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Tony Grist

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Paglia Is Right [Aug. 20th, 2007|09:58 am]
Tony Grist
I watched a couple of newish movies yesterday. The first was Clint's Japanese Iwo Jima movie and I came away from it thinking, I've seen this film before only last time it was called All Quiet on the Western Front. And then I watched Michael Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy movie with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and I came away from it thinking, I've seen this film before only last time it was called Eight and a Half.

That's unfair. I know it is. Clint's film is decent, humane and gripping and Winterbottom's film is good-natured and funny (and itself acknowledges the Fellini connection by using bits of Nino Rota's wonderful score) but take away the novelty of a celebrity American director adopting the Japanese point of view and the novelty of a British director playing at being  post-modern and Pictures From Iwo Jima is a standard issue war movie and A Cock and Bull Story is just an amiable bit of mucking around that entirely lacks the drive and insight of Fellini's masterpiece.

War is hell and wastes the lives of young men. Check. Film people are laughably self-absorbed. Check.

Camille Paglia  has a recent article mourning Bergman and Antonioni, in which she says the only classic movies to have appeared since the 60s are the Godfather and Star Wars. Well, that's extreme to the point of battiness- or is it?  I scan my DVD collection and- damn it- provided you push the cut-off point forward by a decade- she's right!   Almost all the movies that took risks, that showed us new things, that matter in the history of the medium were made before 1980. 

It shouldn't surprise us. How long did the Italian High Renaissance last ?  A couple of generations. The great age of the novel? A century or so. Classical music? Bach to Shostakovitch, just over two hundred years. Art forms become worked to death. The great masters do their thing and say their say and there's nothing left for the following generations to do except imitate and work variations.

It's not just money that dictates Hollywood's current plague of remakes and sequels, it's creative exhaustion.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-20 03:36 pm (UTC)
It's always possible the masterpieces are there and we're not seeing them because we're blinkered or failing to look in the right place.

I'd like to add Edward Yang and Miyazaki to your list of Asian talent.

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[User Picture]From: frankepi
2007-08-20 03:39 pm (UTC)
Speaking of Miyazaki, it's possible that animation is another major blind spot for those declaring cinema's decline.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-20 04:54 pm (UTC)
I'll give you Studio Ghibli- but I'm not so sure about Pixar et al. The best computer animation is dazzling but the content is usually the same old, unchallenging, middlebrow, corporate tosh.
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