Btb3
Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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10/05/2005

Comments

Michael

I don't know the films of Robert Wise well enough to comment on him in particular, but I agree that American independent films, generally speaking, are more idiosyncratic than they are radical or groundbreaking. Hollywood's empire is commercial, not artistic, and the soaring costs of making a film inhibit truly radical thinking about the movies. These days, I think one has to go outside of America to find filmmakers who are trying to move the medium forward; there's Sokurov in Russia, for example, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien in China, among others. The conservatism of American filmmaking is too prevalent, too stifling, and it's unfortunate.

chris

One who I believe is thinking about film in fresh ways is Darren Aronofsky. And as flawed as I thought both BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION were, I am very intrigued by the work of both Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman and I suppose Gondry too. I think at his best Hal Hartley has approached film in a new way. And, leaving the most loaded name until last, I'm a fan of the master bricoleur, Quentin Tarantino. I'm only mentioning those working within the commercial system. I can probably come up with more than a few more.

Dan Green

I've seen Aronofsky's *Requiem for a Dream*. I liked it, but it seemed to me its success was due at least as much to Hugh Selby as to the direction.

I'm afraid I can't agree that *Malkovich* and *Adaptation* are in any way innovative. They're bloodless imitations of John Barth.

Hartley has never done much for me. Although he isn't a commercial hack, at least.

I like Tarantino, but he seems to me the epitome of an enthused traditionalist rather than an innovator.

chris

Dan,

You may be right, particularly about Jonze/Kaufman/Tarantino, though I would disagree that inventiveness necessarily requires "innovation." Sometimes, a la Tarantino, it's knowing what to steal.

But isn't it ironic that in many ways "Hollywood" has assimilated and regularly avails itself of postmodern narrative techniques, aided by inventive filmmaking, that contemporary commercial literature only infrequently uses and that contemporary book reviewing goes out of its way to disparage? When's the last time a book that got as much attention as ADAPTATION was anything that might bring John Barth to mind?

Dan Green

Chris: You make a very good point. There does seem to be less hostility among film critics to adventurous filmmaking than there is among certain book critics to experimental fiction.

Flickhead

Far be it for me to "set the record straight," as I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning, let alone what I was thinking when I wrote that Robert Wise obit a few weeks ago. But what I believe I had intended when I said "Robert Wise represents a cinematic language that’s rarely ever spoken anymore" was that his old-school approach to character and plot development is radically different from today's mainstream cinema, which has mostly abandoned the fundamentals so as to "cut to the chase."

In any event, I enjoyed reading your comments.

Dan Green

Thanks for the clarification. I would still observe, however, that if anything today's independents tend to share Wise's more patient approach to character and plot. There's nothing wrong with this, and it is a respite from the slam-bang thriller, but it's not less conservative than Wise's method.

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