Why must people persist in reflecting back on the sixties in a humorous but cynical manner, as if all the existential issues brought up in cinema and the other arts have been swept under the carpet and should be “kept where they belong”. It’s as though one day people just woke up and said, “to hell with questioning ourselves.” And from that day on the sixties have become a laughingstock. Here’s a little blurb from Michael Atkinson regarding Antonioni’s Red Desert, which expresses what I mean, and I’m surprised a film critic of his acumen and stature would stoop so low: http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-08-31/film/painted-wasteland-antonioni-s-red-desert-at-bam/
When I read this I can only ask myself, “Is he honestly for real?” Perhaps some bias is kicking in, since I happen to love the film, but it still reeks of ignorance. In all sincerity, why must people cotinue to blindly mock the sixties, and all that they represented. Sure, there was certainly a lot of pretension back then, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s not as though the issues and dilemmas significant back then have been resolved they’ve simply been swept under the carpet and have been replaced with ‘common sense’.
I see critics, directors and mubi users rate the 60’s as one of the 2 or 3 best decades in history. laughingstock for who exactly?
Read the blurb I linked to. Michael Atkinson for one refers to Antonioni as fashionable glamorous alienations and thinks of Bergman as a pop existentialist. I know he’s only person, but it’s an example that should get my point across.
Or perhaps the issue with many critics is they simply can’t just bow down and confess a given artist isn’t their cup of tea. They always need to find a way to rationalize their dislike of a given oeuvre.
Antonioni does a better job at tapping into some interesting cultural themes than a lot of the other 60s existentialists. This article seems less about negating 60s idealism and more about snobbish anti-snobbery. If I may coin the term, he is a ‘Philisnob’. Somebody who takes self-righteous snobbish delight in calling people self-righteous snobs.
I think the idealism of the 60s is still alive and well, it’s just the aesthetics that have slipped into obscurity. Through miring in cynical films about the folly of humanity they secretly long to live in the world of Star Trek. They question reality without defining it according to hippie aesthetics and Lennon-borrowed language.
A critic’s job is to rationalize. I think Red Desert (and Antonioni in general) is brilliant, but I actually really like that piece. I don’t think it’s making fun of the ‘60s. If anything it’s (gently) mocking Voice readers.
Oh, and for the record, I don’t think you characterization of Atkinson’s view of Bergman is accurate. Written shortly after Bergman’s death:
“So, as much as the grim Swede may have seemed in his meridian to be an indomitable voice, his pantheon status has been as fragile as an eggshell. In today’s cultural market, he’s been a nowhere man. Still, as cinephiles with memories know, fashion will not win in the end, and Bergman, a classical giant with modernist ordnance, will eventually reemerge as essential for all ages. Whereas the iconic dream symbolism of Wild Strawberries, Sawdust and Tinsel, The Seventh Seal, The Magician, The Devil’s Eye and Hour of the Wolf can still curdle, and those films remain powerful and fascinating despite, not because of, their famously distinctive Bergmanesqueries, Through a Glass Darkly strikes a dazzling balance between familial psychodrama and spiritual upheaval, The Silence is almost a piece of Soviet science fiction, and Persona remains a masterful layer cake of psycho-diegetic pastry, vulnerable to dozens of readings and satisfying none (though it still seems to me to be a pas de deux between the psychiatric patient-filmmaker, craving connection and vomiting his secrets into the abyss, and the therapist-audience, who sits silently and judgmentally and gives nothing back). Shame is a blistering, world-beating, non-specific portrait of domestic warfare that didn’t need Death on the beach or handless clocks. If Cries and Whispers seemed Bergman redux (and amped up with self-mutilation and unsettlingly gorgeous color cinematography), then Scenes from a Marriage, Face to Face and Autumn Sonata resound still with determination to squeeze every drop of blood from broken hearts. Fanny & Alexander, of course, is exactly the kind of rich, timeless, cautionless magnum opus we can only receive, like benedictions, from artists who’ve paid their generation’s dues of sweat, risk, tears and honesty (the film’s iconography, from household spaces made menacing to ghosts and suggestions of God himself, virtually catalogues Bergman’s ‘50s-‘60s filmography). The earlier films are perfectly appointed genre dramas; the latter, indulgent self-examinations (that goes for the last, family-biographical screenplays, too). But nowhere, not even in the gradually reevaluated The Serpent’s Egg, is there a lazy, unambitious or unoriginal directorial moment. It doesn’t happen every day that we lose one of an entire art form’s aboriginal movers. When will he reenter the pantheon?”
