Posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 by Germain Lussier
We’re all familiar with it. Some call it MTV editing. Others blame it on ADD. It’s the fast cutting, fast moving camera aesthetic that’s become prevalent in Hollywood blockbusters over the past decade and change. In a new video essay published on Indiewire’s Press Play page, Los Angeles scholar and filmmaker Matthias Stork gives it another name: Chaos Cinema. His two part, 18 minute dissection of this new type of cinema highlights how action films have evolved, or devolved depending on your point of view, by using examples from the works of Paul Greengrass, Tony Scott, John Woo, Michael Bay, Christopher Nolan and John Frankenheimer, just to name a few. Watch the videos, read what he has to say, and discuss it after the jump.
Thanks to Press Play for these videos. Here’s part one.
And here’s part two.
And if you’d like to read all of what Stork says during these videos, Press Play has the transcribed essay at this link.
Stork’s video essay is obviously impressive and, according to David Chen, partially inspired by /Filmcast discussions. But watching it doesn’t really add anything new to the discussion. Do these videos solidify the fact that “chaos cinema” has become the go to for Hollywood action movies? Yes. Does it present a convincing argument that this visual style is less attractive or emotionally connective than classical film techniques? Most definitely. But really, after watching this essay, you’re left with what you already know: Chaos cinema (or quick edits, MTV style, whatever you want to call it) is a lazy way for filmmakers to engage and excite an audience. I wish Stork would have attempted to answer many of the questions he asks. Where, exactly, did this start? How can the tides turn the other way? These questions are posed, but left open ended, like the end of a blog post. Self-reference noted.
The problem Stork obviously faced is these questions have no answers. This style has evolved ever so slightly over the past few years and no one knows when it’ll stop. Trying to pinpoint its origin is almost impossible. Was it the music videos of Hype Williams? Someone trying to out Tarantino Tarantino? And then there’s no way to figure out how it’ll end. Will it take a trilogy of slow moving, deliberate, three hour, 2D films by Paul Thomas Anderson or The Coen Brothers to make $1 billion dollars each for people to start slowing down their edits? Probably. But as audiences continue to line up for the films of Michael Bay and Tony Scott, it’ll most definitely be a while before anything changes. Chaos cinema reigns.