Hey, thanks for showing those quotes without revealing any details about the film. I appreciate it!
I’m still not sure I understand Mac’s point. It now sounds like he means that Aronofsky’s filmmaking should reflect the content (i.e. if he’s making films about chaos, the filmmaking shouldn’t be so controlled). If that’s true, I’m not sure I agree with that—or at least that’s not the biggest problem I have with the film.
but The Wrestler is a special slice of cinema that is one of the best american movies of the decade.
If I get the guts, I’ll find the thread and we can go toe-to-toe on this. :) (Seriously, though I’ll look for the thread if you want to go into this more.)
There is no such thing as trying too hard. If you look like you’re trying too hard it’s because you’re not trying hard enough to hide how hard you’re trying.
Thus no directors fail because of trying too hard to be great, because you can never try too hard to be great.
This, plus, “Who cares what you think?” Most people would say that Peter Greenaway tries too hard (another way of saying he’s ‘pretentious’) – but such statements are themselves merely pretentious statements that imply that the director is not trying in the way that the speaker wants them to. Instead of talking about how hard they try, why not talk about the actual film? How hard they try is always entirely secondary, which is an indication that it’s merely a construct that is used to avoid addressing the content of the film. It’s much easier to attack something that’s not in a film than something that is.
‘lacking an inner darkness of his own’
‘tried his best tragic artist / egoist routine’
‘he wants badly to be psychotic or tormented and in his films creates a fantasy of psychosis’
‘what separates an artist who aspires only to be a proper technician of the cinema (Rivette) from a good cinematic technician who wants only to be an artist (Aronofsky) is depth’
I wonder what Ignatiy would say about Shohei Imamura.
I don’t think Scorsese had in mind while filming Taxi Driver that he is making one of the greatest films of
all time. he just somehow struck the right chord.
you sure? you’re going to end up like Trevor Berbick in his bout with Mike Tyson. :))))
Naw, I consider myself closer to Holyfield. Just don’t bite me ear (twice!) :)
Exactly how is it a “Grade A hack piece?” Also, have you noticed that your responses contain many more personal attacks (against me), than my piece did (against D.A.)?
I believe my only comments about you personally have been direct parody of your personal comments about Aronofsky, but for the most part I’m attempting to personally talk to you (marked contrast to ‘write an opinion piece about’, in my view) about the principle behind your work. Now, if it’s just supposed to be a work of fictive art then I have no problems with it, it’s entertaining. If it is supposed to be a work of criticism I find it highly dubious, and I’m surprised that you don’t justify your approach more clearly. Your article claims that he is not an artist (though now it seems you intend this to be an interpretation of self-appraisal rather than your own appraisal), compares him to a film student, implies that he overstates his troubles and wishes they were worse (‘he wants badly to be psychotic or tormented’), and then claim that it’s not a hack piece? What? What is a hack piece if not that? That is, to me, the definition of a hack piece: A persistent attack on someone’s personal character. This is not an ungrounded assertion like your supposition of his intentions and not a personal attack, it is merely a justified appraisal of a piece of writing.
you know how good old Dwayne Johnson used to say, “just bring it”. :)))
1) I would say that Shohei Imamura is a great filmmaker. But that raises an interesting question — what would your reaction be if the piece was in praise of Aronofsky?
2) What’s wrong with being a film student? What’s wrong with not being an artist? It seems that some of this “negativity” exists only in your own prejudices.
3) Whether we like it or not, the way a person directs is an outgrowth of their personalities and interests. Style is just another word for worldview.
That, incidentally, is the basis of classical auteurism — that an auteur is not someone with a “distinct style,” but a person whose style is the inevitable outgrowth of their view of the world, which in turn is visible through said style. I think if one looks deep enough into Aronofsky’s films, their “machine-like” qualities become apparent. There’s nothing wrong with those qualities on their own, but one gets the sense that Aronofsky isn’t quite so cynical.
Unfortunately, a criticism of a person’s filmmaking is therefore a criticism of their character.
4) Criticism is in a sense fiction, because even a lengthy essay on a film is not the film; rather, it is something spawned from the film in the same way the film is spawned from ideas / emotions within the filmmakers, within their surroundings, within culture, history, etc.
