Michael Mersereau: A Metaphorical Filmmaker that Encapsulates Observant Cinema
Have you ever felt like life should be a ride, yet isn't. That we were born to play in the wild yet were stuck by a force that we can't ever describe. Life isn't as exciting as we were promised when we were children. I guess some of us had Parents who were very transparent about the slow painful sting known as adulthood. But for the majority of us, we were ignorant to what life was like on the other side.
Very rarely is this type of disarray & confusion ever portrayed in cinema. If we look at a Hollywood Blockbuster, the entire film revolves around a critical moment where a character must make decisions. Their lives are always exciting, and very rarely do they ever feel mundane (The films themselves might be Mundane, but the Characters inside them aren't living a Mundane Lifestyle). Massive Hollywood Blockbusters are built around spectacle. And while that might be enchanting (until you see it for the 100th time) it isn't true. Life isn't made around trying to reach enchanting dreams. It's a Winding Road of Disarray with a few moments of Peace & Hope.
A big reason why Blockbusters don't show this truth is that we don't like to admit it ourselves. Human beings don't like to acknowledge that life could be utterly meaningless. That the Value of Hope & Distractions exceeds the Value of trying to accomplish a fundamental purpose in human evolution. Because of this fact, when it does hit us in the face, the realization sinks in like Black Hole in your Gut. And all your left with is more distractions until you can fool yourself that life has hope once more.
That last Paragraph might have sounded Depressing, but it is a Necessary Truth. And Hollywood Blockbusters go out of their way to avoid this Truth & Keep us Distracted. The Films become almost like a Worship Ceremony (think of a Church) of our own Short-Sided Hopes. Audiences treat Comic Book Films like fanatical Sports Fans. They look at the Transformers Franchise in the same bombastic light as the 4th of July. Star Wars has (recently) become synonymous with a Yearly Tradition like Christmas. Even (most) Children's Animated Films are synonymous with Playful Childhood Fun instead of Growth (look at the Despicable Me Franchise). Because of these Distractions, Audiences continue to live in Ignorance. And until they demand the Truth, these Films will continue to focus on theses addictive unimportant hopes.
But not every Audience in the World Wants to be Distracted. In fact, a lot of them find it refreshing to watch something more realistic. I mean the term "Realism" exists in the Film World for a Reason. The Independent Film Scene might be Vast & Broad, but a large Percentage of these films are Dramas with a Realism bent.
Now I enjoy Realism in Film (certainly enjoy it more than Hollywood Type Distractions). They offer up a look into the Worlds of other Cultures we might not be associated with. But one of the biggest problems with Realism (at least in my opinion) is that we never get to the Roots of any sort of Problem. The Film is Showcased in Real Time, and the Director expects us (the Audience) to get the message. This can be a great tool when the Director wants to showcase a Time Period or an Area in the World that is Vastly Different from the Common West. It can even be a great tool if we want to Relate to a Main Characters Struggles in the honest Truth. But if we are talking about Personal Turmoil, Realism isn't the greatest type of Film to showcase this need. Let me give you an example:
Let's say we want to make a Film that deals with a Woman's Sense of Depression. She doesn't have any kids; she doesn't have any friends. She is utterly alone & nobody cares about her. In a film that uses Realism, all we would see her do is walk around the house without any hope. And while we might feel sad for her, seeing it doesn't get to the root of the issue. In a Realism Film (generally) we have to use other Characters & Moments to see just how Depression affects the World around them. But again, this has to do with the effects of the Disease, not the Disease itself. So what would happen if we changed this Realistic Film into a Formalist one?
Ahh, here is where this type of film becomes more Valuable. Because Depression is an unseen entity, a Formalist Film can delve deeper & creatively showcase the issues the Main Character might have. Now we can use Shadows, Lighting, Stage Pieces, Atmosphere, all sorts of stuff that you couldn't use in a film that practices Realism. This is why (to me) Formalism works better than Realism when it comes to showcasing the human mind. It's the difference between a Poem and a News-Story. The News-Story might be blunt & honest, but a Poem can show more meaning to an issue (and therefore, we can learn better).
The Greatest form of Formalistic Filmmaking is in the Experimental Scene. I've devoted my entire blog to telling you guys why Experimental Film can be Creatively Inspiring. But that isn't the only trick an Experimental Film can show-off. The-Art-Form can literally showcase any emotion in a unique Visual way, that any film can be made using techniques. And Today, we are going to showcase an Experimental Filmmaker who makes more honest & subtle work.
Michael A. Mersereau is a Filmmaker from the San Fransico Bay Area. He's been in the scene for over 20 Years & always goes out of his way to stand out. But as I said before, he doesn't stand out in the same way that some of the other Artists I've covered on this Blog. Take Alex Leo for example; his goal was to play around with the Video-Making Process & create new Blueprints for tomorrow's Video-Makers (read my Article right here).
Michael isn't interested in playing around with the Video-Making process. He thinks like a Classic Filmmaker, wanting to state a Certain Goal in every movie he creates. Michael uses the Experimental Scene as a way to showcase the honest truths we all feel inside. He is an excellent example of a Filmmaker who sees the impact that a Moment in Raw Sound & Video Design can have on the Audience. And a great way to see this is to look at his work ourselves.
