I’ve had some disparate thoughts bouncing around my head as regards film and especially film criticism. Maybe this started as I began to re read chunks of The American Cinema, by Andrew Sarris.
Now this is a book from, I believe, 1968. The latter Sarris came a bit unglued—and seemed to have lost all the rigor and uncompromising aesthetic he once displayed. The most fascinating aspect here is to see whom he champions and whom he dismisses. With the Sarris of this era, however, there is always a reason for his choices, and it pays to delve deeper into his aesthetic arguments before rejecting them.
His categories, the famed “pantheon”, followed by “the far side of paradise”, and then “expressive esoterica”, through to “less than meets the eye”, are full of surprises and unexpected insights. That he would stick Kubrick into “strained seriousness” is at first glance, rather absurd—and yet—lets remember this is the early Kubrick (the last film Sarris examines is 2001) and a perspective from this era is most illuminating.
“…it is more likley that he has chosen to exploit the giddiness of middle brow audiences on the satiric level of Mad Magazine.”
Something suggests to me that this more right than I might have thought. Kubrick “is” middle brow, often, and he does probably announce more than he ever has delivered. Later films such as The Shining tend to deliver less and less on each viewing, while supplying iconic pop images and catch phrases (Here’s Johnny,. etc). Sarris is, in the same section, quite hard on Sidney Lumet,too, and as I re-read it I must say I found myself simply disagreeing. Thirty some years on, films such as The Hill and The Fugitive Kind look far better than they did in ’68. Lumet’s humorlessness (per Sarris) now seems a decided virtue. His leathery lack of emotional release—(humorless again)—serves his films in the 21st century in a way I doubt any critic could have prophesied.
The “pantheon” is filled with directors almost nobody would argue with: Welles, Ford, Hitchcock, and Lubitsch. But he also adds Max Ophuls, a choice I would agree with, and Renoir, a choice I would not. But two I simply think dont belong, are Flaherty and Griffith. That is perhaps a topic for later—but lets give a quick think on Howard Hawks and Fritz Lang. From the view of 2010, how do these directors hold up? I’ve never entirely ‘got’ Hawks, I have to say. Reading the Sarris again, I found myself aware that I had been, maybe (!) myopic in how I looked at Hawks. There is no single film that one can point to, and call a masterpiece. One might suggest Red River, or even Rio Bravo, or Only Angels Have Wings, or His Girl Friday…but none of them quite stands by itself. Hawks comedies, in fact, require an entire chapter all for themselves. From Bringing up Baby to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the very vocabulary of film comedy was formed under Hawks — and reacted to by everyone from Capra to Lubitsch to Tashlin, and maybe most significantly Leo McCarey. Of course, no doubt Hawks reacted to them as well…or at least to Lubitsch. The point being that Hawks for all his great variety, made only one film, and made it over and over and over. Red River the same as His Girl Friday? Well, yeah, in a way. For Hawks was always thinking “film”, and his clean headed angular way with actors and with shots never varied. Ive always loved his penultimate film, Red Line 7000, an odd race car melodrama with James Caan. Maybe I love the sheer emptiness of the script, but find something reassuring in that emptiness being served to me through a Hawksian mise en scene. The eye level camera that both brings intimacy, but a kind of odd propriety as well—after decades of use, becomes as classic (and oddly subversive) as Ozu and his seat on the tatami. So, does Hawks belong in rarified air of the all time film masters? Ahead of Sirk and Ray, lets say? I don’t know. I do think Hawks was among the most consistent creators of a film logic as has ever existed. In that sense he is a lot like Hitchcock. Do I think Ray made a couple films that were maybe better than any of Hawks? Yeah, probably. And Sirk, how to talk about Sirk? Forty years on, to reflect on Sirk is a all by itself a major undertaking. The issue of Cahier that included the famous article “The Blind Man and The Mirror, or The Impossible Cinema of Douglas Sirk” can be looked at now, still, as the quintessential take on Sirk.
So, Fritz Lang, then. Has the Langian ouevre held up? I would say yes, and then in a hushed tone, as I turn away, I might say, well, and maybe not. But Lang was making films before they had a word for ‘director’. He ‘is’ film, and his direction is so deeply embedded in our unconscious that its a bit like trying to talk about the Tyndale translation of the Bible…was it really any good or not? Lang is simply beyond this level of critique.