He’s probably just annoyed with how fashionable they were and is being unfair.
Ah, I just read it… he’s being your usual, cynical, dismissive anti-intellectual.
This in the comments:
“LSD—-Let (the) Sixties Die….glad that the reviewer doesn’t take this movie seriously—-those days are over.
And richard harris in this movie is almost as pretty as monica….being a drunken idiot gave harris some much needed wrinkles.”
Thankfully answered with this:
“Yes, yes, you’re absolutely right. Anything that is more than three years old should slide quietly into obscurity. What good is the past? A film like Il Deserto Rosso only reminds us that immersion in metaphor and narrative and a visual approximation of the apocalypse of the modern world is just so…sixties. I mean, what’s on reality television tonight? Will the Bachelorette choose Bachelor number one or Bachelor number seven? Inquiring minds want to know.”
This guy Atkinson is the same as the people who consider Blow up dated because of the clothes.
I’m assuming you extracted that piece on Bergman from IFC’s website. It was clearly tweaked to seem more revelatory. His more honest version can be seen on his blog Zero For Conduct in which he prefaces the piece with the following:
“Another thunder lizard falls – over a half-century after what has come to be known as “the art film” emerged onto postwar American screens, the Greatest Generation (semi-irony siren, please) takes another hit with the passing of an 89-year-old Ingmar Bergman, at once a dinosaur, a one-man New Wave, a mammoth formal influence, a pioneering pop existentialist, a despot in his own nation of cinematic currency, an unexploitable navel-focused artiste who did not bow to the world’s entertainment will but instead made it bow to him, an unestimable provider of cultural fuel to the rise of college-educated counter culture between 1959 and 1980, and, let’s face it, an astonishingly adventurous sensibility that embraced virtually every stripe of expression available to him, from melodrama to the world’s most overt symbolism to gritty realism to epic pageant, farce and avant-garde psycho-obscurism."
In terms of film, there’s nothing to laugh about. The 60s were a huge game changer.
Didn’t Pauline Kael make fun of the sixties in the sixties? Yeah, “The Sick of Soul Europe Parties: La Notte, La Dolce Vita, Marienbad”
To be fair, Atkinson isn’t making fun of the sixties so much as a very specific subset of movies. And that subset of movies, about despair, might appeal to the average Voice reader (as Matt noted), and it seems that Atkinson may not even be ripping on the movies so much as taking a sarcastic approach at pushing his readers to rethink exactly what it is that they see in the films.
“I’m assuming you extracted that piece on Bergman from IFC’s website”
No, I’ve read the whole piece on his blog, and I assumed you had as well since you were pulling the one line “pop existentialist” from it out of context. As someone with a major ‘60s Euroteur fetish, is it the ideas being expressed in the piece that you are objecting to, or is it the particular language that he’s using to express these ideas doesn’t seem reverent enough? It seems to me easy enough to separate the two.
“As someone with a major ‘60s Euroteur fetish”
Oh, give me a break. You know full well what I’m objecting to. Stop playing dumb. I know you’re smarter than that. You just refuse to show it sometimes. The fact that he used the word ‘pop’ in that context says everything about his attitude regardless of whether or not he likes Bergman. It’s the philisnobbery as coined by Jirin that gets on my nerves, as though Atkinson places himself above the work and the artist. He has no humility. At least Roger Ebert can be humble, even when he’s baffled by a Godard flick.
“The fact that he used the word ‘pop’ in that context says everything about his attitude regardless of whether or not he likes Bergman. "
No it does not. Film is a popular medium. At most, if one wants to wax Christgauian, one could call art cinema “semipop.” And, if one bother’s to interpret even the whole phrase “pioneering pop existentialist” rather than just responding to a single word, it’s easy enough to see that he’s talking about being among the first filmmakers to introduce existentialist themes into popular culture. So let’s not have a hissy fit of bourgeois anxiety over the thought of Bergman being associated with popular culture, or, for that matter, critics refusing to silently prostrate themselves before our favorite films (which, by the way, makes for bad crit and boring prose). I assure you that neither Antonioni or Bergman are brittle enough that they’ll shatter beneath the touch.
