‘The difference between Japanese art and Western art is that it’s pottery for us, not painting, not sculpture, to a degree calligraphy, but pottery, firstly. And what you do as a potter there is not like the West where, since the Rennisance and the Enlightenment, where God left the equasion and the artist became God. You know, for us in Japan, you work as a craftsman all your life making pots. Eventually you might get to become a master, even in your latter years, but always you make the pot — just utilitarian objects: cups and bowls, things that people will use. And you never sign them, or in the old days, you didn’t. And as you made them, you make them with your craft, in the ability in your hands. In your craft, every now and again, the Gods will touch your hands, and that will be a work of art. But it’s not something you can control.’ And it became a kind of model for me, working in films, because I was troubled at the time with European cinema, American cinema, ‘Am I an artist? Should I just make works of art? Is it a commercial medium? Should I just work on that side?’ So he freed me, and I thought, just concentrate on the craft, and maybe every now and again my hands will be touched.
–Peter Weir, from ‘The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell’ podcast, 2011
As someone who believe in films as both art and entertainment, who understands the commercial aspects of the medium as well as its appeal to a mass audience, who spends time thinking about questions like these, I found this to be a very comforting, almost profound sentiment. It also reminds me of things my dad would say about newspaper writing; and about writing in general. Ruby also gets on my case often about having a hard time as a writer, that I’m too focused on the artistic elements of a piece and not enough on the craftsmanship. I’m not one to talk too much about myself as a writer or an ‘artist’ (I prefer the equally pretentious ‘storyteller’) in a blog format, as there are others who do it well, and who do it better, and I am neither, but maybe from time to time I’ll share things I hear or read about the creative process that I think you, too, could get somemthing out of.
Peter Weir is freaking awesome, for the record. There was a piece a while back in Vanity Fair that said Phillip Kaufmann had “no bad films” (this was prior to Twisted). I also think that applies to Weir, whose films have knocked me flat on first viewings time and time again. I remember seeing Witness for the first time, of Picnic at Hanging Rock (one of two Weir films in the Criterion Collection) messing with my head, of watching Truman Show with my dad, of how Dead Poets Society led me to think there might be something in this whole teaching thing, and of a weekend at NYU where Master and Commander was on the university tv channel alongside Kill Bill Pt. 1 and Big Fish and I kept that channell running all weekend.
Now I might have to watch some of the Weir movies I haven’t seen. Also, can’t they be knighted in Australia and New Zealand? Why does Peter Jackson (a guy who is also excellent) have a Sir in front of his name and Weir doesn’t? Get on that, Australia.