The question is whether there is a direct negative impact in actively engaging in obsolescence. I would like to ask the question not in terms of the technical aspects of making art, in this case film, but in terms of the storyís setting. Can period films be the strongest type of film? Is it fair to say that whatever amount of effort is spent to recreate an earlier time (i.e. period pieces) is effort which could have been invested in other elements of the story. Some consider Barry Lyndon an intellectually and visually stimulating work, but one which leave them feeling quite cold in response. But this is just one example, and there are many period films which are universally affecting. Renoir, Tavernier among others have made some very moving period films.

 

Both Renoirís Grand Illusion and Tavernierís Sunday in the Country are simplified and stylized in order to be able to reasonably recreate the period in question. One could not just walk out on the street and shoot a crowd of people, but one had to shoot a series of actors. Renoir more in the studio. Tavernier more on location, but still the scenes contain limited characters and action. Thus, wonderful as they are, neither Renoir not Tavernierís films come off as real and effortless. They both must overcome their own constructs.

 

On the other end of the spectrum would be someone like Cassavetes, whose films are highly affecting to anyone who takes them on. It almost seems like Cassavetes just points the camera and shoots a bit of reality, which just happens to be scripted. Some Fassbinder films are also this way.

 

But what if Renoir or Tavernier could have directed a Cassavetes film or vice versa? Like the television show wife swap. In the case of Tavernier, his most affecting film for me, in fact, is his first, The Clockmaker, which I believe was shot quite simply in its contemporary setting, with less stylization than his later films.

 

Of course, in practice, one should allow Renoir to make films in whatever period or setting he wishes, if that is his wish. Even if he could theoretically make a more affecting and believable film by looking forward and not backward, so what? His works are still a conduit for his deep reservoir of humanity, and thus they are art. But I still wonder.