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Bordwell on clearing up the action

December 29th, 2008 at 9:37 pm

University of Wisconsin film prof David Bordwell makes the case for a return to a more “expressionistic” style of action set piece that can grab the viewer on deeper levels.

“… (A)t some point I became a connoisseur of action sequences….

“… I became convinced that martial arts movies from Japan and Hong Kong constituted as important a contribution to film aesthetics as did the Soviet Montage movement….

“… So it was with a definite sadness that I watched, from the 1980s onward, the tendency of American filmmakers to give up on rendering physical movement with full force. Action sequences became jumbled arrays of short shots and bumpy framings. The clarity and grace of motion seen in classic Westerns and comedies, in the work of Keaton and Lloyd and Ford and Don Siegel and Anthony Mann, gave way to spasmodic fights and geographically challenged chases. At first, the chief perpetrators were Roger Spottiswood and Michael Bay. Now it’s nearly everybody, and journalistic critics have recognized that this lumpy style has become the norm, even in the generally admired Bourne entries….”

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