All this makes me wonder how important story is to film. Take Terrence Malik, for instance. There isn't a lot of plot to The New World, but the visuals are so incredible and thought-provoking that they bear the weight that would traditional be assigned to the story. To go with a different example, think of how Dino de Laurentis used the score of Conan the Barbarian to take the place of the sparse and rather traditional dialog. It's the strong combination of visuals and music that drive that movie along. Back to high-brow film, we might also look at the disconnected vignettes that make up Andrei Rubalev. Perhaps none of those are really examples of visuals or music replacing plot, but simply alternate methods of story telling.
Anyhow, there's no hard and fast thesis to this post, more of just an "I wonder." I wonder.