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  • Favorite movies
    I am hopeless at hierarchies, but I love these directors: Bresson, Lean, Chaplin, Renoir, Truffaut, Hitchcock, Sirk . . . Bergman (except Persona, for some reason I *hate* that one!) and these films: The Dreamlife of Angels, The Long Goodbye, My Man Godfrey, The Battle of Algiers, The Lives of Others, My Life as a Dog, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, The Wrestler . . .
  • Favorite creative writing
    these are authors I have read and reread: George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Bowen, William Trevor, William Maxwell, Raymond Chandler, Willa Cather, Marilynne Robinson, Jonathan Coe, Edna O'Brien, J.M. Coetzee, Sarah Waters, Paul Hardy, Janet Lewis, Kazuo Ishiguro, Penelope Lively, George MacDonald, Philippa Pearce, Elizabeth Goudge, Jean Rhys . . . . a few novels: Ulysses, The End of the Affair (Graham Greene), Le Grande Meaulnes, Beloved short stories: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alice Munro, Chekov, Turgenev, Pushkin, Katherine Mansfield, Sarah Orne Jewett, Eudora Welty if I had a least dispensable genre, I think it would be poetry. I love Donne & Herbert, Frost & Dickinson & Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Robert Bly, Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens, Cezlaw Milosz, Susan Stewart, James Richardson, Olen Kalytiak Davis . . . . and so many, many more. finally (because she writes *about* art) a scholar whose work I admire: Elaine Scarry

Josie's Achievements


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  1. Great thoughts, Josie. I suppose that, at least for some of us, the very idea of "Christian films as a genre" is abhorrent. And it is abhorrent because we don't believe that Christians were ever meant to use art in this way - at least in the sense of working in separation from the rest of the world, working within a subculture that judges by different standards and appeals to some desires or sensibilities are are supposedly "Christian" rather than human. So I wouldn't say that it's not so much a matter of decorum or comprehension. Instead, I'd argue that the only way to understand the reason why films exist is to understand the history of the movements within the church that shaped the way the people who are making these films think. The fundamentalist and evangelical movements are recent developments in church history, and they both had separatist tendencies. They also both, in reaction against more liberal theologians, very heavily emphasized doctrines like Sola Scriptura which excludes many of the corollaries of the traditional Christian doctrine of general revelation. A belated thank you for these responses. I wanted to say more at the time and hopefully I still will. . .
  2. I'm sorry for not responding to this much sooner. I saw it days ago and meant to, but I'm really bad at keeping up with internet conversations. (Evne this afternoon I was searching for this thread, and got sidetracked) Actually, I think there could be wrong, deplorable reasons for liking works of art. But they're beside Gombrich's point. I also think he touches on capacities of art and reasons for liking it that are vastly underrated and under-examined. I'm sorry that things are so discouraging for your daughter but impressed she's still dancing. I have a great deal of sympathy for artists whose medium is essentially performative (like dance) or costly (like sculpture or film) because the money/work pressures seem to hit so much harder, and to be imbricated in simply practicing and developing your art. I know everyone can struggle to be published or the equivalent, or to find an alternate source of income that gives their art room to breathe. But there are still these gradations.
