Sunday, June 6

Pulling Rabbits: On Controversy

Every movie critic writes controversial stuff. For instance, I think David Lynch is a sadistic psychopath who has only vague ideas of what this pesky "film" thing is supposed to be. See? Controversy. The reason for this is simply that critics work with opinions, and people tend to differ in those. But the things that probably causes the most controversy is when one or more important critics dislike a popular film for being "too explicit".

The examples are endless: Roger Ebert calling Fight Club "fascist" and "macho porn", Pauline Kael calling A Clockwork Orange "pornographic", Bernardo Bertolucci actually being send to jail for making Last Tango in Paris. The list goes on and on. Notice that all those films are NOW (pretty much) considered to be classics or, at least, very very good. This is something that can haunt a critic for years: "Why didn't you see it for the genius it was when you first saw it? I totally did!" The fans then have a giggle at their superior judgment and go watch the dvd for the twelfth time. It really can put a dent in a critics credibility: Being seen as old-fashioned or prudish isn't very good for your reputation, especially in the circuit of cinema.

This stuff was outrageous back in 1896.

But something that is easily overlooked is that films, no matter the times, sometimes are just too explicit. For a contemporary example, think of Saw. And for an older example... Well, most of those are long forgotten. Only the real film buffs even know of the existence of something like Cannibal Holocaust, and even less have actually seen it.

The problem with explicit content is that it really has to to be meaningful to work. Take, for instance, this scene. You should know that before the fight started, the shabbier guys where raping a girl.

The violence might not be to revolting for a modern audience, but when it was released (1971) this was pretty heavy stuff. And you can still see the contrast between the pretty heavy beating the boys deliver and the cheerful music. But it beautifully illustrates what goes on in the minds of these boys. Violence is fun, just another outlet from your daily life. A theme that is as relevant now as ever.

You know what really is the only thing that makes controversial content justifiable? Actually creating controversy. When something is called "controversial" these days, it almost always means that some puritans where shocked, some teenagers loved it, the critics were "meh" and the general public didn't give a shit. You know the deal. But you know what "controversy" actually means? Something that people disagree with. Note that this is something completely different then outraged.

Disagreement means that somebody makes a choice that you don't think is the right one. And if a director makes a movie with content that you think is wrong, you'd better be able to tell why that is. And to do that, you have to think. What do I think of this or that matter? Is the director prejudiced or do I just see discrimination everywhere? Is the filmmaker perverted, or am I prude? If an artist can move people to reflect like that, he has done his job.

The Dutch artist Tinkebell strangled her own cat to make a purse of it. Do you find that disturbing? Then why don't you care if millions of pigs are killed each day? See, now THAT is controversy. She exposes our hypocrisy and forces us to look at ourselves.

Mission accomplished.

Micheal Haneke, an Austrian director, had something very interesting to say about big-budget movies. Most filmmakers despise them, but he said: "Those movies are fine. A lot of people are in shitty situations, and they want to escape those. However, it has nothing to do with art. Art always has to seek the confrontation with reality".

And THAT is what explicit violence should be used for. Telling the truth. Not giving fetishists boners.


P.S. OF COURSE I don't really think David Lynch is a psychopath. I just don't like his work. Please don't flood the comments.

I had no idea whatsoever which song I should post here. Nothing I could think of seemed appropriate. So I just decided to use a nice song that is nice.

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