid., 47).
Ford’s emphasis on beautiful pictures, created with unobtrusive techniques, identifies him as an experimental director. Consistent with this, his work developed gradually, and with considerable continuity. Peter Bogdanovich (1978, 31) reflected: “Every Ford movie is filled with reverberations from another-which makes his use of the same players from year to year, decade to decade, so much more than just building ‘a stock company’-and one film of his cannot really be looked at as separate from the rest.” Ford’s career as a director spanned nearly 50 years, and he is widely considered to have improved his work until late in his life. Thus, Bogdanovich (ibid., 24) considered Ford’s late films his best, “not only in execution but in depth of expression”; and Sarris (1976, 124) judged that “the last two decades of his career were his richest and most rewarding.” Sarris (1985, 47) considered experience the key to Ford’s late achievements: “The economy of expression that Ford has achieved in fifty years of film-making constitutes the beauty of his style.”
Jean Renoir (1989, 6) declared: “I try my hardest to make as marketable films as possible.” He wanted to make his viewers participants: “It’s impossible to have a work of art without the spectator’s participation, without his col-laboration” (ibid., 186). He wanted his films to be lifelike, and Francois Truffaut (1994, 46) remarked that they were: “Renoir’s films draw their animation from real life.” Peter Wollen (2002, 61) observed that The Rules of the Game “strives to capture life in the raw, with a sense of events unfolding naturally, spontaneously . . . It is an ethnographic film in the sense that, despite its intricate plot, it truly tries to capture an impression of life as it is lived.”
Renoir was the son and biographer of a great experimental painter, so it is perhaps not surprising that he believed that great art normally emerged from a process of trial and error: “if what I know about many great artists is true, then they were for the most part experimenters. They experimented all the time testing and trying; they were mainly like a sculptor who molds the clay with his fingers and, after he sees the shape, understands that by pushing the clay a little more to the other side, he can give to this shape more meaning or even a new one-a meaning he didn’t have in mind before starting to work” (Cardullo 2005, 68). Movie directors should not dictate what would occur but should be prepared to capture unexpected occurrences: “The creator of a film shouldn’t at all be an organizer; he shouldn’t be like a man who decides, for instance, how a funeral should be conducted. He is rather like the man who finds himself watching a funeral he never expected to see, and sees the corpse, instead of lying in its coffin, getting up to dance- and then notices the corpse’s relatives running about all over the place instead of weeping. It is for the director, and his colleagues, to capture this and then, in the cutting room, to make a work of art out of it” (ibid., 75). What was critical in creating these serendipitous occurrences was for the director to commune with the actors: “Communion means to be together and to take a lot from your fellows at the same time as you give a lot to them . . . During the making of a work of art you must be in a constant state of communion, you must give and take” (ibid., 69). The director should find the meaning of a film as he made it: “You discover the content of a film as you’re shooting it” (ibid., 35).
Renoir (1989, 4-5) explained that he increased the realism, and liveliness, of his films in the course of making them: “I have a tendency to be theoretical when I start working . . . and it’s extremely boring. Little by little (and my contact with the actors helps enormously), I try to get closer to the way in which characters can adapt to their theories in real life.” He stressed that his understanding of his films was a product of the same process: “I find the true meaning of the acting, a scene, even a word, only after the words have materialized, once they exist” (ibid., 179). Truffaut (1994, 42) believed that Renoir managed to communicate to his audience this sense of creation: “instead of having a finished product handed to us to satisfy our curiosity, we feel we are there as the film is made, we almost think that we can see Renoir organize the whole as we watch the film projected.” Renoir’s unobtrusive technique contributed to this effect. So, for example, Pauline Kael noted that in Grand Illusion “there is no unnecessary camera virtuosity: the compositions seem to emerge from the material. It’s as if beauty just happens . . . The characters, the dialogue, the fortress, the farm, the landscape, all fuse into the story and the theme. The result is the greatest achievement in narrative film” (Leprohon 1971, 193). Even Renoir’s admirers conceded that he had the weaknesses as well as the strengths of an experimental artist. So Bazin ( 2005b, 121), who had no doubt that Renoir was the greatest French director, recognized that he “has never been able to ‘construct’ a scenario . . . Renoir has always been more concerned with the creation of characters and situations in which they could express themselves rather than with a story.” Renoir (1989, 82-83) himself compared his method to that of another great experimental director in explaining the source of this failing: “I prefer a working method that thinks of each scene as a separate little film. That’s what Chaplin does, by the way, and God knows it worked well for him . . . The only problem is that this often works against me because of another of my obsessions, of slightly neglecting the importance of the story line. I’m obsessed with the idea that in reality, the story isn’t very important.”
