This article highlights a new and particularly exciting cinematic lineage, sprouting up in ever-increasing numbers, which some intrepid film student should definitely trace. It encompasses unique, violent, heavily documented acts that blur the line between art and reality. Let’s call this lineage The Leap.
Requirements/parameters: 1) Theatricality. Cinema is in so many ways a child of the theatre: there’s a viewing space and a theatrical space, divided on a single axis by a proscenium, and a 4th wall. Part of the reason we enjoy going to the movies or to the theatre is because we enjoy our own performance in a very structured event… with rules, guidelines, limits, and expectations. But we also enjoy going because there’s at least a small bit of us that wants that traditional structure to break down somehow, to get reinvented, not by ground-up reconstruction, but from within, by violent coup. 2) Bridging divides. Not only do these moments inject one form of art into another (performance art into fine art, film into theatre, etc.) but at best they inject the spirit of art into daily life– that is to say, daily life becomes charged with tension, the possibility that a never-before-seen creative act can happen at any moment. This bridging erases the mundane out of the routine, revealing a rhythmic latency, an empty stage with an audience, that exists in every room, every car, every street, every elevator cab, every DMV line. And this leads to 3) Immediacy or instantaneousness. Or as John Malkovich’s character in Art School Confidential says, a certain “nowness” that connects us to the world at large. These acts are like social wormholes: they allow us to grasp things much larger than us, which by some natural laws we weren’t supposed to be able to experience.
This is a refreshing tonic to the locked up starving artist stereotype of the middle of the 20th century, the new rubric for the essential ‘narcotic moment of creative bliss’. It could, with the aid of smartphones and social media, become the driving force of a new movement in art, just like grand political shifts spawned dozens of movements 100 years ago. Here are our examples:
Art School Confidential
Where a struggling art student gets falsely arrested for murder, which he doesn’t care about because he is desperately in love with a girl.
Where a commercial actor desperate to demonstrate his artistic integrity actually shoots himself on stage.
Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales): La Bombita
Where an explosives contractor is so desperate to speak to a human being at the DMV that he commits an act of terrorism.
Go watch those three movies if you haven’t yet. They all celebrate that Leap, as the protagonists, in transgressing, finally gain the recognition they’ve been desperate for.
A couple of appendices:
Stockhausen on 9/11
And who better than Thom Yorke to disdainfully give a nod to this very phenomenon when he sang “You’d kill yourself for recognition” on High & Dry.
A character taking a leap out of everyday life, into something totally new, that no one thought was ever possible. Often it is a violent act, but there always remains that hue of madness which tethers it to the sandbox of art.
Stockhausen’s statement, while crude, was very incisive into such acts that tear down barriers between art and life. In a reality where most of us are conditioned to believe that “art imitates life”, at moments like this the creative act leaps ahead and for a moment takes the lead in the march into the unknown. When art like this is made, it suddenly has serious consequences. Consequential art is a seldom-encountered, continually endangered creature. The Leap may help proliferate it once again.