‘Here’s the thing. I understand to a degree Carney’s gripe about certain filmmakers being heavily discussed at the expense of ignoring others, but I find his approach wrong headed. If a critic or scholar has his or her reasons for not liking a given artist, even an acclaimed one, then he or she has every right to explain why a certain artist is overpraised, but if you just gloss over a certain artist you do respect simply because you think they’re discussed enough and would rather focus on unheralded artists, the artists who are currently unheralded will eventually be heavily discussed at the expense of ignoring the previously highly praised artists. In other words, if you continuously express that Antonioni or Godard receives enough attention, eventually others will conclude they should direct their attention elsewhere. And before you know it Godard and Antonioni will be forgotten, and then a reincartion of Carney forty years down the road will wonder why people continuously praise Rivette and Cassavetes while overlooking Antonioni and Godard. The best and most authentic approach is to simply praise and discuss any artist you personally respect and admire regardless of whether or not they’re heavily discussed. That’s why I more easily sympathize with Rosenbaum’s polemic than with Carney’s, even if I don’t always agree with Rosenbaum’s opinions. Rosenbaum will take a certain acclaimed director to task if he believes him or her to be overpraised, but he’ll never ignore an artist he respects in order to bring up someone he feels is underpraised. He loves both Hitchcock, Rivette, and Cassavetes and is always happy to explain why he loves all three, regardless of whether or not they appear to overpraised.’
Are you telling me that nobody is writing about Antonioni then? I’m not saying he’s discussed as much as he used to be obviously, but he’s hardly an unknown in the world of film art. I don’t see why Carney should have to spend time he doesn’t have praising a director whose accomplishments and reputation are rarely argued against.
He wrote the books on Dreyer, Leigh, Cassavetes and Capra due to a perceived critical misinterpretation or because the director’s work wasn’t been discussed much, and he is currently writing a history of American independent film because most people don’t have a clue about the rich history of it. He may not place Antonioni on the level of someone like Tarkovsky, not that I know, but he rarely discusses Bergman or Fellini either. Why aren’t you complaining about that?
‘Why do people make Antonioni out to have been this international superstar? He really wasn’t. Carney avoids discussing Antonioni, whom he feels gets enough attention, but his darlings Dreyer and Bresson receive comparable amounts of attention. What I was going to say is Antonioni was certainly respected by cinephiles the way Bresson and Dreyer were, but he wasn’t a stateside superstar like Bergman, Kurosawa, and Fellini, at least not prior to the release of Blow Up. None of his film with Vitti were arthouse blockbusters like La Dolce Vita, The Seventh Seal, The 400 Blows, La Strada, or even Breathless. Sure, he was one of the major European directors of his era, but he wasn’t of the Fellini/Bergman ilk in terms of fame but more of the Bresson/Dreyer ilk before he made Blow Up. Sometimes I wonder if people’e perception of Antonioni would be different today had he not gone mainstream/Anglophone.’
Well, Blow Up made him known, and now he is known. Are you complaining that Carney didn’t write about Antonioni before Blow Up, when Carney was a university student? If you’re not, I don’t see what point you’re trying to make here.
On the subject of Bresson, he’s still not as popular as Antonioni, and if you payed attention to what Carney writes about him, you would see that Carney writes about Bresson’s later work which is unknown to many fans of his earlier material. For example, two of his last five films aren’t even available on DVD!
‘Regarding the quote Santino extracted from an earlier post of mine, I think many of these sorts of sentiments are breeded by an inferiority complex on the part of many film scholars and critics. People consciously react and oppose themselves to mainstream tastes, because film’s position as a serious art form seems tenuous, whereas painting and written fiction don’t have to contend with this perceived insecurity.’
This can’t be applied to Carney, seeing as he wrote a book about Frank Capra. What about Renoir? Does he count as mainstream or is he considered unknown? Carney’s admitted more than once to loving Casablanca. I could go on but I think my point has been made.
‘Okay, it may take a while to make myself clear in this regard, but since film is perceived as an entertainment medium by the masses, scholars are skeptical of films that appeal to middlebrow sensibilities. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what I want to say, but I suppose the point I’m trying to make is many people that seems to have middlebrow cinema tastes will in fact read people like Dickens, Dostoevsky, Woolf, or even Shakespeare, and if not necessarily that, they’ll attend a Vermeer, Degas, or Van Gogh exhibit at the Met or the D’Orsay (impressive Degas exhibit there now by the way if you’re in Paris), or the National Gallery in London, or wherever. It doesn’t really matter. Nobody’s going to question Dostoevsky’s status as an artist even after seeing half of his or her one thousand facebook friends added Crime and Punishment to their list of favorite books. Likewise, if a Vermeer exhibit at the Met is one of the three most visited exhibits of a given year nobody’s question Vermeer’s status as a serious figure, because the “masses” happen to stumble into an exhibit dedicated to his work. Nobody questions the fact that Kind of Blue is an important piece of music just because it’s certified quadruple platinum. But if a film has too much mass appeal, there must be something wrong with it.’