Buster Keaton was frequently compared with Charlie Chaplin during his career, and the comparisons continue today. A revealing instance for the purposes of this study is that of Gerald Mast, who made the two great comedians the subject of a section of his monograph, The Comic Mind. Mast (1979, 125-26) declared that the two represented “the two poles of silent comics,” and argued that this was illustrated by their major works: “The Gold Rush [by Chaplin] is an episodic series of highly developed, individual situations . . . [T]he thematic coherency of [Keaton's] The General is itself the product of the film’s tight narrative unity . . . Everything in the Chaplin film . . . is subordinate to the delineation of the lonely tramp’s character . . . Everything in The General . . . is subordinate to the film’s driving narrative.” By identifying what he called the “Keaton imperative,” Mast (ibid., 135) contrasted Keaton’s rigid, formulaic plots with the disjointed organization of Chaplin’s films: “Unlike the Chaplin films, which can start with a Charliesque bang of a gag, the early reels of the Keaton feature must establish the character Buster plays. Then the Buster character faces what might be called ‘the Keaton imperative.’ Buster must do something-something that the character he plays would never do, yet somehow must . . . Buster’s successful accomplishment of the Keaton imperative reveals how close the Keaton comic world is to melodrama.” Mast (ibid., 141) stressed that Keaton paid great attention to plot and to the overall unity of his films: “Keaton’s most successful films are those with the strongest plots, ‘mounting’ rhythms, mounting troubles, and an irresistible, ‘indomitable’ drive toward the climax. Unlike Chaplin’s films, Keaton’s rely on drive, suspense, story, increasing complexity, and tension.”
Mast’s analysis amounts to the recognition that Keaton’s conceptual approach was fundamentally different from Chaplin’s experimental orientation. This is highlighted by Mast’s comments on a scene in Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., in which a movie projectionist falls asleep. In his dream, he walks up to the screen, and after several failed attempts, succeeds in entering the movie he is showing. Mast (1979, 132) observed that this scene “is very much at the heart of Keaton’s style and imagination. The mechanical perfection of the stunt is extraordinary, but behind the mechanical ability to work the gag is the sheer marvel of even conceiving it. Such far-fetched lunacy is not what Chaplin would do at all; it is too dependent on trick, too divorced from individual human feelings, too much a far-out stunt. But it is precisely the kind of imagination that Keaton reveals in film after film.” In Sherlock Jr., Keaton explored the relationship between movies and reality in a way that would never have occurred to the experimental Chaplin. The device of creating the fantasy of a movie within a movie that existed within yet another movie was one that would later be used by such conceptual directors as Federico Fellini and Jean-Luc Godard (Thomson 1980, 303). The surrealistic aspects of Sherlock Jr. did not go unnoticed at the time, for Rene Clair compared the film with Luigi Pirandello’s play Six Characters in Search of an Author (Cook 1981, 206).
The conceptual nature of Keaton’s comedy may explain a puzzle that has long attracted considerable attention-the question of why he declined as an artist so early and so rapidly. Keaton was fired by MGM in 1933, at the age of 38, and his career as a director had in fact ended several years earlier. Keaton’s marital problems and alcoholism are commonly cited as the causes of his professional demise, but these may have been caused or exacerbated by his loss of creative inspiration. Thus, one biographer suggested that Keaton’s underlying problem may have been his inability to go beyond his early peak achievement, and that the source of this problem may have resided in the nature of his success. Daniel Moews (1977, 312) observed that Keaton’s best films did not show a progression but instead displayed a sameness: “Perfection was instantly achieved and firmly held, but it was a static perfection. It led nowhere. It provided no opportunities for development. If the Keaton comedy was not necessarily exhausted, even under the best of all possible circumstances it soon would have been.”
