Rightwing Film Geek

The latest Romanian mast….zzzzzzz

High drama in the latest Romanian film -- two people eat dinner.

High drama in the latest Romanian film -- two people eat dinner.

I don’t think there’s any way around it. I saw POLICE, ADJECTIVE again last night and cannot even describe it in any way that doesn’t make it sound like a boring reductio ad absurdum of the slow, grind-you-down European art film. Very few plot points, all spun out way beyond their possible narrative interest, not much suspense or danger for a policier — you’re watching somebody perform a job that mostly consists of watching other people.

And yet, I liked POLICE, ADJECTIVE a lot, both on first and second viewing. Both when I didn’t know exactly what was coming and when I did. But I can’t defend the film against the flat claim (shut up, gemko) that “it’s boring.” Yes, it is, and not just in the tautological sense that any movie, even the most rock-em-sock-em action flick, is boring if it doesn’t engage you (the sense in which I would say NINE or FIGHTING are boring). POLICE, ADJECTIVE is boring in the sense that it’s not trying to entertain you or promise … heck, I just started to parrot the following sentence that Stanley Kauffmann composed in his rapturous first review of L’AVVENTURA.

The first 10 minutes make it clear that this is the work of a discerning, troubled, uniquely gifted artist who speaks to us through the refined center of his art. We make “like” this film, but those first 10 minutes indicate that liking is not the primary point. We “like” Maurice Chevalier but do we “like” Wozzeck or No Exit? If so, all the better, but we know from the start that it is irrelevant to their effective being.
This is not to say that L’Avventura is an unpleasant or uninteresting experience: simply that it does not come out of the wings like a chorus girl with a grin on her face to make a hit fast.

Kauffmann doesn’t use the word “boring,” but we all know what he’s getting at. And in that sense I can formulate an acknowledgement that POLICE, ADJECTIVE is “objectively boring” even though I personally found it gripping. It took me several repeat viewings to really feel like I was getting a grasp on Antonioni’s 60s films, though for a variety of reasons, in a way unlike how I’m pretty confident that I entirely got POLICE, ADJECTIVE on first view (I don’t have tremendously much to add to my Toronto capsule).

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January 22, 2010 Posted by | Corneliu Porumboiu, Viewership | Leave a comment

Dour, unromantic Scots

I’ve been meaning to blog this item for a couple of weeks, so forgive the delay.

But leave it to scholars at Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh to trash Romantic Comedies as bad for real-life romances, because they promote notions of romance that are unrealistic. Or as the BBC headline-writers put it — “Rom-coms ‘spoil your love life’.”

Rom-coms have been blamed by relationship experts at Heriot Watt University for promoting unrealistic expectations when it comes to love.
They found fans of films such as Runaway Bride and Notting Hill often fail to communicate with their partner.
Many held the view if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you telling them.

The university’s Dr Bjarne Holmes said: “Marriage counsellors often see couples who believe that sex should always be perfect, and if someone is meant to be with you then they will know what you want without you needing to communicate it.
“We now have some emerging evidence that suggests popular media play a role in perpetuating these ideas in people’s minds.”

While I’ve never had a marriage breakup over a Julia Roberts movie (though frankly no man should touch a woman who likes a movie called “Runaway Bride” — something about that title), the story put the finger on why I don’t like most happy-happy-joy-joy romantic comedies. They promote a view of life and love that is both false and fundamentally unhealthy, or at a minimum, one I absolutely cannot tap into or sympathize with. (It hasn’t failed to occur to me that I generally prefer dark, grim movies; tragedies or extremely astringent dramas.) I don’t mean to go all John Gray, Mars and Venus, but at least with respect to the expectations of the rom-com, I’d say this is typical of why guys don’t generally like “chick flicks” — that we’re too hard-headed to believe in romantic destiny. Here is one of the juxtapositions:

As part of the project, 100 student volunteers were asked to watch the 2001 romantic comedy Serendipity, while a further 100 watched a David Lynch drama.
Students watching the romantic film were later found to be more likely to believe in fate and destiny. A further study found that fans of romantic comedies had a stronger belief in predestined love.

I hold no brief for David Lynch, but the plot of SERENDIPITY is one of the stupidest in movie history (which might have been OK had there been any chemistry between John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale on their first date, but there wasn’t). Couple has the date of their lives and Beckinsale leaves her address and phone number in a book that she knows Cusack will find if they were meant to be together. Years later, they’re both set to be married, but Cusack is unsure and makes one last effort to retrace their steps, find the book and find his destined love (not his fiancee??). Re anybody who could find all that inspiring, four words: Stay. The. Hell. Away.

I’m aware that these movies are all played as fantasies, and that everyone realizes that at a certain level. But what this research confirms is that movies don’t mostly affect us at the level of conscious thought, where we sort movies into “real/unreal,” “moral/immoral,” “laudatory/condemnatory” and the rest of that. And even calling a movie a fantasy is still to set it up as some sort of ideal — “sure, it couldn’t be true, but wouldn’t it be good if it could” — which is just as bad in some ways. But more importantly, the mere fact of having seen Movie X automatically and necessarily makes Movie X part of your experience of life, and automatically and necessarily turns you into “a person who has seen Movie X.” Indeed, Pauline Kael wrote in “I Lost At the Movies” that one of the glories of movies was this very capacity — “new films are judged in terms of how they extend our experience and give us pleasure.” But every extension of experience affects your implicit worldview and range of understanding — what is, what can be, what should be (three different things; all equally relevant).

January 4, 2009 Posted by | Viewership | 1 Comment