Director’s Statement: Man Drawing a Reclining Woman

Thank you Mark, Shelley, Jeffrey, Mike, Ale, Sven, Scott, Ward, and others that have shared your thoughts about my film “Man Drawing a Reclining Woman”. I’m in the process of crafting a “statement” about the work or my intentions with my projects. Some film festivals ask for a director’s statement so I figure it might be good to have something ready to go. This is my first draft of ideas that stem from the thoughts of those that have seen my film to date. I personally don’t feel to keen on stating some of these things since I worry that it may rob the viewer (or even myself) of serendipitous discovery of something meaningful in the work. But this whole thing is an experiment so here it goes.

The film “Man Drawing a Reclining Woman” is an experimental short subject. It is not intended to be a narrative with a protagonist overcoming an obstacle to attain a goal which is the basis for so many films.

  • My intentions in the film are, on a very basic level, about objective observation of a man drawing a woman.
  • A second level of intent is to explore artistic observation between the artist and the subject and to extend that idea between the viewer and the film.
  • A third level of intent is the play between opposites such as man/woman, the bisected nature of the woodcut, art/pornography, and viewer/viewee.
  • A fourth level of intent was to follow up on the concepts of opposites with a self-referencing notion that this film is about a man drawing a woman but in fact the characters/actors are not people. The deliberate artificiality of the puppets (ie. exposed armatures and crude rendering), artificial environments, and the final artificial manner in which the work would be seen (ie. theaters and television screens) are intended to be consistently obvious throughout the work. The characters are introduced fully clothed in a mechanical manner reminiscent of a wind up toy only to be dismissed to the nothingness from whence they came, nude in fact, by the act of voyeurism. The fact that the drawing device at the center of the entire piece is a man-made convention to re-create a person on a piece of paper is also intended to provide a persistent anchor to reference this level of deliberate artificiality.

My film states what it is about, shows what it is about, and then starts referencing and juxtaposing those themes. That’s really all that is going on.

One lady at the festival commented on the fact that the woman had voluptuous breast but the man had no penis. That observation not only provided some comic relief to our chat about my potentially pretentious film but it also hit on one of the themes I was exploring much more effectively than I had hoped. In my opinion, she was in fact picking up on a reference to the whole social and cultural approach to the depiction of sexuality and the nude figure in art and commercialism (ie. the anatomical nature of toy dolls such as Barbie and Ken).

One young man at the festival provided unsolicited comments about the more obscure levels of the film, going so far to talk about objectification and sexuality in film. Mark and the reviewer at creative loafing picked up on the aspects of observation, art, and the role of the viewer of the film. All of these comments, even with the caveat that most people claim to not understand the work, reflect that I was able to get some observable motifs across pretty well.

With all that said, the flaws that may be present in my work and which concern me are whether I’m misleading a viewer with too much obscurity, too much information, or superficial style choices that provide no indication that the film is more open and interpretive than narrative entertainment. Perhaps parts of the film imply one genre but then deliver on something else? That might explain why some people state they don’t understand it while at the same time they are able to describe objects and events in ways that I intended.

I do know that I want enough layers of information and obscurity in my work so people can assign their own meanings. The goal is to find a balance and a way to communicate my intentions in an effective but flexible way. I know I feel that way about many songs that I love. Many songs have lyrics that make no real sense when you read them but those phrases when embedded in the context of the song with its instrumental containers create vivid visuals that are meaningful to me.

12 responses to “Director’s Statement: Man Drawing a Reclining Woman”

  1. Really interesting post, DG. It sounds as though you may be among the first to forge this new way of expressing through cinema. One less narrative, as you say. Perhaps there’s a way to set up the viewers for that more open-ended experience in the opening of your pieces. Either that, or you could just wait until that’s what you’re known for and your audience is educated about it.

