^ In what sense? From the point of view of narrative cinema, it’s impossible not to recognize its importance. At the same time, we can also recognize that the film is horribly and unforgivably racist. What would the argument even be about? Nobody is going to argue that it’s not racist.
Here are some films that are more poetic, theme-based or conceptual versus narrative-driven:
Mirror (Tarkovsky), 2001, Gabbeh (Mahkmalbaf), Color of Pomegranates (Parajanov), Koyaanisqatsi (Reggio).
Santino: “…aka – a big stinky pile of fecal matter.”
Grimes: “Indeed….a huge waste of time…I want those two hours back in the worst possible way.”
I can see people not liking the film, and I don’t think it’s flawed (like other David O. Russell films, especially his comedies), but I’m surprised by this reaction. I really liked Hoffman and Tomlin in this, but I also like philosophy, so I got a kick out of the jokes related to that.
//I can see people not liking the film, and I don’t think it’s flawed (like other David O. Russell films, especially his comedies), but I’m surprised by this reaction. I really liked Hoffman and Tomlin in this, but I also like philosophy, so I got a kick out of the jokes related to that.//
I think I was so disappointed in Huckabees because I was a big fan of Three Kings. I am also a big fan of The Fighter.
I haven’t seen any of the above films but would you consider Russian Ark a similar work to any of the above? I remember enjoying Russian Ark pretty much and it did not have a narrative structure to speak of.
(Shoot, I meant to say that I Heart is flawed.)
The film is very different from Three Kings and The Fighter, so I can see why you didn’t like it. (Don’t see Flirting with Disaster. It has some good moments, but like I Heart, the movie is a bit of a sprawling mess—but fun nevertheless.)
I haven’t seen Russian Ark, so I can’t comment.
I think The Birth of a Nation divides people along the lines of “it’s very important to narrative cinema, you have to look at it objectively, racism was normal back then” and “regardless of how important it is, it’s disgustingly racist and shouldn’t be regarded so highly”. I fall in the latter camp, btw.
Six Feet Under had a really good first season but went downhill.
I only saw the first episode of True Blood and couldn’t stand it. The whole ‘Vampires as minority group’ thing was sort of clever but really gimmicky, but what put me off was the characters. All the dialog was forced and made the characters all come off as over the top stereotypes, and it was even more obnoxiously sex obsessed as the later seasons of Six Feet Under. (In the very first scene, two people are driving and the woman just sort of randomly reaches into the man’s pants. That’s the tone immediately.)
I can’t defend the racism of Birth of a Nation but I do think it shouldn’t be judged completely from a modern context. DW Griffith’s father lived in that post-civil war era where everybody in the South was poor and families who were powerful before the Civil War were feeling politically powerless and bullied. Retribution for the Civil War didn’t just target the leaders responsible for slavery, it targeted everyone whether they were slave owners or not, and Birth of a Nation should be viewed in the context of that resentment.
I would like to suggest Theo Angelopoulos’s Eternity and a Day, which I saw last night and which has convinced me utterly that I don’t need to see another Angelopoulos film ever again. I get his drift. I was gratified to find among professional critics a whole bunch who agreed with me, including one of my favorites, J. Hoberman, who wrote a gratifyingly scathing review that captured my sentiments exactly. And I know there are plenty on the other side, including the Cannes committee that awarded it a Palme d’or in 1998, who fell for it.
“I think The Birth of a Nation divides people along the lines of “it’s very important to narrative cinema, you have to look at it objectively, racism was normal back then” "
This is somewhat incorrect though. The Birth of a Nation was controversial when it came out because of its racism and was denounced by most progressive voices in the U.S – especially its glorification of the ku klux klan. There was even a boycott of it by the NAACP, who tried unsuccessfully to get the film banned. That the film may have helped lead to the KKK’s comeback in the 1920s makes it inexcusable on those terms. But, on the other hand, I still don’t understand how that diminishes from the film’s importance in terms of its contribution to modern cinema.
Griffitth’s film is certainly not the best epic of the silent era. It wasn’t even the first.
