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  • Adam Carr

Movies or Cinema

What is the difference?

The great Sidney Lumet, whom I consider a creator of cinema, states, "I can't even say the word, 'cinema.' It gets stuck in my throat."

Both terms- I would also include, film, motion pictures and moving pictures- are nothing more then labels describing an art form. But in my own personal orbit I make a distinction.

Al Pacino and Michelle Phieffer
Frankie & Johnnie

Movies entertain for a couple of hours. They attract viewers with the promise of watching a celebrity portraying a "memorable" character, a fireworks display of action and explosions that hold an audience's attention, making them laugh with comedy, or watch on the edge of their seats from a characters' drama or portal them into some fantastic world of a filmmaker's imagination. These are what movies promise. They are stories. Stories that comprise of all the art forms; painting, music, poetry, literature and theatre. With the proper use of these art forms movies stimulate the senses. Even smell and taste can come through the screen. As by the way they are captured in the camera the characters act at the audiences' surrogates triggering one's sense as they're surrounded by flowers as in Frankie and Johnny or food in Eat Drink Man Woman.

Eat Drink Man Woman the movie
Eat Drink Man Woman

Cinema, to make the distinction, lives on with its viewer. It stimulates a viewer's conscience and intellect. For a film to aspire into cinema it must have a moral. No, no stop reader! No need to leave. There is nothing I hate more then a film that tells its audience what is right or wrong and what lesson they've been taught while sitting for two hours in front of a screen or television. These types of films are movies. They are labors of misconstrued intentions and are no better then the movies interested solely in capturing an audience's money by attracting them by dangling celebrities and fireworks in front of them.

No, cinema tells moral stories covertly. The audience doesn't know a moral tale is being served but they invest their whole being in the story because of their familiarity with right, wrong, good and evil. They latch on to the protagonist to know how they will handle the test presented before them and if they will pass. And that journey is the spiritual payoff for the viewer.

I relate cinema to the parable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. I remember listening to this story of the boy for the first time and not liking him for his deceit. But when the wolf shows up I felt his fear and sense of isolation and when no one responded to his calls I felt sympathy for the young shepherd. It was and still is a parable that when finished must be accompanied by a detailing explanation of its moral. But without this explanatory conclusion the story itself evokes enough emotion derived from real life impressions that any listener can connect with the emotions and circumstances this shepherd boy experienced and stir the listener's emotions for a life time.

I would also like to share a misnomer about the directing of a film. There are many thoughts on what a director does with the camera determines how a film should be accepted by the public. A lot of camera angles and movement make a film cinematic and appealing to the general public. For me, it makes me dizzy and plants the beginnings of a headache.

Alfred Hitchcock directing
Alfred Hitchcock

The director is the story teller of a film. How he tells it determines whether that particular story will live forever in the soul of its viewer or just be a momentary filler of time. Two great filmmakers approach their craft from different angles and yet their movies are at the echelon of cinematic history. Alfred Hitchcock is named as the most influential filmmaker among other filmmakers. It is Mr. Hitchcock's pursuit of telling a story cinematically, visually- using moving pictures- which can stand alone without dialogue or music that made him move his cameras and use it at odd angles to get the viewer to see what Hitchcock wanted them to see in order to advance the story and heighten mood. Howard Hawks went at it the complete opposite. "I just use the simplest camera in the world," he said. "Let the audience see exactly as they would if they were there."

Howard Hawks directing
Howard Hawks director

Which brings us back to what is cinema. For me it is who could make the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf a film that would make an audience feel for that boy long after they stopped watching. To argue what he should have done, to curse him for being stupid but feeling a hint of sympathy for the danger he brought onto himself. And maybe revisiting the film when they're flipping through the channels one night to watch it again to see if it still held the same power it did when they first saw it. And then through the advance of time the viewer's subconscious escapes and relates the moral that was the motive of the story in the first place.


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