Thursday, September 25, 2008

Well, the current political situation is incredibly volatile. John McCain is trying to suspend the presidential campaign in order for Congress to bail out Wall Street; this is a sign that the Republicans are trying to do everything possible to prevent an election this year.

I don't even know what to think about this: it's massively criminal, but the Republicans are now trying to get the government (which they claim is too big and too intrusive) to bail out the collapse of unbridled capitalism which they created by the consistent deregulation since Ronald Reagan. The current situation proves that, without checks, greed is simply that: greed. And there is no "trickle down" effect which is one of the boondoggles of deregulation.

The rich get rich, and the rich get richer. So George W. Bush has bankrupted this country, he has embroiled this country in a hopeless war, and in emergencies such as Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, he has so dismantled FEMA that there is no system to help anyone. Why did people vote for him?

I can't deal with it.

The New York Film Festival starts tomorrow; i just read Nathan Lee's blog on WNYC, and it was funny, but somehow, my enthusiasm for the film festival (which i've gone to every year since the beginning) has been rather lax this year. It has nothing to do with the "quality" of the films; when i've gone to the press screenings, i've found most of the films to be worthwhile. But everything is so unsettled....

This summer, there was the purge of so many film critics. (This coming Saturday, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is having a symposium to address this issue.) And then there was the shuttering of so many specialty divisions. The whole idea of film distribution is changing.

Last week, i went to a film a day for six days (yes, even on the weekends)... and this week, somehow, i was exhausted by the idea of more films.

I think the film that exhausted me was the Guy Debord "In girum imus nochte et consumimur igni". This work from 1978 was not "bad", but it was theoretically interesting, and this always scares me. That is: is there work which, as art, is really deficient, but as concept, is fascinating? Are "ideas" enough to make a work of art? What is art, anyway?

Does art have to have something which appeals to the senses, to the imagination? And if it doesn't, then what is it?

In short: should there be "pleasure" in art?

I think the reason that Guy Debord's film disturbed me was the same reason that Susan Sontag's novels ("The Benefactor", "Death Kit", "The Volcano Lover") disturbed me: whatever talents she had, the talent of a novelist wasn't one of them. There was an inert quality in her fiction, and in "The Volcano Lover" she just bloated up her writing, but it didn't make it any more enticing.

And i felt that way about Guy Debord's film: the cutting of various images and sequences has no flow. I was never bored, but i never felt engaged.

Strangely enough, i had a similar feeling today while i was watching Jia Zhangke's "24 City". The intermingling of documentary techniques in a fictional context was skillful, but this time, there was a remove.

If the filmmakers can't work up an engagement with their material, why should we? And that feeling kept coming back through a lot of the movies at this year's festival (this is also the case with Hong Sang-So's "Night and Day").


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