Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The House away from home

I am pleased to report that I will now be writing for The House Next Door, a film / media site I have long regarded as one of finest of its kind. I don't have a specific direction or set of goals I'd like to accomplish in my articles for The House, but I anticipate drawing up a number of commentaries on a variety of cinephile subjects, as well as offer some more in-depth film criticism the likes of which is not appropriate on an individual blog like The Cinematic Art. I have every intention of upkeeping this blog at the same pace regarding post numbers and content. I may not write at the same length that I have in the past, but I will continue to keep this site up-to-date in similar capacity as I have over the past year. As always, thanks for reading, and your comments are always welcome!

My first article is an appreciation of Ang Lee's Hulk, a film I believe to be underappreciated and underrecognized. With the release of the new film, Lee's version of the story may likely be driven into even deeper obscurity. I argue that the film is important, both as a work of digital cinema and simply as a melding of experimental and conventional filmmaking styles. At a time of greater nuance and confusion in the film landscape -- with aesthetics and sensibilities shifting to accord to new sociocultural conditions -- Hulk is especially relevant. Hopefully, time will be kinder to it.

Below is an excerpt from the opening portion of the article:

"Midway through Ang Lee's Hulk (2003), Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) and a Hulked-out Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) share an exchange that could easily be confused with a scene from a less commercial film made at one of Universal's smaller subsidiaries. Aside from the impressive CG-effects (somewhat obscured, and assisted greatly by the darkness of night), there is palpable affection between the towering digital creation and Connelly. Bruce shamefully gazes on Betty in self-disgust, the moonlight shining off his bulging arms as he moves to gingerly lift her off the ground. When her arms drape over his giant limbs, we can feel it. No dialogue is uttered; there are only faces.

In that moment, Lee achieves something that so few filmmakers have with digital effects. He literally brings a digital creation to life. The scene can be seen as something of a precursor to the under-appreciated
King Kong (2005), wherein director Peter Jackson momentarily mutes out the world so that a flesh-and-blood woman can connect with a pixelated monster. But unlike Jackson's Kong and various other works featuring memorable digital creations, Hulk will not be remembered as a defining moment in the history of CGI. And yet, the film's use of digital technology is more subtle, evocative, and arguably more innovative than a great deal of the so-called greats (e.g. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Independence Day, The Perfect Storm, etc.).

Lee understands that the quality of effects have little to do with their photorealism. How "real" the Hulk looks is irrelevant—the reality is instead contingent on the conveyance of feeling. This affective connection is not necessarily achieved by top-line effects (a notion that echoes a traditionalist application of digital filmmaking). Instead, Lee illustrates that with the appropriate sensibility and aesthetic unity, such pure moments can be constructed traditionally (analogically), digitally, or with a perfect melding of the two.
Hulk essentially embodies a new kind of cinematic connection that is both subtle and profound. The digital components are physically married to the composition and emotionally embedded in the narrative."

For the full article, head on over to The House Next Door.


Matt Zoller Seitz said...

Glad to have you writing for the House, Ted. Your blog has become one of my favorites; it's full of fresh angles on favorite topics.

Ted Pigeon said...

Thanks, Matt! I'm looking forward to diving into the discussions at the House, and to writing more articles.

By the way, I just recently got around to reading Keith's review of the new Indiana Jones film, and your comments about the film were very intriguing. I saw the film three times when it came out, but now I feel as though I need to see it again!