Wayne Wang and Paul Ouster’s film Smoke (1995) expands on the structure and ideas presented In Paul Ouster’s short fiction “Juggle Wren’s Christmas Story. ” In an interview after the film was completed, Austere states that with written fiction, the reader is always creating the images of the story in his or her mind.
It is with this concept in mind that Austere and Wang structure their film around the theme of storytelling.With a sense of seamlessness achieved through the interconnectedness of the stories presented, the filmmakers focus on the dotterels on the screen, using them as imaginary image creators instead of euthanized narrating voices. After a screening of the film in its entirety, including the seminal credit sequence, a question arises concerning the choice by the filmmakers to leave out the black and white footage of the film visualization of the Christmas Story (which they obviously possess) In favor of one long slow zoom In on Harvey Kites as Juggle.Many presumptions can be made about why Austere and Wang made this decision, but one of the more reasonable only presents Itself after a loser examination of the only sequence in the film that doesn’t fit into the storyteller- centered structure of the rest of the film – the sequence concerning Sausage’s photographs. In this sequence, Aggie relays to Paul the story of his life’s work as a photographer of his street corner in Brooklyn, and more importantly of his life’s work of capturing life (it’s changes and nuances) over time.Aggie advises Paul of the importance of slowing down, taking a look around, and not forsaking the days as they pass by so quickly.
This Is important wisdom in a general sense, but particularly for Paul, as he seems to have forgotten this after the tragic death of his wife and unborn child. While Juggle Is speaking, his photographs “slideshows across the screen exemplifying Goggle’s thoughts about the significance of capturing thousands of Images of the same place.While this sequence Is “In” the photographs, the focus shifts from the story and the storyteller to the black and white stills. This shift can be distracting as the viewer begins to create a story of their own in the minds about the photographs they are seeing on the screen, largely tuning out Sausage’s story and sides. While Aggie reminisces about seasons passing, daylight changing, people coming and going, the focus should be (particularly if the film is to follow the same structure throughout) on Aggie and what he is saying.Instead, when the shift “into” the photograph slideshows happens, the viewer’s brain, which has been trained in listening since birth, and Inevitably revived by the beginning of this film, starts to think of stories, backgrounds, and feelings to give to the people in the images. But In this instance, the Importance is not on what Is being seen In the picture, whether It e snow or a child or a taxicab. The Importance In this moment Is Goggle’s explanation of why he takes these photographs.
The audience does not need to see the thousands of Image to believe that there really are thousands of Images, Just as photograph he’s looking at.When Paul sees Ellen and begins to breakdown, the moment hinges on Paul and his heartfelt reaction to seeing a photo of his beloved wife. When the film cuts to the still photograph, the viewer relinquishes some of the emotion that has been building while watching Pall’s reaction. The focus immediately shifts to trying to discover what is different about this photograph now on the screen, and while the sun may be shining at a different angle, and there may be a few more cars of the street, the only major difference about this photograph is the pretty woman standing in the left foreground carrying an umbrella.Pall’s emotion, and possibly in turn the viewer’s emotion, is real in that moment, yet stopped short by the need to process new images that have been presented, relying then on thinking instead of feeling. When the focus is placed on the storyteller instead of a sequence of related images (which is the format of the rest of the film), the person to whom the story is being told (in this case, the film’s audience) focuses on the story more intently and creates the story in their mind without the distraction of having the story pre-visualized by the film.
The filmmakers use this convention in the final sequence of the film, when the focus on Aggie is slow and deliberate. In the same aforementioned interview, Austere explains their choice in focusing on the storyteller as opposed to images of the story, clarifying what had already been received – that shifting between the black and white story footage and the color footage of the storyteller is highly distracting and takes away from the theme and meaning presented throughout the film.According to Austere, the film was originally written, shot, and edited with the Jumping back and forth between footage in mind, but when they finally put the film together, Wang and Austere had a problem with the fact that “Harvey did such a good Job telling the story that every time we cut away from him and you saw the action, you would lose three, four, five, or six words of what e was saying, because your concentration would shift, and then you weren’t listening to the words anymore.It became more difficult to follow, so we kept reducing the number of cut-sways until we said, We have to take them all out. ” From the beginning of the film, when Paul tells the tale about the weight of smoke, the viewer is immediately caught up in the imaginary visualization of Sir Walter Raleigh carefully tapping ashes onto a balance scale. This trend continues as the viewer conjures up images of Cyrus’ horrific car crash, a son finding his father’s frozen body uneaten a sheet of ice, and Aggie playing grandson to a lonely old lady.
While Wang and Austere did remove the black and white footage from the final story sequence, the footage was later used to start the credit sequence. In this fashion, there is a bit of whimsy to the black and white images, almost as if they really are projecting someone’s memory onto the screen. With the feelings that surface while watching this footage during the credits, it only strengthens the validity behind the filmmakers’ decision to focus the final sequence on Aggie instead of his story.There is a territories gravitas to Sausage’s tale, and whether or not he speaks the truth, the emotions that arise during this moment Oust like Pall’s emotions regarding Ellen) are certainly real, and it is most likely that the pleasant and almost dreamlike quality to the black and white footage would never leave the viewer in one place long enough to feel sincere emotion. This affirms the sentiment that with a theme of storytelling storytelling and not necessarily the stories they tell.
The difference between ashes and air may be the weight of smoke, but the difference between feeling a story and seeing a story is the weight of Smoke.