A biographer of Howard Hawks noted: “He wanted to make good films with big stars and bring in a lot of money . . . For Hawks there was something wrong with a picture if it didn’t go over with the public” (McCarthy 1997, 7). Hawks consistently described his goals in experimental terms, explaining: “All I’m doing is telling a story. I don’t analyze or do a lot of thinking about it . . . We just made scenes that were fun to do. I think our job is to make entertainment” (McBride 1982, 8). Like John Ford, whom Hawks took as his model, Hawks wanted to tell his stories visually: “Tell it from your eyes. Let the audience see exactly as they would if they were there” (Bogdanovich 1997, 262). Like Ford, he considered simplicity a virtue: “I try to tell my story as simply as possible” (McBride 1982, 82). And like Ford, Hawks considered interesting characters the key to his films: “if you can do characters, you can forget about the plot . . . Let them tell the story for you, and don’t worry about the plot” (ibid., 33).
Many critics have commented on Hawks’s subordination of technique to content and on his avoidance of abstraction in favor of the concrete. Thus, Robin Wood (1968, 11-13) declared: “Nowhere in Hawks is one aware of ‘direction’ as something distinct from the presentation of the action; there is no imposed ‘style’ . . . Nowhere in Hawks’ work does he show any interest in Ideas, abstracted from character, action, and situation.” Andrew Sarris (1985, 55) considered Hawks’s films models of economy: “This is good, clean, direct, functional cinema.” Henri Langlois agreed that the power of Hawks’s work lay in its clarity and directness: “The essential. The truth of the dialogue, the truth of the situations, the truth of the subjects, of the milieux, of the characters . . . There is nothing superfluous” (McBride 1972, 67).
When Sarris (1985, 53) placed Hawks among the “pantheon directors” in his book on the American cinema in 1968, he observed that “Howard Hawks was until recently the least known and least appreciated Hollywood director of any stature.” For Hawks’s admirers, the longtime critical neglect was a direct consequence of his skill as an experimental director. So, for example, Gerald Mast (1982, 367) argued that Hawks was “so perfect at convincing the audience of the artlessness of his art that the artist literally disappeared for every contemporary commentator . . . The apparent ease and accident of Hawks’s stories is the ultimate artistic ruse.” Mast (ibid., 18) contrasted Hawks’s experimental approach with that of several prominent conceptual directors: “Hawks’s films reject the modernist aims of Ing-mar Bergman, Alain Resnais, Federico Fellini, and Jean-Luc Godard, filmmakers whose urge was not so much to tell a story but to inquire whether it was possible or desirable for stories to be told at all. The self-conscious, self-reflexive quest in films like Persona, 8 1/2, and Contempt, whose subject is the making of that very film itself, seems totally absent from the films of Howard Hawks, which go about their cheerful business of telling lucid stories.”
Sergei Eisenstein abandoned his studies in engineering to enlist in the Red Army in 1918, and the revolution became the inspiration for his subsequent career in theater and film. His theories and innovations were all based on the principle that art must serve political goals. So, for example, in 1924 he expressed his belief that cinema was “a factor for exercising emotional influence over the masses,” declaring that “there is, or rather should be, no cinema other than agit-cinema” (Taylor 1998, 35, 40). Eisenstein’s early training in engineering may have contributed to his desire to develop a scientific approach to making films. In an interview shortly after he directed his landmark work, Battleship Potemkin, he explained that art should be made systematically: “My artistic principle . . . is: not intuitive creativity but the rational constructive composition of effective elements . . . That is, I believe, a purely mathematical affair and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘manifestation of creative genius.’ You need not a jot more wit for this than you need to design a utilitarian steel works” (Taylor 1998, 65).
