Tuesday, May 10, 2011

3-D Movies: The End of the 4th Wall

David Mamet - the bells and whistles of film have become the reason films exist to begin with

Film is dead. It has been bruised by producers, raped savagely by profit margins, and left bleeding in the alleys of Hollywood after the stars and starlets are done with their vehicles. However, I feel that the advent of 3D is the final spike in creativity's groin.

Technology and Art
Some films are made to be an orgy of technology splashed with some dialogue. As Tron did in the 80's (and Tron Legacy horribly repeated in 2011), new ideas and experiments were attempted and lauded as successes even though the movies themselves are worthless.

One of the reasons I have come to love film is that it is no one man's effort that creates a final product. A perfect film is a culmination and artistic display of hundreds, sometimes thousands of individuals contributing one effort into the conglomerated whole. Given direction from the head, the cells that work for a film can either make or break the organism (Unions, hookups, and set drug use are other variables, alas another conversation for another day).

Some of my favorite techniques are employed by director Wes Anderson. He sets life up like a stage, almost double framing every event that occurs within his movies to the point where even the surreal is completely believable (see The Life Aquatic for my favorite examples; the lights and dock where Steve Zissou stands while his wife flies away overhead, and the way Steve and his endless gun clips charge headfirst into a barrage of pirate gunfire). His films utilize his own blend of storytelling, color, and framing created with the aid of hundreds in crew, and creates a mesh between technology and art.

The 4th Wall
Film maintained its independence from other forms of media (mainly television) because it operated with a 16:9 aspect ratio across a large screen. When combined with a pitch black room and encompassing sound, what is called the '4th Wall' can be erected and maintained over an audience. The 4th Wall is used to suspend an audience's disbelief where as the film and its story is concerned. If the cast and crew did their job well, your mind pieces together the film as an actual event (or at the very least, a nice play with silly jump cuts), and you are able to enjoy the film as if you were there watching the events unfold themselves.

a. Used for Good
A good director can use and abuse the 4th wall to their advantage. Easy examples of comic use of tearing down the 4th wall would be when Ferris Bueller or Wayne and Garth turn to the audience to speak to you directly. At that point, the wall evaporates so the actor on screen can have a one way conversation with the audience. Alternatively, the wall is also preserved through this method, as the audience can begin to understand this breach of normality as a believable piece of the story.

b. Used for Disruption
Slight changes in continuity can clue the audience into something going wrong. This can be as subtle as a perceived change in color from the camera lens, or as disconcerting as switching the picture's horizontal axis 180 degrees (i.e. switching the x-axis position of everything on screen).

c. Used for Evil
Shitty continuity problems (not intentional). Most are not seen by the audience, mostly because your mind is not looking for subtle continuity errors. They are in virtually every movie, but the audience 'edits' them out of mind for the most part. If these types of errors are so blatant that you can notice them, they will tickle your sense of humor and punch your sense of rage.

3-D Films
When you put on 3-d glasses, you painfully aware that the 4th wall doesn't exist. Hollywood is actually giving you a device to see through the wall itself. Oh, your eyesight through my bullshit good enough? Here, take these glasses and pay me twice as much. The story, editing, and cinematography are no longer key components of selling a movie. Punchlines and imagery reign supreme. You can point out the lines and scenes where a producer though, oh, that might be cool, let's add that. Art is ruined by the cool, and our industry has disappeared into a chorus of Michael Bay splosion! Boom! Zwang! Kapows!

My greatest concern is that while several people my age (although not the majority) share my disdain for the 3-d phenomenon, I realize that we are not the target. The next generation is. These years are acceptance testing so what is foreign to us becomes the house standard in the future. The 4th wall is gone, and while I pay to keep my eyes wide open, I can't see a thing.

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