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Passion of the Christ – the Mel Gibson film
I Am Curious Yellow and The Last Tango in Paris – in their day
The Young OneThe New WorldCrash (either one)
@Ari: I don’t think the KKK were big enough film fans to sit through a 3 hour long film.
Bruno Dumont’s Twentynine Palms was polarizing. As was Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day. I hold both films in high regard, though I was angered by Twentynine Palms upon my first viewing. That it lingered in my mind and ultimately won me over speaks well of the film and indicates a cloying component. Loved Trouble Every Day from the first, though the film has sponsered many a contentious debate amongst myself and friends.
Jack: Agreed on Last Tango. Theater patrons in New Jersey were spat upon by protesters who called them “fags” and “perverts”. Time ran a cover story on the film that resulted in many cancelled subscriptions and angry letters from irate conservatives.
" I don’t think the KKK were big enough film fans to sit through a 3 hour long film"
The role the film played in the forming of the second incarnation of the Klan (the first had been formed in 1865) is a well-enough documented historical fact. Just Google the name of the film + KKK, or the name William Joseph Simmons.
Going by Wikipedia (more reliable a source than academics think), the three major reasons for the Klan’s revival in 1915 were:
1. The lynching of a Jewish businessman who received a lesser sentence on appeal after raping and killing a white factory worker in Georgia
2. The “mythologizing” of the first Klan in Birth of a Nation
3. The founding of the second Klan by Simmons.
But 2 and 3 are directly related.
“Convalescing after being hit by an automobile in 1915, Simmons concerned himself with rebuilding the Klan, which he had seen depicted in the newly released film The Birth of a Nation”
The lynching of Leo Frank was also certainly important as well and helped introduce anti-semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment into the KKK’s repertoire. Rather than its first coming, this is the KKK we would recognize in the present. I think cross-burning also starts around this period into the 1920s when they hit their peak membership (of several million) and political influence before declining during the Great Depression. Anyway, I don’t think any historian disputes the link between the rise of the KKK and Birth of a Nation.
I’m sorry I haven’t seen Birth of A Nation. Maybe when it gets remade in 3D…
It’s not ‘Racism was normal’, so much as ‘The wound was fresher’.
Pretend for a second the movie hadn’t focused so much on White America versus Black America. Imagine two ethnic groups with different political motivations and none of the current cultural baggage.
The rich land owners of race A waged a war to be able to oppress race B. Through the intervention of a different culture, Race B is the winner of the war. Now suppose you are a person of race A who played no personal part in the oppression of race B, but after race B won the war, you were disenfranchised and humiliated just for living in the same region and being the same race as the rich landowners responsible.
Wouldn’t this lead you to be just a little bit resentful of the whole affair?
The racism is not acceptable, but that is the lens through which the film was originally conceived.
I still would like it in 3D.
Sure, Jirin, though it should be pointed out that even if one properly contextualizes the politics of resentment in the film, its portrayal of race relations in the postwar South (and the history of the period in general) is still wildly inaccurate to say the least..
Anti-Christ and Birth of a Nation are staples for a list like this. Would anyone care to add The Master to the list?
The King of Comedy?
I wouldnt call Salo divisive because the type of people who would watch it in the first place would probably like it. Also isn’t Birth of a Nation pretty much universally considered an intensely racist film? Therefore how is it actually divisive?
I think a lot of people here like The King of Comedy, or at least I haven’t heard any staunch naysayers.
the fountain and magnolia
edit: ha! i see the fountain is mentioned on page 1 xD
i know they have many defenders. they are still terrible ;) the king of comedy is one that a lot of scorsese’s more mainstream fans didn’t get i think. they seemed to think it was supposed to be a comedy. well it’s a very dark one
Yeah, I think most Scorsese fans dont really like it, it has a very different tone to his other stuff I suppose. I think if it had been directed by Woody Allen then people would probably like it more, somehow, but its the fact that its Scorsese doing this weird little film about the nature of celebrity and showbusiness.