Eisenstein was a conceptual artist, who made radical formal innovations. Gerald Mast (1981, 155) explained that his “films break all the rules of narrative construction. They lack a protagonist and focal characters; they lack a linear plot.” Eisenstein is known for many technical innovations, which were presented most notably in Potemkin. The film as a whole was meticulously constructed, with five parts mirroring the five-part structure of classical drama (ibid., 137). Perhaps his most celebrated technical device was what Eisenstein called the “montage of attractions,” as he rapidly juxtaposed images of several different objects to express an abstract concept. Eisenstein’s desire to rouse his audience also led him to accelerate the film’s pace: the average shot length in Potemkin was about 2 seconds, well below the average of 5-6 seconds in Hollywood films of the time (Bor-dwell 1993, 46). Potemkin was conceived as revolutionary propaganda, and to this end Eisenstein deliberately avoided creating three-dimensional characters (ibid., 51).
Paul Seydor specifically called attention to the ideational nature of Eisenstein’s early work, observing that it was “quintessentially a cinema of (though not necessarily for) the mind. Space and movement are not literally seen, that is, are not on the screen; they exist only in the viewer’s imagination, his eye serving to register the details with which his mind will make the ‘proper’ points” (Cook 1981, 177). David Bordwell explained that Eisenstein played a seminal role in the early development of a conceptual cinema: “He demonstrated that montage could assemble the raw data of the Lumiere [a documentary style developed by Auguste and Louis Lumiere] method in patterns which expressed the poetic imagination. Dialectical montage was an admission of the presence of artistic consciousness . . . [A]fter Eisen-stein, a less didactic, more associational montage became a dominant poetic style of the avant- garde” (Gottesman 1976, 104). In view of this, it is not surprising that the conceptual director Jean-Luc Godard, who himself made important innovations in editing, paid homage to Eisenstein as the “greatest editor in the world,” for he explained that editing meant “organizing cinematographically; in other words planning dramatically, composing musically, or in yet other words, the finest film-making” (Milne 1972, 115).
Alfred Hitchcock declared that “in the world of films and film production it is the public’s appetite that must first be appeased” (Gottlieb 1995, 180). This was basic to his view of film: “I’ve always believed in film as the newest art of the twentieth century because of its ability to communicate with the mass audiences of the world” (Gottlieb 2003, 130). Andrew Sarris (1985, 58) maintained that Hitchcock’s success in achieving his goal caused many critics and scholars to ignore his importance: “His reputation has suffered from the fact that he has given audiences more pleasure than is permissible for serious cinema. No one who is so entertaining could possibly seem profound to the intellectual puritans.”
Hitchcock consistently stressed the primacy of visual images. Thus, he wrote: “It is no use telling people; they have got to SEE. We are making pictures, moving pictures, and although sound helps and is the most important advance the films have ever made they still remain primarily a visual art” (Gottlieb 1995, 48). Hitchcock explained to an interviewer that he thought in pictures, and that this was what animated his films: “This is what gives the effect of life to a picture-the feeling that when you see it on the screen you are watching something that has been conceived and brought to birth directly in visual terms” (ibid., 255-56). He wanted his viewers to be caught up in the reality of his films: “Watching a well-made film, we don’t sit by as spectators; we participate” (ibid., 109). Shooting his films in sequence contributed to this end: “After all, the film is seen in sequence by an audience and, of course, the nearer a director gets to an audience’s point of view, the more easily he will be able to satisfy an audience” (ibid., 208). Francois Truffaut (1967, 8) considered Hitchcock’s films a textbook for directors on the use of visual images: “In Hitchcock’s work a film-maker is bound to find the answer to many of his own problems, including the most fundamental question of all: how to express oneself by purely visual means.”
Hitchcock’s experimental orientation is equally clear from his firm belief that technique should never be obtrusive. Thus, he wrote: “The motion picture is not an arena for display of techniques. It is, rather, a method of telling a story in which techniques, beauty, the virtuosity of the camera, everything must be sacrificed or compromised when it gets in the way of the story itself . . . Technique that calls itself to the audience’s attention is poor technique. The mark of good technique is that it is unnoticed” (Got-tlieb 1995, 208). James Agee (1964, 214) remarked on the realism Hitchcock achieved through his invisible technique: “He has a strong sense of the importance of the real place and the real atmosphere.”
