Who doesn’t love a good blockbuster? Big budgets, thrilling action, and entertaining set pieces will continue to drive audiences to the movies, and for good reason. However, cinema art can also provide us with great moments that capture our curiosity and spark our imagination. In fact, some of the most critically acclaimed movies of all-time, and many Academy Award® winners, could be labeled as “cinema art.”
So, what is “cinema art?” Frequently produced and distributed outside the major studio system on a relatively small budget, cinema art movies typically handle serious matters in an artistic and often experimental way, geared towards more of a niche market rather than for a mass audience. In an artform where social realism takes precedence, on-location filming is favored over studio sets and sometimes amateur actors are even used.
Stretching back to the origin of movies, the genre has provided some of the most recognizable and talented filmmakers in cinema who have put their uncompromising visions onto the screen with a unique flare and style that is all their own. Foreign language movies are also included in this genre, recognizable by many of the same features with the addition of subtitles, although rarely referred to as “cinema art” in their respective countries. Instead, they are more commonly known as “auteur” or “national” cinema, the former originally coined in France to distinguish filmmakers of the French New Wave (a movement and form of European cinema art from the 1950s and 1960s).
Below are a couple cinema art movies to keep an eye on this week as they debut in select Regal theatres nationwide:
A HIDDEN LIFE
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Runtime: 2hr 54min
Starring: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Maria Simon, Tobias Moretti, Bruno Ganz, Michael Nyqvist, Jürgen Prochnow
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Written By: Terrence Malick
Austrian peasant farmer Franz Jägerstätter sacrifices everything, including his life, when he refuses to take the oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler and fight for the Nazis in World War II. Faced with the threat of execution for treason, Franz’s unwavering faith and his love for his wife, Fani, and children keep his spirit alive.
Three-time Academy Award®-nominated writer and director Terrence Malick has enjoyed a long career of critically acclaimed movies, including Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), The New World (2005), and The Tree of Life (2011). The biographical drama A Hidden Life, based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, differs from Malick’s previous work in that it is his first biographical movie based on real people whose descendants are still alive. To preserve the authenticity of the story, Malick decided early on to use only Austrian and German actors, leading to the casting of Austrian-born actress Valerie Pachner as Fani Jägerstätter and German-born actor August Diehl as Franz Jägerstätter.
August Diehl worked from both Malick’s script and the real letters between Franz and Fani. The successful portrayal of these real-life characters relied heavily on the chemistry between Diehl and Pachner, which was strong from the start. Producer Grant Hill remembers of Diehl’s audition with Pachner, “In that first reading you could see it straight away. They moved together, and they had both vulnerability and strength together.”
In addition to the performances from Diehl, Pachner, and a talented supporting cast, Terrence Malick’s latest creation features breathtaking cinematography from locations selected for their texture, authenticity, and scope, including filming in St. Radegund, the small village in Upper Austria where the real Jägerstätters lived.
Through dance, music, and never-before-seen archival material, this biographical documentary traces Merce Cunningham’s artistic evolution over three decades of risk and discovery from 1944-1972, spanning from his early years as a struggling dancer to postwar New York and his emergence as one of the world’s most visionary choreographers.
Writer and director Alla Kovgan made her feature debut directing the documentary Movement (R)evolution Africa in 2007, a project in which she also served the cinematographer. In Cunningham, Kovgan weaves 3D technology together with Merce’s philosophies and stories to create a visceral journey into the innovative work of one of the world’s greatest modern dance artists. “A formalist at heart, I am drawn to the genius of Merce Cunningham—the intricacies of his mind; his approaches that he invented making his dances; and his philosophies that he followed living his life and re-defining ideas about being human,” says Kovgan. “All the archival footage remains in 2D, but we work with it as a sculptor would, collaging them in 3D cinema space,” continues Kovgan. “The aspiration has been to develop a unique language, integrating all the elements of the film in a subtle, distinct and poetic way—in Merce’s spirit.”