Monday, February 22, 2010

Should I actually go to the movies?

I am completely floored by this quote from Anthony Lane's review of Shutter Island. But I wonder: Is the pleasure that I would take in the movie merely the same as the pleasure I take in this image?

In a celebrated riff on “Casablanca,” Umberto Eco wrote, “Two clichés make us laugh but a hundred clichés move us, because we sense dimly that the clichés are talking among themselves, celebrating a reunion.” “Shutter Island” is that reunion, and that shrine.

5 comments:

Generic said...

On reflection (always a strain, for me) I do like this quote a lot, even if your application of it is so glaringly selective. ("Shutter Island" is not the only current film to which it applies, or even the most obvious.) There's a lot of good stuff along these lines in the Russell Davies book: TV writing as an ongoing boardgame played with archetypes. Surly Boyfriend, Funny Mum, etc. Perhaps one needs to have formalsit leanings to truly enjoy this stuff, the skillful orchestration of which is at least artistry, if not Art.

Tulkinghorn said...

Now you're talking...

Most of the people we know (or at least talk to) have a deep involvement with pulpy movies and books that depends upon just that awareness of and simultaneous enjoyment of cliche.

If I were snootier, I'd call it ironic or formalist, but I don't want to pop your current 'average guy' fantasies.

I just had an online conversation about 2666 with somebody much fancier than I am. It seemed like a new idea to him to try to read Part 4 as the police procedural that it was structurally intended to be.

We pulp guys know that you do the surfaces first and the stuff underneath later.

Christian Lindke said...

I, for one, have been mildly irritated by the continual "Hitchcock" comparisons made by reviewers in regards to Shutter Island. It looks more Kubrick than Hitchcock to me.

This Lane quote is the first that gives me any ammunition to overcome my "stop comparing movies to Hitch needlessly" button. Given my love of Scorsese, this button must be pretty potent to require ammunition to fight.

Too often modern critics make too much of Hitchcock as "Suspense" director and rely over much on Frenzy, The Birds, Vertigo, and Psycho in their definition of a "Hitchcock" film. For me, it is the humanity of the characters and the plausibility of the drama that makes a Hitch film a Hitch film. That and the frequent inclusion of a romance -- often comedic romance -- in the tale.

The most "Hitchcockian" film I have seen in recent years was the excellent Catch Me If You Can -- it looked and played like a Hitch film during the Grant era. Stanley Donen's masterpiece Charade is another non-Hitch example of what the man was doing with character interactions.

Hitch didn't merely use acoustic and visual tricks to make you feel the "suspense" of a tale. He made you like the characters, worry for them, and then put them in tense situations. There are almost no audio "stings" in Rope, but you can cut the tension with a knife and its commentary on the role of "post-modern" education in the creation of a nihilistic generation is still topical. Watching Rope reveals Mamet's much lesser Oleanna's weaknesses.

Tulkinghorn said...

Not quite sure that I understand your first two paragraphs...

But, Richard Brody (who seems to be my current main squeeze) has some very interesting things to say about influences here:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2010/02/out-of-the-past.html

He argues, in short, that this movie which is set in 1954, uses the images and atmosphere of the movies of 1954 to revive the memories of the twelve-year-old Scorsese. Nothing about Hitchcock.

Brody is on a roll about Shutter, BTW, and just posted a roundup of and rebuttal to other critics:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2010/02/hoi-polloi.html

(It's a wealthy magazine indeed that can afford to use Brody as their on-line and listings guy....)

Christian Lindke said...

My comments regarding the Hitch comparisons were more blanket statements regarding other critics, and not this particular critique. The marketing of the film stresses its "Hitchiness."