So why go on this way about rating directors? I think (and putting aside for a minute the entire debate about auteur theory at all) that it is because when we compare and contrast the vast amount of film at hand, the potential for digging more deeply into aesthetic theory seems to scream back at one. There is something important, for example, in re-thinking a Kubrick. Why? Because of the undergraduate adulation heaped upon him for usually wrong reasons, and because the politics and economics of film production have served to obscure serious analysis of a kind that Sarris was attempting, and that increasing failure contributes to a general deterioration of consciousness about art. When Sarris says of Kubrick: “His unfortunate tendency to misapply Ophulsian camera movements to trivial diversions…” one must acknowledge the truth of this. Now, the debate can then switch to a deeper level by arguing that perhaps it was Ophuls who pretentiously moved his camera to synthetically establish a shallow sense of “beauty”. The point is that seriousness is exactly the quality that modern (at least US) audiences and ‘reviewers’ lack. It is a culture of ‘fans’ and the lurking tendency for agreement has as its first by-product a vulgarizing of taste.
Sarris often is polemical; and his take on Wilder, for example, is really all about making a point and not (I don’t think) about the actual lasting value of Wilder. There are directors who rank quite high, which now it is hard to even begin to understand (Minnelli for one). And yet, if we sit back and reflect and view again, the Minnelli films that Sarris points to (The Bad and The Beautiful, or Two Weeks in Another Town) one must then extend the reflection to his musicals…and to a Fred Astaire himself. If Mankiewicz made Guys and Dolls into the most negation-privileged musical of all time, he was only extending a template established by Minnelli. Four decades later the subliminal pain in Guys and Dolls renders it among the more watchable of American musicals. So, we return to Minnelli, and try to fathom the forces at work in his crude sense of near hysterical storytelling. In the end I may still think Minnelli a decidedly minor director, but I cant escape his shadow nonetheless.
Or take John Sturgis, a director I perversely defend and who I think, along with Richard Fleisher, is deserving of far more thought. Sarris saying that maybe Sturgis was striving to become (without knowing it) the American Kurosawa, is a spot on observation and clarifies Sturgis’ entire output…though I still rank him rather higher than Sarris. And again, it calls attention to the over-valuation of Kurosawa, who in turn can profitably be seen when juxtaposed to Kubrick or the later Robert Wise, or even William Wyler. In an era where utter garbage like American Beauty or Crash (not the Cronenberg) are held up by supposedly serious critics as important film, it is with some urgency that a lengthy re-think of the likes of Edgar Ulmer or Joseph H. Lewis or Don Siegel seems much needed. A director like Sam Fuller continues to mystify me. I sit back on occasion and think, well, in some respects these films are really just terrible. And yet, if one thinks through his entire body of work, there is somehow no denying Fuller’s importance…its just in what sense does that importance manifest itself.
Its easier to look at the films of Val Lewton now, and see the genius at work, then it is to really confidently evaluate a film such as There Will Be Blood—which for all its exceptional qualities, still nags at one for reasons unclear yet. The British new wave hasn’t held up, but its useful to think why and how. Where to put a Kazin after watching Polonsky’s The Force of Evil? The screen acting of John Wayne when we watch Stagecoach or The Searchers belies the convential wisdom of Wayne as a goofy right wing cartoon. It also begs us to further, again, think about John Ford.
So consider this a first very brief foray into film criticism at Gunfighter Nation. Perhaps a long debate and art war will ensue and an enriching and more precise sense of filmic taste come from it all.
Well, I think it’s interesting to reconnect to the energy of the 1960s and I agree whole heartedly with all but your assessment of Kubrick and his work. A real analysis of Kubrick would take a good deal of time but the breezy dismissal of him as low-brow or the object of undergraduate adulation only makes me smile. There’s no question Kubrick is a major artist who embraced the economic and cultural realities of his time and place to make a series of intellectually intricate and formally brilliant, multi-million dollar art films. And the ideas in his films are far from sophomoric, unless that adjective applies to the Freud who wrote Civilization and Its Discontents. From The Killing through Eyes Wide Shut each of Kubrick’s films is an exploration of the ideas Freud laid out in this late work. Man is the creature who must self-repress in order to survive. The Eros and Thanatos that would otherwise wreak havoc are sublimated into technology that, despite appearances, leaves us as dissatisfied as ever, our inner lives unchanged. That’s, of course, a sketchy thumbnail of Freud’s thesis… but anyone familiar with the book understands why we might want to distance ourselves from its fairly upsetting conclusions.
