Sunday, March 22, 2009

where will it all begin

James Harkin in the Observer on cyber-realism in film

Stanley Kubrick's 1956 film The Killing follows a prickly collection of gangsters as they plan to rob a racetrack of millions of dollars. The way that it follows them, however, was considered most unusual at the time. Right from the outset the film shifts to and fro between the multiple different points of view of its protagonists, and leaps back and forth in time to tell the story. Its circuitous structure deliberately plays around with linear chronology, as if throwing out pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and forcing the viewer to put them back together again. At test screenings, the reaction of audiences was disappointing, and their chief gripe was its confusing structure. In the end studio executives became convinced that audiences wouldn't have the patience for it, and The Killing was quietly buried.

The Killing was one of the first films to use nonlinear, multi-perspectival storytelling in the mainstream cinema. Forty years after it bombed, however, there began to appear a slew of films that looked very much like it. Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994) can be seen as an early example of the form. Hammering together as it does three completely different stories in a resolutely non-chronological order, Pulp Fiction is now considered to have been at least partly inspired by The Killing. The films were aimed at different audiences in different periods, but both aimed to zigzag around the truth and confuse the viewer into engaging more fully with the story. Explaining the thrill he gets from telling stories in cryptic, nonlinear fashion, Tarantino has claimed that he finds it fun "to watch an audience in some ways chase after a movie". But whereas Kubrick's film died a death, Pulp Fiction cleaned up. Why?

The rest here.

1 comment:

papalazarou said...

watched The Killing again recently and noted just how many subsequent blockbusters borrow heavily from it without quite equalling the tension and the narrative pace but then Kubrick was a real filmic genius not some sadistic plastic Tarrantino hiding behind a false sense of irony. Filmic genius is so rare that even unkowning homage to the true genius is mistaken for the real thing in an industry that passes off so often.