Carney mentions this on his site:
“… He noted, as an aside, that English professors and other professors in arts fields — even famous prize-winning, book-writing professors at Ivy League universities — often had the worst taste in film. The most conventional taste. They loved junky Hollywood movies. Or movies they had seen in their teens and twenties. In effect, their appreciation of film had never grown up since their college days. They went to their graves never really understanding or appreciating the art of film. (Think Stanley Cavell — or worse.)”
You underestimate how many people don’t see film as an art comparable to the ‘high arts’. It’s snobbery rather than refusal of film scholars to like what is popular that answers your question as to why people can read the best literature but watch the worst films.
I don’t know, people took Gore Vidal’s and Nabokov’s (since you mentioned Doestoevsky) pretty seriously. Nabokov:
“Non-Russian readers do not realize two things: that not all Russians love Dostoevski as much as Americans do, and that most of those Russians who do, venerate him as a mystic and not as an artist. He was a prophet, a claptrap journalist and a slapdash comedian. I admit that some of his scenes, some of his tremendous, farcical rows are extraordinarily amusing. But his sensitive murderers and soulful prostitutes are not to be endured for one moment— by this reader anyway.”
“Dostoevski the publicist is one of those megaphones of elephantine platitudes (still heard today), the roar of which so ridiculously demotes Shakespeare and Pushkin to the vague level of all the plaster idols of academic tradition, from Cervantes to George Eliot (not to speak of the crumbling Manns and Faulkners of our times).”
(I particularly like how in the secon one he’s able to lump Mann and Faulkner in via a parenthetical aside)
“Shouldn’t Carney owe himself and his readers or students the same?”
No, I don’t think so. Look, people have to realize that people, esp. academics, specialize. If Carney is teaching 100 level intro course, or writing books intended to serve a similar function, then yes, he has some obligation to survey the field, otherwise he’s better off sticking to where his interests/expertise lies.
Okay, maybe you have a point on much of what you said, but even so, are L’Eclisse and Red Desert more popular than Pickpocket, Ordet, and Au Hasard Balthazar. I certainly wouldn’t think so. Budding cinephiles are probably more likely to come across the latter two first. Okay, maybe it’s not even that important, but in any case, could you provide a link to where you extracted that Carney quote from about college professors? Thanks. Anyhow, my point about Antonioni and fame is that people have a tendency to lump him with Fellini, and Bergman as one of three or four major superstars of foreign arthouse cinema of the sixties, neglecting the reality it was his later English-language films that elevated him to a similar superstar status, unlike Fellini and Bergman who became superstars as a result of the great films they made in their respective native languages.
As far as I know Gore Vidal likes Dostoevsky, unless you’re referring to what he said about Pynchon, and others.
“Why do people make Antonioni out to have been this international superstar?”
“…in Michelangelo Antonioni’s first English language film…”
I get the impression he was marketed thus for BLOW UP at least, and I presume for THE PASSENGER and ZABRISKIE POINT as he started consistently doing work internationally.
Edit: oh, this is the one I was really thinking of from the old Criterion laser
“The films of Michelangelo Antonioni speak every language. This is his first in English.” cue sex
Yeah, I was thinking of stuff Vidal said about other writers.
“A more cynical explanation might be that this sort of thing allows people like Carney to create a niche for themselves.”
There it is. Ray Carney is the Ann Coulter of film criticism. It doesn’t matter whether he agrees with everything he sells – the point is that he’s making a living off of it.
Okay, maybe you have a point on much of what you said, but even so, are L’Eclisse and Red Desert more popular than Pickpocket, Ordet, and Au Hasard Balthazar.
Again, I don’t see your point. You know it’s unfair to compare Bresson’s two most important works with two of Antonioni’s lesser known films. But even using this argument, the two Antonioni works have almost as many (more in L’eclisse’s case) fans on this forum than the Bresson works, so on this site at least, Antonioni is more popular. And those two aren’t even his two most popular films!
