Magazine article American Cinematographer

From the Editor

Magazine article American Cinematographer

From the Editor

Article excerpt

The distinction between art and entertainment is one of my pet preoccupations. Most of the time the question of whether a film is a work of art or whether a cinematographer is an artist is really a pseudo-issue masking a debate about status. The phrases "a work of art" or "an artist" could be reduced to "important" without in any way altering the substance of the discusssion. Nonetheless I do believe there is a difference between art and entertainment which has implications for the way in which films are made as well as the way they are conceived or viewed. The distinction is a pretty slippery eel though; and usually whenever I think I have it pinned down, a new consideration comes dancing onto the stage, and I find myself empty handed once again.

The starting point for these philosophical forays is always the experience of viewing a film. Different movies affect me in different ways. It is one thing for me to be entertained and another for me to experience another person's vision of the world. I am inclined towards a romantic, expressionistic view of art, and to some extent I think the difference between art and entertainment can be formulated in terms of the filmmaker's attitude towards his audience. The entertainer is primarily concerned with the response of his audience to the elements in his film, while the artist is primarily concerned with the appropriateness of the elements to the vision which he is trying to express. The ludicrous extremes are obvious: on the one hand there is the shameless film that throws in dogs, children, sex, violence and the kitchen sink in order to get a rise out of the audience; on the other is the totally inaccessible creation which makes sense to no one but its creator. The hybrids which defy classification are equally obvious. Art can be entertaining, and an attempt to entertain may express a vision of life in spite of itself. Entertainment may deal with serious issues; it may even have as its goal provoking the audience to think about things.

Most movies are entertainment, and there is no need for anyone to feel apologetic about that fact. Entertainment can be intelligent, beautiful, delightful, sophisticated, high minded, whatever-depending on the audience to which it is addressed. …

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