…to cite Guy Maddin on the death of Bergman. Art film is dead, writes Camille Paglia at Salon (scroll down to "On the culture front" if you’re not in the mood for political choir-preaching): "Aside from Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Godfather’ series, with its deft flashbacks and gritty social realism, is there a single film produced over the past 35 years that is arguably of equal philosophical weight or virtuosity of execution to Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’ or ‘Persona’?" She unexpectedly also offers up the "Star Wars" films as another possibility of worthiness.
But art movies are gone, gone with the wind. In some cases, what once seemed suggestive and profound now feels tortured and pretentious. For example, why should the rivetingly supersophisticated Jeanne Moreau have to drive her car off that damned bridge at the end of FranÃ§ois Truffaut’s "Jules and Jim"? It’s factitious and absurd. All of the major European directors hit the skids in the ’70s. I, for one, had little interest in late Bergman, Antonioni or Fellini, who seemed to decline into pastiche and self-parody. With Bergman in particular, the austere turned sentimental. But why should any artist have to compete with his or her peak period? We should be satisfied with the priceless legacy of genius.
This is actually more balanced than we’d have expected, despite her later getting bogged down in "kids these days" complaints. That "philosophical weight" though â€” there’s the rub. If that is the definition of "art film," which one could certainly argue, then it might as well be dead, in that it’s become almost impossible for contemporary films to engage such Great Themes as directly as Bergman or Antonioni once did. It comes across as pretentious, callow, insincere â€” though we wouldn’t be so quick to assert that the form of the art film is drooping out of modern access like the Spenserian sonnet. Greg.org points to this list at a Japanese art magazine in which ten directors, artists and so on give their top ten "’artistic’ films of the 21st century." Many of the picks are installation pieces, but there are plenty of more and less standard choices worth debating: Kurosawa Kiyoshi picks Spielberg’s "War of the Worlds" and Olivier Assayas’ "Demonlover"; Apichatpong Weerasethakul picks "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" and this digital toy.
Ty Burr at the Boston Globe expressed similar concerns on the fading of arthouse greats, and wonders: "What place does cinema’s back catalog have for today’s filmgoer? What place should it have?" And Joshua Rothkopf at Time Out NY interviews a more adaptable filmmaker in the realms of the avant-garde: Jonas Mekas.
Does Mekas fear a splintered community of separatist iPod viewers? â€œI really must confess,â€ he says, sipping a beer and leaning in, â€œthat when I was a childâ€”and for years afterâ€”I had this dream that I was holding a book in my hand and it was moving like water. Iâ€™m not reading it; Iâ€™m watching it! My dream is now a reality. You wonâ€™t find negativity here.â€
+ Art movies: R.I.P. (Salon)
+ Ten Top Ten Lists Of Video/Films For The 21st Century (Greg.org)
+ Closing credits (Boston Globe)
+ Weathered underground (Time Out NY)