  3. Not Christian, but would Ki-duk Kim's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring qualify?
  4. "And I found myself wondering who ever uses the term "Christian film" to mean that first category." I do. Once, I had no idea that the second category existed. I grew aware of the industry and the niche market at the same time and for the same reasons I discovered that "Christian" could mean Evangelical. (Or a segment within Evangelicalism?) In my mind, a film can now be Christian in the narrow, serviceable - precisely descriptive - sense of this thread: made by and for Evangelical Christians or to proselytize. Or it can be Christian in the larger, more diffuse sense of Alyssa's pairing and SDG's recent questions and these forums: bearing Christian ideals, concerns, questions, often made by Christians, often giving centrality or an explicit role to Christian faith. I don't think it's that the two usages collide or contest one another. For me, it's that at the level where naming things makes them so, where names delimit as well as define, the first category can seem to eclipse the second in people's minds - its very existence, as well as its plenitude and relevance. If I'm not mistaking his meaning, I've had the same wish as Darrel, over the fine line between self-realization and self-deprivation. But even though I don't and couldn't use the first category to disparage the second, my favorite thing about kenmorefield's piece was it made me ask why a film couldn't be Christian in both senses. (Not in reality, where it clearly could be; in my personal taxonomy, where I'd unconsciously refused the possibility.) I also liked what he wrote for assertions I wouldn't know how to make, least of all with clarity and assurance, whose absence I still felt. When the sheer awfulness of Christian films comes up, I always wonder about those who flock to them and find goodness. It seems clear the films are flawed. But also that they may be judged by the criteria of other genres, and inevitably found wanting. I've asked if the harshness were ever a form of misrecognition, or a distaste/ discomfort with the genre they do embody (I hazard didactic literature, because that's as close as I can come) or a bias for the genres they don't. And if their conventions and purpose have been defined. Not in light of perceived failings or promise (what they ought not to be or still might be) but what and why they are right now. Speculating about films unseen from a position of cultural illiteracy isn't very useful. But this is the first time I've even heard these things discussed, and with expertise that's both close range and formal. I think we also move between these approaches and sublimate them to each other within a single critique. And that we're probably most exacting and unforgiving with the genres whose purpose or milieu (vs. form) we don't understand or approve. Mistrust of religiosity, especially conservative religiosity, surely tinges the critical response. Because genres are always being ranked hierarchically, like when a writer of crime fiction is praised for producing 'literary novels'. Those whose payoff is seen as cheap and somatic (laughter, terror, disgust, lust) rather than emotive and cerebral get short shrift. And aesthetic calls or isolable cases become fixed attributes, and comparative quality becomes absolute. From genre 'a' is better or worthier than 'b'/so far the films of genre 'b' have been really bad, to genre 'b' is trash, to 'x' film is trash by association. I have an idea that Christian films are situated beneath or outside mainstream criticism, in the strange company of genres that breach decorum or defy comprehension.
  5. Josie

    Gone Girl

    If you haven't watched Marnie in a while, you should. Or even just the first part, where hair color and femininity and disguise and the assertion/transferal of power are so disturbingly intertwined. And the sequence with the heels . . . I only know Gone Girl as a book. I thought it was shallow (and really disliked its view of humanity) but compulsively readable. I also thought it might work better onscreen: one of those novels that are either inherently movie-like or written with a movie in mind. This discussion doesn't quite make me want to reread it (I was genuinely surprised by Christian's comment about Flynn's reputation) but it's very intriguing and convinces me the movie is far, far richer.
  6. Thank you, that's very kind and heartening (especially because I tend to compact ideas and leave out connections and can end up just muddying a conversation). I can reciprocate. I've found the discussions you and J.A.A. Purves sometimes hold interesting and helpful too! I didn't look at all the links yet and hopefully will come back to them. But I read part of the Art Renewal thread and it made me want to say much more. Sadly, from what I could tell, at least two of the (very well educated) voices in that thread are missing. Both, from my weak recollection, provided striking points we can only infer at best. Too bad. Joe But you are still here and your own posts had insight and vestiges of one missing (and clearly knowledgeable) voice. One of the refrains in that thread was the economics of art, the narrow channels of funding and support and the pressure to earn. I hope things went well for your daughter, whether she stayed with dancing or moved on. I was thinking that 2009 (?) was a tough year to graduate.
