Monday, 12 December 2011

How To Study Film: Part Six


In Part Five we discussed at length the first of the three types of Film Studies Phony; the Namedropper. In Part Six we will look at the remaining two offenders; the Illiterate and the Downright Idiot.

The Illiterate has either been completely misinformed about what studying Film involves, or is just as lazy as Hell. Just because you're undertaking a course of study which mainly involves films does not mean that you're off the hook as far as reading is concerned. Don't get me wrong; the best thing you can do to learn more about films is to watch them, but it's good to have some sort of context in which to place what you're seeing, and reading books/articles about Film can give you that. Students who think they can sail through a Film course without reading a single book, article or academic essay need to pull their heads out of the clouds. If you're looking into studying Film as an easy escape from all that bullshit reading you had to do when you were younger, I'd look elsewhere. There's still a fair amount of reading, and an even fairer amount of bullshit. But I promise you, if you're really into your Film, you will find most of the stuff you have to read so interesting you'll actually be disappointed when you get to the end.

While the Namedropper is the most common and dangerous Phony, and the Illiterate is the most lazy (but harmless), the Downright Idiot is without a doubt the most exasperating. They will seem completely incapable of discerning between what is good and what is bad, what is intelligent and what is pretentious, or what is funny and what is just plain stupid. They are the easiest to spot out of the Film Studies Phonies because they are the ones who will very quickly make you want to tie them to a chair, tape their eyelids to their foreheads and have them sit through all seven and a half hours of Bela Tarr's Satantango (in my experience they keep struggling up until about hour three, at which point they become catatonic, before moving onto hysterics in hour six). If you've never heard of Satantango, have a look at the video below. It's the opening scene, albeit with added musical accompaniment. It's the scene that Tarr opens the movie with. And it's all downhill from there, boys and girls.

Watching a lot of films is very much like going to school; you can learn an enormous amount just from sitting back and letting all the information the filmmaker throws at you find some way into your brain, as long as you vary your intake a bit and don't get stuck in just the junk food aisle or the gourmet restaurant. You can't really be an idiot and a film geek at the same time; the two things just don't go together. Films can teach you anything; how to work a record player, the history of French Revolution, umpteen other world conflicts - however, never attempt to learn how to develop a photograph from a film, because I have yet to see one in which it is done correctly.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't study Film if you're think you're not as clever as everybody else, because trust me, watching a shitload of movies is basically akin to swallowing the Encyclopedia Britannica. I'm just saying that for some people, Film Studies is a closed DVD. If the subject doesn't click with you, you shouldn't be studying it, or you might find yourself tied to a chair watching a load of cows wander around Hungary. You're probably cut out for something else, maybe something that's considered useful by the rest of the world, like Business. If so, lucky you.

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