Friday, January 2, 2009

But of Course

But of course these movies are off-putting. Of course they are in black and white, and this bothers people. Some people want to see movies in color, no matter else. So they discount them. They dismiss them. As though this were a reasonable criticism. As though this were a good reason to discard all this heavy lifting that has been done for us. Why not 3-D, I’d want to know? Why not insist a movie be in 3-D to be acceptable? There is no verisimilitude in 2-D. The world is 3-D, isn’t it? Why shouldn’t we insist for a movie to be engaging and moving and thought-provoking and satisfying and interesting that it be 3-D?

But of course It’s a Wonderful Life is constructed in a different idiom. Using a different idiom. A different set if acting rules and linguistic rules and conventions and currencies and cultural markers. Just as Shakespeare does. I don’t know if you have read much Shakespeare or seen much of it performed, but it takes a lot from us for us to get something substantial out of all that gobbledygook. All that vocabulary difference. That acting convention difference. That culture difference. That stage convention difference. And the idiom difference is an impediment. Yes. So?

But of course It’s a Wonderful Life is a tad melodramatic. But so is. Oh. Macbeth for example. If you will disallow all melodrama and any sense of it, you will have a greatly impoverished understanding of human beings and the simulacra they make.

But of course a different idiom requires something of us. Requires more than rolling out of bed. Any understanding of art requires more than rolling out of bed. Throughout the tradition of any art form, the rules will change. The idiom will change. And what we see exhibited in any art form today will seem modern or contemporary or what have you. And everything else will seem old fashioned. Will seem dated. Quaint. A little silly. To us superior moderns. Or post moderns. Or whatever stinking pseudo-honorific we like to apply to ourselves like a medal this particular month or year or decade.

But of course Schindler’s List is a difficult movie to. Oh. Want to return to. Actually want to see again. Because of all the death. Because of all the evil everywhere. It is hard, just as life is often hard. Just as life is often full of death. Full of evil. But listen here, my dear. Get a little backbone, please. Get a little spine. Get out here with the rest of us in the howling and experience this. Understand this. Live fully in this real life that is always full of death and evil. And expect art to contain this too, because it wants. When it is good. To imitate the full tilt boogie actuality of our lives. And to do so faithfully.

But of course these movies are about extraordinary characters. Characters who are not like us, to the extent they are extraordinary. And that is also off-putting. But after all they emerge from the ordinary stuff. Ordinary flesh and blood. That we emerge from. That veils us also from pure being. From the world of pure spirit. And they put one foot in front of the other much as we do. Listening to their hearts and doing more or less what their hearts cajole them into doing. At least some of the time. In the carefully selected scope of what they are made to be. For us.

2 comments:

amy said...

i don't doubt that all of this is true. but. it does not persuade me to want to watch black and white (old) movies because movies just aren't that important to me and i don't want to have to work to enjoy them. there are so many great (new) movies that do i want them to do--entertain, move, distract--and i don't even see 1/10th of those becuase i see a movie maybe twice a month...so why go back to the old ones that require more work? if the new ones work for me then really what am i missing? movies are like candy to me--i don't have them that often and when i do its for a particular craving for something instantly accesible and delicious. much different from my craving for a unique cheese or challanging dish. for that i might go to a book or a conversation or a walk. but for a piece of candy i don't really want to try the chocolate enhanced with black pepper and cardomom--i just want some junior mints please :)

Bill said...

Okay. Yes. We each of us must must be pretty careful about time management. Only so many hours in the day for this that and the other thing. One must prioritize. And it is therefore perfectly reasonable to set aside various categories of potential experience because of personal taste and time. What I object to is dismissal of good art for bogus reasons. I thought I heard the latter rather than the former when we spoke. But I stand corrected and happily so. It was lovely seeing you!