In honor of the Oscars I wanted to post this. I do believe, as creative beings, art is necessary in our lives.  However, there is a lot of crap out there.  It becomes a meaningful spiritual experience when we behold something truly great. I saw the film “3 Colors: Blue” recently.  It was clearly a great film. Certainly a cut above so much of what’s out there.  But, I wondered, why is that?  I don’t know what criteria is used for the Oscars, but here are mine:

First rate acting, of course.  Since this film was largely Juliette Binoche as the heart, it was her acting which really needed to be on.  And she was fabulous!

As a writer, I always look for good writing.  This film, though brilliantly written, was not about the words. Maybe that’s not so crucial.  Let’s say the writing needs to be top notch to be a great film, there just doesn’t have to be a lot of it.

What it also had was stunning and often thought-provoking visuals.  A film is, after all, a visual medium. Stories should be told substantially through the scenes.  What you see in a great film has almost as much to do with the story and character development as the words they’re speaking.

It is a foreign film.  So the action was sparse, as well.  The thread of the story, though, pulled you along.  That must be a qualification: a strong thread.

It was deep.  About deep emotions and thoughts.  It dared to show day-to-day activities, ones we can all relate to, which illustrate and often confront that emotion.

There was a scene where a cube of sugar is dipped into a cup of coffee.  The writer and director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, in the extras, gave us a rather extensive description of what that action was to represent and how the absorption had to be exactly 5 seconds long.  He told of all the time they took to get just the right sugar cube!  Careful attention to the details is always the hallmark of a great film.

God is in the details.  And so is a great film. A careful (if not obsessive ) eye on everything is essential, making sure everything contributes to the story, pulls the thread and moves the emotion and attention of the viewers.

Sometimes these details come out in happy coincidences (or the hand of the muse.)  In the original version of this story, our heroine was supposed to be seen regularly jogging.  They ended up having to change it to swimming.  This more closely evoked the emotional distance they were trying to portray, as well as giving another blue light to the film.  Perfect!

People who care, bring together the right elements, no matter the budget and allow fate and circumstances to fill in the rest.  Perhaps this comes from the clear vision of the director, allowing for changes, but knowing the true intent.

I think a great film has to have something to say.  Messages of all stripes are welcome. What’s most crucial is that the makers of the film are clear about what it is they want to say and feel it’s important.  I like to see some growth in the main character, too. The film, to be great, needs to have a purpose, a point to make.  (Sometimes that point may be that we need funny movies.  See Sullivan’s Travels – another great film.)

In summary I’d say a great film has to have something to say, to share.  It must have exceptionally good acting (at least from the central character), visuals which, along with strong writing express well, a compelling story.

When you finish watching a great film, you should feel something.  You can tell you were affected in some way.  There’s a sense of awe and quiet.  You know you were just in the presence of greatness.

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