I certainly wouldn’t think so. Budding cinephiles are probably more likely to come across the latter two first. Okay, maybe it’s not even that important, but in any case, could you provide a link to where you extracted that Carney quote from about college professors? Thanks. Anyhow, my point about Antonioni and fame is that people have a tendency to lump him with Fellini, and Bergman as one of three or four major superstars of foreign arthouse cinema of the sixties, neglecting the reality it was his later English-language films that elevated him to a similar superstar status, unlike Fellini and Bergman who became superstars as a result of the great films they made in their respective native languages.
I always got the feeling that Antonioni was sort of dwarfed by Fellini in the 60s. Compared to him, Antonioni’s films must have seemed drab to the casual viewer and that’s why Fellini was the man winning the oscars. Of course, I don’t know exactly why Antonioni didn’t reach the heights of Bergman and Fellini before Blow Up; i’m sure David Ehrenstein could provide us with a few reasons why on that front.
Here you go:
“Of course, I don’t know exactly why Antonioni didn’t reach the heights of Bergman and Fellini before Blow Up; i’m sure David Ehrenstein could provide us with a few reasons why on that front.”
Probably for the same reasons Bresson didn’t, or at least for similar reasons. Films like Red Desert, Au Hasard Balthazar, and Vivre Sa Vie aren’t going to appeal to what would be termed “middlebrow sensibilities” the way films like The 400 Blows, Wild Strawberries, and Nights of Cabiria do, even if the latter three are still worthy films. Afterall, Chaplin and Renoir would appeal to those same sensibilities, but that doesn’t negate them being great filmmakers. I could be wrong, but I gather WIld Strawberries and 8 1/2 were probably even more popular than A Woman Under the Influence in the US.
In any case, Tarkovsky seems to be more popular than both Bresson and Antonioni on this site. Stalker’s even in the IMDB Top 250, not something you can say about any one of Bresson’s or Antonioni’s films. On a side note, I’m shocked to see Stalker has more ratings than Breathless on IMDB, since I always assumed the latter was far more well-known.
“Stalker’s even in the IMDB Top 250”
Curiouser and curiouser…
Could be the appropriation of Stalker terms into post-Chernobyl Russia. Or the appropriation of the appropriation into the contemporary video game series.
Or STALKERS bitchin’ poster art and box cover, something I even remember from my childhood walking through the aisles of the VHS rental store in my hometown.
Your hometown VHS rental store had Stalker? Wow!
What are you guys actually arguing about here?
When Ray Carney is involved it’s never really clear.
Hmm, I don’t think Carney’s to blame.
In my American Literature: II class yesterday, 25-35% of the students said that their favorite American author was Stephen King, Susan Collins, HP Lovecraft, or no one. The professor (who has a Phd.) smiled and nodded in complete satisfaction with these responses (he likes comics and prefers to read literature through an “ecological lens”—it turns out the most important things we can learn from Whitman and Dickinson is to recycle). This is not a prestigious university, but still, never in my entire life, did I feel that the Ray Carney’s of the world were needed more than at that moment.
If this is what is going on at most Universities—even the good ones—then it’s no wonder Carney is so defensive. His whole Romantic-vision-of-saving-the-world-of-art schtick gets a little old, but I almost love him more because of it. Art criticism of all types has become faceless, impersonal, and boring, or too much about gender, race, class, and ecology.
Carney’s fighting the good fight, even if he does come on as a self-righteous prig while doing it.
Joe & Karen?
What if one of the students had been familiar with other writers like Dostoevsky, Woolf, Kafka, Baudelaire (a poet but still), etc., but had simply not gotten around to reading too many classic American writers, even if they intended to at some point. All I’m saying is literature not like music or film where you can plow through hundreds of works within the span of a few months. Reading a novel is a time consuming process, so there are only so many important writers one can read in a certain period of time.
Yes, it is Joe and Karen… Karen wanted to be incognito…. she’s far more mysterious than I.
@Piscesrising: That would be great if it were true—and maybe it is (I hope it is)—but I would be highly surprised if any of those people read any literature outside of class. There were at least four people who said no one. Really? No one? Keep in mind, this is American Lit. II, which would at least imply that they took American Lit I (which is from around 1620-1865), but almost a majority of the students claimed that a popular and recent paperback novelist was their favorite American author…
And this isn’t to say that those people are stupid or have nothing worth saying or that their opinions should not be heard (they’re probably all more intelligent than myself), but it does imply, at the very least, that there has been a failure of curiosity on their part (or a lack of passion). The blame goes mostly to their education though—for most people, an appreciation of art doesn’t grow in a vacuum. To have no standards is becoming the norm, in my neck of the woods at least, and that’s why it was alarming.