A critic of a previous draft of this article contested our portrayal of Hitchcock, arguing that “Hitchcock is possibly the single greatest virtuoso of purely formal, self-reflexive display. For example, a woman starts to scream and the camera cuts to a tea kettle just come to a boil.” But the use of montage in itself does not indicate a conceptual director, or a visible camera. Rather it is the use of montage that is key. Does Hitchcock’s cut to the kettle in Psycho undercut or relieve the scene’s emotional impact? Do we think, my, wasn’t that a provocative use of the camera? It doesn’t, and we don’t. Instead, Hitchcock uses montage here, and elsewhere, to heighten our involvement in the film. Hitchcock is of course famous for many self-reflexive moments in his films: his cameo appearance in his films’ opening scenes became a trademark device. But these moments have no relation to his real contribution as a director, or to his films’ eventual promotion of a loss of medium awareness. His nightmarish films, including Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho, are realistic in the sense that we imagine that they are real while we are watching them. We don’t believe that these are documentary accounts of real horrors, but we do forget we’re watching a movie while we’re watching them. And we leave the theater with a genuine emotional experience, rather than a moral or other ideological insight.
As Hitchcock approached the age of 50, he stated: “Style in directing develops slowly and naturally” (Gottlieb 1995, 115). In a study of Hitchcock’s career published after the director was 70, Robin Wood (1969, 17) concluded that his art had grown in a number of dimensions: “Not only in theme-in style, method, moral attitude, assumptions about the nature of life-Hitchcock’s mature films reveal, on inspection, a consistent development, deepening and clarification . . . There is discernible throughout Hitchcock’s career an acceleration of the process of development right up to the present day.” Truffaut (1994, 87) agreed, for he wrote in 1963 that “Hitchcock’s mastery of the art grows greater with each film.”
Billy Wilder stated his goal simply: “I try to make pictures for entertainment” (Horton 2001, 68). He usually did this with comedy: “I don’t want to start asking myself if my film is important . . . What is important is to sit in the theater and hear people laughing at the right moment” (ibid., 71). Like many other experimental directors, Wilder did not consider himself an artist: “I’m just a story-teller” (Madsen 1968, 52). He wanted his efforts to be invisible: “the best directing is the one you don’t see. The audience must forget that they are in front of a screen-they must be sucked into the screen to the point when they forget that the image is only two-dimensional” (ibid., 56). He believed the key to engaging the audience lay in characterization: “I don’t write camera angles and dialogue. I write characters and dialogue. It doesn’t matter what is happening to your characters unless people care about them” (Chandler 2002, 324). And his characters had to behave convincingly: “I don’t think that people behave very much differently in my pictures than they do in life” (Crowe 1999, 175).
Wilder was often denigrated by critics for what they considered the superficiality and commercialism of his work: thus Sarris (1998, 324) pointed out: “Wilder was thought of as the [Hollywood] system personified with all its serpentine wiles and crass commercialism.” At the height of his success, Pauline Kael wrote: “In Hollywood it is now common to hear Billy Wilder called the world’s greatest movie director. This judgment tells us a lot about Holly-wood: Wilder hits his effects hard and sure; he’s a clever, lively director whose work lacks feeling or passion or grace or beauty or elegance. His eye is on the dollar, or rather on success, on the entertainment values that bring in dollars” (Hochman 1974, 504). Wilder was hurt by such attacks, and his consistent response was to defend the craft of his experimental approach: “I am a craftsman, I try to do it as well as I simply can. At no time do I put myself in the category of Ingmar Bergman or Jean-Luc Godard; I grew up in an industry and I’m proud of it. I work for a living” (Horton 2001, 64-65). His admirers agreed with his defense. So, for example, James Agee (1964, 411) praised Sunset Blvd. as “Hollywood craftsmanship at its smartest and at just about its best, and it is hard to find better craftsmanship than that, at this time, in any art or country.” In disputing our classification of Wilder as experimental, a reader claimed that he “made idea pictures through the failure of Ace in the Hole,” a 1951 film. If we take Ace in the Hole (also known as The Big Carnival) as our example, we find a film more interested in character than ideas. The story concerns a down-on-his-luck newspaper reporter who exploits (and, in the end, exacerbates) a mining disaster to revive his career. Wilder uses the plot to illuminate the reporter’s troubled character, rather than advance a morality tale on the evils of exploitation. Indeed, the film does not offer easy moral lessons. It is not a treatise on unethical journalism. Instead, Ace in the Hole is an exploration of how far people will go to escape intolerable situations (whether a collapsed mine or a bad job). The moral lessons follow the characters’ experiences, not the other way around. Accordingly, Wilder’s film is experimental because it privileges experience over ideas, presenting realistic and engrossing images of convincing characters in complex circumstances.
