07 June 2011

Boredom Defended

NY Times film critics Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott recently published an apology for slow and thoughtful film: "In Defense of the Slow and the Boring." The disappointing thing is that they are not having to defend thoughtful cinema from viewers, who of course express their opinions with their dollars, but from other cultural and film critics. But this is less a catty fight than a discussion of whether film should even be permitted serious aspirations beyond popular entertainment. Unsurprisingly, they think it should.

On the other hand, says Scott, "I certainly don’t think fun should be banished from the screen, or that popular entertainment is essentially antithetical to art. And while I derive great pleasure from some movies that might be described as slow or tedious, I also find food for thought in fast, slick, whimsical entertainments." But the makers of films themselves seems to promote a kind of anti-art bias which at heart is, he suggests, "a defense of the corporate status quo." That is, even film makers are slow to argue that film is, or even should be, an art form rather than commercial entertainment.

I'm a little sad at the fact that I personally am loosing my capacity to experience films purely as entertainment. Art cinema may indeed be "cultural vegetables," but dang it, I like culture, and vegetables, too. I don't think thoughtful films are necessarily enculturating, but they are by definition thoughtful. And "thinking is boring, of course (all that silence), which is why so many industrially made movies work so hard to entertain you."

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