Monday, December 12, 2011

Matthias Stork Answers Detractors in the Third Installment of ‘Chaos Cinema’

The first two parts of Matthias Stork’s video essay Chaos Cinema drew the ire of many, inspiring a number of responses and rebuttals.  Stork obviously took some of them into consideration when crafting the third installment of his controversial series, which debuted this past Friday on Press Play.  Stork doesn’t concede defeat, though he admits that he initially painted with broad brushstrokes.  He apologizes for that oversight, while answering his critics.

Chaos cinema, as Stork loosely defined it in the first two installments, is short hand for the muddled way that modern action scenes are often shot and edited.  The style doesn’t allow for anything resembling visual coherence, and the films soundtrack often acts as a sonic guide through the visual confusion.  

Web-surfing, online video gaming and various forms of social media have irreversibly altered the way audiences receive and process information.  “Chaos Cinema” is touted by its defenders as being better equipped to suit the sensory needs of such an audience.  Stork handily shoots down that notion, pointing out that the online experience isn’t accurately mirrored by the “Chaos Cinema” aesthetic. 
Stork also points out that the inherently linear nature of action sequences doesn’t mesh well with more abstract styles of filmmaking.   Action scenes are pure visual storytelling, and as such should be rendered with clarity.   That sense of clarity was maintained in previous decades, regardless of the stylistic approaches that came in and out of vogue.  Chaos cinema abandons it entirely, offering flamboyant abstraction in its place.  

To His credit, Stork does point out that chaos cinema has been and can be used effectively (Paul Greengrass comes to mind.)  A majority of today’s filmmakers employ it as a lazy alternative to crafting taut and balanced thrills.  It’s much easier to assault the senses than to deftly engage and manipulate them.  A master showman should know how to make a sound and light show an understandable spectacle, as opposed to just a noisy distraction.  It seems that some are angry at Stork for pointing that out.  The truth is often hard to swallow.