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in Filmmaking
on Mar 24, 2008

Over at his Esotika Erotica Psychotica blog, Mike explains why he’s been slacking on posting and watching Lost instead. His explanation contains a great passage from Raul Ruiz’s Poetics of Cinema that makes me want to dust off my copy.

But, I do occasionally “watch TV” via DVD rentals, streaming episodes, and online downloads. For some reason, at the beginning of February, something convinced me to start watching Lost. And then, since February 9th, I’ve watched the entire first three seasons, plus the five episodes of season four that have aired so far. This amounts to 76 45 minute episodes. That’s about 3420 minutes. Which, presupposing that a majority of the movies I watch are around 90 minutes, comes out to be 38 movies. Which, in retrospect, is fairly depressing.

It’s not a bad show, it’s fairly entertaining, and, all things considered, it’s relatively smart. But, while reading Raul Ruiz’s Poetics of Cinema this last week I encountered an explanation for why I was finding it so hard to do anything but what a relatively empty show. In the first chapter of Poetics of Cinema, Ruiz discusses Central Conflict Theory, and, in a round about way, his aversion to it. Central Conflict Theory ostensibly posits an A vs. B position, and generally manipulates the audience into siding with one side over the other. This central conflict is the only thing driving not only the show, but the audience’s desire to see the show: the audience wants nothing more than to see how conflicts resolve. Here’s what Ruiz says in his own words:

Let us return to films that are not boring. Films provoked by the noonday demon. Central conflict theory manufactures athletic fiction and offers to take us on a journey. Prisoner of the protagonist’s will, we are subjected to the various stages making up a conflict of which he, the protagonist, is at once guardian and captive. In the end we are released and given back to ourselves, a little sadder than before. There is only one notion in our heads, which is to go [on] another journey as soon as we can.

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