  7. I didn't look at all the links yet and hopefully will come back to them. But I read part of the Art Renewal thread and it made me want to say much more. To speak plainly, I don't actually take this man for a teacher, nor Prager for a university, nor his subject for art history. Instead, I think he revives early identifications of modernism as degenerate and amoral. I've glimpsed that before, probably through links in A&F, and I know, dimly, that it's socio-political/-religious in motivation. Here it seems at once breathtakingly naive (shot through with fallacies and fabrications) and calculated (not letting the actual record spoil a good dichotomy, taking the measure of its audience). Except that I care - I'm dismayed - when someone who's either unapologetic in his ignorance or pedagogically dishonest postures as an authority, because of how hard it might be to see through that. Imagine little contact with art, no loose grasp of Modernism, no more lucid narratives from other sources. In good faith, the complex stage of visual art divides into a before of old masters and an after of naked emperors. The Renaissance ushers in integrity and succeeding generations abolish it. - "Ditto any critique that boils down to "it's ugly" or "it doesn't deal with uplifting classical themes" " I want (and know I fail) to imagine past my own distortions of art and history, received and self-made. I'd like to take the thread's question seriously: copping to verdicts of edifying/debasing, beautiful/ugly, which I pass all the time; admitting that the reputation of modern art (which in the video is essentially art after Expressionism) as fake, cryptic and ugly is hard-won. - "any critique of Modernism that reduces it to "individual expression" without taking into account the massive social and economic changes that gave birth to the movement is seriously flawed." In a way, pure abstraction and unmooring from the 'real' is impossible. No matter how abstract or representational their work, artists try to do - describe - what only they can, both as individuals and as denizens of a unique historical moment. You can call the 'ugly, bad' examples in the video their own defense, art liberated from decorum and formalism. But that's still incomplete, as if freedom and the shock of the new weren't also achieved within restraint and through convention and fidelity. I can't furnish good examples right now. But in the late Renaissance, Arcimboldi concocts human faces from fruit and fish and books: bizarre portraits filed under but not really explained by Mannerism. A century on, while Vermeer paints the good, edifying Girl with a Pearl Earing, his contemporary paints the carcass of an ox, as numinous as his overtly religious subjects. And other artists are accused of profaning the holy because, e.g., their Christ is paradoxically too real, too radically human. - "So grain of salt and all that." One of my own is to value the unschooled personal response, however snubbed, without denying that taste and appreciation are accretive and cultured. Sometimes my dislike for an artwork is matched only by my sympathy for the conditions that produced it or the horrors that it strove to describe. Like I learn to see European avant-garde, Dadaism, Surrealism &c., as art of trauma, borne of the conviction that nothing could ever be the same. I lament the lost works, destroyed in the Nationalist Socialists' frenzy of purification. But I still cringe at Hans Bellmer's oeuvre and still find so much from this period clinical, dehumanizing and repellant. It can happen that you're handed the key or cypher (science, psychoanalysis, protest, sweeping revolutionary trends) that makes art intelligible, deeply analyzable, even fascinating. And something, maybe your heart, stays obdurate. This defense from the earlier discussion is perfect. To supplement (not contest) it with another trajectory: the abstract, idealized art of the Middle Ages gives way to the realistic impulse of the Renaissance, which far from being extinguished, persists through the 19th c. and in a sense, ultimately calls photography and then cinema into being. New technology records what people see, precisely. But there's also excitement over capturing what the naked eye can't: whole new realms of perception. (The hoaxes with fairies illustrate this, if also its gullibility and abuse). There's this great, fecund interplay between the traditional arts and the newcomers. And the 'machine eye', the camera, also shoots the surreal, in montages and still lifes and altered negatives. I think why I love some of the realistic art of the same period (and find it quietly revolutionary in its own right) is for its embrace of the ordinary, what Whitman called 'common lives'. One of the defining changes after the Renaissance is that the landscape comes into its own - it moves from the background to the foreground of the canvas. But I've felt those landscapes as remote and grand as the mythological or historical tableaux that once upstaged them. (In America, maybe they stand in for mythology and history.) The movement I find transcendent and beautiful is really away from the spectacular - metaphorically, it's zooming in on details that were hidden. Not in condescension, as idealized or diverting spectacle, but with respect and compassion. Lewis Hines and his photographs are exemplary for me, because they are both art and explicit social document - his 'Ellis Island Madonna' and many of his portraits of immigrants and workers.
