By Adam Kimmel and Joshua Handler
Recently I've been disturbed by the amount of people who don't seek out independent films, non-English-language films, and classics. So, I asked some of the most exciting and original voices in modern cinema to submit responses to a few questions about why/if they think indies/non-English-language films/classics are important to view, and how those films have been influential on their careers.
The responses below are from Adam Kimmel, cinematographer of Capote (Independent Spirit Award-nominee for Best Cinematography), Lars and the Real Girl, and Never Let Me Go (Independent Spirit Award-nominee for Best Cinematography).
Do you believe that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why (if you don't feel that it is important, please tell why)?
I think that maybe the answer is in the question. If someone is an aspiring filmmaker, than they are aspiring to tell stories or evoke feelings to total strangers in a personal way, and I think there are few people who can say they haven't been affected by someone else's effort to do the same. This is not to say that someone can't have such original vision that they can't create something that's never been seen before, but the beauty of art is that you can stand alone in what you do and still recognize all the others who have come before you and done the same, and without compromising your individuality, be a part of something collective and ongoing. So yes, if you can look at film as an collective and evolving art form then it becomes clear that to be a part of it as a contributor or as an observer (which also is a contributor) can be greatly enriched by acknowledging the linage from which it flows.
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why (if you don't feel it is important, please tell me why)
It's interesting to think of independent and world cinema as different from cinema as a whole. I guess I mean that the geographic or budgetary specifics that cause certain films be be labeled as such are less defining to me then the degree to which they succeed. If people were to judge painting or classical music the same way, what did it cost to make or what language did the composer speak, wouldn't it be the world's loss to consider these inferior to more costly and widely distributed work? If something succeeds in moving or entertaining or provoking you, then isn't that enough to consider it worthy of your time? People love movies because they have the capacity to make us feel and laugh and think and lose ourselves into something completely outside of us while still bringing ourselves along for the experience. This has been the same since long before films were made, in literature and verbal storytelling and gathering around the campfire to use your imagination through the prism of someone else's experiences. This is what people have always been drawn to as a way to expand our understanding and perspective. That having been said, I think that limiting yourself to any narrow angle of view, whether it's Hollywood/Studio/English-language/Star-driven films, or whether it means only seeing whatever is foreign to you, is asking to be disappointed or uninspired by the state of the art.
How did viewing indies, films from around the world, and classics help/influence you when shooting CAPOTE, NEVER LET ME GO, and the other films you've shot?
I have a difficult time when I try to define how specific influences inform my choices. I like to think that inspiration is a cumulative process and that at any given point along the way, your creativity is a manifestation of everything that has inspired you so far. When I look at any film I've shot, I see the best of what I was capable of at that point in my process, and I can also see fragments of things that had made impressions on me up until then. But I love that point in preparing a film when you stop asking yourself where things come from second guessing yourself and begin to really trust that you're inside the story and the director's vision of it, and that all the influences and inspirations that have led you up to this point are now inseparable from where you are and the work you are doing.
I'm still so fascinated when someone is able to take a story or an image that exists in their own mind and imagination and express it in a medium that allows me to sit there and watch it, and cultivating that process with a director is a great privilege and responsibility that I'll never take lightly.
What's one American indie (doc or narrative) one non-English-language film (doc or narrative) and one classic (define that one any way you wish) that you would recommend that film-lovers and/or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
In recent American Indies, I really enjoyed Jim Jarmusch's Only Lover's Left Alive and was moved and impressed by Beasts of the Southern Wild - both were really fulfilling experiences for me.
In foreign language films, I thought The Great Beauty stood out as a brilliantly realized, original, and confident piece of work, but so did Blue is the Warmest Color for such transparent performances. I also really admire the Dardenne brothers and Jacques Audiard's recent films.
Under the heading of Classics... The Godfather has to start that list for me, but it's a long and varied list but with a definite bend toward cinematography that I feel is inseparable from the story it's telling. So almost anything shot by Gordon Willis, Owen Roizman, Caleb Deschanel, Conrad Hall, Emanuel Lubezki, and on and on.
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Wednesday.