Riccioto Canudo (1877-1923), an early Italian film theoretician, viewed cinema as a plastic art. Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Music, Literature and Dance are the six forms of art. He named Cinema as the Seventh Art. Cinema born in the closing decade of the nineteenth century soon replaced the rest of all other forms of arts in terms of popularity. Soon after its inception it evolved into a lucrative industry spinning money. A single art bifurcated here and began to coexist. There are films that primarily devote themselves to entertain the audience. In Parallel there are films that approach this form as an artistic endeavor.
Though, Cinema, in contemporary terminologies are labeled as mainstream and art house, functionally they remain the same and the viewer has to have some education to appreciate it. The terms we usually use to refer film viewing, would tell us our relationship with it. ‘Watching Films’, ‘Viewing films’, ‘Experiencing Cinema’… so to mention. ‘Films’ or ‘Movies’ being the widely popular terms in usage, I always prefer to use the term ‘Cinema’. It sounds very seductive to me, personally. What a word!
In his hierarchical representation of the various art forms Canudo places Cinema at the apex.
Is making cinema alone an art? You’re right about your speculation. I get exactly there. Yes, if making cinema is an art experiencing it is as much an art. Here, I remember Mr. Srithar with immense gratitude, my mentor and godfather in Film appreciation. He guided me into the Cinematic Universe, silently teaching me how to turn ‘watching cinema’ into ‘experiencing cinema’. It all began eleven years before. For the initial two years, I had seen only the works handpicked by him. He would speak at length about cinema and the artistic achievements of the auteurs of cinema. He was a secretary of ‘Yatharthaa’ (a Hindi word meaning ‘Reality’) film society. His tryst with cinema spans almost four decades and still going strong. He was nothing short of a guiding light. I began my toddling steps leaning on his experience and guidance before I began my quest on my own.
Later in my life, the next miracle happened and that was Arun Kumar (writes in ‘Creofire’ as well as runs the blog ‘Passion for Movies‘). With him I have the sweetest relationship I ever had with anybody. I knew his genius personally than the rest of the souls who move with him closely. If we take out cinema and books from our conversations, we would’ve hardly greeted each other, I guess. It’s the best gift to have someone who mirrors your thoughts and shares your taste. The pleasure of holding an intellectual friendship with Arun is inexplicable.
I feel it might be nice to share some of the criteria that I use to follow in ‘Experiencing Cinema’. It might help you or it may not.
- To have the perfect cinematic experience, wait for the film to choose you. It may sound absurd, but in my personal experience, this is how it works. You may have a huge collection and have the habit of forcing yourself to see a film, perhaps every night. Don’t choose the film to watch, instead browse your collection with a free mind. I always have felt the ‘calling’ from a cinema, at that moment, to experience it. Perhaps it’s some strange instinct that draws me towards it right then. I’ve never watched a film without that ‘call’. After I began to write about cinema, sometimes it’s become a professional need to watch certain works before I write an essay or article. Apart from that I wait for the ‘call’.
- Read a lot about cinema. It familiarizes you with the plot and the content of the works in your collection. The mood of the viewer is never the same, so it will be fit to cling on to something and that would be purely momentary. Hence amid your search you cinema of the day will find you and you may date it.
- Prior reading about cinema generally helps one make their cinematic experience better. But it’s as important to read on cinema after you experience a work.
- If you are the type who perceive cinema as a learning medium, reading is a must before and after cinema. In fact reading leads to better choices and experiencing better cinema induces more reading. They promote each other.
- Try to put down your movie experience in words, for it might help you to analyze how better your views have evolved over time. You’ll soon realize that watching the same cinema twice can never be the same experience. It’s just like we say, ‘we can’t cross the same river twice’; ‘No one can watch the same cinema twice! That is the power of Cinema!