Saturday, July 07, 2007
I Are A Serious Cineaste

I know a good film from a crappy one. I'm professionally trained, in Europe no less. I've sat through Duchamp's circles. I've studied the experimental films of Deren, Anger, Brakhage. I've written serious academic papers on Asian cinema and the aesthetic roots of semi-obscure Scandinavian art film movements. My tolerance for pain is high, and my patience with the moviegoing masses is often low. I know what I'm supposed to like and what I'm not supposed to like. But the heart wants what it wants, and sometimes I find the lines getting crossed.

Some of what I'm about to say would be dangerous in the wrong academic setting.

Five Directors I Should Like But Don't

1. Wim Wenders

Wings of Desire is right at the top of this list because there isn't anything about this film I shouldn't like. I like religious iconography, I like Rainer Maria Rilke, I like Peter Handke, I like Nick Cave, I even like Peter Falk; but this movie pisses me off every time I see it. It's hypocritical, damn it. It preaches active awareness of reality, but it's a movie for fuck's fucking sake -- watching a film and being actively aware are damn near mutually exclusive. In theory you can do it, but who wants to maintain such a postmodern pose for two damn hours?

2. Ingmar Bergman

I get it, you know? I can appreciate it, I can respect it. But for god's sake, please don't make me sit through it. My indifference to Persona is almost painful. I spent the entire film hoping those catty bitches would just STFU. Especially the one who never said anything. Bitch.

3. John Ford

Cowboys. Whatevs.

4. Alfred Hitchcock

Okay, look, I'm apologizing right off the bat. The man was a genius in a slightly pedestrian kind of way, and he did some interesting stuff, he had some good bits in there. Maybe the problem is that suspense films just aren't my thing. But I don't know -- I always thought he was kind of over-rated. It was all downhill after Rebecca.

5. Ralph Bakshi

The fucking hero of modern animation, apparently... that's what every animator I've ever met or read has said. Maybe you have to be a practitioner of the artform to really appreciate whatever it is that Bakshi did. But somewhere under the surface I sense a seed of mediocrity that I find it difficult to ignore.

Five Directors I Shouldn't Like But Do

1. Ken Russell

Cat People, Altered States, Oliver Reed as a mad, screechy priest in The Witches -- fuck, what's not to like? Salome's Last Dance is so Oscar Wilde-ish I can't stand it. The only Russell film I'm not so crazy about these days is Tommy, though I liked it when I was younger.

2. Peter Jackson

Is it okay to like him again, now that King Kong and a few years of blind grasping at cinematic straws have knocked some of the gilt off his buttcheeks? Poor Peter -- he's derivative and he can't come up with an original idea to save his damn life, but the man loves film. Have you seen Dead Alive? Have you seen Meet the Feebles? Have you seen the foam-latex glory that is Bad Taste? Along with the buckets of fake vomit and fake blood and simulated liquid feces, the man pours love by the gallon into his movies. Oh, sure, I get a little dismissive when he starts getting full of himself (though if you can't be a bit proud of yourself after LOTR, when can you be?), but any man who would dare to imagine and realize on celluloid a walrus getting a blowjob from a cat is okay in my book.

3. Tinto Brass

I know, who? Never heard of him. But one word will explain everything: Caligula. Seriously -- Malcolm McDowell and Peter O'Toole and a woman performing graphic oral sex on an enormous cock? Helen Mirrin! John Gielgud! Cum shots! Together in one film! Have I died and gone to heaven?

4. LA Public Access Television

Not a director as such, but my god, I just couldn't stop watching.

5. Merchant, Ivory

Actually I don't like Merchant Ivory films much at all; I just didn't want you to think I only like filth and potty humor, and I'm hoping you're not reading too closely. Though having people think I dig Merchant Ivory, now that I think about it, would be more embarrassing than having them think I like smut.

Five Directors I Can't Help Feeling Ambivalent About

1. Frederico Fellini

I try to get through 8 1/2 and Satyricon, honest I do. But I just fucking can't.

2. Terry Gilliam

Yes, I loved Time Bandits when I was a kid, too, and I enjoyed Brazil once I was old enough to understand it. But there's just something about a Gilliam film that I find grating. I like it, but I find it difficult to enjoy it much -- I'm always waiting for it to be over. I don't think that's a good sign.

3. Peter Greenaway

Prospero's Books and The Pillow Book are worth every bit of the effort they require. 8 1/2 Women not so much.

4. Orson Welles

One good movie that was arguably more to the credit of the crew than Mr. Welles. But damn, it really is a fucking good movie.

5. Jean Luc Godard

To tell you the truth, I have no problem at all with Godard -- not everything he's done is great (really almost nothing has been good since, oh, the early 70s), but those first few were so impossibly good that he gets to ride out the rest of his days in the glow of his old glory. But this list would've seemed incomplete without at least one Frenchman.

Related: Ten Directors You Didn't Know You Hated
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