Posts tagged film.
Poison (1991) dir. Todd Haynes
I’m Not There - Todd Haynes (2007)
“Let them have a laugh at their passions. Because what they call passion actually is not some emotional energy, but just a friction between their souls and the outside world.”
(Andrei Tarkovsky - Stalker)
Anthony Quinn & Anna Karina, Majorca, 1967
The Hour of the Wolf is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. The Hour of the Wolf is also the hour when most children are born.
WHAT is boring? This question was inspired by a piece in the May 1 edition of The New York Times Magazine by Dan Kois that offered a cheerful conformist’s take on what in certain circles is sometimes termed slow cinema and that he simply finds boring, the equivalent of eating his “cultural vegetables.” Mr. Kois writes that he knows he’s supposed to embrace celebrated films that he variously describes as “slow-moving, meditative” and “stately, austere” and “deliberately paced.” But he can’t, won’t, doesn’t like or understand them. In this he empathizes with his 6-year-old daughter, Lyra, who, at a friend’s urging, tuned into “Phineas and Ferb,” a TV show that she doesn’t fully get but watches “aspirationally, as a sort of challenge to herself.”
Mr. Kois watches aspirationally too. He sees Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff,” the subject of his longest lament, but his eyes roll back in his head. This makes him feel guilty, but not really. He and his daughter “both yearn,” he writes: she wants to be older than she is, while he aches to “experience culture at an ever more elevated level.” To that end he has watched films by Andrei Tarkovsky, including “Solaris,” but this too bored him as did, apparently, the very different Hou Hsaio-hsien. “As I get older,” Mr. Kois concludes, “I find I’m suffering from a kind of culture fatigue and have less interest in eating my cultural vegetables, no matter how good they may be for me.” Happily for him, movie theaters offer a cornucopia of junk food.
For instance: “The Hangover Part II,” which I find boring, raked in $137.4 million over the five-day Memorial Day weekend. It’s the kind of boring that makes money, partly because it’s the boring that many people like, want to like, insist on liking or are just used to, and partly because it’s the sort of aggressively packaged boring you can’t escape, having opened on an estimated 17 percent of American screens. Filled with gags and characters recycled from the first “Hangover,” the sequel is grindingly repetitive and features scene after similar scene of characters staring at one another stupidly, flailing about wildly and asking what happened. This is the boring that Andy Warhol, who liked boring, found, well, boring.
“Of course, what I think is boring,” Warhol wrote in his memoir “Popism,” “must not be the same as what other people think is, since I could never stand to watch all the most popular action shows on TV, because they’re essentially the same plots and the same shots and the same cuts over and over again. Apparently, most people love watching the same basic thing, as long as the details are different.”
Warhol’s own films are almost always called boring, usually by people who have never seen or sampled one, including minimalist epics like “Empire,” eight hours of the Empire State Building that subverts the definition of what a film is (entertaining, for one). Long movies — among my favorites is Béla Tarr’s seven-hour “Sátántangó” — take time away even as they restore a sense of duration, of time and life passing, that most movies try to obscure through continuity editing. Faced with duration not distraction, your mind may wander, but there’s no need for panic: it will come back. In wandering there can be revelation as you meditate, trance out, bliss out, luxuriate in your thoughts, think.
Thinking is boring, of course (all that silence), which is why so many industrially made movies work so hard to entertain you. If you’re entertained, or so the logic seems to be, you won’t have the time and head space to think about how crummy, inane and familiar the movie looks, and how badly written, shoddily directed and indifferently acted it is. And so the images keep zipping, the sounds keep clanging and the actors keep shouting as if to reassure you that, yes, the money you spent for your ticket was well worth all this clamor, a din that started months, years, earlier when the entertainment companies first fired up the public-relations machine and the entertainment media chimed in to sell the buzz until it rang in your ears.
So, is boring bad? Is thinking? In Chantal Akerman’s 1975 film “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” there is a scene in which the title character, a housewife who turns tricks in her fastidiously neat home, makes a meatloaf in real time. It’s a tedious task that as neither a fan of meatloaf or cooking, I find difficult to watch. Which is the point: During the film’s 201 minutes Ms. Akerman puts you in that tomb of a home with Jeanne, makes you hear the wet squish-squish of the meat between her fingers, makes you feel the tedium of a colorless existence that you can’t literally share but become intimate with (you endure, like Jeanne) until the film’s punctuating shock of violence. It makes you think. -MANOHLA DARGIS
MOVIES may be the only art form whose core audience is widely believed to be actively hostile to ambition, difficulty or anything that seems to demand too much work on their part. In other words, there is, at every level of the culture — among studio executives, entertainment reporters, fans and quite a few critics — a lingering bias against the notion that movies should aspire to the highest levels of artistic accomplishment.
