Transcendental Style in Film | Paul Schrader | TIFF 2017


If you come to expect the action, well,
you’re not going to get it. [Schrader] Transcendental style is, essentially,
withholding the device. You’re going to hold on shots
too long; you’re not going to cut. You’re creating dead time. What happens during dead time, when you are instructed to watch nothing? Now, in real life, you don’t watch dead time. De Sica, in UMBERTO D. — [there’s that] famous shot of the maid striking the match three times. It was no longer about the
activity of striking a match. It was about how long you’re going to sit and watch. The filmmaker is using the power of
cinema itself — against itself — to get you into a sense that
you have to participate. Most movies lean towards you. They lean towards you aggressively
with their hands around your throat, trying to grab every second of your attention. [Schrader] These type of films lean away from you, and they use time and — as other people
would call it — boredom as a technique. Eventually, if you’re smart enough on how
you use these techniques, now you’re doing something really rare:
you’re activating the viewer. And once a viewer starts to move on his own, it’s so much more powerful. [Schrader] When you use boredom
as an aesthetic device, when is it effective, and when is it simply boredom? If you consistently withhold, and now
the viewer is leaning towards you, now you have to think, in a
certain moment, “freedom.” You know, do something unexpected. In IDA, it’s the tracking shot at the end, you know. In Bresson, it’s just a burst of music.
You know, you show a movie for an hour and a half,
two hours, with no music at all, and all of a sudden, at the end, boom!
A big blast of Mozart. What are you going to do with something that aggressive? And the trick of someone
who can use transcendental style is it suddenly frees them. [Soundtrack crescendo: Mozart’s
“Great Mass in C Minor – Kyrie”] So, like the characters in Ozu’s films —
[they] never show any emotion and, all of a sudden, at the end — wham-o! —
comes a big blast of emotion! What are you going to do with it, now that he has totally
conditioned you not to expect it? Is it going to put you off, or is it
going to knock you up a notch? That’s the idea of decisive action. And, once you get that action, and then… then after that, silence.

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