Well I guess that all depends on how one defines popular culture.
Whether one is a Bergman fan or not is beside the point, but tell me there isn’t an anti-intellectual undercurrent to this article no matter how subtle: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2007/jul/31/ingmarbergmanwasatitan
The whole practice of making fun of “foreign art films” and their “pretentious” fans is just as if not more cliche than the “tropes” of the films themselves.
Ah, yes, Queenan’s a bit different for me, so we’re probably closer on what we’re willing to read in to that one.
To me, Queenan is more of a satirically-orientated cultural critic who occasionally reviews films, and his writing tends to be much more mainstream-orientated than does Atkinson’s (He’s closer to Dan Kois, who I dislike even more, than he is to Atkinson). In that context, to me, the intellectual problem with that Queenan’s piece is that it assumes the reader to have certain objections (“Bergman was pretentious” chief among them), that must be overcome before a legitimate case can be made for his being a great artist, and this seems to me to not generally be the case . . . unless one is writing primarily for an audience that isn’t interested in Bergman in the first place and probably still won’t be after reading about him (and if this is the case, writing about Bergman for this audience seems to defeating the purpose of writing about Bergman). To me it makes much more sense to just assume a certain degree of interest in/appreciation of Bergman and go from there (or, if one wants to go iconoclast, commission something like the piece the NY Times had Rosenbaum write).
“The whole practice of making fun of “foreign art films” and their “pretentious” fans is just as if not more cliche than the “tropes” of the films themselves.”
Sure. To return to Atkinson briefly, though. Here are the films he voted for in the recent Sight & Sound poll:
Aguirre, Wrath of God
Celine and Julie Go Boating
Man Escaped, A
Pierrot le Fou
Règle du jeu, La
. . . 7 out of 10 of his selections are “foreign art films” (although only the Godard is from the ‘60s), so if he’s categorically making fun of this type of films or the people who watch them, he seems to have to be making fun of himself in the process.
All fair points.
“…Atkinson places himself above the work and the artist.”
Yeah, it’s almost like he asserts that the only real reason people like these films is for the cache it gives them…
Philistine snobbery, indeed.
“So let’s not have a hissy fit of bourgeois anxiety over the thought of Bergman being associated with popular culture…”
The man did win 3 Academy Awards and was nominated for 9 others. So he is almost undoubtedly one of, if not the most popular “art” filmmaker of his generation.
Doesn’t like the fashionableness of Bergman and Antonioni. Who does? But what he said in the beginning was too much. I don’t like Red Desert either but Antonioni’s concerns can’t be dismissed as fashionable sixties baloney.
Let’s just be thankful that we’re “pretentious” enough to care about the use of language to convey critical dismissal of a large cinematic figure, but not “pretentious” enough to use “bologna” over “baloney.”
To be fair, I feel there’s sometimes this ambiguously expressed notion and sentiment within certain Anglo-Saxon circles that filmmakers like Bergman, Antonioni, Godard, et al. fed the thirst of hip young people for seemingly serious art at a time when they sought to turn their backs on the past and overthrow everything represented by the generation of their parents.
In other words, they enjoyed ‘serious’ films, because it seemingly provided them with a sense of engaging in high culture but in a supposedly instantly gratifying manner without them having to put in the effort to plow through a classic work of literature. Naysayers felt it all surface artistry to dazzle the perhaps superficial sensibilities of self-consciously hip rebels.
To make it simple, I feel it was perhaps many of the people who kneeled at the throne of someone like Antonioni which fules skepticism. Antonioni was hip and cool on college campuses while reading Shakespeare, which was arguably more intellectually demanding in the eyes of some, was seen as passe. Detractors I think felt a film like Persona, for example, was seemingly serious and profound while actually being less intellectually demanding, quickly curing young people’s thirst for seriousness in a way a work of literature couldn’t since much more patience and active intellectual engagement was required on the part of the reader.
I don’t necessarily agree with all of this entirely, but these sorts of sentiments I feel fuled many of the detractors who criticized Antonioni and Bergman for being intellectually shallow. There was this feeling people stopped reading literature as it was seemingly replaced by a less intellectually demanding art form.
The 60’s were an awesome time for movies…