  8. SDG quoted Lloyd Alexander and Philip Pullman in a thread on how books begin, shunting my thoughts back to this one. I didn't write them down before because they seemed too simplistic and impressionistic and long. And now I wish I could tuck them under N Booth's last post because they seem too belated. But moving squarely back to Graham, if you've outgrown children's or YA books - whether select titles or the whole genre - you should feel neither shame, nor pressure to read them. If you find delight, wonder, refuge, lost memories and sensations - any rewards - you should feel neither shame, nor pressure not to read them. Out loud to children you know or to yourself. Graham offers her own inability to reconnect with The Westinghouse Game and Tuck Everlasting as proof that even good books kids love can't satisfy or nourish adults. Because she rolled her eyes at key points she scoffs at any adult reading any book for teenagers. That simply doesn't follow, inductively. And it's belied by my own reading habits and my reluctance to see children's literature as less or lesser than, any more than I see children themselves as scaled-down, unfledged adults. I know it's more complicated: we're drawn to stories that could be about us and put off by characters and situations too remote from our own experience. We outgrow erstwhile stimulation. But as a child I read adult books and as an adult I've continued to read - possibly even need - children's (and YA, if you like) books. The proportions shifted markedly and I saw things that had been hidden and lost sight of others that had been clear, because age and familiarity do that. But till this thread, I never questioned my taste or wondered if I were in small or large company. I always want terms and categories to be clarified. And in Graham's piece and this thread, there's a distinction that begs asserting or just repeating. I think it's between the body of literature that holds special meaning and appeal for teenagers, irrespective of nomenclature or shelving (whose best endeavors are searching, sensitive, beloved) and a more recent rash of YA books that chase profit and fleeting trends. The first is predated by the novel itself and arguably, narrowly, by children's lit (though in my own mind and here I collapse YA lit into children's lit). If the second draw criticism it's probably not because they're aimed at 13-17 year olds and appropriated by adults (or delay exposure to classic adult books). It's probably a question of quality and not readership. Even a century ago, and more, as childhood assumed the form we know today, play was held integral to creative development. Yet certain toys and past-times we now associate exclusively with kids were the province of adults, and vice versa. In one sense, fluidity is the only constant. In another, who we are (collectively and individually) holds the versions of who we were and escapism is inherently nostalgic. I have imperfect stamina for difficult art: for art that harries my intellect or unsettles my emotions. Often I read for consolation, to unfray my nerves, and to find what's not real but true. When I need a story that lets me lower my guard and succumb to hope and trust, difficult art doesn't seem to work. And the kind of literature we deem 'for all ages' very often does. I question if that literature (not just books, but poetry, or as film is the medium of choice here, works like Harold Lloyd's) is children's fit for adults, or the other way round, or if the distinction is even remotely meaningful. But I am so sure there's no direct correspondence between the forms of complexity and maturity that mark art as adult-only or not-YA, and beauty, richness, solace, grace-full-ness. A list of names would be more eloquent and here are two. When I read Laura Halse Anderson's Speak, and Jamila Gavin's Surya trilogy, they impressed and moved me as literature (with no modifier or disclaimer).
  9. I think the same things you do, Tucker. There's a certain irony in a professor who delivers five minute video lectures for a virtual university founded by a conservative radio talk show host mounting this argument. A sense in which his podium is the academic/critical quintessence of the free-for-all he sees in art - of eroded standards and traditions. (I don't mean that's my view; only it seems like having his ideological cake and eating it too.) And as this is a talk about taste, the irony seeps into design: his captions and illustrations &c. I don't love the Impressionists. I like certain Impressionist figures very, very much but on the whole I love the Naturalists. That's petty but typical of how I see his thesis, as an elephantine over-simplification made up of many more: Since the 19th c., only abstract art or art as statement has flourished - much of it scatological; before the 19th c., art was apolitical and authentic, uncontroversial and majestic, consisting of Michelangelo's Pieta and like masterpieces; art is like figure skating, and the critics and consumers of art are like judges of a competition; beauty and transcendence are only present in realism; incoherence and fakery in abstraction; expression and merit are reducible to technique; the ugly cannot be beautiful; the shocking and repulsive, disorderly and radical cannot be (good) art; they have not shaped art throughout history. I like the idea of the video. I like knocks to complacency and being made to step back and wonder how differently the course of art (or science or philosophy or geo-politics) could have run. I'm personally drawn to classicism and naturalism and realism, from Caravaggio to Hammershoi to Andrew Wyeth. My taste isn't exploratory or adventurous or political. But there are works of modern art I can't get over, that I too find extremely beautiful and stirring, sculptures he could have juxtaposed with David. I think any such juxtaposition is pointless and specious, but his counter-examples seem especially so. So I agree: "It seems rather easy to find works of great beauty from a particular era and proclaim that era as good, and conversely find ugly works from other eras and proclaim those eras bad" (Though I was interested to see Levitated Mass, because it's the subject of a documentary that Darrel Manson and I think Ken Morefield reviewed.)
