Derik Badman's Journal

2019-09-09 12:09

Finished up a quick read of Paul Schrader's Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer in its new edition. After watching his First Reformed the other week, I looked him up and remembered he had written this book which prominently mentions Ozu and that there was a new edition. The new introduction was a highlight. It primarily discussed the later evolution of some of the stylistic elements he discussed in the main part of the book, in particular in the form of "slow cinema," a term I was not previously familiar with, though some of directors he mentions are (like Tsai Ming Liang). He discusses a few variations in a tripartite scheme (Schrader really likes dividing things into parts or dualities throughout the book) with a point about the effect of Andrei Tarkovski's work as a kind of borderline between the the old and the new. I've not seen much Tarkovski (just Solaris I think), but I've had Stalker on my list in the Criterion Channel for awhile. Just need to find the time to watch it, as it's rather long. I'll also be looking into a few of the other directors he mentions who are not quite on the extreme side of slow cinema, where it becomes gallery art basically.

Reading Schrader on Ozu was unusual, because I've already read a book recently, Noriko Smiling by Adam Mars-Jones, that takes apart a bunch of Schrader's arguments. I spent the whole time really questioning his assumptions about Ozu in relation to broad discussion of Japenese culture and Zen, and also wondering, in 1972, how much access Schrader actually had to Ozu's films. We are privileged now to be able to watch them, rewatch them, pause, rewind, while Schrader would have had to watch ones in a theater, probably at some kind of archive or musuem (Mars-Jones explicitly talks about the advantages of video watching in his book). Schrader does seem to rely on too reductive a version of Ozu, focusing on his style distilled down to the most easily recognizable parts. In that respect I don't know that the book increased my knowledge or appreciation of Ozu.

The other chapters on Bresson and Dreyer were less relevant to me personally as my experience of either's movie is really limited. Though in looking at the descriptions of Bresson's later movies in IMDB, I am curious to watch a few of them now, especially his Arthurian one. I do appreciate Schrader's discussion of different stylistic devices throughout the book.

My other beach reading the past two days includes Landscape Painting Now: From Pop Abstraction to New Romanticism a well illustrated art book about, as the title says, contemporary landscape painting. The wide range of styles and subjects covered under that description is impressive. I've got a whole host of new artists to look up, though I was also glad to see a few familiar favorites like Mark Tansey (whose recent work I've seen too little of) and Etel Adnan. It's nice to reevaluate the idea of landscape painting as this staid Bob Ross Sunday painter genre, and see the wide variety of styles and themes can be brought to bear on what is, in the end, a very broad arena.