In Michaels short film "Chorus," we see this mindset in Action. The Film is obviously Experimental, doesn't follow the tropes of old classic Hollywood Plots & Themes. But we also notice (right away) that Michael isn't trying to shove the Experimental Elements in your face either. It isn't different just for the sake of showcasing his Unique Outlook. And it certainly isn't inspiring. In fact, it's more like a Horror Film than anything else. It's very bleak & hopeless. The image of a light shining in a Black Room while somebody cries speak Volumes more than a Character saying that they are sad. We can Interpret, Sense & Gain a Better Understanding of what is happening on Screen. It's an Art-Piece about the Human Condition.
So while you would never see a film like Chorus in a Concert Hall, or on a fun Youtube Playlist, it works very well in an Art-Gallery center. It's literally the definition of Video-Art, as it is supposed to be interpreted like a Painting or Sculpture.
Another Great example is Michaels Film "The Waiting Room." The Film is very Static, and the Drum-Beats in the background are very Soul Pounding (like a Distressed Heart-Pulse). And that is the point. From my interpretation (and please comment down below if you had a different one) we're supposed to feel like we are stuck. That no matter where we go, we always feel like we can't move the world around us. Life is nothing but a Waiting Room, always making us wait for the next moment. A Brilliant Short Film to showcase how to use Experimental Film as a way to tell a message.
The word Metaphor is a great way to describe all of Michaels work honestly. When I interviewed him the best word, he described his work was Observant. You aren't supposed to Experience or Enjoy the Video; you're expected to read into the deeper meaning. Metaphors are the best tool to utilize the Observant Mindset. And because of this, we can rewatch the films and gain a better understanding.
The last movie I want to look at is "Fear Eats The Soul." The film doesn't use any Actors & takes place in one singular room. Yet it is entirely useful when showcasing human fear. The Video isn't scary itself, but it's sincere when it comes to showcasing fear. The realization of how our fear affects our mindset is Scary in itself. And it is an excellent Video to watch if you want to discover how the mind works with fear.
Michael is an excellent example of why the term "Experimental Film" can misguide a lot of people. While that word "Experimental" might sound like a genre or style, it's anything but. A better word that I would use (if I had the ability to change the minds of all filmgoers & Art-Critics) is Motion-Image Art. Not Film Art, not Video-Art, Motion-Image Art (the former two would be offshoots). Sounds Robotic (yes) but it gives a better idea of what this Art-Form is. Experimental Filmmaking sounds too Vague and Simplistic. When somebody talks about it, they automatically assume that the Art-Form is made to be different than the Traditional Scene. And while a lot of the time this is true, it isn't the whole story.
Motion-Image Art is a better term for Michael because it showcases what he believes. He isn't a Regular Experimental Filmmaker, and that's good. If I see the term as an Audience Experience, Michael uses it to Showcase a Piece of Art that you must observe.
To end this Article off, we must go back into Confusion. All Art-Forms (even Experimental ones) can be made to make us feel good. Sometimes it's in a boring overly-cliched comfortable way (Hollywood Blockbusters), or it can be in a Creatively Inspiring Way. But we all must remember that Art isn't just made to inspire us. Sometimes it's supposed to be Cold & show us the Truth about our livelihood.
Michael might not be the most Flashy Filmmaker in the world, but he's certainly one of the most Thoughtful. Mixing Experimentation with Metaphorical Filmmaking creates a Style that is almost timeless. These Films can be viewed anywhere & get different reactions from people. Observant Media can be just as Valuable (if not more) than Experience-Driven Media. As a Species, it's healthy to stand back & really contemplate our existence in this world. Michaels work makes it easier to think about these large, uncomfortable Ideas. The Question now becomes, will you try to tell yourself the truth? Or are you going to stay ignorant and allow false hope to take over your mindset?
Thanks so much for Reading My Article on Michael A. Mersereau. His work is very Varied & Distinct and should be viewed with a lot of people. If you want to get the full experience of his work, I suggest you watch it on a Large Television Set in front of individuals. Then (after the Piece is over) you discuss how each film made you feel & what you thought it meant.
If you were a fan of Michaels work, I suggest you donate to his Patreon Account. Each Donation can help him create more thoughtful pieces about the Human Experience. The Link can be found here.
Also, follow his Vimeo Page if you are excited to see where he goes. The Filmmakers work is very Open to interpretation, so share the page as well if you like what you see.
If you enjoyed this Article, please feel free to Share It As Well. Michael's Work deserves to be explored & this Article will (hopefully) get more people involved in his Observant Films.
Michael & I also had an in-depth conversation about how the world views the Experimental Film Scene. And while I could have delved into it, one of my future Articles will delve way deeper into the questions that all Experimental Artists feel. I believe this Article (coming by the end of the week) will be one that all Artists need to think about. So, follow me on Facebook or Bookmark this page to stay tuned. That won't be an Article any of you would want to miss.
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