It is for that reason also dishonest to treat films as objects that exist independently of everything. Cinema — like art — is not some force out of the ether; it is the product of human expression and work. When one talks about a film, they inevitably talk about those humans, as well as other humans who have toiled similarly, whether they acknowledge it or not.
What I think you want me to do is to write a review for you that tells you whether I liked the film, and whether I think you’ll like it. But this isn’t it; in fact, it’s not really about Black Swan or Aronofsky, but about the issues both bring up, and the way they intersect with things that are both smaller and larger than themselves — because when we talk about films, we are also talking about everything else.
“How hard they try is always entirely secondary, which is an indication that it’s merely a construct that is used to avoid addressing the content of the film. It’s much easier to attack something that’s not in a film than something that is.”
Do you mean that the directors input (that is, how hard they tried) is not in the film? And what if someone wants to talk about something else than “content”? Like “style” or maybe the feeling of the film…
Whoever it was who first noted how Hawks films seems like they were made while the crew was having a good time made an (in my eyes) interesting point about Hawks and his films.
_That, incidentally, is the basis of classical auteurism — that an auteur is not someone with a “distinct style,” but a person whose style is the inevitable outgrowth of their view of the world, which in turn is visible through said style. I think if one looks deep enough into Aronofsky’s films, their “machine-like” qualities become apparent. There’s nothing wrong with those qualities on their own, but one gets the sense that Aronofsky isn’t quite so cynical.
Unfortunately, a criticism of a person’s filmmaking is therefore a criticism of their character._
I don’t think I’ve heard that concept of the auteur theory (but it’s not like I’ve done any reading on it). I can understand that a filmmaker’s general perspective of the world influences her style, but I’m not sure if there is a kind of one-to-one correspondence that Ignatiy’s remark implies. Certainly, equating filmmaking with characters seems to go a bit too far.
Sounds like a good topic to discuss.
It’s not a one to one correlation, but one feeds off of the other. However, if we assume that the way a film is directed has moral, political, “artistic,” etc. qualities, then a discussion of the direction is indirectly a discussion of the morality, politics, etc., of the filmmakers.
And, in turn, “style” outweights “content.”
Luc Moullet’s famous analysis of The Thing from Another World (brackets appear in the quoted translation): “Theoretically, this is an anti-communist movie made during the cold war—an anti-communism which is not [actually there] but can none the less be [surmised], as it was shot in 1950-1951. Curiously though, as in many other Hawks films, the film constantly shows many people acting simultaneously. In each sequence, Hawks shows us the behaviour of a small group—five or ten people. The action takes place in a station in Alaska or in the Great North, isolated from the world—it’s a huis-clos film. Each character has a professional and personalized function and the film shows how they react as if each actor was at the same time directed and his own director. This is a real orchestration: not only a personal itinerary but one of an entire group, which leads me to say that The Thing From Another World is a communist film [that validates] the true nature of communism.”"
However, if we assume that the way a film is directed has moral, political, “artistic,” etc. qualities, then a discussion of the direction is indirectly a discussion of the morality, politics, etc., of the filmmakers.
I can understand the filmmaking having “artistic” qualities, of course, but less clear about how filmmaking—i.e. use of the camera, editing, cinematography, etc. versus the content—can be “moral” or “political.” This might be tough to answer, but if you have an examples that would be cool.
Some things that may be helpful:
The Moullet piece in question (which I wish I could find the full text of online) is a fairly classic example on the subject of how a film’s “aesthetic politics” can overturn the content. In the opposite direction, there’s Robin Wood’s take on Triumph of the Will, where he clearly (and pretty viciously) elucidates that a defense of the film as “pure cinema” (this was written after the film had already developed a reputation as a “depoliticized” film school staple) is a defense of fascism, because every aspect of the film’s framing and editing supports fascist political theory — and would still be fascist if it were applied to any other content. It can be found via Google Books here.
The granddaddy of these, for many critics, is a sentence in a review of Kapo by Jacques Rivette. The sentence itself is at the center of an essay by Serge Daney (entitled “The Tracking Shot in Kapo”) on the effect criticism had on him as a young cinephile. It goes like this:
“Look however in Kapo, the shot where Riva commits suicide by throwing herself on electric barbwire: the man who decides at this moment to make a forward tracking shot to reframe the dead body – carefully positioning the raised hand in the corner of the final framing – this man is worthy of the most profound contempt.”
