Power and Presence

“Every author ought to write every book as if he were going to be beheaded the day he finished it.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

I think the words above are not intended to convey the importance of saying what needs to be said before death, but rather the importance of being concise. And by concise I mean confident. There is a certain urgency, after all, in keeping your head about you.

I’ve been thinking recently that pretty much no film needs to be longer than 90 minutes. A great idea rarely warrants the insult of length. There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to this rule, but we’ve all heard the famous apology of the writer who did not have time to render a shorter letter.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flannery O’Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Stoppard, Michael Frayn, David Mamet – a few of my favorite writers. What do they have in common? They all write works with a strong vector, a particular atmosphere (or universe), and a liberation from any notions of outside expectation. They convey themes of sophisticated simplicity that are as dense as they are brief. This gives the work power in the present tense. The words are alive.

In movies, the words are pictures – and within pictures, there is an inherent mystery. It is my opinion, therefore, that the best films are the ones that show you something mysterious and do not tarry long.


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