Monday, July 18, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 16: Your Favorite Drama Film

Day 16: (A) Favorite (Bare-Bones ) Drama Film, in Two Parts:
We're entering the phase of this little exercise in blogging narcissism in which the topics become truly reductive, redundant, and really almost impossible to answer for anyone who has kept up with cinema.  Asking what someone's favorite drama is, for example, feels like it's potentially the same question as "hey, what's your favorite movie" (a question I did manage to answer on Day 1) or, if we're talking about drama in its more classical form, "hey, what's your favorite film where people act?"  It's a little ridiculous, is what I'm saying.  With that in mind (and keeping in mind the films I have already used as answers), I need to slant this in a more specific direction.  Instead of "favorite drama" let's call this favorite "bare-bones drama."  Meaning: what's the film that most defines what 'drama' is for you?  That feels closest to the definition employed by the stage?  Or, perhaps, the film that best employs its medium to create a drama that cannot be effectively told on stage, but only through moving pictures.
1: A Favorite Drama (Stage Definition): American Beauty
When it comes to some good old acting of the 'people conversing' variety, I could upgrade All About Eve to a higher place in my repeat views (after all, it's truly a classic), but when you get right down to it the film I most associate with 'drama' is American Beauty.  Perhaps it's because much of my understanding of Shakespearean tragic heroes and dramaturgy is oddly tied in with Lester Burnham's suburban downfall.  This is a film where, ultimately, the cinematography is of a lesser importance than the characters, the dialogue, and the slow burn of each of their intertwined stories.  With each revisit I've found myself surprised by just how gripping the story is, and how involved I become though the film has been repeated, played to death, and praised in excess.  It doesn't falter.  Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening are incendiary here, and you feel for them every time.  That, my friends, is drama.

2: A Favorite Drama (Film Medium Definition): L'Avventura:
Michelangelo Antonioni's meditative epic L'Avventura premiered at Cannes in 1960 (the same year as La Dolce Vita) and was famously booed, slammed, and utterly trashed by audiences and critics.  It was an outrage, and then, after underground support, was subject to the sort of reappraisal most films have to wait decades for.  L'Avventura went from disaster to instant classic in minutes, basically, and has since been oft-considered one of the top contenders for the "greatest film of all time" title.  It's a slow, ponderous, beautiful little film about cold characters, and for me is something of the definition of a drama whose tense moments are created by cinematography and atmosphere instead of merely the movements and dialogue of the actors.  Antonioni's great adventure was amongst the true originals that proved dramatic film was a legitimate art form, a fine art capable of functioning away from standard storytelling expectations.  Its drama is one derived from solo outings, melancholy, and landscape.  Though the framework sets up a vanishing, the only real disappearance is one of self.  There is a missing girl here, but she's not the one you're searching for.


 

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