Academy Award-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, currently in Bosnia and Herzegovina to collect the Honorary Heart award at the 2019 Sarajevo Film Festival, had some strong words about the current state of cinema. While accepting the prize, Iñárritu advised that movies are moving at too fast a pace and are being dictated by luring eyeballs as well as the rhythms made popular by serialized narratives — aka TV storytelling, specifically streaming television.
Speaking at the ongoing festival, according to Variety, Iñárritu urged that film “needs much more contemplation, a little bit more patience” and to be “more mysterious, more impenetrable, more poetic, more soulful.”
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He added that films of the past “were exploring different ways of telling stories, trying to push language. Those have disappeared. Now it’s the big tentpoles… or the TV streaming experience.”
Iñárritu’s most recent films, including such self-contained cinematic epics as “Birdman” and “The Revenant,” don’t exactly test the patience. But they do take a more contemplative approach to their character-driven storytelling, which he stresses is missing from the multiplexes. “The language is changing, the need of plot and narrative is so much that it’s starting to deform the way we can explore themes,” he said. “People are very impatient now, they are like: ‘Give me more. Kill somebody! Do something.'”
While Iñárritu certainly shares in the concerns of many of his colleagues, streaming has been kind to many auteurs. Just today, it was announced that Steven Soderbergh will debut a new a film on HBO Max. And two of Iñárritu’s most famous countrymen, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro, have both moved into streaming with “Roma” and “10 After Midnight,” respectively.
The five-time Oscar winner — most recently for his virtual-reality experience “Carne y Arena” — is no doubt pointing the finger at the kind of big-scale movies seeking a cash grab. But he’s also decrying the influence of television on the big screen, which has become increasingly stuck on more, now, again.
“It is changing so fast that now the films have to immediately please the audience. They have to be global and they have to make a lot of money, so now they become a Coca-Cola commercial that has to please the world,” he said. “What will happen with the younger generations that will not be able to understand that a film can be poetic or impenetrable or mysterious?”
Iñárritu also urged for imperfection, risk, and intrepidity in film. “The first film should not be perfect. That’s the poetry, it’s human, there’s something clumsy there — that’s exactly what I like,” he said. “The dirt, that’s what really makes the voice of [a storyteller], and I don’t want to take that out, and the temptation is to take that out. I cannot do it because I like that so maybe I’m not a good producer. I like people to express themselves how they are, including the mistakes. That’s why I suffer, I find myself in a dilemma.”
Speaking earlier at the festival, the “Babel” and “21 Grams” director also said that while for some cinema is “an artistic form to express a personal view of the world, for others it’s just entertainment, for others it’s a medium to make money, an industry.” He also said that though movies remain the most important art form in the world, the medium has become “an orgy of interests that are in the same bed, with poetic principles but at the same time it’s also a whore that charges money.”
Iñárritu also bemoaned the supremacy of the algorithm, adding that “the mercenaries of money just want to make — how do they call it in the studios in the United States? They call it ‘content to fill the pipelines.’ That’s how they express it in the studios.”