Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Can An Encounter With the Work Ruin A Good Review

Jim Emerson asks the question:

I started off this post thinking about reviews of movies that are in some way "better" than the movies themselves -- that is, criticism that in some way elevates a movie, even if you or I are disappointed in the movie itself. I was thinking of Manohla Dargis's magnificent review of "There Will Be Blood," which captures the chill, the terror, the excitement, the coursing of blood in ways that fill me with awe. Every time I read it, it rekindles hopes that are only dashed by another first-hand encounter with the movie itself. (Cue Yukon Cornelius: "Nothin'.)


Thomas Garvey said...

That article is bizarre. Criticism that obscures the true worth of a work of art is always a bad thing. Always. Inaccurately promoting a work of art is as great a critical crime as denigrating it would be. Period.

Art said...

But I'm not sure the article is suggesting that the critics who wrote those reviews were being purposefully inaccurate.

Maybe out of their minds, yes.

What I was hoping is that Emerson would touch more on what causes this type of disconnect in critic's synapses. Of course, that is just playing armchair psychology.

Aesthetic ideology? Political ideology? Favoritism? Simple sentimentality or nostalgia?

Thomas Garvey said...

I don't really see what difference it makes what these critics' motives were; whether they sucked purposefully or not, they still sucked. (You'd have to pay me good money to sit through either The Fury or There Will Be Blood again.) But for what it's worth (i.e., not much), I'd hazard that both Kael's and Dargis's delusions were born of imagined "relationships" or "correspondences" with the artists in question, much as so many pop listeners imagine they "understand" their idols, and that their idols are singing directly to them. Or these reviews may be the result of unknown personal relationships, and thus are like a professional variant of what we see in the artistic world all the time: people laugh harder at shows their kids are in, or their friends, or their frat buddies, etc., etc., etc. In Kael's case, of course, her strange psychological fixation on de Palma is a known quantity - I'm sure it had something to do with the maternal/sexual connection she cultivated with her many protegees. Her review is therefore more a gloriously articulated testament to her own personal dysfunction than it is any kind of critical document. I know less about Dargis, but I can sense from her wacky hyperbole that some kind of love call is being sent to Paul Thomas Anderson, too.

Kyle said...

This gives me a great idea for a rom-com spec! It's all about a female movie critic and her delusional relationships, imagined correspondences, and maternal/sexual connections with movie directors. She becomes completely enamored of one director in particular -- we'll call him Rhett Brattner -- and starts printing subliminal love calls in her reviews to him! Let the wackiness ensue!

Or, of course, it could be a thriller, all about the unhinged stalkery obsessive female movie critic, showing up in Rhett's trailer or breaking into his mansion to surprise him with a spin on the pole in his basement dance club. Yikes!