  2. Grant 🙂 you’ve got some great ideas here, particularly the notions of voyeurism and artificiality, something I’ve touched on in the past as well…I’ve got a stack of half-written artist statements, some poetic, some almost journalistic…it can be difficult to express visual intent with words but I think you’re on the right track, and I think it is something that will develop along with your work…ideas definitely worth exploring…

  3. Thanks for your support and encouragement.

    The ideas I’m working with are really influenced by Greenaway. I wish I was that original. 🙂 Our own Strider has also posted some blog entries related to the concepts I’m exploring. In one posting, Strider mentioned something along the lines of “why does a work need to be stopmo…or animated at all”. His recent posting on metaphor in the films “Balance” and “Quest” is also very inspiring to me.

    I find myself referring to these ideas as checks-and-balances in my work. To keep questioning why the format and medium I’m working with are required for the content in question. For example, I wouldn’t do “Man Drawing…” with real actors for the reasons I mentioned in my posting.

  4. Grant,
    Sorry if this is a little bit rambling.

    I agree with you. When you explain what everything means in your film, you potentially rob the viewer from his or her own interpretation (participation). I do however like to hear your intentions after I have seen it because at that point it adds even more. Later I can go back and view it again and find things I missed. Some of your intentions I would never pick up, they are too subtle (at least for me), but now that you mention them they become clear.

    That is the beauty of films like this. It is multilayered, and repeated viewings yield a little bit more each time. I was curious to find out who this Durer fellow was. I love going down side tangents and learning new things. Who would have known Durer is credited as being the first artist to do a self-portrait. He is also credited with raising the status of the “Artist” from being considered just another trade craftsman. Sadly I never was able to find an online image of the print “man drawing a woman” but I learned a lot of interesting stuff about the guy anyway.

    Regarding your comments about flaws in the work and not understanding it. I think most people, myself included are so used to the narrative form that we try to fit whatever we see into that mold. As I watched it the first time I was looking for a story. I didn’t find an obvious one, and on second and third viewing I found myself trying to read between the lines to “find the storyâ€? It’s at that point that I start to pick up some of the themes you mention. I like your analogy with music and lyrics, the film communicates on an emotional level without the “story“ needing to make sense.

    For me I needed to watch your film more that once to get what I did out of it. It was interesting enough to make me want to watch it more than once, so that’s a good sign.

    Is it a “Superficial style choice?â€? Not to me, visually it is quite different and interesting; I think it really works in the stop motion medium. “

    (Am) “I’m misleading a viewer with too much obscurity, too much informationâ€??

    That’s a tough question to answer, I don’t think there is too much information, and the obscurity thing is a double edge sword. If something interests me, the obscurity makes me want to find out more – If it’s too obscure, I won’t “get itâ€? in the first place so I probably won’t look into it further. In this case I wanted to find out more about Durer. I thought I would find out more about his perspective drawing techniques and mechanical apparatus, after 20-30 minutes on google I gave up, but I learned a lot about the guy in the process. As I mentioned earlier, I needed to watch it more than once to pick up on some of the themes you mentioned. So if your intent is to have the audience comprehend some of these themes after one viewing they need to be more obvious. In my opinion a more obvious approach could take away some of the charm and subtlety of your film.

    That is the challenge and the fun — to get it to work and strike that balance. I think a lot of filmmakers do that kind of fine tuning work in the editing room.

    Obviously Animation does not leave you with a lot of extra footage to play with so it’s got to be worked out at the storyboard stage.

  5. Did I say rambling? I meant rambling AND long. :-0

  6. I welcome and appreciate your thoughts on the topic Mark. Feel free to ramble. 😎

    Scott, the creator of Loom, mentioned that it was better with a second viewing as well. I would be very pleased if this turns out to be the case with most viewers since I did want the work to have some longevity beyond a single viewing. The only thing would be whether the viewer finds something in it the first time to persuade them to watch it again.