Some of this anti-art bias reflects the glorious fact that film has always been a popular art form, a great democratic amusement accessible to everyone and proud of its lack of aristocratic pedigree. But lately, I think, protests against the deep-dish and the highbrow — to use old-fashioned populist epithets of a kind you used to hear a lot in movies themselves — mask another agenda, which is a defense of the corporate status quo. For some reason it needs to be asserted, over and over again, that the primary purpose of movies is to provide entertainment, that the reason everyone goes to the movies is to have fun. Any suggestion to the contrary, and any film that dares, however modestly, to depart from the orthodoxies of escapist ideology, is met with dismissal and ridicule.
Even though, in the bottom-line, real-world scheme of things, the commercial prospects of a movie like “Meek’s Cutoff” are marginal — and even though the distributors of foreign-language films can only dream of such marginality — it is still somehow necessary, every so often, to drag “art movies” into the dock as examples of snobbery, pretense or a suspect form of aesthetic nutritionalism. Vegetables! Yuck! And the supposedly more sophisticated arenas of cultural discourse are hardly immune.
Last year there was a big kerfuffle at Cannes when the jury dared to give the top prize to “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s dreamy and oblique spiritual head-trip through the jungles of his native Thailand. This year a different jury gave the Palme d’Or to “The Tree of Life,” Terrence Malick’s dreamy and oblique spiritual head trip through the bungalows of his native Texas. And while much love has been showered on that movie — including by me, once it opened here — it was also met with scattered boos at the press screening and corresponding sourness among some critics. Writing in TruthDig, the venerable Time critic Richard Schickel strikes out against Mr. Malick’s “twaddling pretenses,” seeing them as the latest example of what he calls “The ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ scam,” after Alain Resnais’s quintessential art film of 1959.
For Mr. Schickel the problem with “The Tree of Life” is not just that it isn’t a good movie (“inept” is his succinct appraisal of Mr. Malick’s skill), but also, more seriously, that it gets the medium wrong. Movies, Mr. Schickel writes, “are an essentially worldly medium, playful and romantic, particularly in America, where, on the whole our best directors have stated whatever serious intentions they may harbor as ignorable asides. There are other ways of making movies, naturally, and there’s always a small audience available for these noble strivings — and good for them, I guess.”
Yes, good for them. I will stipulate that Mr. Schickel has forgotten more film history than I will ever know, but in this instance his summary of that history strikes me as strangely narrow. A whole lot of cinema, past and present, falls into that “other ways of making movies” category, and dismissing it outright in the name of fun risks throwing out quite a few masterpieces with the bathwater.
In Mr. Schickel’s argument, “pretentious” functions, like “boring” elsewhere, as an accusation that it is almost impossible to refute, since it is a subjective hunch masquerading as a description. Manohla, you had some reservations about “The Tree of Life,” but your dispatch on it from Cannes emphasized its self-evident and disarming sincerity. Sincerity is the opposite of pretentiousness, and while it is certainly possible to be puzzled or annoyed by Mr. Malick’s philosophical tendencies or unmoved by the images he composes or the story he tells, I don’t think there is any pretending involved. (And while we’re at it, if “The Hangover Part II” is a quintessentially boring movie in its refusal to do anything new or daring beyond a few instances of easy, sophomoric shock-humor, is there a recent movie more deserving of being called pretentious than “Thor”?)
Why is it, though, that “serious” is a bad word in cultural conversations, or at least in discussions of film? Why is thinking about a movie an activity to be avoided, and a movie that seems to require thinking a source of suspicion? It seems unlikely, to say the least, that films like “Uncle Boonmee,” “Meek’s Cutoff,” “The Tree of Life” or Jean-Luc Godard’s recently and belatedly opened “Film Socialisme” will threaten the hegemony of the blockbusters, so why is so much energy expended in defending the prerogatives of entertainment from the supposed threat of seriousness? I certainly don’t think fun should be banished from the screen, or that popular entertainment is essentially antithetical to art. And while I derive great pleasure from some movies that might be described as slow or tedious, I also find food for thought in fast, slick, whimsical entertainments. I would like to think there is room in the cinematic diet for various flavors, including some that may seem, on first encounter, unfamiliar or even unpleasant. -A. O. SCOTT
That’s how women are, and Charlotte is behind this. They want a really hardcore film this time, and I am doing my best… I said let’s have a lot of talking in it, and they said, ‘We don’t give a shit about the dialogue, we just want to have a lot of very very unpleasant sex,’ and that’s what I am writing right now.