While writing last night’s near-rave of Jack Reacher I was reminded of Matthias Stork‘s brilliant Indiewire video essay (posted in August 2011) called “Chaos Cinema.” Not because Reacher exemplifies this trend — far from it. To the contrary and to its credit, it exemplifies bare-bones Clarity Cinema.

“Trying to orient yourself in a work of chaos cinema is like trying to find your way out of a maze, only to discover that your map has been replaced by a reproduction of a Jackson Pollack painting,” says Stork.

It’s must-viewing, this piece. It articulates and clarifies a lot of things that many of us have been feeling for a long while. “The only art here,” Stork declares, “is the art of confusion.”

Action films of the late 20th Century embraced classic cinema language, he explains. They were “coherent, understandable, riveting, economical, stabilizing — classical cutting. But in the past decade that’s gone right out the window. Commercial films have become faster, over-stuffed, hyperactive. Rapid editing, close framing, bipolar [something or other] and promiscuous camera movement now define commercial action films.

“Contemporary blockbusters, particularly action films, trade visual intelligibility for sensory overload…a film style marked by excess, exaggeration, over-indulgence, a never-ending crescendo with no spacial clarity…chaos cinema. The new action films are fast, forward, volatile, an audio-visual war zone.”

Stork approves of the cutting in The Hurt Locker. I’m sure he also admires the way Drive is thrown together.