    I totally agree with you about the way we all approach films with mental models set up to receive narrative stories. I suppose I’m attempting to integrate the new models of media such as interactive gaming which encourage transferable skills from previous media (ie. interface navigation conventions) in combination with exploratory participation (ie. game controllers and non-linear stories or situations). In short, I’m experimenting with active rather than passive consumption with the primary game controller being the viewers imagination fueled by factual data.

    Below are some links for the woodcut. As you point out, there does seem to be a dearth of info about it on the web by searching the title of the work alone. The woodcut/etching/engraving is also called “Draughtsman Drawing a Recumbent Woman” on some sites.

    Link 1

    Link 2

    Link 3

    Here are some sites that touch on the themes that I was exploring and reference the same woodcut. Perhaps my film is the first version depicting these ideas in motion via animation?

    Link 1

    Link 2

  7. Thanks for the links Grant. It’s interesting to see some of the apparatus that was developed to draw accurate perspective. I guess the camera made that all a moot point.

    There are some thought-provoking ideas on the last two links. I wonder how recent a development that is. I am no expert, but I understand in historical times there were matriarchal societies, and I would guess other societal constructs that were much more egalitarian and cooperative for both genders.

    I wonder if that is true for current tribal societies that still live off the land?

  8. Ok, well that worked. Guess I’ll try this again. I typed out this long post last night – to rival Mark’s even – and couldn’t post it. It kept telling me I had an invalid security code, even though I copied it exactly.

    A couple of things I want to comment on….

    I think your statement is a good idea… it helped shed some light for me and made me realize the film goes deeper than I thought. I think I’d keep it very simple though, maybe leave off the stuff about it not being a narrative (that goes without saying). It would be nice to see it boiled down to just a brief sentence or two presented in front of the film.

    Critiques on the film itself – I think it would have been nice to actually see the drawing itself either et the beginning or the end, or maybe presented as part of the literature people see before watching it… in a brochure for fests, or on the site where it’s being shown.

    I notice there’s a tendency toward really tight, cropped compositions. Not sure if that’s a stylisit choice for this film or if it’s something you tend to do. I know I used to do that all the time… I think I wanted to show my puppets really close up or something. But it makes for a claustrophobic feel, and can cause tension in viewers. Can be used to good effect, but careful not to overdo it. Now I give my puppets more room to breathe, and they thank me for it.

    You mentioned about music, and lyrics making more sense in the musical ‘container’ (great analogy by the way). I think a lot about that, and it seems to me really good music always has what I call a ‘conversational tone’ to it. The sound of a guitar riff has an inflection to it similar to a persom talking. You can get across a strong feel of emotion…. angry, mellow, etc, just by the way the guitar (or whatever) is played. I think that can be done in animation to an extent, though not as much. Music is made direcftly, in real time, by tension of fingers against frets or whatever, it’s easy to give it a ‘feel’. Animation is more indirect and needs to use different techniques… but it’s everything involved in the shot…. timing, lighting, framing, etc. The speed the puppets move at, their body language, all of it. If you can think of it all in ‘conversational’ terms, maybe you could create a stronger emotional atmosphere.

    This better post, or I’m gonna smash my iMac….

  9. Grant, this is pissing me off! I had to try like 6 times before I could post that last thing. In the end I had to cut and paste it all into a new window. And I almost smashed my iMac!

    This may or may not post. Nope. Have to keep trying.

  10. Hey Strider,

    I have had the same problem with the security code on this site. Maybe us Mac folks don’t always see the correct code letters displayed?

    I found if the first one fails, I just hit reload there will be a new code and that one works most of the time. Of course you have to save your text or you loose it, but I try to write in a text-editing program so I have spell check.

  11. I’ve removed the security code filter until I figure out what the problem was. Thanks for reporting the errors and the possible issue of the filter not working correctly with macs.

  12. Hey, if you have any spam problems, pop that sucker back on without hesitation! We can work around it. The cut/paste thing works, but unfortunately when I tried it on that first big post the other night I messed up and hit the wrong button, and when I tried to paste it into a new window I got something entirely different. That’s why I was so angry.