i don’t like the suggestion that art should avoid any particular topic

i watched a film called irreversible a while ago. it’s a french flick that is infamous for a brutal rape scene in it. a friend told me about the film and said it was really good, but pointed out the rape scene was tough to watch because it was so convincing. he said it was quite long, like 10 minutes or so, and done in a single, non-stop shot. my pal found it hard to stomach but felt that there was a purpose to both the scene and how it was done. he felt that such a horrific event shouldn’t be edited or stylized, that it should be shown unflinchingly to try to communicate just how ugly and awful it truly is. i thought that was really interesting.

then i was chatting with another friend (a film studies graduate) about the same film, and mentioned all of this to him. this friend seemed to disagree with what my first friend had said, suggesting instead that no acting, directing, or anything else could come close to communicating the real horror of rape, and it was offensive to attempt to simulate it for the sake of film.

i can understand both arguments and think either position is reasonable, but i think the rationale for the second one is kind of flimsy and over-generalized. you could use the same argument and posit that any art about any sensitive issue trivializes it, and is offensive to those who have actually experienced it. i think war films are a great example of this: anyone who has been in ground-level combat will likely tell you that war is hell, so by my second friend’s logic, wouldn’t it be offensive to veterans to see a bunch of artists dancing around on a staged set, trying to imitate something horrible that they have not experienced and couldn’t possibly understand on a visceral level? sure, i think so.

thedeerhunter2

i love the deer hunter but i bet that if i had survived being a POW in vietnam, i’d probably find its depictions of war cheap and inaccurate.

that wouldn’t make the offended veteran’s opinion the ‘right’ opinion though. there would probably be just as many veterans who felt the opposite way. my point is there’s no consensus on what’s offensive so i don’t think it’s fair to say any subject matter should be taboo due to its sensitive nature.

i think that, like most things in life, this is not something you can make a blanket statement about (even though those are my favourite kind of statement to make). i think each case must be judged on an individual basis: was that art exploitative? did it do justice to whatever it was trying to recreate or communicate? was it being respectful to the subject matter? each viewer should be critical and think about these kinds of questions, come up with their own answers, feel what they personally feel about a piece of art, and accept that other people may feel differently.

to each their own, for fuck’s sake.

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no love

today i was thinking about why i like the exorcist so much. there are obviously a ton of good reasons — strong cast, excellent character development, amazing special effects, religious themes that resonate with me in a big way — but today i realized something else about it i hadn’t thought of before: no romantic subplot!

captain_howdy

except between me and captain howdy, of course.

i couldn’t believe i never noticed this before. i mean, romantic subplots are ubiquitous, and one of the things i hate most in film, TV, and books. nothing ruins a story for me quicker than a predictable, paint-by-numbers story arc: boy meets girl, they seem perfect together, a misunderstanding makes one doubt the other, the misunderstood one vindicates themselves, happily ever after. barf.

what’s even worse is that so many movies and TV shows actually focus largely on this kind of romantic subplot formula but use different story backgrounds so that they can market the show at a different audience. walking dead and true blood for horror fans, mad men for hipsters, breaking bad for skids, game of thrones and big bang theory for nerds…the list goes on. all these shows employ the same old “i thought i could trust you, tim..i thought you were different from the others. i guess i was wrong…” bullshit romantic melodrama, and it’s not just a small side story. that’s actually the focus of the show. the zombies, sword battles, and meth labs are actually the minor details in those shows. they just provide a seemingly unlikely stage where the romance can take place.

yup, everyone just wants to watch the same shitty love story over and over.

i’m veering way off topic onto one of my usual rants so let me rein it back in here. my point is that while most shows employ hackneyed romantic techniques not only for subplots but for primary plots, the exorcist doesn’t even contemplate romance at all. there is zero romance in it. it’s about other things: good, evil, faith, loss of faith. what a breath of fresh air.

but then i started thinking about some of my other favourite films, like the deer hunter, blade runner, the last temptation of christ, akira, the shining, princess mononoke, and apocalypse now, and i realized that there is very little romance in those too. and what romance there is, is far more complex and understated.

i’m not surprised that i prefer subtle, more interesting approaches to typical themes like romance but what i am surprised by is that i didn’t even notice until now that the greatest films of all time (in my opinion, anyway) would place so little emphasis on romance, if any at all.

that just reinforces my belief that romance for the sake of romance in art is just a cheap technique to sell shoddy products to disinterested audiences. i’m sure the same applies to every other medium, too.

people are so disappointing.

all that being said, i still really like love story from 1970. that was a touching flick.

love-story

it’s a guilty pleasure.