First you must watch this clip by Renoir. Now doesnít that make you wish Renoir was your friend, and you could discuss this with him? Well you canít. Youíve got me. Sorry. But letís give it a try. Now consider that black and white can provide a certain quality to a filmic experience which is lost when we move to color and digital video. Black and white film would be just an example from that medium, but it could be Polaroids for photography, or a musician who will only release his music on the worst quality cassettes. The issue, Renoir explains, is that one cannot reverse the hands of time, and the advance of technology. If a modern filmmaker released a film in black and white, it would be a modern filmmaker releasing a film in black and white, and thatís just not the same as watching a film made in an earlier time. The contrivance would be inescapable and distracting, in spite of all best efforts to overcome on the part of the filmmaker and the audience. Of course many will resist the idea that a certain style or tool is no longer allowed. There must have been some ideas which would have been suited to black and white, but which were not realized during the available time. For example, Jean Vigo could have directed another film, but he died, so he didnít. What about that film? I would have liked to see it. Some will think. Donít tell me I cannot have more of that. The fact a piece of art cannot be recreated after its time has been proven recently by George Lucas. He has gone to great lengths to create in me a desire to see the original Star Wars, and not the destroyed version, which is available now for purchase.

 

So is there an answer to what I am going to call the dilemma of obsolescence? Besides the logical one put forth by Renoir, which is essentially to ďget over itĒ and move on? I can think of one, but it will not be easy. It will involve some deception. If one can create a work which has every indication of being made in an earlier time, then perhaps we can have another film noir which is good and real and gives us more of that fast delight. We could discover an artist who had somehow slipped through historyís microfiche. We could find a sunken ship with all its treasure on it, for which no record of its voyage can be found. A tale of 16th century love, when loved really mattered, between two young Sicilians, was reconstructed by piecing together some fragments of letters. The letters were written on parchment and they had been discovered when the top of an old marble chest was lifted by some workmen. The chest had been buried in the basement of a kindly old widow who had obligingly just passed away. She had no family that anyone knew of, and the local officials had ordered her apartment cleared of all its contents before they would send an expert to determine what should be done with the place. A hotel? A museum? A government office? At this time no decision has yet been made. The letters were given to the local library as always. They were scanned and uploaded to the libraryís website, and that is how I came across them. They have only begun to post translations of the letters, so I will have to go back in the future and learn the whole story of the two lovers. And I will tell you the rest of it just as soon as I know more.

 

But if I could write such letters, type out slow on neo-parchment. If I could take such pictures, with a Polaroid from Nina. If I could weave a Bayeux tapestry. Could it not be as beautiful as it once was?

 

 

July 2007