Fica, vai ter som
Dez anos antes de Hollywood começar a fazer filmes falados já existia tecnologia o suficiente para isso. O que não tinha era interesse: o cinema mudo ia bem, obrigada, e o custo de adaptação das salas para receber o som seria enorme. Quando as bilheterias começaram a cair, os estúdios se agilizaram para tirar essa carta da manga. Foi um “fica, vai ter som”.
Dizem que com o 3D foi a mesma coisa: a tecnologia é velha, mas só passou a ser usada em um momento de crise da indústria. Com piratarias que chegam antes e melhor que os originais, os estúdios precisavam de um argumento para levar as pessoas ao cinema. Fica, vai ter floquinho de neve caindo virtualmente na ponta do seu nariz.
Um dos filmes mais legais que eu já vi, Crepúsculo dos Deuses, fala justamente dessa passagem de tecnologia do cinema mudo para o falado. A história é bem parecida com a de O Artista, que ganhou o Oscar, só que menos otimista. Fala de uma estrela do cinema mudo que foi esquecida pela indústria. Porque ter ou não ter som não é a única diferença entre um filme mudo e outro falado: sem diálogos, as atuações eram mais exageradas e o modo de narrá-las era diferente. O fato de a tecnologia ser capenga e o microfone ter que ficar paradinho no centro do cenário engessou as cenas do cinema falado. Artistas como Buster Keaton, que dependiam fortemente do movimento, ficaram para trás. O custo de adaptação das salas ainda fez com que os estúdios ficassem muito dependentes de Wall Street, o que atirou uma pá de cal em qualquer proposta de cinema alternativo em Hollywood.
Norma Desmond, a estrela de Crepúsculo dos Deuses, foi jogada para escanteio e agora vive em uma mansão cafona com uma piscina cheia de ratos e ideias que não correspondem aos fatos (desculpa, já passou). Por obra do destino, ela acaba conhecendo um roteirista de Hollywood meio fracassado e o contrata para que ele revise um roteiro que ela escreveu. Ele aceita pelo dinheiro, mas é claro que os planos dos dois acabam em zica.
Eu fiz um textinho sobre esse filme para uma das matérias mais legais da USP — Literatura & Cinema. Não faz sentido para quem não viu o filme e está em inglês:
“Sunset Blvd. — a movie as a patchwork of disparate parts
The film industry currently works with an illusory precept that the many elements of a movie operate harmoniously to create the best show possible. According to this logic, soundtrack, photography, lighting, text, performance, etc. cooperate on behalf of a greater good: to tell a good story. Following this logic, the perfect combination of all these elements would make the film a high form of art. Anatol Rosenfeld disagrees with that. For him “every art has its own resources, and one can not create a greater work of art by adding the resources from other types of art.”
In Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) we have a glimpse on how disputed and disturbed the production of a film can be, especially when new technological features have just been incorporated, as occurred in the transition from silent movies to talkies.
According to Katelin Trowbridge, “in polarizing the roles of the word and image, Sunset Boulevard elucidates the underlying tension between movie professionals, emphasizing the creative differences and the bitter struggles for authorship which arise during film production. By tearing the sutures between sound and spectacle, the movie deconstructs the superficial unity of its own medium, presenting the film as a patchwork of disparate parts, each vying for recognition”.
The film tells the story of Joe Gillis — a young but already disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter — and Norma Desmond — a former silent movie star who lost both her fame and her place in the film industry due to the advent of the talkies.
Since the beginning of the story, Norma’s inability with words is evident. The narrator points out, for example, that her handwriting is bad (“I wondered what a handwriting expert would make of that childish scrawl of hers”) as well as her writing (“Sometimes it’s interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be”).
In another scene, when she calls the girl she believes to be Joe’s lover, Connie — Betty Schaefer’s roommate — says that her voice is weird (“Betty, here’s that weird-sounding woman again”). Max Von Mayerling, her ex-husband turned butler, is also accused to sound a little strange: “There was always somebody with an accent growling at me. You were not there. You were not to be spoken to. They never heard of you”, Betty says to Joe.
Norma treats the universe of words with suspicion. For her it was by their fault that she had lost her fame. Indeed, most of the bad things that happen to her are related to words. When she and Joe fight, he wins the argument and sends her directly to madness by telling her that the fan letters she receives every day were actually written by Max.
After his own death, Joe says that the newspaper headlines will cause more damage to Norma than the possibility of being arrested: “What would they do to her? Even if she got away with it in court — crime of passion, temporary insanity — those headlines would kill her: Forgotten Star, a Slayer Aging Actress, Yesterday’s Glamour Queen…”.
Joe’s contempt and distrust towards the world of images is also evident. He is clearly uncomfortable when Norma decides to interfere in his appearance, buying expensive clothes that he despises and that denounce him as a foreign element among his former colleagues. When Betty tells him that she got a nose job in order to please the studio in a test — ie, she switched her appearance to be accepted —, he told her that this was the “saddest thing I ever heard”.
The ironic part of the story is that the characters are not only harmed by the kind languages they despise, but also by the language they stand for. What prevents Norma to retake her career is not only the advent of the talkies, but the fact that she has aged, that her image is worn. According to Gerd Gemünden in A Foreing Affair — Billy Wilder’s American Films, “the real challenge to Norma and Fedora’s career is age; the exorbitant demands show business makes to youthful looks of feminine stars determine the longevity of their respective careers”.
Furthermore, what killed Joe were his own words. Perhaps if he had limited his departure from Norma’s house to a gesture he would not have been murdered. It was his eagerness to translate every experience into words that made her lose control.
The world of gestures allows each viewer to create his own explanations for what is happening. The guy is leaving, but why? Some people can think he is leaving because he is too weak to be by the side of a star. When explanations are given verbally in a tone of authority the audience tends to follow this point of view. From the moment that Joe decides to not only go away but also to explain the reasons he had to leave her, Norma saw no other alternative but to shut that voice that insisted on describing the world differently than she saw.”
PS: Por conta dessa matéria eu li um texto realmente incrível sobre esse filme, The war between Words and Images — Sunset Boulevard, de Katelin Trowbridge