Cinema is dead; long live cinema

During a very dense but also provocative master class, which started off at noon last Saturday and ran to 2.30 p.m., British film director Peter Greenaway proclaimed, in every possible way, that cinema is dead. Greenaway furthered his argument by giving film’s demise a date in time, saying it all began in 1983, when the remote control came into being. «Cinema is clinically dead. There is a lot of evidence toward that,» said the 65-year-old filmmaker, who has been sticking to his guns for many years now, either to motivate or just to make a statement he knows will be discussed. Claims such as «Silent cinema is finished; it has disappeared. If you are still watching it, you are dinosaurs. The same will happen with talking cinema» or «Cinema is collapsing internally; it will not satisfy the laptop generation» determined Greenaway’s master class, which took place at the Ianos bookstore. The filmmaker was a guest of the 15th Opening Nights Athens Film Festival and was introduced by the festival’s artistic director, Orestis Andreadakis. Equipped with his own laptop, the director elaborated on his views, while also going through the history of cinema. The visit took place on the occasion of the Greek premiere of his film «Rembrandt’s J’Accuse,» where he deconstructs and then reconstructs Rembrandt’s painting «The Night Watch,» by presenting 31 out of the 50 possible mysteries surrounding the Dutch master’s work. Greenaway is familiar to local audiences. He first came to the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in the early 1990s and has been a frequent visitor to Greece ever since, be it to accompany one of his exhibitions or to attend premieres of his films. For those who have heard him speak in the past, the master class’s narrative part had nothing to add regarding knowlege and experience, except for the fact that Greenaway is always a charming speaker and has a communicative way of handling his controversial manner. The visual material he presented provided insight into the interaction and the techniques of the multimedia that he has been using and developing. That is apparent in works of his like «The Tulse Luper Suitcases» triology, as well as more recent productions, such as «The Survivor from Warsaw» and «Tales from the Nursery,» which he likes to call «metacinematic.» Where the use of new technologies and their application in architecture, at museums and in city happenings is concerned, Greenaway belongs to the filmmaking avant-garde. «After Einstein and Picasso, we can turn cinema that is based on texts into something really visual,» he concluded, after providing food for thought – but also for slight boredom – over two-and-a-half hours. «For the laptop generation, there was no cinema before Quentin Tarantino and there was no painting before Jackson Pollock,» he said, adding that anybody who has a laptop, a mobile phone and a camera is equipped to be a filmmaker. He distinguished between the «living room» audience – which intervenes in a film by pausing, zooming, fast-forwarding or rewinding the image – the audience of YouTube (where he said a large part of the information available is rubbish) and the movie theater audience which, in his opinion, is shrinking. Once upon a time, he said, «ideas about sex and politics came via cinema. Now people are shaped by television.» He singled out the text, the frame, the actors and the camera as the four «tyrannies» of cinema and defined actors as people who have been trained to pretend they are not being watched. Note: All quotes have been translated from Greek into English.