  10. J.A.A., I've felt the opposite. That film criticism can align with literary criticism and draw upon the same movements and conventions. (I've wondered if it does so more than with visual culture studies and how else it could have turned out.) In academia, where the border between literature departments and film or cinema studies can be so porous, you could probably find that fusion in descriptions of majors and courses and even syllabi. Definitely in the critical works published by university presses. And if you look to the font of film criticism, people like Bazin or Deleuze, I think you'd sense it at the level of theory. I suppose I didn’t word that as clearly as I should have. Josie, I whole-heartedly agree with you. I think film criticism not only can, but ought to follow in the traditions of literary criticism. When I said that the vast majority of today’s film reviews seem to have cut themselves off from it, it is because most of the reviews that I read have. Any comprehensive perusal of the most popular/professional reviews of a given film (looking at the list at RottenTomatoes), and almost none of those reviews are actually really interested in ideas. Almost none of them discuss the questions and ideas that have been discussed in literary criticism for centuries. They discuss whether the reviewer liked or didn’t like the film personally. They make a few comparisons to other films. And then they all repeat the same comparisons. I always feel like I’m pulling teeth whenever I’m looking for a substantive discussion of a newly released film. (There are exceptions to this, and there are specific reviewers like Zoller Seitz or Sicinski whose reviews offer more than most. But they are rare, and the films they review are limited.) Thank you, I don't know if I was more confused or confusing myself. But I did want you to clarify that by film criticism you mean film reviews. That's because in my mind or lexicon, literature often includes the genre of film. And beyond movie reviews, film criticism can comprise more academic and theoretical writing, much of it book length. That work tends to follow in the tradition and adhere to the conventions of contemporary literary criticism. In fact, many of its authors are primarily or jointly literary critics. And I may have just been projecting my own weaknesses and impasses, but I think it must be so different to review by assignment - e.g. to need to be entertaining and clever about a movie that failed to even pique your interest. I mean different than writing about art selectively, when the desire strikes you and you're all excited about ideas and aesthetics and urgently want to do them justice, only hobbled by time, space and energy constraints and your own incoherence. For reviews that are highly disciplined, ruminative and original, I was thinking that critics need a certain freedom and leisure as well as dedication and talent. Or advance the same metaphor. I link that homogeneity to how reviews are produced (critics seeing and discussing and writing about movies in short order and almost in tandem) and how they're processed (pressed into a binary of yes/ no, fresh /rotten, thumbs up /down). When there's a specter of right and wrong answer, you probably second-guess yourself more and feel more anxious about the verdicts of your peers. If you focus harder yet more diffusely on ideas, you can still make a fool of yourself. You can still be at odds with the critical consensus. But it's a lot less obvious and quantifiable. Well, academic writing has its own conventions, in breaking the rules of basic English grammar as in other things. But to be honest, I think the state of academic writing is also pretty dismal: derivative, passionless and just poorly, ponderously written. I'm not sure if you're using 'literate' and 'illiterate' in the sense of cultured or of a rudimentary command of reading and writing. Either way, I don't find it defensible that every film review needs to be literate any more than that every film needs to be cinematically literate (or every utterance standard and grammatical). Insofar as art is necessary and elemental, I just want people to create and respond to it as best they can, and rejoice that they do keep wanting to. So I'm happy for there to be forums without virtual bouncers or gatekeepers, to host popular reviews. But you're a film reviewer yourself and you have a very different stake and perspective, as well as being far better-read in this swath of criticism than I am! I would love for there to be more support and motivation for the flowering you imagine. I turn to film reviews myself to read about ideas and meaning and craft. Ideally, that's the 'why' reviews that say I liked or hated this film go on to explain or at least to touch upon. And this sounds wonderful. I hope it can materialize:
  11. sends a sort of thrill down my spine when I read it - not quite sure why, but something to do with English nostalgia and being a hopeless Romantic. I have (read it). I also love the symmetry of its ending and how that idiom and the core dramatic elements come full circle. From the final passage: I tend to reread books I love, not just once but cyclically, making it hard to separate my affection and personal associations from more objective merit. But I do think this one stands out. It's so finely wrought and beautifully imaginative and grows on me. I have wondered that it's not more widely read or never attained the status of say, The Good Soldier. It might be that old-fashioned nostalgic quality; even in the 50s, it drew comparison to 'the work of the great Victorians' and 'the great days of Edwardian novel writing'. But I think maybe the real reason is a kind of smallness, almost inconsequence, to plot and setting. Here are two more openings I like a lot, from The Long Goodbye and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: and
