I just started working the new spring semester as a graduate assistant for a cinema studies course. The professor has divided the semester up into two categories: image and story. This very simple division explains a lot about the movies and the way we think about them. Most people consider movies as stories, and that's it. They evaluate their experience on how well the movie told that story: was it plausible, enjoyable or unique? And it's true that most movies are nothing more than stories. But every so often a movie comes along that tries to do something with images, and I've always been attracted to them. I'm very definitely a "visual learner." I'm one of those people, when introduced to someone, their name goes right through my brain and disappears. But if I can visualize the name, or see it written down, then I'm aces.

This is most likely why The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (9 screens) appealed to me so strongly. Yes, the movie uses clever narration and dialogue but the main emphasis is visual, characters in relation to their surroundings and to each other. I'm also interested in movies that combine space and time; the shots last long enough that the visual schemes have a chance to sink in and mean something. (This is something that only movies can do.) That's probably why I generally despise shaky-cam and fast- cutting. But if you're telling a story, and the main goal is to get to the next turning point, then faster is probably better. I don't mean to say that image is better than story; the most important thing is the emotional result of whatever you're seeing. Some stories have affected me very strongly and provide some of the simplest entertainments: Speed, Run Lola Run, Memento, Spider-Man 2, etc.

categories Columns, Cinematical