Akira Kurosawa wanted his films to reach the broadest possible audience: “A film should satisfy a wide range of people, all the people” (Prince 1999, 36). As a young man, Kurosawa (1983, 93) was uncertain about his choice of career until he began working in a movie studio, where he discovered his vocation: “It was like the wind in a mountain pass blowing across my face. By this I mean that wonderfully refreshing wind you feel after a painfully hard climb . . . I was standing in the mountain pass, and the view that opened up before me on the side revealed a single straight road.” Stephen Prince (1999, 34-35) explained the significance of Kurosawa’s language: “He has found his calling, and it is expressed as a Way . . . It signifies, in general terms, persistent devotion and hard work dedicated to mastering the secrets of a discipline.” Prince further observed that Kurosawa’s conception of cinema was implied by his vision of the straight road: “Realization of cinematic structure and of visual patterning had to be learned through experience and once learned, could not be communicated in words . . . Kurosawa’s film style, then, is not an intellectualized one; it has not been shaped through fidelity to a previously constructed political or theoretical position, as are films by Eisenstein, Godard, or Straub.”
Prince (1999, 302) noted that experimental goals and techniques were basic to Kurosawa’s films: “Kurosawa adopted the spartan injunction of facing reality rather than pursuing the pleasures to be found in an escape from it . . . The linear narratives of his films symbolized the terms of Kurosawa’s social commitment, setting his heroes upon spiritual and personal journeys that led to confrontations with social ills.” Donald Richie (1965, 185, 197) agreed that the basis of Kurosawa’s style was “a search for reality and an inability to tolerate illusion.” Characterization was central to this process: “In simplest terms . . . his pictures are about character revelation.” Kurosawa was responsible for a number of technical innovations, several of which contributed to the rapidly paced narrative of the Seven Samurai. Yet these innovations were all devised to serve an experimental purpose. Thus, Joseph Anderson and Richie (1982, 380) concluded that in Kurosawa’s great movies, “this mastery of film style has but one pur-pose: it is meant to tell a story.”
At the age of 71, Kurosawa (1983, xii) wrote in his autobiography that the two people he would like to resemble as he grew old were Jean Renoir and John Ford. Unlike both of them, however, Kurosawa continued to direct movies well into his 80s. Although his international reputation had grown steadily since Rashomon had won the top prize at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, Kurosawa retained the uncertainty and humility of his experimental orientation until the end of his life. In 1990, when he was 80, the American Academy of Motion Pictures honored him with a special Oscar. In his acceptance speech, he declared that he had not yet reached the end of the road he had seen before him 55 years earlier, but that he was determined to continue his journey: “I really don’t feel that I have yet grasped the essence of cinema. Cinema is a marvelous thing, but to grasp its true essence is very, very difficult. But what I promise you is that from now on I will work as hard as I can at making movies, and maybe by following this path I will achieve an understanding of the true essence of cinema and earn this award” (Prince 1999, 342-43).
There is remarkably widespread agreement that Citizen Kane is the most important movie ever made. To cite just one of many possible indicators, it has placed first in five decennial polls Sight & Sound has conducted of movie critics since 1962. Among the most celebrated facts about Citizen Kane is that it was directed and coauthored by Orson Welles, who also played the title role, when he was just 26 years old. It was Welles’s first film.
The importance of Citizen Kane derived in large part from its technical innovations. This was the intentional product of careful planning. Both Bernard Herrmann, the film’s composer, and Gregg Toland, its cinematographer, emphasized that they were given exceptional amounts of time and freedom to achieve the novel aims they and Welles had formulated (Gottesman 1971, 69-77). The result was a film that Bosley Crowther described upon its release as “far and away the most surprising and cinematically exciting motion picture to be seen here in many a moon” (ibid., 47).
