Chaos Cinema | Reader's Digest

Chaos Cinema

Movie producers attempts to overwhelm our senses have made movies into unintelligible sensory overload—and bad cinema.

By Jim Menick

Bam! Bang! Blat! POW! BBBBOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!! And if that’s not enough, boom again and again and again and again.

Sound like any movies you’ve seen lately?

For a while now I’ve been watching action movies where, to be honest, I have no idea what exactly the action is. In the beginning I thought this was me. Maybe I had gotten distracted with my popcorn or something, maybe I had looked away at the guy across the aisle sending a text message, maybe I had fallen asleep and then all the noise woke me up. But it’s not me; it’s them. And Matthias Stork at Press Play has put a name on it: Chaos Cinema.

The best way to explain chaos cinema is by a comparison that Stork makes himself. In old Hollywood musicals, you would see a full-body shot of a performer, and you appreciated the beauty of the performance. In present-day musicals, you see an arm here, a leg there, a group jump somewhere else, and they call that dance. Maybe, but it’s not performance, it’s editing. If you ask me, it’s bad editing.

Stork’s piece consists of two pieces of a video essay. It is strong stuff, because it contains a lot (and I mean a lot) of random violence rendered even more random by being taken out of context. But the point Stork is making in the voiceover (the text is also printed in the post) is that there is really no context in the first place:

“Most chaos cinema is indeed lazy, inexact and largely devoid of beauty or judgment. It’s an aesthetic configuration that refuses to engage viewers mentally and emotionally, instead aspiring to overwhelm, to overpower, to hypnotize viewers and plunge them into a passive state. The film does not seduce you into suspending disbelief. It bludgeons you until you give up.”

Watch it over at VIDEO ESSAY: CHAOS CINEMA: The decline and fall of action filmmaking. This is highly recommended to anyone who wants to know what is wrong with movies today. As I said, it’s not us: it’s them.

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