  12. I misheard this dialogue or else interpreted it differently. Doesn't Emil (or Bruno?) explain that their families came over on the boat together and that the two cousins grew up in the same house. . . or maybe across the street? I took that to mean that Bruno and Emil aren't immigrants themselves or at least that their birth country, rather than the title of the film, is ambiguous. (But for me, to disambiguate the title isn't to limit its scope or symbolism - only to concentrate them.) One of the bleaker suggestions is that to advance one rung on the ladder of assimilation just means you have someone to prey on or (in the uncle's case) turn your back on. For the son of Jewish immigrants, choice is still very circumscribed and social and institutional tolerance most precarious Add to this Poland's position between vying powers, its long history of partition and subjugation and blighted resistance. Before the conflict with Russia, it's a WWII battleground, its people slaughtered and deported, its towns razed. Ewa is a refugee as well as an immigrant and she comes from a people newly independent but schooled in oppression and survival. I watched The Immigrant under such fragmented, unideal circumstances and missed so much that I don't want to read reviews or formal analysis till I've seen it properly. I was also plagued by parallels to a Korean film in which prostitution and complete loss of bearings and autonomy are central. It was a jarring but really insistent comparison and made me wish for another lineage or work I could relate the film to. Pamela or The Phantom of the Opera or Beauty and the Beast or Hardy. I don't know what would make sense. I'm interested in perceptions of passivity as a fault in the film or in Ewa's character and need to see it again to know my own response. I do remember that at one point her stillness seemed so incredible and contrived as to become the dramatic nexus. She had seen Emil unload the gun and could have said so and spared Bruno and averted disaster. I was waiting for her to speak or move. To act; it was so protracted, a torture scene. But like so many other elements - Bruno's eavesdropping on the confessional, the various acts staged within the film, &c. - roles and composition seem to make sense in terms of theater and spectacle and illusion. It's like the bluff is called on the magician's death-defying act, where Bruno is the assistant and the weapons the props and Ewa the audience, as when she is first rapt and spellbound by Emil. When she follows at a distance and watches the disposal of his body, it seemed a continuation.
  13. I feel less confused after Andrew's explanation but more guilty for misunderstanding usage. Though I do think that when Christians speak of being 'spiritual but not religious' the religious connotation is actually preserved. J.A.A., I've felt the opposite. That film criticism can align with literary criticism and draw upon the same movements and conventions. (I've wondered if it does so more than with visual culture studies and how else it could have turned out.) In academia, where the border between literature departments and film or cinema studies can be so porous, you could probably find that fusion in descriptions of majors and courses and even syllabi. Definitely in the critical works published by university presses. And if you look to the font of film criticism, people like Bazin or Deleuze, I think you'd sense it at the level of theory. (My 1st film class was actually a philosophy class. The professor was visiting from Chicago and probably brilliant but I struggled terribly with his approach. I'm sure it was partly that I wasn't smart or educated enough but beyond that I related so strongly to the films and had *so* much to say about them as literature, it felt like being asked to read art mathematically or poetry through the thin lens of prosody.) I am curious if in your comments (as in the criteria for membership in the circle) film criticism is ever synonymous with film reviewing? Book reviews seem far less prolific and widely read and enmeshed in an industry. And far likelier to be written by academics and practitioners of the genre than film reviews are by professors and film makers. And I wonder if besides the youth of the medium and cultural shifts over time, you are seeing differences between journalism and scholarship, between a primary text that you may only view *once* in a theater and be uninspired by, and one that you choose and move through freely and annotate, and between a readership whose decision to see the film, or let their kids, or reconsider their first response can hinge on your review and a readership - well, I can't encapsulate why people turn to literary criticism right now. I've written more than I wanted and will try to remember to delete this as it's such a tangent. But last words: I've read beautifully lucid and eloquent reviews, some by A&F members. (Not yours yet, because I'm hoping to see the films first) So I would never dismiss the genre or commitment to quality and learning. No confusion or questions there.