Beyond the film’s many specific technical innovations, Welles’s single greatest achievement in Citizen Kane may have been synthetic, as he created symbolic linkages between the novel technical devices and the film’s story. The variety of striking technical means used to punctuate the narrative of the story reinforces the message implicit in the variety of differing judgments of Kane presented by different characters. Jorge Luis Borges recognized this, as he observed that the true subject of Citizen Kane is “the discovery of the secret soul of a man,” which was accomplished through “the rhythmic integration of disparate scenes without chronological order. In astonishing and endlessly varied ways, Orson Welles exhibits the fragments of the life of the man, Charles Foster Kane, and invites us to combine and reconstruct them” (Gottesman 1971, 127).
A reader disputed our categorization of Welles as concep-tual: “Experimental directors are supposed to be preoccupied with character. Was a film ever so driven by character as Citizen Kane?” In a sense, the referee is correct. Citizen Kane is obviously about a character: Kane. But it is not a character study. It is an exemplary tale about human nature and the uses and misuses of power, as well as an examination of how people tell stories and understand character. And it is for this conceptual contribution that the film became so influential. Citizen Kane combines innovative camera techniques-deep focuses, long takes, unorthodox angles-that illuminate ways of seeing the world. The film uses innovative narrative procedures- composing a man’s life out of documentary reports, acquaintances’ memories, and archaeological evidence-that illuminate our construction of character. The true subject of the film is not Kane; he is a one-dimensional, allegorical figure who mistakenly thinks that power can substitute for love. The true subject of the film is character itself, who we are and how we come to be. This is the conceptual purpose of Citizen Kane. And in this way it recalls Gerald Mast’s comment about later conceptual directors, “whose urge was not so much to tell a story but to inquire whether it was possible or desirable for stories to be told at all.”
Critics have long remarked on Welles’s ostentatious use of technique. Thus, Richard Schickel observed that Welles “insisted on making movies which called attention to the fact that they were, indeed, movies. In his bravura use of film all pretense of artlessness, all the subtle techniques developed by earlier masters to give the illusion of the realistic point of view were abandoned. Welles compelled the attention to film as film, as something unique to itself” (Hoch-man 1974, 486-87). Similarly, Pauline Kael remarked that Welles “makes a show of the mechanics of film . . . [H]is is not the art that conceals art, but the showman’s delight in the flourishes with which he pulls the rabbit from the hat” (ibid., 489). And Godfrey Cheshire noted: “In Kane, form determines content more than the other way around” (Carr 2002, 66). More profoundly, other critics have recognized that Citizen Kane made a key contribution to the lineage of conceptual cinema. So Truffaut (1994, 284) reflected that “when I see Kane again for perhaps the thirtieth time, it is its twofold aspect as fairy tale and moral fable that strikes me most forcefully.” And David Bordwell observed that because of its representation of the processes of imagination, Citizen Kane had influenced the great conceptual directors who saw it early in their careers: “As the ancestor of the works of Godard, Bergman, Fellini, Bresson, and Antonioni, Kane is a monument in the modern cinema, the cinema of consciousness” (Gottesman 1976, 104). Citizen Kane dominates Welles’s career. When he was presented with the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award in 1975, at the age of 60, the tribute mentioned by name only one film, Citizen Kane, which it described as “a benchmark in world cinema, an achievement against which other films are still measured” (American Film Institute 1975). Yet like F. Scott Fitzgerald and many other conceptual artists who made landmark contributions early in their careers, Welles was haunted by his early masterpiece, for no later work could approach its significance. Thus, although Andrew Sarris (1985, 78) noted that Citizen Kane by itself would have guaranteed Welles’s place in Sarris’s highest category of “pantheon directors,” he also pointed out a direct consequence of this: “The conventional American diagnosis of his career is decline, pure and simple.”
Early in his adult life, Ingmar Bergman realized that making films was to him “a natural necessity, a need similar to hunger and thirst” (Steene 1968, 22). As time went on, this need persisted and became the basis for his career as a director: “My hunger has endlessly renewed itself. Money, fame, and success have been surprising, but basically indifferent, consequences of my rampage” (Bergman 1994, 49). To Bergman, film offered a unique means of expression: “No other art-medium-neither painting nor poetry-can communicate the specific quality of the dream as well as the film can” (Bjorkman, Manns, and Sima 1973, 44).