The visual motifs Kubrick deploys to explore this fertile set of ideas retain a remarkable consistency—the Classical architecture of the Chateau in Paths of Glory returns in the statuary of Claire Quilty’s home in Lolita…and in the ornate décor of the eerie after-world that closes 2001…again in the theater fight in which Alex and his droogs wage war against Billy’s rival gang in Clockwork Orange…throughout the 17th century European settings of Barry Lyndon…the Colonial buildings of Saigon during the Tet offensive in Full Metal Jacket…and the Boschian mansion where the oddly unerotic Bacchanal takes place in Eyes Wide Shut. The “Ophuls-ian” tracking shots through the maze of trenches in Paths of Glory repeats in the chase through the labyrinth of The Shining, Nicholson’s Jack Torrance limping after his son in an oedipal rage that shows up somewhere in every Kubrick film, chin tucked, eyes gazing up in a rictus of desperate aggression.
Kubrick’s work is devoid of lyricism and I would say he is uninterested in dramatic narrative, ultimately, or character as it’s usually understood. He uses writers—great (Nabokov) or not so great (Stephen King) as the case may be—the way he uses composers. And cinema, as it might be described by someone like Sarris, is not really so interesting to him either. Kubrick is ultimately interested in the formal beauty of his films that achieve the internal integrity of a work of plastic art. They are art films, really, and they achieve the object-ness of a painting or a sculpture while playing with the temporal and performative aspects of cinema, and also connecting with the Freudian critique of technology, art and culture that animate them. I wish they seemed dated to me but they really don’t. I can’t count how many times the ridiculous characters who shuffled through the corridors of power in the regime de Bush reminded me of Kubrick’s primitive Generals Buck Turdgison or Jack D. Ripper, or the smug Joker from Full Metal Jacket, or the hapless yuppie played by Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut or even, in rare cases, nobel but deluded Colonel Dax from Paths of Glory.
If Kubrick is vulnerable it’s that his work is almost autistic in it’s chilly formalism—he’s all shell, no mollusk. But if you want to write him off you must first recognize who he is and who he isn’t. Eyes Wide Shut is not his best film, certainly, but the rejection of it by the critics seemed close to hysterical. Sensitive self-images were being probed remains my feeling. Stanley Pollack, Alan Cummings—there was some interesting work being done in that film. And the film ends with a scene between the two mannequin-like movie stars moving towards each other with a resigned vulnerability that is as close as Kubrick came to lyricism. It felt to me like pretty much the best we can do, at least if the possibility of satori is removed from the table.
As for Sarris, I don’t know. Other than poets who write about other artists—Ted Hughes, Charles Olson, Seamus Heaney, Louise Gluck, et al—the critic of culture is inherently conservative rather than transformational, is my honest view. No matter how much he or she postures as a member of the left he or she writes to cushion the impact of art, and to blunt its radical claims, surrounding the artwork with cultural microphages of discursive thought. The immediate function of the act of critique is to break the body-spell that art forges with its audience and to undermine the intimacy and the direct knowing that art requires in order to generate actual transformation. We get “context” and “preference”…things are compared with other things…and we fall back into the realm of relative values and in that realm nothing really matters.
Well, perhaps I need to quote sarris a bit more. Notwithstanding the fact that it made you smile, I think we can’t traffic in ad hominum statements like “there is no question Kubrick is a major artist”, since, well, thats exactly the question (or one of them ) at hand. I think it’s useful to quote Sarris again first; “His metier is projects rather than films…Stanley Kurbrick shares with claude lelouch a naive faith in the power of images to transcend fuzzy feelings and vague ideas.”
I tend to agree with this, and this is not to say I dont think there are valuable aspects to Kubrick’s output…but lets go over a few of this films, Lolita is terrible and I cant believe even admirers of Kubrick think otherwise. Clockwork Orange is unwatchable, mostly. I would tend to see the latter as a weird exercise in nostalgia in a sense; of a London, swinging or otherwise, that Kubrick longs for via the (again) middlebrow puritanism of Anthony Burgess. Barry Lyndon always seemed to me mostly boring. Strangelove indeed is memorable, but i suspect those Buck Turdgison moments owe more to Terry Southern than Kubrick…and certainly to Peter Sellers. I say this since they never appeared again in Kubricks work.