Rivette’s point is that, faced with a scene of brutality (relating to the Holocaust, whose depiction is arguably the greatest moral question in cinema — one which Claude Lanzmann, in Shoah, handles by never showing any archival footage), Gillo Pontecorvo can’t overcome his instinct to make the shot look as pretty as possible. His “artistic” sensibilities trump his morals, and so he is unable to show an ugly thing for what it is, and has the camera dolly forward slightly so that the shot “looks good,” regardless of what’s going on.
Now it’s important to remember that Rivette isn’t using this single shot against the film — rather, it is symptomatic of what is wrong with Pontecorvo. This expands on a classic Godard statement — “tracking shots are a question of morality” — which, though ambiguous, sums up the interrelation between aesthetic choices and moral ones.
I personally felt that the movie was knowingly quite shallow…and all the more entertaining for it: very funny at times with the sold-out audience laughing along with it (only occasionally “at” it, it seemed). That humor was a welcome and necessary relief from the spot-on genre-conscious gross-out moments skillfully deployed and executed homogeneously over the course of the movie. However, the closing 10 minutes do seem to strangely demand that the previous hour-fifty of entertainment be taken as something much more profound than was actually experienced. That was weird. Perhaps the conclusion was supposed to be truly shocking when it came off instead as inevitable, but I felt it was requesting deep emotional investment in a character who I’d instead been content to simply marvel at the surface dangers of. If there was any misstep on Aronofsky’s part, in my opinion, it was simply this abrupt concluding shift away from the rest of the film’s successful mischievousness. Mad me think of this incident which I remembering finding quite playful when I saw it on live TV, and that made me wish the story somehow wrapped with the same energy.
You mean if it was positive propaganda? I wouldn’t think it was equally dishonest but less repugnant. It’s a matter of principle, not the direction of the spin.
You can’t be serious.
Seeing as you already dismissed references to auteurism once in this thread it seems odd that you would now bring it up in some sort of defense. Is this supposed to say that you circumvented addressing the film because your criticisms of the film would have been personal attacks, so you just jumped directly to the personal? I don’t know of any other person who would agree with your assertion that you cannot speak of a film independently from the director, so I guess that’s just a personal quirk of yours.
What I think you want me to do is to write a review for you that tells you whether I liked the film, and whether I think you’ll like it.
That is the exact opposite of what has been implied, since I railed against your composition of every sentence as merely a reflection of your negative opinion.
Yes, interdependency is important to note. Unfortunately you have removed all of these interdependent factors and merely identified ‘that which I think about the film’ with ‘that which I think about the film’s director’, and then proceeded to make hilariously ridiculous accusations (’ he wants badly to be psychotic or tormented’) without the slightest sense of irony. Have you ever written anything fictional that was not a direct and explicit expression of your desires?
I could cite a similar director, Andrzej Zulawski, who created films full of psychological torment and heavily subjective camerawork. Did this originate in his desire to be a psychotic? No, because that would be absolutely ridiculous. In fact, he developed a style in a film about circumstances that his father faced while being fed on by typhus infected lice while simultaneously struggling (and failing) to keep his kids alive through the war. I hardly think that he wanted to experience such an experience himself just because he chose to portray it, and saying as much would be both insulting to him and to the experience he chose to represent.
If we accept, for the sake of argument, that my opinion is “negative,” would you rather the sentences were reflective of something other than my opinions?
Ignatiy, you’re missing the point again.
There is a bit more nuance than merely separating things into opinion and fact, thankfully.
In Ripstein’s work, especially in El lugar sin límites, La mujer del puerto and Profundo carmesí, I’d say that he lets his fascination with pathological behaviors get the best of him. Thus his character studies tend to become sensationalist showcases and lose dramatic balance. But the “study” part of his work (which might lend it to seem as “trying too hard”) I don’t mind—it might even be his strength, especially as backed up by his careful eye for art direction and camerawork.
At the very least it’s a complaint that can be substantiated from examples in the film, and I would not separate style or feeling from this. Those are the content of the film. Of course, I’m not really sure what the point of these negative criticisms are – what do you do once you determine that you think he thinks too much? That’s the end, isn’t it? It just becomes trivia, a list of things you can list that you don’t like. It’s certainly not a step toward appreciating the film, except perhaps to say, “At least he’s thinking – now what’s he thinking about? Maybe there’s something interesting that he thought about that I didn’t notice.” Of course, that approach may invalidate the previous opinion, but I guess that’s the danger you take in film appreciation – it makes negative criticisms irrelevant.
