Film is fashion. I'm not sure which filmmaker said it first, but many have said it since, and it's as true today as it's ever been. The look, the style, the pacing, the flow... it's all fashion. What was cool in 1936 was not cool in 1976 and what was cool in 1986 is certainly not cool now. Filmic storytelling is as fickle as any fashion runway in Paris. There are innovators, followers, inventors, copycats, and masters of collage in film just as there are in traditional cllothing design.
That being said, there are human emotions, hopes, desires and repulsions that never change. Ever. Since the beginning of time. And likely stretch off before us into the foreseeable future. Storytelling, at its core, for instance, has never, ever changed. Every human generation takes the same exact human journey. And on that journey as they learn the human lessons of life, the expectations of the human STORY never change.
So, when you have film-as-fashion on the one hand, which is fickle and ever-changing - and then the human story genome on the other which never changes, how the hell do you reconcile the two? Most good filmmakers are also philosophers and think about this once or twice before going into a film. Most never quite reconcile it (yours truly included) but we do figure a manner of compromise. This is where interpretation comes into play. Because we are slaves to our own cultures and times, we are therefore restricted to the mediums of those cultures and times. So no matter how we try, any version of the eternal story that we tell, will be fused with the fashion of the time and the place. The culture. The period. We reflect only our own version of the eternal human experience, with all the notions, manners, and affectations of who we are culturally.
In short, our art is as ephemeral as we are. Only we, in this time and at this place, can create the art that reflects us. If anyone copies it later, it's simply immitation. So true art - true filmmaking occurs spontaneously, and is shaped very much by external forces of form and culture.
Kind of heady stuff when you think about it, but allow me to get specific for a second. Since I make horror films and you also make them, or enjoy watching them, let's look at horror film fashion for a second. Simply scanning the posters of horror films over the past hundred years indicates greatly their influence of fashion and culture of the time of their creation.
Zooming in further, lets examine camera moves, which are one fo the defining pillars of film as fashion. In the 1930's, films were predominantly procenium masters with characters acting before the camera en masse as they would on stage. Film fashion changed so that cameras moved, we punched in for close ups, etc etc...
And along the way, we learned that despite fashion, there are certain camera moves that indicate emotionally. The sudden push-in on our hero as they realize some life-changing fact communicates to us the change in perspective for the character, and thus allows us to empathize.
The slow dolly down the hall to the dark door at the end defines a dreaded approach.
A whip pan to reveal something awful informs us of the sudden and horrible "reality" that the characters are facing.
There are literally hundreds, thousands of camera shots and moves that indicate emotion. And they morph from decade to decade, but they stay essentially the same. This is where fickle fashion falls before the constant of human emotion. We're humans. We're always going to be humans, and we all experience life essentially in the same way. We all experience joy, elation, love, lust terror, horror, jealousy etc -- and all in the same way since the dawn of time.
The films that we remember both transcend the film-as-fashion trap, while strangely embracing it at the same time. These are the films that end up on multiple top 100 lists and stay there for decade after decade. To speak in fashion metaphor, they're not the shiny silver bell bottoms, they're the trusted button up shirt. Timeless.
Film is fashion, but it can also capture timelessness, and even if it can never truly ecape the period in which it was made - it can capture the human experience that dates us back to the dawn of our own existance.
Gaudium per atrox.