As for critics being conservative? Im confused. You mean if a poet writes about poets he might not be, but if a “critic” does, he is? I think from Mathew Arnold to Robert Hughes, this hasn’t at all been the case. Maybe Im confused.
So, no, not low brow, but middle brow? yes. IF one examines the early Kubrick…the telltale signs are there. The Killing just isnt as good as a dozen other sunlit noirs of the era. And Paths of Glory has always smacked of a weird reactionary strain that stands astride authoritarian motives seen clandestinely as virtuous. And both seem lacking in the intensity of pure paranoia one finds in Joseph H. Lewis and Jacques Tourneur.
I want to focus more on the statement that critics are there to break the body-spell of the artwork and audience. Beyond the fact that I don’t actually know what that means, I would argue then that NO criticism should be written. But that clearly isnt what you mean…since you write a good deal yourself. So where does that leave us? The need for coherence in criticism is great, and i think its pure mystification to wander in realms that suggest what Kubrick wanted to do was make movies that werent really movies. But to be clear, it DOES NOT relapse into relativism to compare things, this is just pure nonsense. Critics like Sarris, who again, has always pissed people off, at least until he went brain dead, serve to illuminate and not mystify. I can find a dozen places where I strongly disagree with Sarris—but not a single place (yet) where I think he is not clear and consistent. Again, we have a couple straw horses in your defense of Kubrick. Who said anything about Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents? You made that comparison and then blame an avoidance of its themes on Sarris. No, Sarris thinks Kubrick minor. I dont think he is THAT minor, but I dont rate him as major. But the reason I dont is because of films like Full Metal Jacket…a film twenty-something undergrads all seem to like, the same ones you see with Jung’s Dreams and Reflections in their back pocket. Its a lazy and stupid film, notwithstanding Lee Ermery’s wonderful turn as a DI. Well, playing himself playing a DI. Its interesting to watch Jack Webb’s The DI as a comparison. Sarris desribes Webb as visual shouting combined with verbal whispering. That in the end neither Webb nor Kubrick really had much to say about the sadism of the military only points up the inherent shallowness of both. But at least Webb had a deeply perverse streak and a sort of proto-hipster fifties white boy flirtation with the dark side…you know…jazz, negros, crime, which he acted out eventually in a tiresome half hour cop show that set the stage for a billion others. Before that however he made two fascinating films, Pete Kelley’s Blues and the original Dragnet film, with himself and Richard Boone.
Sarris will annoy a lot of people, but then so did Cahiers du Cinema. And Sarris cribbed a LOT from that magazine. IF the point of re-thinking the autuer theory as it was found in Sarris, via the French, is to form a better and more precise critique of today’s work, then I think this is worth doing and in fact I think without it we run headfirst into the mush minded new age sort of blather you find at a lot of blogs, or the techi smart boy fan writing, or you just find the reactionary reviewer. Sarris extended the French vision as well as anyone could to the shores of the US. And that insistance on genre and mise en scene, and on the visual style of otherwise neglected directors like Hawks and Sirk and Mann is really of titanic importance.
