Saturday, January 13, 2007

The other day, when talking to Stephanie Gray (i couldn't make it to her late night poetry/film event at the Poetry Project yesterday; Charles and Anthony were coming by), she asked me whether i'd be doing more extensive writing... similarly, every so often someone liek Wellington Love will ask me if i'll be doing a bigger piece on a specific film (if i happen to like it). But right now, there aren't many options. And (i have to admit) i'm not much of a scrambler. If someone wants to publish something of mine, fine. If someone gives me a deadline, i'll meet it. But i'm not going to try to push myself.

One reason is that the field is (now) so crowded: there are so many people writing about "film". And in the last few months there have been so many shakeups: the firings at The Village Voice, the changes at many of the daily papers, etc. Getting a job, and keeping a job, as a film critic is getting harder and harder, and i'm not up to the hassle. Two notes: 1) there are now a lot of Asian-Americans writing about film - Dennis Lim, Nathan Lee, Kristi Mistuda, etc. I wonder if any of them realize that i was the first to write for "mainstream" (i.e., non-ethnic) publications. 2) But what standards are people applying when they're writing about film?

Decades ago, when i would meet other people who were writing about film, i would often be appalled by their ignorance. The "canons" (such as they were) of literature, of theater, even of film... it seemed as if no one had the inclination to have any knowledge. Which is fine. What knowledge is required when confronted with something like "Rocky Balboa"? (Well, maybe the other gazillion "Rocky" movies.) And people would sniff at a movie and say "filmed theater" as if it were an insult to their rugged sensibilities. (But what do they think Dreyer's "Ordet" and "Gertrud" were? Or Griffith's "Way Down East"?) And so many people hold to the idea that the movie should stand up on its own, so they never bother to read the novel a movie is based on. (I just came across that "justification" recently from a critic from a major weekly.) In 1968 (1968, mind you), Pauline wrote: "There is a new generation of moviegoers which believes that a movie is sui generis and that a critic is betraying a literary bias - and thus an incompetence at dealing with film as film - in bringing up a movie's literary origins. Last year Brendan Gill discussed this problem in relation to 'Reflections in a Golden Eye,' and it recently came up in a symposium on movies at the New School for Social Research where the participating critics were dumbfounded to discover that some of the younger members of the audience did not believe that even Albert Camus's 'The Stranger' was relevant to a discussion of Visconti's film version." And to think that this view is perpetuated to this day!

But i've become so lazy: i'm not doing as much reading as i used to. Oh, every day, i do read the newspapers, and i read the various magazines and journals that come in, but i haven't just taken the time to read a bunch of books.

The other day, Larry and i were watching "Rent" on TV: we missed the beginning, but we watched about an hour of it, until the end. And it was so easy to see what was wrong, but it was hard to figure out how the material should have been used. What could have been done to create a movie out of "Rent"?


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