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The fall (and rise) of European cinema The fall (and rise) of European cinema
by Joseph Gatt
2020-08-25 10:37:12
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Simple. In the 1970s and early 1980s (and in the 50s and 60s) you had fantastic European producers. Those producers would hire the best screenwriters to write a script. They would hire another fantastic individual to direct the film. And they would hire the best actors.

The producers were concern with financing the film and making sure the film ran smoothly. The screenwriters were specialized in writing for the screen, were often very well-read individuals, very well versed in social trends, attentive to detail, concerned with viewers and with entertaining the masses.

The directors were technicians who tried to make sure the movie was filmed properly, that the actors were well-prepared, and that the stage was well set and well lit.

eurcin001_400What happened in the 1990s?

Rather than having producers work with screenwriters, the tendency reversed. Now you had screenwriters who also wanted to direct the film (and sometimes star in the film). Those screenwriters would visit producers, claim that daddy is some kind of important person, and that if you don't fund my film and let me run the show you will be punished.

To be clear. Until the early 1980s, screenwriters were professional screenwriters, often with humble beginnings, from humble families, who studied hard to become seasoned screenwriters.

In the 1980s, with the emergence of a hyper-rich class in Europe who made a fortune during the 1950s to the 1970s, you now had rich kids who couldn't write screenplays with the brilliance of the older generation, who couldn't direct films with the attention to detail and devotion of the older generation, yet who wanted the fame, fortune, respect, glory, and pomp of the older generation.

Now you do have the occasional great movie in Europe. Amélie was fun to watch. Roberto Benigni and Pedro Almodovar have made a series of great movies. Luc Besson's movies are rather predictable (ethnic mafia gangs fighting each other) but they are fun to watch. And then you have quite a few talented writers/directors like Alexandre Arcady, Mathieu Kassowitz, Cédric Klapisch and a handful of others.

But the problem with the film industry in Europe is that you have all those rich kids who don't even get training in screenwriting or directing before they want to produce, write and direct their film, and force their rich friends to watch the film, and force their rich friends in the media to help them promote their film. And viewers are occasionally forced to watch very, very bad movies.

How do you recognize a “rich” screenwriter from a talented one? “Rich” kids usually write screenplays that are a series of stereotypes, usually ethnic stereotypes, occasionally social stereotypes. And they use way too much emotion or lyricism. But their screenplays often lack realism. There's a dire lack of realism.

Other feature these “rich” kids have? They love to tell the story of their life. Either directly, or indirectly, by putting their stereotypical breakup, divorce, personal tragedy into screenplay, when such personal traumas often contain nothing original.

In sum, these “rich” kids (by “rich” kids I mean screenwriters who come from wealthy families, have no training in the art of cinema, yet try hard to become big names in the cinema industry). In sum these rich kids want their break in the cinema industry by focusing on “supply” of films and creation rather than focusing on “demand.”

That is the older generation, the Bergmans and Truffaut and Fellini and others focused on “demand” meaning that they tried to study society and figure out what the demand was from society-at-large for a good movie.

Working with that demand, great movies came out.

Not only that. In the old days you had one separate guy to write the dialogue and another guy to write the story. That is, in the screenplay, you would have seasoned screenwriters write a story, and then work with a dialogue writer who would focus exclusively on the dialogue.

Or even better, in some cases it was teams of 5, 6 or more people that worked on the script and dialogue.

And then you had the stage managers and the makeup artists and the sound technicians and the editors and the casting directors and so on.

But as long as Europe and European producers and cultural institutions will be forced to sign cheques to “daddy's boys” who want to control everything from script to directing to acting to stage to makeup to editing to what not, you're not going to get great movies.


      
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