Determining the Terminator Part 2: The Unity of Action

Alas, poor Yorick!

In my previous piece on Cameron I briefly analyzed his lapidary style, and his economy of cinematic language vis-à-vis The Terminator. In this next piece I will argue that Cameron’s innate skill as a storyteller extends beyond this solid grasp of plot and structure. Not only are the events in his films arranged in a sequence which amplifies and heightens dramatic tension and structural unity, but the events possess elements which necessitate their inclusion in the plot and which furthermore suggest no possible refinement to their structure. Cameron’s films ‘flow’, as it were, precisely because the content of each scene dictates the overall structure of the scenes. In other words, events unfold precisely as they do, for were it any other order the elaborate unity of his plots would be undone. Like the grand maestros Beethoven and Mozart long before, nary is a note out of place in Cameron’s pictures, but rather all flow melodically in their structural perfection. It’s a subtle and potent blend of content and structure–the one reinforcing and dictating the other and vice versa. Unlike, say, the inchoate musings of Terrence Malick, for which the director spends months arranging into a sufficient narrative structure, the scenes in Cameron’s films occur precisely in the order which the content dictates. There’s no shuffling allowed. Continue reading

Criterion sale on Amazon for today only!

Powell and Pressburger‘s “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp”, just one of the titles offered

Over 50% off select Criterion titles today only!

I’ve been eyeing Kazan’s On the Waterfront and Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (I have the old DVD but have seen nothing but positives about the new transfer), and there’s never been a better time to pick up Terrence Malick‘s first feature, 1973’s Badlands, or the sublime antiphony to Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan: The Thin Red Line.

Unfortunately Amazon.ca is not duplicating the sale (per usual), but at these prices importing is still a deal.

Included below is a fascinating video with Martin Scorsese giving a brief glimpse of the three years of work he and the Academy Film Archive put into restoring The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, just one of the terrific supplements on the Criterion disc:

What will you get?