Sunday, January 11, 2009

Margin Notes

"[A]esthetic form is not, as it is sometimes presented, a sort of line drawn around the emotions which we experience in art, rendering them orderly and harmonious. It is part of the very texture of these emotions, which can be fast, light, kaleidoscopic, childlike, spontaneous, while typifying mature adult configurations and contradictions."

—from Raymond Durgnat, "The Fantastic Voyage" (1972)

"I am not sure what Clint's politics are now. The right has disowned him and the left still does not know what to do with him. When The Gauntlet came out 30 years ago, I thought: this is an action movie that doesn't behave itself and seems unlike what has come before. People finally realized what a great film it was in the 1990s. I think Gran Torino and Changeling will be respected properly in about 10 years when other movies start being as brilliant. ... What is amazing is that Eastwood has made the two best political movies of the year since neither movie simply confirms the political biases of its spectators, but complicates them, challenges them, and ultimately leaves them strengthened. They are not the liberal-docu-porn that so many documentaries are. ... [Recently] just listening to NYC friends gush about their enjoyment of the most recent documentary they saw—I often think their mantra has become: “No I haven't done any community organizing, but I saw the documentary.” It is not that this problem is new: it is at least as old as De Sica—the artful rendering of social horror/decay to give aesthetic pleasure. Some documentarians are beginning to look at themselves at the same time that they are looking at the world, and questioning the rules about both the well-made documentary and that when filming they must document and not intervene in what they are filming."

—Brian Dauth, selected comments, The November 3rd Club

Some words to keep in mind in general, but with respect to Gran Torino: surely. It seems to me like everyone talking about this film is worried about whether it's intended to be funny or elegiac, whether we should feel OK about laughing at all the non-PC language (nevermind how that language is used and contextualized, which is close to unique), or how successfully it "deconstructs" some single earlier movie icon and ethos (inevitably Dirty Harry). In the end we embrace what we think are attitudes of knowingness and skepticism and yet we just keep fussing over the proper stances to take towards any given object.

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