I wonder what I can say about plot just now...
Not too long ago I found dismissing plot a simple matter. Who cares what twists and emotions a story can wrench up? Nothing but minor variations on humanity-old obsessions; all felt before to greater and lesser degrees; meaningless pondering.
But plot has occupied my thoughts a lot recently. Last weekend I watched The Dawn Patrol (1930), found it immensely satisfying, and have been shuffling it into my perception of Hawks. I even tried to write about post about it, considering that it was Hawks's lack of affectation that distinguished his films from pretension-riddled Hollywood (but I have doubts about that thesis now).
I was able to see The 39 Steps (1935) theatrically last night, the program notes reminding me that Hitchcock said "In the documentary the basic material has been created by God, whereas in the fiction film the director is the god; he must create life." The early Powell film The Phantom Light (1935) has me thinking about the differences between a plot that is tight and quick-paced and a plot that is meandering and slow. An argument for Bresson discusses how his lack of on-screen action and emotion allow the viewer to empty their personal emotions into the film rather than the other way around.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, Orson is laughing and occasionally discussing the audience and the sins of boredom and verbosity.
I don't even know what plot is. I may dismiss it to justify my own boredom with stories that don't interest me, done in styles that I find unappealing; but this is a case of plot dismissing me rather than the other way around. I may enthusiastically support the unpretentious and straightforward narratives of Hawks or Hitchcock or quota-quickie Powell; and I may violently oppose the total abstraction of Bresson, quoting Welles to argue that a person must have something to attach to before any emotion can be invested; but such thoughts, even if I were to make them coherent and consistent, would be empty--idle opinion-making.
My dismissing plot was a mistake. My praising it would be a mistake. Uh, this post is a mistake (watch it unravel even further). My fault is in still treating film as though it ought to be justified, as though whether or not it interests me is of any consequence to my growth as a person. Have I not forsaken this habit yet?
Hmm... It is with plot as with--wait, that's not the quote; "It is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed the deeper they burn." Love that quote. This one, too: "Simplicity is beauty; simplicity is power." Maybe one day I shall abide them.
[As an after thought, I can definitively say this for plot: I hate epics.]