Weekender | Film: The forgotten art
Collaboration gives film a new dimension
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 08:10
Sometimes we forget film is an art. With mindless flicks flooding the cinemas every weekend, herding us there in eager droves, it can certainly be difficult to remember this fact. We’re often content with explosions and recycled jokes, and there’s nothing wrong with that, per se. But once in a while it wouldn’t hurt to widen our scope of cinematic interest and absorb film as many filmmakers have intended for it to be absorbed: as an art.
Luckily, a slew of upcoming and ongoing projects in the Boston area presents film in an array of innovative, artistic lights. Fascinatingly, many of these undertakings link film with another artistic medium.
Such creative fusions demonstrate that movies are capable of and keen on exploring certain emotions and themes that many people associate with other art forms. These projects also attempt to show that art in general is a collaborative craft. While film can elicit true empathy on its own, it can produce an even more stimulating effect when combined with music, static art or the stage, for example.
For artist and Harvard lecturer Matt Saunders, bringing film together with photography and painting felt natural. In fact, the definitive titles for different art forms mean little to Saunders. He sees art as an opportunity to create images that, when taken together, produce a cohesive effect. For him, whether this takes the form of animation, photography or a melding of the two doesn’t matter in the least.
“All those distinctions are kind of meaningless,” he said. “The basic core process of my work is very much with making images out of materials and thinking about where these images are located, and what’s specific about how they are made.”
Painting, drawing, photography, animation — each of these artistic mediums share a similar dialogue, and the artist’s latest show, “Matt Saunders: The movies that were secret remain secret somehow and a nation forgets its pleasures,” attempts to portray that. Inked, hand−drawn short animations screen throughout the space while characters from the films hang along the walls in the form of “photo prints” — pictures taken of his canvas paintings — similarly colored in gray, nuanced tones. Each of his pieces, be it film or static art, compliments and evolves from the others, creating what Saunders hopes viewers will see as an “image stream.”
“They present different information,” he explained. “But that carries over [from one art form] to the way you see the other ones, so it creates a more complicated dialogue of transition and materiality.”
On display in The Carpenter Center basement and within the Harvard Film Archive, Saunders’ project, which he hesitates to call an exhibit due to its constantly evolving nature, is largely dedicated to the site that houses it. One of his main aims was to strengthen the relationship between film and other visual arts by drawing in people from both worlds, which the Carpenter Center has strived to do for 50 years.
“The idea was to try to find a way to show artwork not in the exhibition space that exists in the building, but to try to activate that zone where the two programs touch,” Saunders said.
The show will run through Nov. 4 and attendance is free. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 11 p.m on Sunday, with screenings taking place in the Carpenter Center Lecture Hall every weekday at noon.
When it comes to thinking about cinema in relation to theater, the world is no stranger to film adaptations of popular plays. Just think: How many renditions of “Hamlet” have made it the big screen? While such a production does bring together the stage and the screen in some loose form, Coolidge Corner Theatre and Huntington Theatre Company’s recent collaboration unites these two arts in a far more intriguing and intimate fashion.
“This year, [Huntington’s] season included a couple of titles that were directly film related, such as Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ (1931),” Coolidge Corner Theatre Program Manager Jesse Hassinger said. “So we explored the idea of doing a limited series where we would join up with a couple of their productions to show a related film.”
This ongoing series, titled “Stage & Screen,” is a bold venture that brings current Huntington artists to the Coolidge Corner Theatre for the screening of a film that impacted their work in one way or another. Following the screening, the artists will take part in a conversation with the audience, talking about themes or subjects relevant to the film and to their upcoming productions. This unique pairing of theater and cinema demonstrates that these arts always have and always will reciprocally influence one another.
“I think the nicest thing about working so closely with the Huntington on this series is that they can offer playwrights and/or directors [the chance] to discuss how either the themes of the film have influenced them, or the films directly have influenced their work.”
“It’s nice to be able to offer the audience not only a different viewpoint on some of the themes, but also [to demonstrate] how those themes can tie into the plays that are about to be performed as well,” he added.
“Stage & Screen” already kicked off earlier this month with a screening of Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” (1964), followed by an appearance from stage director Michael Wilson and Christopher Shinn, creator of the play “Now and Later,” which runs through Nov. 10 at the Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. Both productions explore similar themes of deceit within the political world, and thus provide a compelling base for comparison and discussion. Hassinger hopes that this discussion will help bridge the gap between theater and film and demonstrate their intertwined, symbiotic relationship.