Robert: why do you assume that Rodney equals most viewers and that his “boring films” are the same as others’ (and for the same reasons). I’ve always admired your erudition, my friend, but sometimes you write in an untenable universalist shorthand.
Ozu had slow paced narratives but he was never boring, nor was it particularly awful to look at. In fact when it comes down to it Ozu has had some of best placed shots I’ve even seen, the red kettle, the smoke stack bellowing after a body is cremated to name a few.
Boring is not a word I would use to describe Ozu. Paced but never boring.
@ Z an untenable universalist shorthand
“You’ve never seen a boring film?”
No, I haven’t. I’ve been bored by films, but now we’re talking about something else.
Wu Yong writes: “Isn’t that the problem lots have with Ozu, Rodney? They seem slow, simple and ordinary? Why would Ozu’s slow pacing be any more or less “boring” than Antonioni’s?”
I’m not dissing Antonioni’s entire career — just this particular movie, La Notte, which I found a failure. The best Antonioni films pull you in; this one didn’t, The inner lives of the two characters is uninteresting, and the sheer beauty of the shots is wasted on them. I kept wishing something would happen. That’s where it parts ways with Antonioni’s best work, or the best films of Ozu, or a film like Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman” — films where something really is happening, where the viewer (this one, anyway, though I admit all these filmmakers are a hard sell) is spending time with people whose lives are entering a turning point.
Content: I kept wishing something would happen.
Wtf ever happens in an Ozu film?
“Wtf ever happens in an Ozu film?”
You could just as well ask “Wtf ever happens in a human life?” Lots, but the key moments may very well be interior rather than exterior. The high drama in Ozu’s films comes when people reach a certain realization, usually a sad one. Think of when the wife of the elderly couple in “Tokyo Story,” trying desperately not to think that their children regard them as a burden, says that life is full of disappointments, for example, or when Setsuko Hara in “Late Spring” listens with tears in her eyes as her father gives her all the reasons in the world why she must be married, and all she can think of is how her own perfectly happy existence is coming to an end. These are events of high drama and you can feel them in your skin. That’s another difference with Ozu and a lot of other filmmakers whom people put in the Slow and Boring School: Ozu had a genuine feeling for people.
Well, what about the high drama in Tony Scott’s Domino when Keira Knightley is interviewing with Lucy Liu – you felt that under your skin didn’t you?
I know I did….
Kael had the guts to question what everyone else was so blithely accepting.
The questioning of the merits of La Notte, or Last Year at Marienbad or whatever isn’t the problem, it’s the implied and/or stated questioning of the idea of film reaching beyond pulp entertainment that rightly raises hackles.
You could just as well ask “Wtf ever happens in a human life?” Lots, but the key moments may very well be interior rather than exterior. The high drama in Ozu’s films comes when people reach a certain realization, usually a sad one.
If you disregard, as I think you should, the idea of differentiating the moments in a life based on which ones are “key” or “high drama,” and which ones are ordinary, perhaps you can get beyond notions of what is boring and what isn’t. Admittedly, I have not seen La Notte but either way we need to get past seeing life, and judging life and films based on the supposed importance of “events.” Our pathetic memories separate countless moments which lack drama, theme or “meaning,” and label the ones that give us a less than profound pleasure as “events.” The Antonioni films that I have seen seem to be acutely aware of this flaw in our makeup.
Anyone care to interpret what Mike is trying to say?
He’s suggesting a flattening of expectations, which allows an increase in and broader perspective.
“He’s suggesting a flattening of expectations, which allows an increase in and broader perspective.”
Many bad films no doubt benefit from this approach.
Not trying to be merely snarky. I don’t deny that viewers don’t always rise to the level of the film. I just don’t think that’s the case with “La Notte.”
In general terms, that is a question for Mike. If your are saying La Notte is a bad film because it is boring, then Mike can address that in general terms even not having seen the film. (Generality implies a philosophical approach.)
Here is your definition of boring:The inner lives of the two characters is uninteresting, and the sheer beauty of the shots is wasted on them. I kept wishing something would happen……. films where something really is happening, where the viewer is spending time with people whose lives are entering a turning point.
You are reacting from the perspective of impression rather than working with the expression in the film.
If you think his other films are more interesting, then those would make a better comparison.
In La Notte, Lidia is bored with the monotony of her marriage. Is it possible you are fighting against that aspect of the film? From the perspective of impression, one can’t really know. Working with what is in the film opens up the film, even as one feels the boredom.
