Mood Vs. Story

I was chatting with a filmmaker friend of mine who is repped by one of the biggest and most prestigious director representation companies in the world. I asked him about his experience working with them and he was indeed happy to have their help in landing him new gigs and greatly expanding his exposure. However he was confounded with the work of his peers also on their roster. More specifically he was confounded with the lack of 'visual storytellers', but rather a clear preference for artists who construct an enticing vibe steeped in moodiness yet almost entirely lacking the presence of a narrative. You don't have to look too deeply into film festival lineups to see what I'm talking about.

I recently watched 'Glengarry Glenn Ross' for the first time and in the opening five minutes, I was immediately sucked into its universe. Not only was the visual tone utterly striking and ahead of its time - notably via complex cinematography and mesmerizing tracking shots conducted by Juan Ruiz Anchía - and yes you're sitting pretty when your cast is Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, and Jonathan Price - but ultimately it's David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning prose that hits you like a hammer of every emotion all at once. Who ever thought a pack of deadbeat telemarketers would be interesting?

When I watch this commercial for New Bell's - a South African whisky company - I am nearly brought to tears by its impeccable writing and convincing performances. At two minutes, it's undeniably emotional and extremely effective at making someone who has never heard of their company (i.e. me) quickly become very aware of their product.

Look at music - the poppiest of pop songs all have structure and compelling moments to suck the listener in. Songwriters subscribe to a science that has been tried and true for many, many years. Wouldn't it be a little confusing if the most talked about 'Album of the Year' was a Thievery Corporation record? Nothing against Thievery Corporation, but their music fits a vibe - not a structure.

I don't mean to sound cynical about the current state of cinema however I am confused as to why the preference seems to sway to creating a "vibe" rather than a compelling "story."

JH