Im curious to hear what others have to say about Kubrick. In spite of wonderful elements…the bartender in The Shining for example…the total is not the sum of its parts, and in fact I dont think its even close. It’s fascinating to look at the following artists have and how they deal with those followings. David Hockney, for example made a useful adjustment to de-mythologize himself, and unfortunately it sort of de-energized his work. In film, Coppola never dealt with his success at all, and after the rather amazing mess of Apocalypse Now, his career just melted into lithium dreams. Partly this was from over-exposure in the media. Kubrick was always too precious for me, and not making many films seemed a bit of a pose after a while, especially when he refused to leave England to shoot the second half of Full Metal Jacket and instead imported palm trees to the emerald isle. Now, 2001 remains a watershed in film history, but maybe for reasons Kubrick had no part in. The lack of CGI and the real integrity Kubrick displayed in making the set painting a priority, still gives the film an aura of authenticity that even its other failed elements dont totally cover up. Whenever I think on Kubrick I am reminded of Lindsay Anderson, another hugely overrated director who didnt come back from the virtues of This Sporting Life, and instead made another sort of post grad pop hit with If…. Anderson had the good fortune to have a young and imposing Richard Harris for Sporting Life. It was the last good fortune he has had. But he is useful in comparison with british directors of this era; Tony Richardson, John Schlesinger, Karel Reisz and Jack Clayton. The British New Wave…of which Kubrick was not a part…and to see how badly in general they have held up. It’s worth an entire essay to examine all of them. Yet, even if they dont seem so fresh today, they do exhibit a genuine comittment to place and time and all have, for better or worse, a social conscience. But Reisz made, eventually, Who’ll Stop The Rain, perhaps the best Viet Nam film of all, and Clayton did Pumpkin Eater off a Pinter screenplay. Kubrick did Paths of Glory in ’57, Spartucus in ’60 and Lolita in ’64,. Tony Richardson did Look Back In Anger in ’59, The Entertainer in ’60, and Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner in ’62. Reisz did Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in ’61 and Night Must Fall in ’64, Schlesinger did Billy Liar in ’63 and Darling in ’65. He made Midnight Cowboy a good many years later in the US. How do all these compare? I’ll take Long Distance Runner, for all its faults, over Spartacus or Lolita. In fact I will take Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. I will even take The Entertainer.
Now, we can debate the comparison idea again, but without analysis based on history…and context…you get what? Mostly you get nothing I would say. Let me conclude the Kubrick debate here with my sense of his work as having been adrift from his time, not of it. Freudian themes, perhaps…certainly Oedipul ones, but to my mind rather vulgarized versions of them. That said, he did do Strangelove and he did 2001, for all its many faults, and he had a certain dystopic gene in him that I admire. But his work seems bloodless to me and his aesthetic rather TOO formal most of the time. He is the pop Peter Greenway in moments, and that cant be good…because its not good to be even the real Peter Greenway.
I want to add a few more thoughts later on related Sarris ideas. But till then…
Well, I do simply disagree entirely with your assessment of Kubrick’s work, film by film and as a body of work as well. But there’s no second guessing taste and defending artists one values is a thankless task. Kubrick also is difficult to defend in that I understand what it is that people don’t respond to in what he does and respect it. Poets who write criticism are often writing from within the artistic enterprise rather than standing outside it. Good critics are also, I suppose you could say and maybe that’s true.
BBut what determines value in art moving forward is always entirely young artists making their work. If Kubrick’s approach to filmmaking proves useful to them his impact on the history of world cinema will continue to grow. If his concerns are peripheral to young artists he will slip into obscurity…and maybe later that will shift…or not. What is said about his work in discursive exchanges is pretty irrelevant it seems to me, to the history of art. And that is the claim that criticism makes. That it is about separating the wheat from the chaff. Nonsense. Critical writing contributes its energies to the master discourse. That’s what it’s about and that’s why it serves a conservative agenda.
How can an artist of your caliber question a statement about the “body-spell” of art? Do you really not know what I mean? Read a poem by Wright and what happens is an intimate connection that incorporates the critical mind but is also a deeply embodied experience. Your plays always do this very strongly with audiences. That’s what they exist to do. Communicate directly in a way that’s much deeper than discursive thought. And this direct communication is corrosive to structures of power and it’s transformative. And the role of the critic, again, is to “wake us so we drown.” Just not sure what’s so unclear about these idea, particularly to you.
I really don’t know how to respond to statements about Kubrick not understanding about sadism and the military. Really? Paths of Glory reactionary? No kidding. Hmmm, what else…I brought up Civ because I find it interesting that a single set of concerns could underscore an entire body of work…can’t stand Lindsey Anderson…can’t stand Greenaway either, really… I like Who’ll Stop the Rain okay but I’d hesitate to call it a major film…
I am young as film critique and analysis goes.
But Kubrick was the first director I bothered to know the name of, it was what started my journey from watching film not only as entertainment and he was certainly the director people of my generation loved to tell others they loved. Especially my jazz student friends loved to sit and watch A Clockwork Orange again and again.