La Notte was the first of Antonioni’s work I saw in a revelatory way – for the first time I saw what cinema art could be. Supposedly, Kubrick listed it as one of his top 10 favorite films.
You probably have a better memory of this particular film than I do. All I remember is that it was beautiful but that the story, the marriage, all that chatter at the end, etc., didn’t seem to be all that intriguing. There wasn’t enough story to hold my interest, and I just didn’t care that much about the fate of the characters — unlike L’avventura or The Passenger or L’eclisse or Blow Up. I wasn’t fighting the movie. I was fighting sleep. His other movies have more fiber. They have a bigger vision to them.
They have a bigger vision to them.
Bigger than Frank’s “The Sick Soul of Europe”? What Z Bart called “a masterful and provocative(sic) essay”?
By expression I mean what Frank did, take things in the film and relate them to a totality, in this case the theme.
The film achieved the status of what Susanne Langer would call a non-discursive symbol.
Antonioni took a couple of lives in crisis and made them reveal a time (as Frank implied, whether it was true or not of that time). Antonioni not only shows us people whose lives are entering a turning point, but a time and place that has perhaps entered a turning point.
Not sure that there can be a bigger vision – was that what Kubrick saw in the film?
Sorry, I was unmoved. As I said, Moreau and Mastroianni just seemed like a pair of vapid bores, for which I fault Antonioni more than them. I think this is a film for Antonioni’s most ardent fans and critics, people who are absolutely receptive to anything he has to say, no matter what it is or how he says it, or at any rate are willing to cut him a lot of slack.
“As I said, Moreau and Mastroianni just seemed like a pair of vapid bores…”
Aren’t they suppose to be?
I’d say the consistent strain in all of his films is that his characters are at least a little bit self-involved. The greatest single thing about Blow-Up is how figuring out the nature of humanity is less important than fucking three women in one afternoon.
In terms of character what Antonioni does best is make vapid, boring, materialist and sometimes outright unbearable people into a reflection of things larger than one would ever assume they could be rightfully reflected upon.
She could suck a golf ball through a garden hose.
“Aren’t they suppose to be?”
FWIW, I’m not a fan of La Notte, either.
“A biography is coming out in another month, and so is a collection of her writing from the Library of America. That’s a real legacy for a film critic. With the exception of James Agee and Otis Ferguson and now Kael, they don’t live on.”
Not sure what you mean by “live on”, but those are far from the only American critics have volumes of criticism published—Manny Farber, Vachel Lindsay, for example.
I was referring to regular newspaper and magazine reviewers whose work survives as literature. I could have more, like Stanley Kauffmann, Andrew Sarris and John Simon to that list.
But I can’t think of another film critic besides Kael whose life merited a biography. Can you?
I suppose this depends on how one determines what “merits” a biography and what doesn’t. Agee and Lindsay and Farber and Kauffmann certain are worthy of being written about, though they did (or have done) things in addition to film crit. Kael didn’t live as long as some of her contemporaries, so it’s not necessarily merit-based that she gets written about first. Sarris is certainly going to be written about at some point. Of the next generation, I guarantee you that someone will write about Ebert.
Woody Allen’s observation about Kael,
“She has everything that a great critic needs except judgment. And I don’t mean that facetiously. She has great passion, terrific wit, wonderful writing style, huge knowledge of film history, but too often what she chooses to extol or fails to see is very surprising.”
“I suppose this depends on how one determines what `merits’ a biography and what doesn’t.”
Importance. Influence. What you added. What you left behind. To what degree you changed the game. That thins the herd considerably.
Yes, normally “Importance. Influence. What you added. What you left behind. To what degree you changed the game.” are relevant criteria for whether a biography is “merited” in any field.
However, having been involved in publishing for decades I also know that MANY meritritious bios and autobios are published, even by major publishers, about people who don’t deserve them.
BTW, I could even see publishing a bio of Kael (and the other critics noted above) even though I agree with Woody Allen about her lack of judgment. I’mm just arguing that having a bookm written about you doesn’t necessarily mean that you stand above all others in your field.
You’re absolutely right. It doesn’t. On the other hand, I doubt you’ll be seeing a Vincent Canby biography anytime soon — anymore than you’re likely to see a “What’s So Great About Vincent Canby?” topic on MUBI. (Now watch someone go and start one…)
I have asked the same question myself. Kael seems very ignorant, only seeing films one time, ignoring great world cinema, praising half good directors like De Palma. But maybe she was important at the time.
It breaks my heart that you weren’t around to guide her.