Dailies: Film Folk and the Folks in Film

Screenshot 2015-10-31 at 10.43.45 AM

Well, folks… We haven’t “chatted” for a while—you know, that imaginary scenario where I blather on and pretend there’s an audience? You can tell this is a more informal post: I’ve used the word “folks.” Do you mind, terribly? I hope not. I mean, I include myself in there with the “folks.” Why? Because we’re all just regular people, “just folks,” or “simple, unaffected, unsophisticated, or open-hearted people”?

Hell, no! I’d like to think that “folks” could be both sophisticated and “open-hearted.” So, that’s my contribution to redefining that word.

But there’s another, archaic understanding of the word, which seems applicable for blogging—for “chatting” and spinning yarns (sometimes big, sometime wee) about the things we love. (For me, it’s film. And TV. For you, it’s kids or songs or places or food or something else.) To the point: the “folk” are “bearers of oral tradition.” It’s not a unique argument to claim that blogging carries on the old, old tradition of storytelling: though not everyone is necessarily interested in telling stories, many blogs (at least the ones I meander through) have intriguing stories to tell (fictional, historical, autobiographical). These are funny, well-written, sophisticated, and “open-hearted” blogs, which delight my ears with exuberant prose.

I like these folk.

I also like the folks that make film about folks (for folk’s sake!), and delight us with a richly textured (if not always linear) story:

  • Richard Linklater

  • Woody Allen

  • Werner Herzog

  • Allan King

Okay; that list was random. (And I’m only vaguely familiar with King, though I was intrigued by Michael Cera’s enthusiastic description of this Canadian filmmaker’s work: see the clip from the Criterion Collection “DVD closet”). My point is that these folks, who usually direct and write, spin interesting yarns, and fill their films with fascinating folk.

I’ll start with the filmmaker I’m least familiar with: Allan King. He’s a documentarian who explores the dynamic of families, couples, and generation gaps that exist within the domestic environment. The Married Couple (1969), for example, features the slowly disintegrating relationship between a couple. (Cera calls it “funny” and “heartbreaking”: the clips I’ve seen bear this out.)

Werner. Ahh, Werner: another great documentarian. The latest film of his that I watched was The Wheel of Time (2003)—and, no, it’s not an adaptation of the Robert Jordan fantasy series. It’s about Buddhism. In action. And not the North American version of getting “spiritual” or “becoming one with the universe.” The film explores the vast, beautiful, and complex components of this religion that comprises probably the biggest number of followers worldwide, focusing on that wonder of wonders, the “sand mandala.” (Check out this clip for a glimpse of the breathtaking artwork.) But, above all, it’s the camera’s ability to track the movement and interaction of people that makes it a beautiful film: there are wide, panning shots of thousands upon thousands of pilgrims making their way to the Buddhist ceremony (often thousands of miles on foot); and then the camera reminds us of the beauty of each grain in the sand mandala, particularly when it offers (sometimes intrusive, sometimes uncomfortable!) close-ups of the individual believers.

Of Woody Allen, I may, down the road, say something more substantial—in particular, about an absolute gem of a film: Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). But for now, I’ll say that it offers a great (and beautifully photographed) portrait of writers, actors, lovers, and friends (and combinations of all four) interacting in a bustling urban environment. The film’s technique of using three Thanksgiving dinners to mark the passage of time and update us on character development is brilliant.

Of Richard Linklater, I’ve already had plenty to say. (See my feature from September.) But I’ll just add that this filmmaker demonstrates how film has adapted the ancient tradition of storytelling as a journey: it can be intriguing, funny, sad, and sophisticated, and the path it leads you on may be unpredictable and even baffling. (Watch Slackers to see what I mean.)

These guys know what the folk is going on.

Badeep, badeep, badeep. That’s all folks!

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2 comments

  1. I was on the verge of saying, “Awww, a Woody Allen virgin,” then realized that, in the context of talking about that man, it’s a creepy notion.

    Allen’s unsavoury public life aside, his early ones are worth watching for pure comedic reasons (Bananas, Sleeper), and the later ones (beginning with”Hannah”) are just damn fine filmmaking. If you haven’t seen Midnight in Paris, that’s also worth a watch.

    Like

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