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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.

[User Picture]From: goddlefrood
2007-08-20 11:48 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen 8 1/2 for a very long time, but don't rememnber it being based on Lawrence Sterne's story of a cock and a bull. I haven't actually seen the two recent films to which you refer, but may do so in due course, and always subject to finding a pirate with the goods.

I'd also have to disagree with your assessment of films pushing the boundaries having ended pre-1980. There's Toy Story, the first computer generated film which has spawned quite an industry, the special effects extravaganzas haven't really added too much to the overall quality of films but they have stretched what technological innovation can do and if I wasn't at work I'd probably think of some more while scanning my own collection (admittedly it contains a lot of pre-1890 films).

The remakes of older often better films are depressing, unfortunately on that score you are right, there really is very little new under the sun. Hope springs eternal and perhaps very soon something will come along to surprise us all. Some independent films are still worth seeking out. It's a rare day I go to the movies unless it's for the kids these days. This also has something to do with the pirates whose quality has improved a great deal.

The optimist in me would like to think you're wrong about literature and music for two, it's a struggle not to be pessimistic. There has to be something out there to rekindle the dying embers of what could be described as high culture.

One other thing I would add to what you say, and without wishing to offend any poets out there, is that poetry hasn't been doing well for many a long year, whatever happened to it?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-21 08:44 am (UTC)
A Cock and a Bull isn't a remake of 8 1/2, but it's a film about film-making and quite obviously an homage.

Digital animation is certainly new- and Toy Story is awfully clever and funny and so on- but the content of these films is mainstream Hollywood and I'm afraid I don't care for them much.

I think "high art" is finished. Painting is finished, poetry is finished and so on down the line. I don't know what's going to happen next, but something will.

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[User Picture]From: goddlefrood
2007-08-21 09:00 am (UTC)
Well I never said they were any good, Toy Story and their ilk, that is, just implicitly that they were innovative.

Why anyone would try to film Tristram Shandy and his opinions is beyond me, sounds like another one to avoid.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-21 09:18 am (UTC)
That's the conceit of the movie- that they're trying to film this unfilmable book. You see clips from the finished product, but mainly you're watching the interactions of cast and crew.

Actually the little bits of dramatised Shandy are the best things in the movie- making you wonder whether the book is actually so unfilmable after all. Rob Brydon is delightful as Uncle Toby.
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[User Picture]From: goddlefrood
2007-08-21 09:26 am (UTC)
Maybe I should take a look one of these days. I know the book well and it probably could be filmed quite adequately.

Perhaps that's it and it's said to be unfilmable because there aren't any decent enough film makers or more importantly screen writers around to make a proper fist of it, which all comes back to your original thought that there's no real innovation in films ...
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