Less a “missing the point” and more a failed move to discern Leaves’ particular game. The issue that Leaves seems to still be arguing here, however slyly, relates to an invented statement (“D.A. thinks too much”).
So, we begin with a little sarcasm, and then a little bile directed at Rossi: I think it’s a great article and these are all great choices. We all know that the best art comes from those who put the least effort forth. Now, this is quite obviously not what the little post in question is about. But Leaves expands (still directed at Rossi): The reason you don’t like these artists’ works is not because they try too hard, as you have admitted that you think one must try hard to make great art, but because you don’t like their work … You don’t like their work and then you manufacture some silly construct like ‘trying too hard’ even though you explicitly contradict that point. Though he (I’m gonna guess Leaves is male for our purposes) is still talking about Rossi, this is essentially his complaint with the article as well, albeit he realizes at some point that what he’s arguing against wasn’t actually written by me.
This attack – the accusation of “fabricated reasoning” – remains the same, while the targets shift continually.
Leaves adds a second, paradoxical, attack to this: that the weakness of the article is its consistency. My question “would you rather the sentences were reflective of something other than my opinions? ” doesn’t imply that they should instead be, uh, “facts,” but that Leaves’ line of questioning is inherently inconsistent and hypocritical: his earliest accusations—that these are unrelated arguments strung together to “propagandize” a negative opinion of the director—slowly give way to another accusation about how the wording and writing are too consistent to the same ends.
There are trees in the forest!
But is there a forest between all of these goddamn trees?
What do you think about LEAVES’ Zulawski example?
Zulawski is an interesting point of comparison (I think, for example, of Adjani’s performance in Possession), but a poor example if he wants to make an argument. “Too much forest, not enough trees,” you could say. If a man steals $20 out of malice, the fact that someone else did it out of need does not disprove the maliciousness of the act.
So you’re analysis of Darren is correct because…?
My “analysis” — if 500 words can be called that (and “Technicians and Artists” was intended only as a brief set of general observations) — boils to the idea that Aronofsky is a very skilled director (a point for which, admittedly, I offer no proof, but which has so far gone unquestioned) who has made a few good films, and who shares neither the worldview nor the experience that he is fixated upon.
A few of his films are well-crafted and self-contained, but he romanticizes a self-sacrificing relentlessness that he himself lacks. Black Swan, The Wrestler, The Fountain and Pi are all about people who put every fiber of their being into an obsession, and are either triumphant or are destroyed by it — that, to me, seems to be Aronofsky’s idea of “art.”
The fact that Aronofsky is neither as reckless nor as masochistic as his characters is evident in the detail with which he constructs his films (the black-and-white napkins cited at the end), which speaks to an ability to step aside and always think of the greater design. In that sense, he is admirable as a technician, but he is also a tragic figure, because he dreams about the one thing he doesn’t have.
Or maybe it’s just a subject that interests him. A fixation with a subject doesn’t mean one wants to be within the system of his interest. Nor is his attention to detail an example about how he isn’t akin to his subjects. His expression doesn’t need to be inline with how the characters presented would theoretically make that movie. The detail example is poor because OCD, for example, is marked by an obsessive need for things to be in a particular way regardless of the affects on yourself or those around you.
You seem to take issue with the fact that he doesn’t express his fixactions the way you want him to rather than how he expresses his fixations. You’re making an awful lot of personal judgments (ie lacks self-sacrifice) about him as well.
As usual a film discussion devolves into a discussion of writing and opinions rather than the film itself. Some really rich stuff in here, thanks all for participation, I wish all articles at the Notebook generated 3 pages of heated response. I hope it can stay civil and get to the issues rather than the writers.
Ignatiy: I’ve been with you to a point throughout this series of exchanges. I’m thrown by the unexplored contradictions of your post post, in which you simultaneously deny DA’s self-sacrificing streak AND affirm his status as a tragic hero, much like the ones he has brought to the screen in his technically proficient (arty and artless) was. I can’t help but feel you’re treating the director as character, especially in your last sentence, in which you claim to be able to read DA’s dreams. If he’s a character, though, we don’t need to worry about the intentionalist fallacy.