However, the person next to me was a fairly good example of what you are implying. Despite the fact he has never heard of Cormac McCarthy, Walker Percy, or Raymond Carver, he is relatively knowledgeable about ancient Greek literature and an overall interesting, curious sort of guy (he has the sense to say Langston Hughes was his favorite).
In case you come across this post, I’d just be curious to know you’re reason for disliking Ray Carney so much, that’s only if you’re willing to share, of course.
In any case, I guess most film critics have their reactionary opinions. Ronald Bergan of The Guardian believes Welles, Ford, and Hawks are the only three American-born filmmakers that belong in the film canon at all.
This is not a prestigious university, but still, never in my entire life, did I feel that the Ray Carney’s of the world were needed more than at that moment.
Carney is considered distinctly “middle-brow” in the film-crit departments of “prestigious” universities. Probably has something to do with his defensive, posturing attitude.
there are people in this world who like to discover things for themselves. I know some guys who don’t fall in love with a girl that everyone else loves. ..and everybody wants to feel their love is special. nothing wrong with that…
same is probably true for some critics who love particular films. if you were a bright person or a fledgling film theorist like carney wouldn’t you rather dedicate your energy to some real gems that not everyone else was already rustling around with? there were no books about cassavetes in the english language after he died and the films themselves although a lot of people may disagree are works with at least as much complexity and mystery than antionioni’s. if as a writer on film you were looking for something to really sink your teeth into you pretty much…especially since the filmaker is dead… can have a field day. can express yourself with fervor. who’s gonna say anything…it’s open.
personally i still think most people who are cassavetes fans probably didn’t need carney’s book to tell them they had a reaction to to the films..but obviously the books are great companion pieces for people who admire the films or are troubled by them.
there’s a good quote by cassavetes about people having to have somewhere to put their love and energy…not being able to walk around like a priest blessing everybody all the time. in carney’s case it was probably if not only cassavetes films but a certain type of film he decided to bless .
asking someone who writes about certain types of films over others…especially in the case of someone like carney who has written countless books describing this very thing is almost like asking a film critic or theorist why he is to close minded to write about boating as well..that’s what he writes about..his specialty…a person can only write about so much. a lot of times in this culture especially in the realm of films with so many out there and it being such a financial machine and all…with critics serving more as promoters for an industry people spread themselves very thin. if you were working for a major publication or trying to have a blog..or make a living in the industry I don’t see how that could be avoided. Carney’s been lucky in that sense…he has another career as a teacher
all that said I can see why people would dislike him or what he’s doing…a lot of what he writes about cassavetes can veer awfully close to self justification. the truth of the matter is when you’re writing about a filmmaker or a few filmmakers who have been dead for sometime obviously said filmmakers couldn’t really care less at that point about having careers and whether or not their films are being promoted…but things get a little stickier probably in the case of some of the newer filmmakers that carney champions. It’s hard to say how much influence carney has or doesn’t have in the film community even if he often bemoans his situation . I don’t think however it would be a stretch to say that some of the recent darlings at places like sxsw and sundance piggybacked off of and benefited from at least attaching themselves to some sort of clique that vaguely conjured older filmmakers such as cassavetes. personally though it’s sort of a dead issue I have yet to see a film by either bujalski, swanberg or the safdies that has bowled me over…it’s not that I don’t think a few of those guys are at all talented or intelligent but simply they seem…and perhaps it’s simply the environment we’re in…very commercially oriented…but even more than this some of the ways in which they put themselves out there…with claims of not having gone to film schools and being sort of industry neophytes and innocents are kind of lame. the difference being not that someone like cassavetes was actually an outsider obviously he had something of a career but rather that cassavetes making of films most probably damaged his career if anything rather than courted acceptance. carney finds himself in the unusual position now of being aligned with a number of people who are on there way if the trajectory of some of his crew is any indication to being hollywood insiders and professionals and this is at least partially because carney himself has turned certain radical elements of the formers films into a sort of formula with all his theorizing…
anyway I highly doubt if cassavetes came back from the dead he’d be too concerned about what people think or his career but he was after all an artist as carney himself would say and not someone who spent much time analyzing films or art…
and love streams would still most probably be a terriffic, wonderfull and difficult film no matter how many people did or didn’t see it or how many books were or weren’t written about it
Burn, Carney lovers!!!! Burn in hell!!!!!
Well, since this thread has been dredged up, I have a question that might actually be relevant. Upon discussing Manny Farber’s concepts of White Elephant Art and Termite Art, I thought of Carney—namely, that Carney seems to like Termite Art. Would people agree with that?
Does anyone know what Carney is up to? I miss his website updates.
“Carney seems to like Termite Art. Would people agree with that?”