This my friends is a short sweet little play called Play, written by that Irish Absurdist Samuel Beckett. Oh, the title doesn't mean what you probably think it does.... you might have to watch it a couple times to figure it out. If you're like me, you'll watch it a couple of times anyway, out of sheer fascination (and, well, to figure out what the heck is going on!!! Hint - the comments on YouTube will help). Also if you're like me, you'll want to save this little gem to your hard drive (because, as we all know oh so well by now, YouTube videos have a way of disappearing overnight!). I give you the venerable YouTube Downloader. Consider it the gift that keeps on giving! Or the gift that lets you keep on taking...
In my recent report on Poetic Film and the World of Objects, I mentioned a fantastic book called Film as a Subversive Art, written by Amos Vogel. I was so impressed with it that I started ordering some of the books listed in the bibliography. One of the good-uns was The Theatre and it's Double by Antonin Artaud - well, I liked it, but I must say it didn't really relate very well to anything stopmotion - though it was good for tracing the genesis of modernist cinema and examining the ideas that gave birth to it. Then suddenly I found myself face to face with one of the best books I've read in a looong time.... Theatre of the Absurd by Martin Esslin. He's the critic who originally coined the term, and he's been there and watched it take shape and grow from the beginning - not to mention he's a great writer and has a knack for getting ideas across clearly.
This writeup actually dovetails nicely with my last one, because Absurdist theatre is poetic theatre. And thanks to Esslin's very comprehensive book, I have a pretty clear idea now of how to approach poetic cinema - something I was a bit worried about. If you recall, my ongoing question lately has been
"how to create modernist (poetic) films that are as satisfying and feel as complete as a good narrative film?"
I'll quote here some passages from Esslin's book that pointed me in the right direction...
"Instead of being provided with a solution, the spectator is challenged to formulate the questions that he will have to ask if he wants to approach the meaning of the play. The total action of the play, instead of proceeding from point A to point B, as in other dramatic conventions, gradually builds up the complex pattern of the poetic image that the play expresses. The spectator's suspense consists in waiting for the gradual completion of this pattern which will enable him to see the image as a whole. And only when that image is assembled -- after the final curtain -- can he begin to explore, not so much its meaning as its structure, texture and impact."
"The play with a linear plot describes a development in time, (however) in a dramatic form that presents a poetic image the play's extension in time is purely incidental. Expressing an intuition in depth, it should ideally be apprehended in a single moment, and only because it is physically impossible to present so complex an image in an instant does it have to be spread over a period of time. The formal structure of such a play is, therefore, merely a device to express a complex total image by unfolding it in a sequence of interacting elements."
"It is not true that it is infinitely more difficult to construct a rational plot than to summon up the irrational imagery of a play of the Theatre of the Absurd, just as it is quite untrue that any child can draw as well as Klee or Picasso. There is an immense difference between artistically and dramatically valid nonsense and just nonsense. Anyone who has seriously tried to write nonsense verse or to devise a nonsense play will confirm the truth of this assertion. In constructing a realistic plot, as in painting from a model, there is always reality itself and the writer's own observation to fall back on - characters one has known, events one has witnessed. Writing in a medium in which there is complete freedom of invention, on the other hand, requires the ability to create images and situations that have no counterpart in nature while, at the same time, establishing a world of its own, with it's own inherent logic and consistency, which will be instantly acceptable to the audience. Mere combinations of incongruities produce mere banality. Anyone attempting to work in this medium simply by writing down what comes into his mind will find that the supposed flights of spontaneous invention have never left the ground, that they consist of incoherent fragments of reality that have not been transposed into a valid imaginative whole. Unsuccessful examples of the Theatre of the Absurd, like unsuccessful abstract painting, are usually characterized by the transparent way in which they still bear the mark of the fragments of reality from which they are made up. They have not undergone that sea change through which the merely negative quality of lack of logic or verisimilitude is transmuted into the positive quality of a new world that makes imaginative sense in its own right."
Ok, enough for now. If any of this tickles your fancy, here are a couple links to more posted on the net:
... And if you still hunger for more, then my friend, this is your cue to begin your own investigation!!! Do some web searching, buy Esslin's book (or one of his others... apparently he's written several).
I will present a few more links, to videos this time. Consider this your reward for reading this far. Here's my favorite icon of early cinematic surrealism, Buster Keaton, starring in a little film called Film (also written by Beckett):
And, as you may have already guessed if you've been paying attention, I suspect the title 'Film' doesn't mean exactly what it seems to at first blush.....