  14. I'm also glad to see you here, Rebecca! Evan, I have a confused impression that faith implies belief in God (or gods) while spirituality implies belief in or openness to the metaphysical/supernatural, and that atheism and spirituality can go hand in hand. But I suspect I'm completely wrong.
  15. Yes, I think this too, because cinema is about us as well as for us. When the imposition of dress and speech codes inhibits its power to imbue its forms with meaning and tell stories - especially stories of victimhood and moral crisis - we cross a line I care about deeply. Probably far more deeply than Trevor Wax's. I know I don't perceive literature or sin through the same religious lens. I wish I understood better. I wish that Wax were more explicit than 'sewage' and the slippage of ratings standards, and assume (maybe wrongly?) that his primary concern is sexual/erotic content. In my own hierarchy of moral transgression and desert, it's a billion times worse for certain stories never to be told because their crucial events are R-rated, than it is for certain members of their audience to feel impure desire or temptation - to be titillated or to witness sin. I don't know if WoWS would be that kind of story to me or if I will want to see it, but I trust that it's greater than the elements Wax inveighs against. I've read that the circuitry of our minds is reconfigured by 'passive' viewing and reading. Without understanding the science or the incontrovertibility of interpretations (e.g., that novels and films really do inculcate empathy or apathy) I think I embrace them because they seem to confirm what I already know. Being sad or fearful for a character might not lead to succoring actual need. But I still believe that heeding each other's experience is key to our evolution as moral beings, and dismissing or exploiting each other;s pain and degradation, to our devolution. A film isn't harmful because it features nudity or violent death or profanity or drug use any more than it's unimpeachable and benign because it's art or 'family friendly'. So arguments that nod to deeper concerns only to implicitly fall back on 'R = bad for Christian's health' (as there's no further explanation or analysis of what places a film beyond the pale) just founder for me. In case I've implied otherwise, I respect and sympathize with this approach. I think that's a good example of a corrupt (and in its day, corrupting) film and the complexity of prohibition. Knowing its plot, I hope never to see Birth of a Nation as however seminal, it's just not salvageable for me. Still, I understand why people who love film yet abhor this film's ideology continue to watch it. Even why we might need to, as an exemplar of culpability and indoctrination. Its very resilience and eloquence as a work of art should challenge the moral ascendancy history confers. For decades after BoaN's release historians would praise its veracity and we've got to assume our own blindspots. I was thinking, apropos of a turn the discussion took here and in an artist and model thread, how behind so many paintings is a model who took off her clothes and held poses for agonizing intervals, through cold, hunger, thirst, exhaustion. And how the filter of the canvas is not so different from the filter of the screen. (Though I agree that to liken the physical or even psychological demands of these professions to torture is hyperbolic.) I once saw a film that seemed to instantiate what people are reaching for here. An Academy Award nominated documentary, critically respected. It records the lives of a small band of Romanian street children, the youngest only eight, and you utterly despair for them and for a country despoiled past caring. It's a masterpiece of journalistic detachment, as the camera never flinches or shies. For the same reason, the film itself - it's titled Children Underground - horrified me. I felt its very material as well as its subject was child abuse and neglect. I've not read the entire (uniformly positive) reviews, only excerpts, where the adjective 'depressing' recurs. It is unconveyably bleak, the kind of film you cry through without catharsis. But I also felt anger at the camera, and a kind of vicarious shame to look on in tandem. I tried to be fair and temper my own emotions. To take stock of moral inertia, personal and collective, and how easy it is to be aghast at others' derelictions of duty. And how even so, this film makes you think: here's a culture that regards children and their welfare differently. And the moral nuances of bearing witness vs. walking away and how need always dwarfs intervention and is mostly met by apathy or helplessness. But sometimes it really is this black and white. No one should keep a camera trained on kids sleeping on cement, going hungry, inhaling paint, being knocked down and kicked by adults. No one should be able to. That's pristine reportage at the expense of humanity. So for me, and maybe only for me, this is both a movie that documents tragedy with great force and fidelity and a movie that should never have been made. And yet, I don't know whether - let alone how - to relate my personal condemnation to other's approval or to 'dangers' posed to viewers.
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