Commentary on The Realist by Gene Youngblood
Jane and I watched THE REALIST last night and we were blown away. it's so amazingly beautiful. You told me it was in the style of ANGEL BEACH and I was wondering, before we watched it, if you could sustain that technique for forty minutes. Well, you not only sustain it, I wanted it to go on forever. I felt like I could watch it for two days. It just keeps on dancing and unfolding in such unexpected ways, and the images (or, rather, image-events) are simply breathtaking. This is a magisterial composition, the work of a visionary artist, a true poet, who is in complete command of his medium.
The phrase "serene velocity" came to mind. Not as the title of Ernie's classic, but as an evocation of what it feels like to watch THE REALIST. It just glides into hyperdrive and keeps on moving through forms, ideas, moods and worlds.
There's a long tradition of stroboscopic or flicker films against which to contemplate the formal achievement of THE REALIST. Those terms are inadequate, perhaps even misleading, to describe what you are doing. But however one characterizes it, you are obviously taking it to a new dimension, pushing way ahead of what's been done before.
As you recommended, we didn't read the explanation of the film before watching it. I got the overall sense of it - the melodrama, as you call it - without exactly knowing the narrative, and now I look forward to seeing it again with the story in mind. I don't think it will be any more or less engrossing, just different. But one thing is certain: the power of THE REALIST comes from a synthesis of form and content - there's something deeper than just dynamism, no matter how dazzling it may be. Something ultimately poignant, even wistful, in this universal melodrama of our time.
Gene Youngblood is the author of Expanded Cinema and many other works.