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Why thinking about a movie as you make it is death

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What makes films art?
Michael Chapman Film-maker
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What makes films art? I've no idea. I know some that are. I mean, you know, it's like... they... the guy, this Supreme Court justice said about pornography, 'I can't define it, but I know it when I see it'; it's... it's that simple, I think, you know. I know that Taxi Driver is something like art, I know Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein is something like art, I know Breathless and a couple of others like Godard are like art, and they... they just... you just... I don't have any answer to that, beyond that, except... no, I don't, I don't. I mean, I'm sure if I sat down and you... and I wrote down it all, over the night I could come up with some epigrammatic answer tomorrow, but it would not be any more truthful than to say, ‘I don't know it, but when I see it I can recognize it.’ And those movies that I've mentioned are art of some sort, just as some paintings are and some aren't. You know, I mean they're all... there's... well, with painting there's good and there's bad art – in fact, if there was... wasn't bad art, there'd hardly be any – but... and that's... the same is true of movies, but every once in a while you'll see something and say, 'Oh my God, it has changed the way I see a) the world, or b) love', or whatever it is – you know, or comedy, and that's art, and those... every once in a while you stagger on a movie that is, and you shouldn't... it's death to think about it at the time – absolute death to think about it at the time – but later on you find out... every once in a while, 'My God, we really did something quite unusual and surprising and new', and whatever. And art is just a sort of simplest way of saying it. But I can't... I have no answer any better than that.

Michael Chapman, an American cinematographer, has had a huge influence on contemporary film-making, working on an impressive array of classic films including 'Taxi Driver', 'Raging Bull', 'The Lost Boys' and 'The Fugitive'.

Listeners: Glen Ade Brown

British Director of Photography and Camera Operator Glen Ade Brown settled in Los Angeles 10 years ago.

He has been working on features, commercials and reality TV. He played an instrumental role in the award-winning ABC Family series "Switched" and is also a recipient of the Telly and the Cine Golden Eagle awards for Best Cinematography. He was recently signed by the Judy Marks Agency and is now listed in her commercial roster.

Tags: Taxi Driver, Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, Breathless

Duration: 1 minute, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008