Containing Multitudes Since 2004
Robert Altman. One of the great things about early 70s American cinema was many films had distinct visuals as a matter of personal style, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller has one of the most unique and memorable. It was later in the decade and especially in the 80s that a more standardized visual style with uniform lighting or cliched formalities took hold. Altman's limp THE PLAYER looks like any other film from the period, but many of his early 70s films come with moods and textures unique unto themselves. This goes for Nichols too. The Graduate still looks one of a kind. Many of Nichols' later films all look interchangeable among themselves and with other movies. And even when different visual styles were employed since the 80s, theeffect was cliched and derivative than original and ground-breaking.Coppola's later films beginning in the 80s looked like nostalgia-peddling eye candy than truly ground-breaking like the Godfather.Lots of people have mixed feelings about Altman. McCabe and Nashville are indisputably great, and he made some other interesting films like Long Goodbye. MASH is rather trashy(probably inspiring Bad News Bears and Animal House) but it showcased a new kind of film-making(at least in American cinema) and the fresh still comes off. But Altman made so many clunkers, and I would never want to revisit the majority of his films. I suppose that doesn't matter in the long run. If a fighter beat some tough guys and won the championship, he's in the record book even if the bulk of his subsequent career was down and out and over the hill. McCabe and Nashville ensure Altman's standing as a great director though he's far from one of the greatest. That said, his subsequent career gave auteurism a bad name. Why did he keep garnering so much attention even though his best days were behind him? He became 'established' as an important director, so his later third-rate works oftentimes got more attention than more deserving ones by younger, lesser-known, or foreign directors. Same could be said of Kurosawa. One of the all-time great directors no doubt, but Dodeskaden and Dreams aren't much, but they received far more attention around the world than more deserving films by more 'obscure' Japanese directors because Kurosawa had become a brand name. When auteurism pushes an established brand over others doing more interesting work, it's just business as usual.
This 'Christian cinema' business. Maybe it should be called 'political Christian cinema' since it's more about politics than about religion or spirituality. This particular gentre certainly doesn't include films by Bresson, Tarkovsky, Scorsese, Rohmer, Pasolini, Rossellini, Dreyer, and the like, all of which are steeped in Christian themes. I've only seen the trailers, and they seem dreadful. But even if they'd been made with lots of money, first-rate actors, fine directors, and etc. they aren't going to be much since they are message movies, and message movies end as soon as they begin. As they're so sure of their message and since the message is obvious from the very first scene, there are no surprises, no sense of mystery, and no sense of doubt. Without surprises, mystery, and doubt, it just isn't art. But a movie doesn't have to be art to be interesting. Plenty of entertainment movies are filled with suspense, mystery, possibilities, and questions. Certainly true of Hitchcock's movies which is why they've aroused so much discussion. But message movies, whether they're 'Christian', 'liberal', 'conservative', 'Muslim', 'communist', or whatever put the sermon at the very center, and we know what they are about from scene one and we know how we are supposed to respond to them and how we are supposed to feel, and that means no surprises, no possibilities, no mystery, no doubt, no nothing to think about or feel through.
How about a discussion on whether this is the great age of science fiction? CGI has made possible what was unimaginable 20 yrs ago. Or a discussion about the best film critics under the age of 50. Or, are recent spate of coming of age movies superior to those of earlier periods? TV vs Cinema?
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