Posts from 12th March 2005

12
Mar 05

Cinema: Still Dying After All These Years

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Cinema: Still Dying After All These Years
“Cinema’s 100 years seem to have the shape of a life cycle: an inevitable birth, the steady accumulation of glories and the onset in the last decade of an ignominious, irreversible decline. It’s not that you can’t look forward anymore to new films that you can admire. But such films not only have to be exceptions — that’s true of great achievements in any art. They have to be actual violations of the norms and practices that now govern movie making everywhere in the capitalist and would-be capitalist world — which is to say, everywhere. And ordinary films, films made purely for entertainment (that is, commercial) purposes, are astonishingly witless; the vast majority fail resoundingly to appeal to their cynically targeted audiences. While the point of a great film is now, more than ever, to be a one-of-a-kind achievement, the commercial cinema has settled for a policy of bloated, derivative film-making, a brazen combinatory or recombinatory art, in the hope of reproducing past successes. Cinema, once heralded as the art of the 20th century, seems now, as the century closes numerically, to be a decadent art.”
Susan Sontag, 1996

“The cinema then as represented by Hollywood faces the turn of its first half-century in the lowest possible condition of creative energy. Let us be comforted that it can descend no farther. The artist has been so humiliated, hectored and bedevilled by Big Business that the poor degraded hack must be revitalised, nourished, cherished, respected and allowed to create again, for however much they may pretend to the contrary, the film cannot live without ideas from men with creative imagination.”
Richard Winnington, The Penguin Film Review, 1946

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You Won’t Find Me in the Matinee

Far more than attitues to on-screen sex, the 9 Songs saga has shown up reviewers’ difficulties with music. The issue is key in 9 Songs because in some ways it’s a concert film. Some reviews have attempted to relate the songs to the rest of the film, making the live tracks diegetic, but I don’t think that line will fly, partly because the tracks are so instantly forgettable. The other problem is the music itself. While critics see no problems in pointing out a bad script or poor performance, soundtracks get a relatively easy ride. Here most of them seem to have accepted the film’s own propaganda, thus Super Furry Animals, according to Sight & Sound, belong to “the cream of the contemporary music scene”.
The real failings of the film follow from the increasingly bizarre MO of director Michael Winterbottom. This, from an interview with leading man Kieran O’Brien in the Telegraph, explains a lot: “Michael would say ‘Just talk to each other’. So you would think you were doing nothing and the take could last half an hour. You’d think ‘oh I didn’t do any good work there’ and Michael would say ‘excellent’ and we’d move on.” Indeed.
Our friend SS has defended the dialogue against “critics who we can safely assume don’t recite passages from Chekhov in their own bedrooms,” but his own comparison, Before Sunset, demonstrates how effective and affecting seemingly improvised non-theatrical dialogue can be. 9 Songs just isn’t in that class.
The sex itself? Here’s the Guardian‘s reliably wrong Peter Bradshaw: “9 Songs will undoubtedly have a chorus of pundits ostentatiously stifling their yawns in print. To which I can only say – boring? Gosh, really? Is that why all those male journalists in the audience were gulping and surreptitiously recrossing their legs? Because they thought it was boring?” Interesting he should have mentioned only the “male” journalists, but at the screening I attended there was none of this kind of thing, although the use of Michael Nyman’s music over the sex scenes provoked the odd titter.

Homeless.

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 422 views

Homeless.

Diaspora, Refugee, Homeless–the ideas are abstractions, even the concept of palestine is an abstraction–so that to talk about them, it becomes a dystopian non oz. Reading it, one forgets the ironies, the complexities, and the very real personal tragedies that occur.

Emily Jacir agrees to complete tasks that palestines away from home cannot do (they cannot do it because of visas, because of status, because of geography). Some of them are happy–playing soccer, having dinner; some of them are practical, paying phone bills and some of them are mournful–visiting a parents grave; some of them poetic (a candle on the beach at haifa in full light)

She records the task, and why she was enjoined in the task, and any of the other details that might be realvent–poetically or politically or both. These words are translated into arabic, combined with fotos and videos, displayed in art galleries.

Art i think now are ideas, the importance of ideas, that cannot be expressed using other genres.