Trash, Art and Movies | Pauline Kael

Oh yes, I’ve committed celluloid blasphemy – I once told a friend that I didn’t quite enjoy Kurosawa movies. Needless to say, he was aghast.

Truth is I just didn’t enjoy the movie. It probably was all the background about his genius that did not allow me to watch a movie the way I like to watch a movie. That time, I couldn’t explain to my friend the why of why I didn’t enjoy his movies (I just saw one and a half)

Then, along comes this thing I read:

One must talk about a film like this in terms of what audiences enjoy it for or one is talking gibberish—and might as well be analyzing the “art” of commercials. And for the greatest movie artists where there is a unity of technique and subject, one doesn’t need to talk about technique much because it has been subsumed in the art. One doesn’t want to talk about how Tolstoi got his effects but about the work itself. One doesn’t want to talk about how Jean Renoir does it; one wants to talk about what he has done. One can try to separate it all out, of course, distinguish form and content for purposes of analysis. But that is a secondary, analytic function, a scholarly function, and hardly needs to be done explicitly in criticism. Taking it apart is far less important than trying to see it whole. The critic shouldn’t need to tear a work apart to demonstrate that he knows how it was put together. The important thing is to convey what is new and beautiful in the work, not how it was made—which is more or less implicit.

Of course it does not end there, because that is just one part of how we may talk of movies, but, Pauline Kael continues, and says:

Movie audiences will take a lot of garbage, but it’s pretty hard to make us queue up for pedagogy.

For long, I’ve always maintained that the artist’s and the critic’s premise is a hurdle in developing your own sense of art. She echoes this sentiment, from a long time ago, in 1969, in her own inimitable style:

Perhaps the single most intense pleasure of moviegoing is this non-aesthetic one of escaping from the responsibilities of having the proper responses required of us in our official (school) culture. And yet this is probably the best and most common basis for developing an aesthetic sense because responsibility to pay attention and to appreciate is anti-art, it makes us too anxious for pleasure, too bored for response. Far from supervision and official culture, in the darkness at the movies where nothing is asked of us and we are left alone, the liberation from duty and constraint allows us to develop our own aesthetic responses.

Source: Wikipedia. Illustration purpose only.

I wish I had read this article before I had committed the Kurosawa blasphemy. I would be able to explain why I committed it.

The entire article is available at Trash, Art, and the Movies  and if you are not a fan of high-contrast, here is a readable link of the same article.



3 thoughts on “Trash, Art and Movies | Pauline Kael

  1. It is good not to be overwhelmed by the sense of duty and constraint, but the art is to have the sense and not let it dehumanize your experience of the art.

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