Scott Be Positive

Zen Filmmaking and Pure Cinema: Cinéma Pur

By Scott Shaw

As I have been making movies for a lot of years by this point in my life, I forever find it interesting how people perceptive cinema. We all begin watching a particular movie with a concept of what we are getting into. This definition is based upon what we are told to expect. Then, we base our judgment of that particular cinematic production upon if our personal vision of what we were told to expect was met or not. “I liked it.” “I hated it!” And, so on…

People have the tendency to project their own perspective onto whatever they are viewing. They have come to like a certain type of cinema so they base all of their viewing experience upon that belief. The problem with this formula is, however, (though it is pretty much the only formula in practice), is that by viewing cinema in this manner the viewer can never understand the cinematic philosophy that the actual filmmaker was practicing. From this, something is truly lost.

As the years have gone on and I have gotten progressively more-and-more into embracing the tenets of Pure Cinema (Cinéma Pur); i.e. taking filmmaking to its most elemental core of simply focusing on visually interesting images, movement, and music, I have witnessed how the focus of those who watch my particular brand of cinema (Zen Filmmaking) has not evolved. People are still discussing films I made twenty years ago or more. Why is this? Because, in those films, people find story structure (as minimal as that may be in my films). They find something to talk about. But, in all this talking, again, they have missed the point of what is actually taking place in front of their eyes because they are basing all of their thoughts and discussions upon personal definitions and judgment. This isn’t right or wrong—it is simply the way it is. But, by living your life defined by what you have already come to expect, you miss all of the pure and elemental beauty of what is going on in front of you.  

For me, filmmaking has always been a spiritual process. Whether my films have been dialogue driven or simply a vision moving across the screen, what I have attempted to do is to harness an elemental image of life and capture it in its essential perfection that existed for only that moment in time. Most people don’t get. I understand. That’s fine. I am sure that the majority of the people who have watched my films; loving or hating them, have never seen the work of Cinéma Pur filmmakers like Léger, Ray, Richter, Eggeling, Chomette and the list goes on. In fact, if they watched their work they may not even like them as they are so ethereal. But, again, this goes to the elemental nature of cinema and cinema viewing; if you are there expecting something, if you are there judging something, if you are not there in the meditative purity of the moment than your absolute experience is lost—there will be no cinematic satori. 

As always in life, let go and be free. See everything as if you are seeing it for the first time and never view anything through the eyes of preconceived judgment. Believe me, if you practice this philosophy, your everything will become better.

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