In my most recent vlog, I mention the availability of Kes, a 1969 British film by director Ken Loach. It's been unavailable in the US for quite some time, and this new release, restored and (in the edition I bought) clear as I've ever seen in blu-ray, is really a tribute to the truly beautiful independent film. As interviews in the new "Making of" documentary explain, this film was a landmark for British films in it's "naturalistic" style - shooting on actual locations - and with non-professional actors.
I find any great work of art contributed to or created by non-professionals to be happily subversive. That's why I like Kes. To be clear, the filmmakers behind Kes were professionals - though this was one of Ken Loach's first feature films after a number of years producing BBC films.
Kes is powerful because of the deeply sensitive performances of many of the actors, particularly David Bradley, who played the lead, Casper. In the "making of" documentary accompanying this edition, Loach describes a shooting style that pulled the camera and, as much as possible, the paraphernalia of filmmaking away from the actors as much as possible. Loach created something that we rarely see on the screen. Without impacting the flow of the film or it's watchability, we actually have the time, occasionally, to study Casper's face - to gain an almost instinctual understanding of the central character. As he trains the kestral, we're just as much watching him and the soaring bird. When, in a classroom, he's yelled at by a teacher, we looking more closely at him than at the teacher. It's not a question of pushing in to an intimate close-up, either - Loach often presents his characters very much in the midst of their environments. We witness Casper's reaction to ridicule at his desk in the middle of a classroom, not in a single shot that isolates him from his surroundings.
In the "real" world, we get to know our friends and colleagues by words, actions - and the subtle hints of body language, facial expressions and the intangible "vibe." In most films, we don't have the time to gather those signals - dialogue, camera placement and a well-written screenplay provide impressions to complete the experience. After all, films by their very nature provide a shorthand perception of the world. That said, I wonder if certain films lose some potential impact neglecting to craft an opportunity for the audience to "read" the visual cues the govern human relationships.