Thursday, January 31, 2008

Art, Not Artiness

(Continued from another blog.)

When I said I would judge movies as art and experience, I didn't mean by this I would choose "art" movies (see European films), which often have little to do with true art.

True art keys into the rhythmns and patterns of nature and the universe and in so doing touches chords within our souls.

My most recent choice (#9: "The Guns of Navarone") does this beautifully. It has about it the mythic; the archetypal. Something is primal about the commandos' journey: They climb from the sea like a new species. Through many difficulties and betrayals they arrive inside a temple-- a sealed room containing secrets of the all-powerful gods, which is how the thundering two cannons appear. Then the heroes are cast suddenly back into the water, their adventure come full circle, the memory of it playing in their heads to be preserved and spoken about as myth.

Movies once functioned both as entertainment and as art. Most "entertainment" movies today come across as a series of hyperedited computer effects; manic video games or pointless violence. Knowledge of art has been lost. "Art" movies on the other hand are deliberately boring, closing themselves off from the nature of the art, which is first, bigness: big themes, patterns, characters, settings. The narrowness removes all possible effects on the moviegoer; all opportunity of challenging him. It's art become genteel: safe, domestic, and comfortable; the narcissistic emotions of the affluent. Little stories, little happenings, tiny tragedies. ("The Queen" the first example which pops into my head.)

The divide in movies now between "art" and "entertainment" matches that we've suffered for forty years with our fiction and poetry.
The most blatant movie entertainment, such as the western, can be the vehicle for the greatest art. A film like "Shane"-- a haunting, almost perfect movie which should've made the list-- with its form and motifs, iconic good guys and bad guys, set against a backdrop of stark reality, is an art movie. It contains great depths: the hero's shooting of the villain at the end is the killing of his "William Wilson" mirror image; the other, darker half of himself; the crippling of himself, and so the hero rides off mangled, mortally wounded, representing the extermination of his kind, destruction of the wild.

The lesser-known western "The Bravados," with Gregory Peck, is art-- a masterpiece of structure; put together like a great chess game or a symphony. Study the opening minutes, the way opposing characters are introduced, enormous tension created, until the tension is suddenly released in the form of a hectic chase. Movement in cinema on the screen is also movement inside the mind. Here is a story playing out through the Peck character's mind. Fittingly, the chase arrives at his own ranch. The story after all isn't about chase or revenge, but himself. So workable is the movie AS ENTERTAINMENT that the key question about the character is never asked: Why his character's extreme pursuit of vengeance? What internal guilt is he wrestling with BEFORE the chase? The answer is visible in front of us almost from the start. (An "Attaboy!" to the first person who watches the movie and guesses the correct answer.)
I seek not artiness, but art. I moved the "Ten Best" movies series here because this blog is a reaction to artiness-- insufferable bourgeois artiness found from first page to back cover in a lit journal I received recently.
(#9: "The Guns of Navarone."
#10: "Zorba the Greek."
NEXT UP: #8.)


FDW said...

You are completely wrong about the European cinema.
And again you use the word myth and mythic when I think you should be using the word mythological. For one these words have a distinction and difference in today's parlance that if one does not keep it in mind can open you up to the worst kind of projections
by your own critics!
It's hard for me to like the guns of Navarrone when I'd seen Slaughterhouse Five or Hiroshima Mon Amore at a time that was catered to the generation of intellect I recieved my walking papers in.
Also I also want you to know I hate artists and art especially the way the word(s) have been corrupted in America especially in the Entertainment industry.
I talk about AUT and the AUTISTIC from now on. I don't think movies are an art but a craft.
Its cinema or film should be properly employed that are the "srt".

Toast said...

OK, I'll try to talk over the roar of fdw grinding axes.

Is the answer to your poser that the main character feels guilt because he said he put Splenda in the other guy's tea when he really used aspartame?

King said...

But that's the point-- the mythic lies not in the intellect, in the conscious mind, but in the subconscious. (See Jung on this.)
The symbolism and motifs of "Guns" is striking and fits the pattern of the Greek adventure myths, as I've outlined.
For the intellectual in literature, we have N+1 (Negativity Plus). But where's the resonance? Their words strike no chords.
Great literature strikes chords as does great music-- deep within the buried soul.

Toast said...

Striking a chord in a buried soul. Is that like a piano in a coal mine?