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2006.07.14

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» The Bad and the Beautiful from Looker
Some years ago, in a book called On the Art of Cinema, a great and powerful arbiter of culture declared: A film which merely aims to make a profit by showing off the stars' faces cannot be real art. The [Read More]

» Kim Jong-ils book on cinema from London Korean Links
Filmbrain has spotted - and bought and, even more nobly, read - a translation of Kim Jong-ils On the Art of Cinema. A snip at £22.50 from Amazon. Ill add it to my wishlist, but Im afraid its not top of the list! Thanks to a... [Read More]

» a pleasure to reject from fauxmarc.us
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» a pleasure to reject from fauxmarc.us
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real american

Communist.
Consider yourself with one reader less.
And I will be forwading this link on to homeland security. God bless America!

Filmbrain

Mom?

A. Horbal

Dear Mr. Filmbrain,

This post vastly improved my afternoon. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Andrew Horbal

Filmbrain

Thank you comrade Andrew.

HarryTuttle

Is it April's fool joke?


"One can only wonder if he's seen Team America"

That's the reason Taepodongs were invented...

Filmbrain

No Harry, it's a real item.

In fact, he wrote a book about musical theater as well.

tlrhb

Beautiful, Filmbrain, beautiful. I second that A. Horbal emotion.

Kza

"Critics are meant to come together and collectively assess a film purely on its adherence to Juche-oriented ideas, and the director's understanding of Party policy. (Sort of like what Armond does.)"

Ouch!

:-)

Noel Vera

Cool, man. Can't imagine actually sitting down and reading the damned thing, tho...

April

Fascinating entry. Who knew that Hollywood had so much to learn from Kim Jong-il? What I'm really puzzled over is that first comment. Is "America First" for real? Do people like that really exist?

Filmbrain

April -- No way to know for sure about that first comment. I suspect (or at least hope) it's a joke. However, the IP address of the poster comes from Red State USA, so I can't be too sure.


Rahat

Kim Jong-Il's love of film is truly fascinating, and one has to wonder how much he's been influenced by films in his decision-making process. I wonder if he's a fan of Dr. Strangelove...

burritoboy

I think this post is actually pretty relevant to our historic moment -

leaving aside Kim's own nonsense, the West has viewed cinema from the Communist era in a very hard and essentially imbecilic ideological light. The reality, though, is that there are so many different interpretations of Marx that I find there's much more ideological diversity within Communist films than there usually is within Hollywood films.

I actually find the ability of auteurs within Communist countries far more persistent, wily, sophisticated and serious about understanding the institutional barriers to their art than directors under capitalism have been (except for limited exceptions like Godard).

Filmbrain

Good point Burritoboy.

However, one could say that a fixed set of barriers, while limiting, leaves no question as to the space a director must work within. It almost forces creativity, especially if there are at digs at the very system they are forced to work under. I've seen this many times in East German films.

Not having to worry about things such as market forces, trends, test audiences, etc. does provide a type of freedom that directors under the studio system are rarely afforded.

I've only seen one North Korean film, so I can't speak much for how things played out there.

Thom

I wonder how many others will have the patience to read through all of Kim's manifesto, Filmbrain; thanks for taking one for the team. :-) Superb post. I also commend your statement that a fixed set of barriers can force actually creativity. I've had an ongoing argument with a friend about that. He contends that rules only stifle creativity. I argue that such barriers can actually encourage filmmakers to invent new ways to say the same thing...which sounds like a lot like creative behavior to me. We usually break into fisticuffs at that point though.

burritoboy


"He contends that rules only stifle creativity."

The problem with film is that it's an industrial art - a writer needs only a writing instrument and a flat surface to write, a painter only paint and a flat surface - while film-making requires a fairly sophisticated device (the film camera), people or objects to be in front of the camera, and so on. Of course, you can make movies by just painting on film, but that's limiting in and of itself.

Moreover, film requires a comparatively more sophisticated distribution network for people to see it: the writer could write his book by hand, and photocopy it at Kinko's (or copy it by hand, I suppose). The painter can sell her painting directly. Unless you're having people watch your movie rerun on the viewfinder of your camcorder or something, you're going to have to transfer your film to some other medium, a process which usually involves an amount of electronics.

