Now that so many contemporary productions have come to appear so antiseptic, so perfect in every way, they’re starting to feel as if they’ve been leeched of all human contact. Maybe that’s a result of working in a digital world after having been brought up on film, but I’ve always gotten a kick from stumbling across some flaw that wasn’t noticed on set – or better yet was noticed and allowed to stay in the play. They’re not sloppy or careless mistakes. Rather, they’re small, spontaneous moments that remind you that living, breathing people were there creating what you’re watching. As technology has come to dominate, it’s sad that movies and TV series have moved in the direction travelled by almost all current popular music. Pre-fab is the word that’s often used to describe it; canned is more appropriate.
If you look closely at a Navajo weaving, you’ll notice a fine line running from the pattern to the material’s edge. It’s called a ch’ihónít’i (“spirit line”) and is an intentional imperfection that represents the part of the weaver’s being that has gone into the cloth. Though the cynical among us would scoff at applying such a notion to movie making, it’s indeed something to ponder. Instead of diminishing the whole, sometimes the presence of a few handprints can endear the effort even more.
While recently watching one of my favorite films – Darling (1965; John Schlesinger\Kenneth Higgins, BSC) – I noticed something that escaped me on every prior occasion. At the 52:45 mark, star Julie Christie enters a darkened room and flips on a light switch…or so it seems. Look closely at the clip below and notice how she fumbles for it and misses it entirely, yet the light still goes on!
There are probably thousands of similar (worse!) examples across time, but this simple one has remained with me. Ironically, it didn’t take me out of the story. It drew me even closer to something I already admired.
That’s probably heretical to many filmmakers, but I don’t know… Maybe I’m just weird that way.