11 juin 2024

Cinema Generations (Unspoken Cinema infographics)


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From its inception in 1895, the history of Cinema has changed drastically and I imagined a parallel between software generations to depict the evolution of narratives and aesthetics through the years. Thus this infographic map that I designed to summarize the trends and paradigm shifts that shaped Cinema history in successive stages.

The first prototype is "Alpha" also known as Verisimilitude, represented by the cinematographic views of Louis and Auguste Lumière. Cinema was in its infancy, without any visual grammar (editing) or any fancy storytelling. Its purpose was mainly to record life and show off the motion that Photography didn't have.

Soon thereafter a new prototype "Beta" was released for beta-testers, the Filmed Theatre, available in silent mode only, where stage actors and playwright used theater and literature, well known and mastered ancient arts to exploit the possibilities of this new invention. You could argue this Beta stage featured some of the greatest artistic experiments of the medium, but for the most part, slapstick comedy and famous plays dominated.

Once Griffith introduced the first editing grammar and shot conventions, Cinema could tell stories visually and not simply through mimes and cue cards. "Cinema 1.0" could be released publicly. As JLG described it, "all it takes to make movies is a girl and a gun", which will define the genres of this art for decades and decades. Imminent threat, high stakes, a young glamor damsel in distress and an (older) buff hero to save the day, is the bread and butter of 90% of the genres as we know them...

The next paradigm shift was described by Gilles Deleuze (in Cinema 1 & 2, Movement-Image and Time-Image), where he points to the tragedy of WW2 as a transition in Cinema aesthetics from Movement to Time, before and after the war, yielding to the emergence of Modernist Cinema. First with Neorealismo, then with La Nouvelle Vague, and all the New Waves of the 1960ies. This is “Cinema 2.0”. We see a change in the auteur’s POV, in the narrative structure being deconstructed and the form reinvented.

Along those lines, in the margins of Modernist Cinema, Generation Alpha was to be rebooted in the 1970s by the “Greatest Film of All Time” (according to Sight & Sound decade poll), Jeanne Dielman by Chantal Akerman. This is how Contemplative Cinema was born! In 1964, Andy Warhol revived Lumière by taking it to the extreme, with Empire, an 8h long cinematographic view that Lumière could have never dreamt of at the time. Then came Wiseman, Saless, Kiarostami, Tarr, before paving the way to the most recent proponents of this aesthetics in the 2000s.

“Cinema 3.0”, was born in the same circumstances as “Cinema 2.0”, while the later developed an inclination for the fiction and the narrative, the former was more oriented towards the documentary, the commentary, and the collage/montage of found-footage. The Essay Film is first and foremost the self-portrait of a narrator, it’s a homage to cinema through citations and images.

A new iteration of “Cinema 1.0” arose in the 2000s, which we shall name “Cinema 1.5” as it repeats all the tropes only with a difference in degree (with all the knobs at 11 so to speak). A girl and a gun on steroids! This is the emergence of the superheroes movies, and later video games movies. These films didn’t learn anything from Cinema 2.0 or 3.0… they just abuse the technology available to push all the narratives and stunts to the extreme. Green screen CGI, choreographed wire stunts, and hypercut editing. It’s always a damsel in distress, but they also need to save the world (or the universe) to stack the deck of high stakes threats.

The last generation which we see more and more of nowadays is “Cinema 4.0” or Mise-en-abyme, where the suspension of disbelief (of the Beta version) is put into question for the first time. The film we are watching is only a film, and doesn’t hide its own making. The film within the film, its backstage is revealed, and all the ropes of filmmaking are exposed. Dogville is a good example even if it remains classically narrative. Charlie Kaufman in the USA or Quentin Dupieux in France offer a complete deconstruction of filmmaking and tell stories without the safety net of the make believe of the cinema facade.