Friday, 11 May 2012

Cinematic Adventures Around the World - Part 2: New York

Oh New York. A city altogether more sophisticated with its relationship to cinema than Los Angeles. Not that the cities aren't without their similarities in their depictions on film. Most notably in the way they are both shown to be cities of extremes. LA with its glamorous movie stars and underlying racism, NYC as the world of Marty Scorsese's gangsters and loners against Woody Allen's neurotic, intellectual flanerie. Manhattan certainly seems to be divided along extreme lines, but in reality seemed to be full of more hipsters and homeless than the works of those two filmmakers would suggest.

The differences between LA and NY I found more in the cities' relationships to the film industry. While LA seems to focus more on the high concept side of cinema; blockbusters and stars, New York is more well-rounded in its acceptance of varying types of film. I was able to catch a couple of films at the TriBeCa Film Festival and at both screenings directors and writers showed up for Q&A sessions after. This seems to be pretty common for New York, but something I know to be a rare and special treat at film festivals in Australia. It seems to perpetuate the idea that New Yorkers are more intellectual than their West Coast counterparts. While people in the film industry block out commoners in LA with their high walls, CCTV cameras and security guards, in New York they will happily mingle with them. But perhaps this acceptance by the film industry of New Yorkers is the cause and not just the effect of their supposed filmic sophistication.

The Museum of the Moving Image in NY too seems to support their elitist film attitudes. I found no such museums in LA, instead only studio tours implicitly indication the city's preference for celebrating the producers rather than the artists. The studio tours seemed to place their focus on the major advancements in special effects of the last 20 years which, while spectacular, didn't really leave me feeling that I'd learned that much about cinema's history or future direction. The Museum of the Moving Image however focused on no aspect of cinema specifically; instead it featured a chronology of film, from its birth out of the vaudevillian entertainment scene to today. It showed advances in technology, like a display of movie cameras and projectors from the late 1800s to the middle of the 20th century, and sections on each stage of the filmmaking process, from sound editing to make-up to merchandising, highlighting the collaborative aspect of filmmaking. It also had temporary exhibits of installation and performance art utilising new media and showing the evolution of film as art. Overall it depicted a view of the moving image that was equal parts art and entertainment, unlike LAs studio tours which focus on the cinema of attractions; special effects and stars.

Yet despite this I can't say that I have an entirely positive view of film and New York. Though I really appreciated the filmmaker Q&As at TriBeCa, the majority of the questions asked of the makers were pretentious and featured long-winded explanations of the viewers personal interpretation of the film. The most pretentious receiving a round of applause from the other viewers. While it's true New York has a much better and broader film culture than LA, my gosh, don't they just know it?

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