I want to say that I love this discussion, I love that one can start talking about directors as belonging to this or that category, how serious were they, as Polanski once said about the polish filmschool: we had fistfights in the hallway about whether Hawks mastershots were better than Fords, I welcome a high tempered discussion about this because it has been lacking, in my 30 years I haven’t been forced to think this way, not at film school(same school as Polanski, although the fistfights has stopped) and not in life.
Now, I would personally put Kubrick in Sarris’ category: “less than meets the eye.” This category is the one standing right above “Strained seriousness”. I would put him there together with David Lynch. Film is hard to talk about, and hard to categorize because it can be everything. But I can’t stop thinking about how other directors I value more would have dealt with Kubrick’s films. Lets take The Shining as an example. If, let’s say, Fritz Lang made this movie, it would’ve been a film about a man going mad, about the society and forces making him mad and not simply a place that makes everything happen.
I always get the feeling that in Kubrick’s films, there is a lot of painting going on, yes. And I feel this has to do with him not “feeling” what he is doing, he is trying to do as “correct” and clever a film as possible. I feel Kubrick is calculating without really feeling the depth of the human psyche.For instance in Eyes Wide Shut. What I miss in that film, or what I think I would’ve wanted, is that the main characters are merely tourists in this landscape they are trotting. And of course, okay, thats the plot, a seemingly happy marriage gets disturbed and they explore their unconscious sex drives that are new to them or whatever. But Kubrick himself is a tourist in this landscape. And it feels generated out of jealousy between the couple. And the scenes for like the scene when Cruise walks into this secret club dressed in a cape, it is strangely very disconnected to what he want or desires uh…I dont know how to talk about this…but its like supposed to be “shocking”. That’s not a journey for the character, its more a hitchhike you know will lead you safely back to the starting point, like a journey that doesn’t change you.
Anyway, I am a film school graduate who never watches television, haven’t owned a TV the last 10 years cause there is nothing to watch, I think we are a lot of young people who are starved for discussions like this, and its not at all pointless to critique film in this way. I think films such as Winters Bone and There Will Be Blood are signs that we are awakening after a long CSI sleep, and dare to be critical of society again. And critique must follow up.
Well, this is very interesting Gunn, and I wish I had more time to respond adequately. But let me just convey my own experience of The Shining, which is a film that has more to it than meets the eye. At first viewing I had the sense that things really weren’t adding up. I didn’t understand what Kubrick was trying to say. I often have this feeling with, yes, David Lynch or any number of other stylists who have value but somehow never enough, if you know what I mean. But with The Shining I felt as if something very specific and interesting was, in fact, being articulated, and so I kept watching the film.
There’s one camera move in particular that seemed to unlock the film for me. It’s about 2/3rds of the way through. Wendy goes looking for Jack and she finds his “work” all typed up beside his typrewriter and as she looks at the one repeated line we cut to a steadycam shot that pulls out from behind a pillar. The camera moves forward subjectively for a few steps and then the figure of Jack detaches itself from the field of view. The subjective shot has suddenly shifted into something quite eerie and odd. We are still in subjective mode…but the subject we thought we were has now appeared in the scene itself. We have become the “Overlook” hotel. And this begins to explain quite a lot. The scene unfolds and Wendy knocks Jack unconscious and drags him into the walk-in freezer. And a while later one of the “ghosts” unlocks the freezer. Again something has shifted. We, in our ghostly form in the film, have become corporeal, able to do things like open freezers so that the “horror story” can continue towards its climax.
What Kubrick is commenting on directly here, and in a very deft and original way too, in my view, is the aggressive bloodlust that drives audiences into theaters to see “horror” films. Our concealed sadism wants to be satisfied and Kubrick wants to draw that out in order to show it to us. To me that’s very cool and with more time I could highlight how this connects with other motifs in Kubrick and to the Freudian ideas I sense always animating his work.
And when I say painterly, what I mean isn’t a visual quality but more like a sculptural quality if the temporal dimension of cinema is taken into account. Or, rather, I want to point out that it’s NOT a dramatic or a narrative quality…and if you can’t swing with cinema being used in that non-narrative, non-dramatic way, Kubrick won’t be your guy.
But there’s a lot in Kubrick I still have the sense I don’t fully understand. I do have the feeling that every last detail is fully considered and fully intended and that I am having the experience Kubrick wanted me to have…and I don’t feel that about Lynch, for example.
In any event, vive le difference…!