Bergman was a conceptual director, whose films used complex and often confusing techniques to express abstract ideas. Birgitta Steene (1972, 17) explained: “His genius is not narrative, hardly even descriptive, for the people in his movies have often been marionettes with fixed qualities, morality play characters disguised as humans.” Bosley Crowther observed that “the extraordinary thing about [The Seventh Seal] is the forcefulness with which it conveys the magnitude of its abstract ideas.” In the film, a fourteenth- century knight challenges Death to a chess match in which the stake is his life. Crowther wrote: “It is obvious that the knight is intended as a symbol of modern man, a modern intellectual, such as Bergman himself. He is weary of war, disillusioned about serving an unknown God that permits the injustices, cruelties, and sufferings that occur in the world, and shocked by man’s fear and trembling in the face of prophesied doom-in this case the plague, which clearly symbolizes the nuclear bomb” (ibid., 76-78).
Bergman’s films aggressively called attention to their own technical means. So, for example, Wheeler Dixon noted that Persona is “a film in which rips in the image, out-of-focus shots, repeated sequences, and elaborate optical effects constantly remind us that we are watching a film, a construct, a world that Bergman has invented solely for cinematic consumption” (Michaels 2000, 45). Similarly, Gerald Mast (1986, 376) observed that in Persona “Bergman calls attention to the film as a film because he wants to emphasize that what follows is a fiction, an illusion-a sequence of light and shadow on a flat screen. The audience has entered the world of art and chimera-of magic-not of nature and reality.” Bergman also made his films difficult to understand. Lloyd Michaels (2000, 15) listed the problems Persona posed for viewers: “1) the absence of visual codes to distinguish between what is dreamed or imagined and what is actually occurring; 2) the ellipses, doublings, and disruptions that confound any sense of a linear narrative; 3) the montage of apparently unrelated images . . . ; 4) the discontinuities in space and time . . . ; 5) the inconsistencies in point of view.”
Bergman made important films over a long period of time, and Truffaut (1994, 259) observed that the nature of Bergman’s films changed considerably, constituting a series of distinct periods. Frank Gado (1986, 241, 310-11) has noted that Bergman periodically changed his style, often by consciously imitating a particular cinematic technique. So, for example, in 1959 The Virgin Spring was inspired by Bergman’s study of Kurosawa, in the course of which he viewed Rashomon dozens of times; and, in 1964, All These Women was inspired by Bergman’s admiration for Fellini’s 8 1/2. The conceptual basis of Bergman’s art is underscored by Philip Kemp’s observation that he was “the first filmmaker to use the cinema as an instrument of sustained philosophical meditation” (Nowell-Smith 1996, 573).
Federico Fellini declared: “I have been criticized for making my films only to please myself. The criticism is well-founded, because it’s true. It’s the only way I can work . . . If what pleases me pleases other people, enough of them, I can go on working. Then, I am lucky” (Chandler 1995, 84-85). Fellini preferred memory and fantasy to observation and reality. He explained: “I make my films because I like to tell lies, to imagine fairy-tales . . . I mostly like to tell about myself” (Bondanella 1978, 8). His movies recorded his own version of reality: “My fantasies and obsessions are not only my reality, but the stuff of which my films are made” (Chandler 1995, 58). Gerald Mast (1986, 322) noted that although Fellini’s apprenticeship was in neorealist cinema, his true love was not for somber settings: “He prefers the places of mystery, magic, and make- believe-the circus, the variety theatre, the nightclub, the opera house-to the squalid slums of reality.”
Fellini took complete responsibility for his products: “Everything I do in film is made, produced, invented by me.” Actors were his instruments: “they are my puppets, creations of my fantasy.” He assumed that all art was personal: “I feel that an artist always talks about himself.” Criticism of his films wounded him: “I feel that my innermost being, and not just my work, is being judged and attacked, because I feel this total identity, this complete unity, between myself and my work” (Cardullo 2006, 194, 45, 25, 34). A number of critics have remarked on the subjective nature of Fellini’s art. Bert Cardullo noted: “Observation and synthesis were not really his mode: it had to have happened to him before he could transmute it int