because Thomas Edison loved a good ass-kicking

Quentin Tarantino believes violence is what makes movies good. Not just his movies: all movies, according to the London Evening Standard:

In general cinema, that’s the biggest attraction. I’m a big fan of action and violence in cinema… That’s why Thomas Edison created the motion picture camera — because violence is so good. It affects audiences in a big way. You know you’re watching a movie.

Or perhaps because Tarantino got a sneak peak at the director’s cut of Bright Star — which restores the awesome gory duel between poets John Keats and Charles Armitage Brown the studio forced Jane Campion to cut — and really does simply believe the film is stronger and more effective with that shot of Keats’ intestines spilling out onto Hampstead Heath.

This has been your WTF Thought for the Day.

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Thu, Jan 14, 2010 11:12am

I’m inclined to agree with QT, although I might broaden his definition of violence.

With the exception of ballet, which is not exactly a populist medium, and some bits of television, cinema is the only artform exclusively about motion. Cinema is about the image, movement within the image, and movement from image-to-image. (Cinema is also about the passage of time, but we’ll ignore that for now.)

Cinema is also a narrative / dramatic artform, which means it is about conflict, crisis, tension, resolution, growth, etc. The easiest way to achieve conflict, crisis, etc. through an artform based on images and motion is by using images and motion, and the easiest way to achieve that is through violence and action.

Most romantic comedies are bad because White People Talking is not cinematic; problems solved by talking may be healthy for society but they ain’t much to look at. They aren’t visual.

It’s not impossible to make a non-violent movie visual, it’s just rare. We treasure movies like “Annie Hall,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Two for the Road,” and “Eyes Wide Shut” because they tell their romances visually. But maybe they aren’t so non-violent after all: one could argue that the non-chronological editing of “Annie,” “Spotless,” and “Road” is so jarring as to be a form of violence.

“8 1/2” doesn’t begin with Guido saying “I feel so trapped! Sometimes I wish I could escape, but then real life pulls me back in!” That’s poor cinema. Instead, it shows him be suffocated in his own car (violence), then climbing out the top (action), flying away (action), then being flown as a kite over a beach (action), until he is pulled cruelly out of the sky and crashes into the ocean (violence).

If someone’s not chomping at the bit to see “Bright Star,” it’s not because he doesn’t like poetry but because White People In Costume Reciting Poetry doesn’t make good cinema. An actor reciting Keats for two hours does not make good cinema anymore than writing Keats on a canvas makes a good painting. (But from what I understand Campion has attempted to make “Bright Star” as visual as possible, and I applaud her daring.)