Of course, almost anybody in a communist country could do this type of economic analysis in seconds, while I doubt the majority of viewers within capitalism could ever do that type of analysis, no matter how much they're coached or educated.

girish

Re: barriers forcing creativity, Kiarostami has talked about the flourishing of Iranian cinema partly being a function of all the subject matter it couldn't address directly. Thus, many Iranian filmmakers used experiments in form to more effectively charge their content with ambiguity and richness.

And Hou has strongly characterized his own creative approach as driven by the setting of new and different "constraints" for each project. (There's an interesting chapter called "Hou, or Constraints" in Bordwell's book, Figures Traced In Light.

HarryTuttle

Staline and Hitler were very much into cinema too, were they most interested by art or propaganda?

You guys almost make it sound like repression is a "good thing" for art... if artists aren't motivated/inspired to do greater art when enjoying freedom it doesn't "justify" the existence of tyrany. ;)
Let's remember some masterpieces happened to emerge from freedom and wealth (Greek antics, Renaissance, Cubism...)

Gregory CG

The artist's life depends on one thing in order to function adequately: discretionary time. Which is as good as saying it depends on money.
It takes a lot of the above in order to enjoy it, too: to spend the hours watching movies, to spend the money going to overpriced film festivals, to live in a culturally vibrant city with an exorbitant cost of living, to buy hard-to-find region-free DVDs, etc. You could certainly argue that it's exclusive, if not elitist. (Neither of those things necessarily precludes decency, kindness, and openness, but they certainly decimate the numbers of a potentially artistic population.)
I think Harry appropriately reminds us that Hitler and Stalin were intensely curious about film (Hitler, the former art student). This is only to say that no politically powerful figure (i.e., no one with money more than it takes to feed oneself) is immune to the cultivated pleasures of artistic leisure, whether he's a fascist, Marxist, or civil libertarian. I don't care how many rules constrain/ed the likes of Eisenstein or Kiarostami; there's no denying they are/were both radically privileged members of their respective societies.
Kim Jong-il, bless his heart, is a freaky little man. I would not be surprised if he spends more time screening movies in his theater bunker than he does worrying about South Korea, Japan, or the U.S. I bet he has seen Team America, and I would also wager that he enjoyed it. I guess we'll all just have to wait until he starts his own film blog before we know the truth.
This is definitely your finest post, Mr. Film Brain. Witty, sharp, and fascinating. I loved Jong-il's unintended critique of Jerry Bruckheimer. Many thanks.

burritoboy

"You guys almost make it sound like repression is a "good thing" for art... if artists aren't motivated/inspired to do greater art when enjoying freedom it doesn't "justify" the existence of tyrany. ;)
Let's remember some masterpieces happened to emerge from freedom and wealth (Greek antics, Renaissance, Cubism...)"

I would challenge your idea of "freedom" - our idea of "freedom" is usually translated to mean a highly confined legal sort of freedom (freedom to elect your representatives, etc). The ancient Greeks had a more expansive view of freedom - economic freedom (i.e. a man was free only if he wasn't economically controlled by another), much more radical political freedom (direct democracy, not representative republics) and so on.

How this applies to the film creator is that both film creators under capitalism and communism can work only under the direction of a bureaucracy (and in both systems, the bureaucracies were equally boot-lickers of power).

How free one is under either ideological bureaucracy is really dependant on your ability to see other alternatives (even if you aren't free in action, at least one can be free in thought). If you don't know of any other alternatives, you truly are completely unfree.

The reality is that, under capitalism, knowledge of alternatives is often MORE (but more subtly) suppressed than under communism. At least theoretically, the communist regimes encouraged the entire citizenry to be conversant with the
thought of Marx and of the Marxists. That's some very powerful, deep, serious thinking there. The alternative potentialities is available through following the paths and openings the great Marxist thinkers leave open.

Conversely, the capitalist regimes do everything to sideline or bury any discussion of the rightness of the democratic capitalist regime. There's really never any serious examination of John Locke or Thomas Hobbes or Paul Samuelson or Gary Becker or Montesquieu -i.e. very few under capitalism can even begin to discuss the underpinnings of their regime. That means that there is no substantive alternative for most under capitalism - a true lack of freedom.

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