I agree with you about Stanley Kubrick eeing the great constructor. And he is a very good one. And yes, film has to have certain leads in front of others…is it supposed to be the characters, or the intrigues or the camera, or the ideas. All films contains all parts, but who’s the lead differs. I think it would be an interesting discussion to now talk about what then, makes a film good, what qualities, what content, what arc, what form etc. Cause I think the very best succeeds in all, and one doesn’t have to have it “ones own way” to enjoy the film. I certainly enjoy Kubrick, and I have enjoyed showing him to others, like my little brother. I’ve even seen 2001 and The Shining and Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket several times and I LOVE Dr. Strangelove. But what you describe in those shots you’re mentioning, is for me clever camerawork. It is what you always think of (if you’re any good anyway): in what way, whose angel/pov, what move, what breath is the camera supposed to act to underline the story best? I watch The Shining as one of the best genre movies I know in the horror style. I think to analyse it through Freud, is a little wishful thinking. It might add up, and it is cool you read it that way, I think good films are supposed to lead people to think and ask questions and imagine parts.I don’t know, but I’m over in my “feeling section” now. I often try to get a grasp of the auteur, like who made this, what was the reason. For instance, if we take Paranoid Park by Gus Van Sant, I get the strong feeling the reason the film happened was his obsession with these naive youngsters on their skateboards, thats what he wanted to film, and thats what is given the most weight in the story. When it comes to Kubrick, I get the feeling he has everything carefully mapped out, that he feels pretty good about himself, that he is probably upper middle class, that he likes to travel in others misery and craziness but is way too well-adjusted to be of any interest himself. Now, this might be bullshit, but I think that film noir was a great time in film history because of the crazy paranoid German Jews, and post-Vietnam (with the country in shock), etc. It’s why Norway will never make great films because its just too well-adjusted, its a hobby for the youngish creative. Well, film comes from amusement parks, and most films are not meant to awaken people, its just supposed to amuse. I just left seeing Predators… But the starting point for this argument, was Sarris’ list of film directors. And of course its hard to list something like films, but it is also very interesting. I think it also makes me sad, because who today would be on that list? Ive watched maybe like 400 movies that I think are better than what came after 1980. If we talk about directors living today that I value or people around me value, like The Coen brothers, The Dardennes brothers(fr), Bruno Dumont, Claire Denis, Antoine Fuqua, P T Anderson, Audiard, Haneke, Canet, Scorsese, you name them…None of them would have made it to the pantheon as after Sarris’ criteria? Many of them has a lot less in their body of work… I dunno, I would root for Fuqua, just because of his mad anger…
Just remembered that I’m the only one sitting with the book in my hand…the Pantheon is: Chaplin, Flaherty, Ford, Griffith (disagree), Hawks, Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Lang, Lubitsch, Murnau, Ophuls, Renoir (disagree), von Sternberg, Welles.
then the Far Side of Paradise is: Aldrich, Borzage, Capra, Cukor, de Mille, Edwards, Fuller, la Cava, Losey, Mann, McCarey, Minnelli, Preminger, Nicholas Ray, Sirk, George Stevens, von Stroheim, Preston Sturges, King Vidor, Raoul Walsh,
then third: Expressive Esoterica: Boetticher, de Toth, Donen, Donner, Dwan, Garnett, Holt, Phil Karlson, Lewis, Mackendrick, Mulligan, Gerd Oswald, Arthur Penn, Sherman, Siegel, Siodmak, Stahl, Tashlin, Tourneur, Ulmer, Roland West.
fourth: Fringe Benefits: Antonioni, Bunuel (both I think are higher up), Chabrol, Clair, Clement, Eisenstein (should be in the Pantheon), Pabst, Polanski, Rossellini, Truffaut, Visconti.
fifth, Less Than Meets the Eye: Huston, Kazan, David Lean, Mamoulian, Mankiewicz, Milestone, Reed, Wellmann, Wilder, Wyler, Zinnemann.
sixth, Lightly Likeable: Berkeley, Cornelius, Cromwell, Curtiz, d’Arrast, Delmer Daves, Goulding, Haskin, Hathaway, Kanin, Burt Kennedy, Alexander and Zoltan Korda Leisen, le Roy, Schaffner, Sidney, Stone, Walters, Whale…