Midnight Picture Show


“Why do people focus too much on Story of a film, & not on the Poetry or Art of a film? Is it just a Tradition in film or do you actually prefer Story over Art? I would love to know.

My personal opinion is I see film as an Art Form so I prefer the Art side better. Obviously the best solution would have a perfect mix of both, but if I had to pick I would rather watch (& make) an Artful film over a Story-Driven one. [sic]”

This came across my Facebook. From a stranger, but I quickly realized I had many thoughts on this, and attempted to make a new friend by sharing such thoughts. They were appreciated, and I’ve had time to think about it some more and refine those thoughts.

The simple answer is people understand story more than they do art. I like to think of myself as a moderately smart fellow, but when I see art that I don’t understand I quickly feel dumb and then resent the art for making me feel that way. I can’t imagine I’m alone in that thinking. Story doesn’t usually do that.

Story offers a clear idea, and generally clear closure. There’s a beginning, middle, and end. We know this. Several times throughout our school years we learn about the plot diagram with its rising action, climax, and denouement. One of like three French words everyone knows. There is very little to interpret. Art and poetry are almost exclusively based in interpretation.

Because art relies on interpretation, it becomes subjective. We put our own thoughts, memories, and feelings into how we see the art. People will not see things the same way. Because of this, art doesn’t reach as wide of audience as story. And while we want to think of movies as an art form, ultimately film is a business, so more audience means more money (and that means mo’ problems, apparently).

The other thing to consider goes back to that plot diagram notion. Everyone can tell a story. It’s something humans has been doing since they’ve been able to communicate with each other. Case in point, I can tell you about humans telling stories. And everyone still does it today. When you’re discussing your day with whomever, you’re telling a story. When you read your kid a story, you’re telling a story. When you’re singing about 7 castaways stranded on some uncharted desert isle, you’re telling a story. It’s simple to tell a story, a little harder to tell a good one, but still pretty easy.

Art, on the other hand, is much more difficult to do well. It is a gift that very few are allotted. And even fewer who decide to use that gift in the medium of film. So for every Aronofsky we get two J.J. Abrams. As I considered directors for that last example I realized the film makers I most enjoy have great stories and very pleasing visual styles. People like the Coen brothers, Edgar Wright, and George Miller. But if their movies were the same only with lesser stories, I don’t think I would like them as much. The art contributes to the story in most of these examples.

There is one thing we are forgetting here: characters. If the characters are shit then story and art don’t matter. If you can’t find a reason to care about the character then you don’t care about their story, and all the pleasing images won’t save your enjoyment. But the importance of character is an entirely different and much longer essay.

Ultimately it’s about taste. So I’m curious about what you like and look forward to in movies. Do you prefer story over art? Will you overlook terrible aspects because a character appeals to you? Sometimes a setting will win me over. The main reason I enjoy Return of the Jedi is because I love the lush greenery of Endor. I know that’s weird and kinda dumb, but that forest does something for me. Whatever it is, I want to hear about it. Even if it is just explosions, or it involves a clown flipping a pancake. Which is my go to image for “art film.”

One art, please
One art, please


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