|Paglia Is Right
||[Aug. 20th, 2007|09:58 am]
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.
"Well, that's extreme to the point of battiness- or is it?"
Extreme to the point of battiness is kind of her trademark.
We have no clue, really, which films will be as influential as Star Wars. History hasn't happened yet. Everyone always thinks that they live in a time without masterpieces.
Asian cinema, particularly animation, will be remembered from about now I think.
I also don't think that you can discount Dogme 95. Although I don't always love the work by those crazy Danish kids, I think that you have to see them as both important and influential.
I think that the rise of home editing will prove to be as freeing and important as movable cameras. Films like Tarnation point the way.
The Coen brothers are both important & influential. I'd also name Atom Egoyan, Hal Hartley & definitely Herzog. What about Peter Greenaway? I don't like Greenaway's work, really, but you can see his influence clearly in quite a bit of later work.
I could go on, but I think that you get the point.
Paglia is always wrong. She's most wrong at the moments when she is actually right. I *love* her work on Dickenson, but mostly I find her a sloppy thinker.
She's a gadfly. Her role is to get the rest of us fulminating. I loved Sexual Personae; that's a brilliant book. I've been disappointed she hasn't followed it up with anything else on the same scale.
There are certainly good directors working today, but I'm not convinced that any of the people you name- with the exception of Herzog (by now an old master)- is absolutely top notch.
I think the only other contemporary western filmaker who deserves to stand with the great names of the past is David Lynch.
I'm inclined to agree with you about Asian animation. Miyazaki is a master. But my knowledge of the field is too sketchy for me to venture much further...
Yes, home editing could set off a whole new wave.
Wouldn't it be great if it did?
But remember that history in cinema generally isn't made by the best directors. Classic cinema generally = the influential films more than the great directors.
Star Wars was *hugely* influential-- it ended the 70s period of filmmaking. But Lucas is not a great director. (By the way, I often find that people who argue cinema ended with Star Wars just never got over the end of the 1970s in film-- admittedly a really great time in the art.)
But Star Wars didn't stand alone. It was one of a new kind of blockbuster. And the chief exponent of the new blockbuster was Stephen Spielberg- who is a great director.