The Story is in the Emotion

I don't care how big a filmbuff you think you are, if you're not catching up with Marc Fennel's new blog about all the film coverage he's doing on various media, you're doing yourself a disservice.

One of the things I really like about it, other than its reminding me of the excitement of discovering these film-related ideas for the first time, is that it lets me rediscover some of these things.

In his radio and TV spots (which I download through the podcasts because I don't listen to the radio or watch TV on a Saturday morning anymore), he talks about the trends in film now and how they've come to be. Sure he reviews recent releases but he does a lot more than that, too. He seems to be doing to film what the Channel 9 commentary team did for cricket in the 1980s.

I mention all of this because I was watching his one of his recent TV spots (which I've conveniently included below) and in all this talking about shaky camera-work and the way it's currently he used to distract us from poor writing, he also goes back to de Sica and Bicycle Thieves from 1948.

A long time has passed since I last saw Bicycle Thieves and when I first saw it I was concentrating too much on the low-fidelity sound and the dodgy print that the cinema got its hands on. I could tell it was an emotional story but I was distracted somewhat and not sufficiently concentrating on how the director was putting his story across.

In this tiny clip I saw everything I needed to get me excited about good film again. Yes, I have strayed but mostly because I struggled to find the wonder. But in the clip Marc's chosen, where the father loses his bicycle and only form of income, everything that needs to be said comes across in the actor's face. He goes through the phases in about 4 seconds from "hey, that guy stole my bike" to "how am I going to support my family".

We see enough of the thief himself to know what's going on, but the story is told in the father's face. It's in his reaction and the subsequent choices he makes. In that tiny moment we are given a glimpse into this man's future and none of us like what we see. It's a beautiful film moment.

It's the emotion that tells a good story. It's the story-teller's job to strip away all the artifice, all the distractions, and give us the emotion.

For more on directors working closely with actors on portraying the minutia of emotion, listen to John Malkovich on The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell.

For now, please to enjoy Marc Fennel telling it like it is about film.