We’ve been waiting anxiously to see what our favorite invective-spouting firebrand has to say about "Crash," Paul Haggis‘ by all accounts heavy-handed but well-received take on race relations in Los Angeles. Well, we wait no longer. the New York Press‘ Armond White weighs in, and he puts his extra week to use by addressing the film’s critical reception far more than the film itself. For instance:
Local critics praising Paul Haggisâ€™ "Crash" accidentally reveal racism so deeply hidden in their own privilege that they casually ignore it while expressing high-minded appreciation for this filmâ€™s fake controversies.
Oh, and he’s naming names again, or rather, not bothering. David Denby’s glowing review of the film from two weeks ago ("Itâ€™s easily the strongest American film since Clint Eastwoodâ€™s ‘Mystic River,’ though it is not for the fainthearted.") fuels the article’s ire. White never calls Denby out directly, preferring to refer to him as the "American Sucker" while coming close to abusing the fair use rule of journalistic quotation. White famously (well, famously to the five or six people who read as many reviews as we do) hated "Million Dollar Baby," which Haggis wrote the screenplay for, and in his review indirectly called Roger Ebert ignorant after Ebert’s early declaration of "Baby"’s masterpiece status, but that’s benign compared to this.
He also cites several of the films dealing with race issues he sees as cruelly neglected by the critical community, and while we didn’t buy his attempts to establish "Flight of the Phoenix" or "Spanglish" as ignored greats, we agree that Todd Solondz‘s films manage the biting both ways thing better than Haggis.
But what of the film itself? For White, it comes down to this: "Colored people are caricatures. Whites are tragic. Gullible critics applaud."
Others to look at: in the Japan Times, Mark Schilling finds that none of the three Asian directors of "Three…Extremes" lives up to the Takashi Miike of old, not even Miike himself. And Stephen Holden in the New York Times has a lyrical review of "Shake Hands with the Devil," a film that sounds too heartbreaking to bear.
+ Watts the Matter With L.A.? (NY Press)
+ Asian film omnibus goes to so-so extremes (Japan Times)
+ Ten Years Later, Back at the Killing Fields to Heal the Spirit (NY Times)
An update: In retrospect, White didn’t actually quote Denby that much — we blame shock for making New Yorker quotes bloom across the article like flowers of pain. He does only directly quote the article twice, and name-checks the publication a demure five times.