The view from the (far) left side of the balcony
May 28, 2014 4:35 PM Subscribe
What is it that the global pseudo-left in particular objects to about Lincoln and so values in Django Unchained?The intellectually bankrupt defenders of Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty by David Walsh, longtime film critic for the World Socialist Web Site.
This well-heeled social layer, conditioned by decades of academic anti-Marxism, identity politics and self-absorption, rejects the notion of progress, the appeal of reason, the ability to learn anything from history, the impact of ideas on the population, mass mobilizations and centralized force. It responds strongly to irrationality, mythologizing, the “carnivalesque,” petty bourgeois individualism, racialism, gender politics, vulgarity and social backwardness.
To such people, Lincoln is boring, staid and hagiographic, because it treats ideas and historical actors seriously and even admiringly. A film can hardly be degraded or “dark” enough today for these so-called radical commentators. The latter feel disdain for any expression of confidence in the best instincts and democratic sensibility of the American people, whom they view as always on the verge of forming a lynch mob.
A sampling from some of David Walsh's film reviews and critical essays:
On Pulp Fiction:
"When he doesn't overdo things or indicate his cleverness with a dozen exclamation marks, Tarantino does demonstrate a certain feeling for the banality of lower middle class existence, for its linguistic rhythms, its social patterns, its kitsch, even at certain moments—when he can be bothered—the pathos of dead-end lives."
"The fate of [the] Titanic was an extraordinary event, full of dramatic possibility. What is one to make of a director so bored with life and history or so blind to its possibilities that he stages—apparently to create some excitement—a near-drowning and a gun battle, when thousands face certain death, on a sinking ship? Cameron’s lack of imagination has something almost farcical about it."
"Anderson and Wilson ... have made a film with something very human and charming about it. In passing, Rushmore makes the point that people of all sorts can get along. It also makes a compelling argument for honesty, earnestness and obsession. At times the film grows self-consciously quirky and it raises some tricky problems that the filmmakers are perhaps ill-equipped to treat, but as a whole, it is a delight."
On Buffalo '66:
"I haven't even spoken about how the film brings this city, Buffalo, to life, and every decaying American city. No film has ever given me such a visceral sense of the awfulness, the alienation of these cold, gray, unfriendly places. The cheap, the tacky, the second-rate. Restaurants, motels, bus stations. And in November, in raw weather, with little smudges of dirty snow on the ground."
On Touch of Evil:
"Quinlan is filthy, a monster, a murderer. Welles has made himself toad-like, bloated, malevolent. But, even so, his end is tragic. People shouldn't become what he becomes, or die like he dies, a big, fat ridiculous animal floating away in a pool of dark, oily, garbage-filled water. To make such a horrible man a tragic figure and to make an audience feel his tragedy, without sentimentality, even as it despises him, is the mark of a great artist."
On American Beauty:
"The filmmakers tried to come to terms with American life and found it difficult. So they gave up half or a quarter of the way. I don't mean to pick on Ball, a playwright and former writer of situation comedies, but one isn't encouraged by his comment that 'a lot of stuff in the script is really instinctive. I didn't think about what the purpose of it was, or that kind of thing.' That 'kind of thing,' i.e., coherent thought, as we hardly need be reminded, is in short supply in American filmmaking circles."
On There Will Be Blood:
"What could have been a scathing assault, through a reworking of Oil! or otherwise, on corporate America and fundamentalist religion is no such thing, despite the claims of various 'left' critics and wishful thinkers. Of course Anderson is under no obligation to launch such an assault if he doesn’t believe one is necessary, but choosing Sinclair’s novel and then systematically declawing it seems an almost provocative act. It suggests that the filmmaker recognizes the significance of oil and religion in contemporary America—whose establishment, after all, has launched a brutal, neo-colonial war over Middle East energy resources—but then hasn’t the commitment or seriousness to see the process through."
"The forcible suppression of social struggle and the alienation of vast numbers of people from official public life and institutions, which go on 'in the automatism of yesterday,' have helped create a peculiar situation in which many turn to their computer as their primary and more trustworthy connection to the world. The problem does not lie with these people, but with the rotten and discredited official connections, which are more than ripe for disruption and overthrow ... So Her starts off on the wrong foot, implicitly blaming Theodore and others for a situation not of their making."
On The Wolf of Wall Street:
"Serious art always involves going beyond the immediate ephemera to more profound and enduring realities. For an artist to tell the truth is difficult and demanding, as George Eliot and Tolstoy noted. It requires extraordinary depth, intelligence and utter sincerity. Second- and third-rate artists luxuriate in and on the surface. Of course, some historical periods are more conducive to intense and penetrating artistic efforts than others. The era in which Scorsese has been making films has been one of the least nourishing in history for truth-telling. However, that is not an excuse for shamefully capitulating to the prevailing atmosphere."
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