Many have declared Curan's Gravity to be an [insert positive platitude] which I, as a cinema-goer, find to be quite disturbing. It is understandable that critics or even technically informed viewers would marvel over the gorgeous near 20 minutes opening sequence: the camera switching dreamily between omniscient and subjective view, panning, weaving and dipping around heavy interlocking machinery, the hands, the human hands working digging into the machine, spiralling outward gazing at an impossibly large Earth and impossibly vast celestial systems, and then suddenly pulling up and into Bullocks helmet, assuming her point of view, limited and minimal.

All of this is fine beautiful and awe-inspiring until one evaluates how the film functions. In a closed view Gravity is an artistic feat, but when when backed away from, when exposed Gravity becomes limp and cheap. An infinitely long list of films that functions better than Gravity could be mentioned; but instead, within a few paragraphs I will opt for a direct critical analysis, on its own merits.

Film theorist David Bordwell has described movement in cinematic space as "station[ing] the viewer as subject before an idealized objectified representation" and that if we considered the "perceived depth on the screen[...]pictorial coes function to help efface the image surface and push us toward reading the picture as an imaginary space, a scenography..." Stopping there, I believe my point has been made rather clear. The purpose of the camera, especially in film such as Gravity, is to position the audience in a space where they can close distance between a viewer and the screen, the cinematic moment and viewer's experience collapse into one within the film's larger syntax. The film has full control over the view in this sense and must utilize this space (and the time spent within) as a means of transferring information.

Despite Gravity's intentions of submerging man under the weight of the infinite and the vast via the camera as an experiential guide, Curan only covers human arrogance, how we confine our view and elevate ourselves above the unknown: a colonizing view. A first problem with the film is its cinematography, how it presents and explores its supposed thesis. The opening title cards lay out a few phrases, all of them obvious and meant to entice. The words first tell us that "humans cannot survive in space" and next that "space has no sound." This essentially sets up not only where Curan plans to go, but where the film itself can go. Having seen Curan's past works I was able to see where Curan could "innovate" and "invigorate" cinema. For one, he could expand on his technical ideas, working out longer and more complex unedited shots -- I can see this being a marvel just as I saw the 7 minute shot in Children of Men as fascinating. The other being Curan's use of sculpting space in within the frame. Gravity's premise allowed or rather called for a sculpting a space in-which his characters could suffer under our careful and empathetic observation. Curan's framing could have easily made a made a torturous film in which the viewer watches Bullock spiral arrested in space - as Clooney with all of his technical know-how narrated her struggle for survival.

The cinematography instead rests in the stream of the narrative, following rather than engaging. This lazy technique is the work of Hollywood not a potential innovator. The camera though still graceful and complex in movement takes to the standard format of following the star's faces as opposed to reeling out and back to deliberate over the idea of humans in a heavily destroyed set piece. The camera swathing over the Earth constantly as Clooney incessantly repeats his fondness of it (an obvious hyper-humanist red flag), ignoring how much larger and grander space is. The film engages the viewer into three places (all of which extremely small in scope): human's home, human's product, and familiar human colonized space. This constant re-affirming of human-oriented objects shuts out any real possibility of fear or even marvel. Being so close to Earth shows a general lack of imagination or maybe it is at the fault of Hollywood expectations of pandering at universal ideologies.

Even its passive view of spirituality (note the weakness of the phrase as to not say religion) is anchored to human survival and success. The camera in this way is revealed to be man's eye observing man lovingly while assuming the role of an omniscient presence. So, the true thesis of Gravity in this light is that all of nature, everything seen and unseen is a tool to progress and entertain man. A more sculpted and artful film would have opted for the use of the excellent 3D and typically middling cinematography to show man overlay their subjective view over their situation, struggling to explain another human's suffering, being overcome by the circumstances of space, anti-gravity and such. The narrow scope absolutely kills the film, which now functions as humanist propaganda.Gravity being a Hollywood production disguised as an art film asserts a particularly Western view filling all of the missing beats of a good innovative film with misogynistic.