Sunday, January 27, 2008

S is for Sigma is for Storytelling

In an attempt to clear the head after a weekend full politics and other depressing matters, I was chatting with some friends as we made our picks for our traditional Oscar pool, and the topic of the ongoing writers strike was still of concern. Without a good plot of course, a film is worth nothing, yet woefully they persist (Rambo/Rocky, sequel number 10,010 anyone? ) Good writing is essential to why I bother to pay money to see a film, and like so many others I am hoping this strike will be resolved shortly.

I've always loved books and writing and admired those who can write well, and it is always draws me to movies. When people ask me what sort of films I like, I find it hard to say one particular genre over another ( I enjoy all except the vile gratutious slasher films) Anyway, in the course of the conversation I brought up Sigma again, and when pressed to declare a firm reason why I like their works so much, I decided that the reason lies in the fact that these are movies that always tell a good STORY.

Wikipedia describes story telling as such:

Storytelling is the ancient art of conveying events in words, images, and sounds often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories have probably been shared in every culture and in every land as a means of entertainment, education, preservation of culture and to instill knowledge and values/morals. Crucial elements of storytelling include plot and characters, as well as the narrative point of view. Stories are frequently used to teach, explain, and/or entertain. Less frequently, but occasionally with major consequences, they have been used to mislead. There can be much truth in a story of fiction, and much falsehood in a story that uses facts. Storytelling has existed as long as humanity has had language. It's the world of myth, of history, of the explains life.

IT EXPLAINS LIFE. is complicated and hard and scary and sad and messy and emotional and sometimes boring, and occasionally its incredibly exciting, funny, sexy, and joyful and unexplainable and always always changing. There is no such thing as a 'perfect' life, there is just life, and that is what I see when I watch the films coming out of Scotland- little slices of life, fresh unique, certainly not run of the mill, but films honest and true. Movies about People.Real people, perhaps not always in traditionally realistic situations (ie Last Great Wilderness, Dogville) but at the base, films that deal with very real people in very real, very honest situations, all presented in an original way.

While you can certainly argue there is a plethora of good 'storyteller' films out there (and there are-ex I picked "There will be Blood" in my pool picks, that was an awesome story, with actually hardly any dialogue at the begining-yet it's a STORY), they aren't always original (and will save a diatribe on the seven plots for all things, all found in Shakespeare). People then say to me, pah all the Brits or Scots films are always gloomy and oppressive or about people leaping about in kilts or some sort of crap. I say well Hallam Foe certainly wasn't gloomy nor oppressive, and received many accolades for the writing. Same for "Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
Dear Frankie (trailer here) great stories about seemingly depressing subjects but at the end just wonderful uplifting tales.

Good stories can also come out of subjects which don't normally come up in 'polite' conversation, but exist out there none the less: suicide, adultery, voyeurism, rape, revenge, heartache, but there is also great humor, honest moments and tender moments involving characters that I can feel for or sympathize with, and above all, want to know more about. I want to know the stories of these people, and I guess that is the objective of all good story telling. Sure you can have a the rare good story in the midst of a huge budget action blockbuster film, but just as I would rather have long conversations with people than text or 'twitter' them, I would much rather watch a film that tells me a story about people.

As a person just looking in from the outside, these films strike me as being carefully crafted to tell stories first and foremost, not deliberately trying to whack you over the head with some overt-oh lets take a taboo or uncomfortable subject and then give you a heavy handed lesson in morality type of boring movie. I've always found the films of Sigma to consistently be fresh and thought provoking and take you on a journey in a person's life and then leaves you just a bit uncertain at the end as if you want to know what happens next, just like life itself.

ETA: At the SAG's last night, actor James Brolin echoed the sentiments, as he gave a good thank you speech for best cast No Country for Old Men. Recognising the fab Coen brothers and the film's uncertain ending which I like, he also said something along the lines of 'its about STORY, and its driving the Hollywood studio system crazy" wOOt! "

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